I Don’t Always Get My Choice

What’s your support for why you do that as a Druid?
Where is the information that supports your rationale for believing that?
The Bible say that Christianity is right in this particular passage. Where does it say that Druidry is right?
You have no factual information to support the correctness of what you do in your Spirituality.

::sigh:: Gods, I can feel the frustration that comes from having statements thrown in your face like this. Where people try to take a simple conversation about differences in belief and turn it into a courtroom drama. Believe me, I have been there more often than I care to admit. When I first started down my Path of Paganism, I was grilled by the Chaplain assigned to my squadron over what I believed. I felt like one of those arcade shooter duck targets. He would fire question after question at me, not even waiting for an answer. As I would sit there trying to formulate an answer to the previous question, I would have another question smashed right against me. In the end, he shook his head and told me that I was merely having a rebellious fantasy that I could project into an environment where rebellious attitudes were deplorable to “good military discipline.” I was completely crushed when the interrogation was completed. I promised my duty section sergeant that I would not bring up my beliefs in conversations about religion in the duty section. The four evangelical Christians on my shift were not admonished at all. They were free to discuss any matter they chose. In the end, I chose to not participate in any conversation with them that did not handle working matters. In a few short months, I knew the mainframe system’s workings far better than they ever did. A set of orders sending me to the US Army’s Central Command would provide a change of scenery for me – in more ways than one.

The point is not the degradation that I received at the hands of an uncaring Chaplaincy system at a Strategic Air Command base in Texas. Rather, its about this notion that others feel that they need to create discussions into rapid-fire debates, particularly where one’s beliefs are concerned – especially when those beliefs are contradictory to their own.

In my youngers days – I was twenty years old when the above occurred (I had to get a calculator out to figure that – honestly!) – I didn’t think so quickly on my feet. Had it occurred today, I would have gotten up and walked out of the room – the Chaplain’s Major rank be damned – and walked straight to the Base Legal Office to press my rights being violated in such a manner. Of course, I have thirty-five years of experience to bring me quickly to that conclusion (thank you calculator!). Twenty-year-old me didn’t know any better. Thirty-year-old me would have fired off some caustic remark that would have gotten me in a deeper world of trouble.

Back to the quick-fire questioning methodology. If you watch some of the Congressional committee meetings, where the members question an individual about some matter, you will find this methodology utilized by those not wanting to ask questions. Rather, they use this methodology to grandstand for the C-SPAN cameras, so that their constituents can see how tough they are on these matters. They’re not really being tough, nor are they doing their job – which is to assist the committee in ferreting out the facts. It’s just a show. The same holds true for those that do this in a “discussion.”

I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn another year in less than a month. I have little desire, energy, or stomach for fiery debate over my beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. I know what I believe. I do my best to live those beliefs to the best of my ability each day. I screw up occasionally, like anyone else does. Simply put, I’m not perfect. I don’t really care about how anyone else believes either – so long as their words, rhetoric, and actions do not cause harm to others. Believe me, I know how hard a line that is to walk.

Why do we feel the need to argue, and (taking an old BBS term) flame one another over the differences in our beliefs? I couldn’t really tell you. I know back in the old BBS days I was known for rolling up my sleeves and jumping start into the religious debates. I would accuse Christians of being hypocrites based on what people did back in the medieval ages, all in the name of their beliefs. Certainly, many of those atrocities happened back during that time – but Christianity back then was a far different system of belief than it is today. Or so I would hope. I wasn’t alive back then (that I am aware of – but reincarnative belief is another bridge to cross at another time – but for short commentary, yes I do believe). Plus, those who have done vile actions in the name of their beliefs in our modern age…I just can’t say for certain what they do or do not believe.

So, on to a practical aspect within all of this. Don’t fall for the bait. When the rapid-fire questions start, don’t talk – just listen. Don’t try to answer. Let them talk. Give them the lectern. When they finally stop to wait for an answer, take the opportunity to get up and leave. If all of that makes no sense to you, ask yourself these simple questions: is anything that you are going to say likely to change their mind? Do you think that anything that you utilize as a retort will cause them to stop and contemplate the differences of what you say versus what they claim? Honestly, if the answer is no, consider just leaving things be, and going about your way. That choice is up to you. For me, I consider it a waste of my time, energy, and a depletion of what positivity I have. There’s plenty more for me to do where I can make a difference. But again, that choice is yours. Lay a hand on me when I try to leave? I might be a fifty-plus, slightly fat old man, but the military taught me well. I might not win that particular skirmish, but I’ll give as good as I get. My preferred choice, still, is to just walk away and let the discussion be done. I don’t always get my choice.

–T /|\

Incomplete Thoughts on Baseball, Empirical Pagan Me, and Nature

Incomplete Thoughts – 07102021

Incomplete Thoughts is a semi-regular feature. This features smaller written pieces that I just cannot find any way to end them, thus the incomplete part. Plus, it can provide some insight into the way I view other things outside of my Spiritual practice.

Major League Baseball

The coming trade deadline and the first-year amateur draft process is about to begin. For Major League Baseball, this is the latest that the first-year player draft has occurred, and the closest that it has been to the trade deadline, which will make things hectic in any major league team’s front office. There are a lot of teams that are deemed to be “sellers” at this year’s deadline, and the most intriguing element is that of the Chicago Cubs. Somehow, their front office has managed to have a few of their major stars on expiring contracts at the end of this year. Most major league teams will stagger the end of the contracts of major league stars to lower the impact potential departures have on the team. However, the Cubs have managed to make that major misstep. Or is it? The Cubs have one of the most knowledgeable front office teams in major league baseball (and it pains me as a Cincinnati Reds fan to make that statement). I wonder if this coming trade deadline was a self-imposed thing by the front office, looking for a way to clear the path of some minor league players, while utilizing high-impact players to help re-stock some of the upper levels of their minors system. Regardless of the strategy, the Cubs will prove to be one of the teams to watch carefully during the deadline.

Empirical Pagan Me

Occasionally, I get asked why I don’t speak for Pagan practice everywhere. Why do I couch nearly every statement that I make about my Spirituality as what I do, and that others may be completely different? Most of the time, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, and move on. But the reasoning is simple. I’m one Pagan. I am not THE Pagan. The way I approach my Spirituality works for me. As an individual, I’m always cognizant of the perspective that I don’t always do things the way others do. That’s a part of being an individual, in my mind. When I was futzing around in Christianity, back in my early twenties, every single Christian congregation that I visited and spent time with did things differently than the others. Even within the same Christian Path. However, instead of embracing their differences as a unique perspective that worked for them, many adherents would claim that it was “the only way to worship God.” To my twenty year-ish self, the suggestion that there was only one way to approach Divinity just didn’t jibe with what I saw in the world around me. So, it was easy to reject their perspective and continue to move on to find my own – which eventually was Paganism, where I have wandered for thirty-plus years. Druidry works for me, and the framework utilized by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids comes closest to what I feel comes “naturally” to me. I have no desire to slap down someone else’s approach to their aspect of Divinity – whether that be Monotheistic, Polytheistic (where I am), or whatever else you might have. So long as you do not harm others in the name of your beliefs, I see no issues. Harm others? Well, I’ll be standing up against that. Everyone has a right to live…and live the way that they choose. We can all be different without being violent. We only have to choose that.

Herbs, Plant Magick and the Such

Probably not a popular opinion in Pagan or even Druid circles, but I don’t do much in the area of working with herbs or doing so-called “Plant Magick” (I tend to refer to it as “gardening with intent” but that’s a slight slide from the conversation). I guess most Pagans would be shocked that a Druid doesn’t do much in this. However, its just not for me. My idea of being within Nature is just being alive. I like to take walks through the woods and am prone to picking up trash that I see, so it can be disposed of properly later one. Believe me, here in the States, there is trash literally EVERYWHERE. Seemingly, things just fall out of our hands as we walk through nature or magically fly out of our car windows on the highways and interstates that we travel. I saw trash in Europe, but not on the scale we see here. My idea of working with Nature falls more along the lines of being a caretaker of sorts. I am not here to trim back the verge, as it were. But I will pick up the trash of others, so that the natural growth of the world continues. After all, we’re all a big part of the cycle of living. If we do our part, maybe things around the world will get better in terms of climate and pollution. What if our efforts are for naught, and we did all this stuff anyways? Well, then we did our best to be stewards of our planet and tried our best to provide a better planet for the generations that come after us.

Well, thanks for reading another installment of incomplete thoughts. Hopefully, you enjoyed what you read. Maybe some of it even made you think. Even if it was just a single thought: “That Tommy dude is WEIRD.” 😊

–Tommy

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Incomplete Thoughts: Why Are Pagans So Poor?

Every few years, I see someone bring up the lack of money that seems to be within the Pagan community at large. “Why does it seem that Pagans are always so poor?” My guess that there are many answers to this question. However, a lot of those answers are pre-pandemic. With COVID-19 arriving, many people were furloughed or laid off (essentially the same thing) from their jobs. Before the pandemic kicked in, I was already on unemployment and looking for a job. When the pandemic became a major issue with employment, I got added into the temporary federal benefits. This past Saturday, my moronic governor here in Tejas determined that these benefits were keeping people from getting back to finding employment. That type of logic thinking is a load of privileged bullshit. Most people have been trying to find jobs that are not exploitive, low-paying wage positions with no chances of upward mobility within a company. But that’s another thought altogether.

Why does it always seem that Pagans are so damn poor? Or is it just an illusion? Looking around at other folks in other areas of Spirituality, the feeling that most people are poor seems to be prevalent there as well. Maybe its not so much that people are poor, but that in our current overly greedy capitalist society, people are trying to make their money stretch further while prices continue to soar unabated. Many folks have families, and believe me, kids cost money. Clothes, school supplies, recreational sports equipment, books, and the list can go on and on. Prices soar, but wages do not climb on a similar scale. What passed as a seemingly capable yearly wage at $30k just doesn’t cut it anymore today for a family of four – or even three. Due to the rising costs of transportation, we are seeing food prices climb even more. That’s understandable under a capitalist perspective. Costs that get added to the company get passed on to the consumer. Then again, I’m not economist, nor do I play one on tv or even the radio.

Perhaps, some Pagans seem to be poor because they have decided to step out of the capitalism whirlpool. They make their money in smaller ways – farmer’s markets, Renaissance faires, and maybe even Pagan gatherings. Maybe they make their livings online, teaching online classes for those wanting the information and perspective of theirs. I know for a fact that there’s not a lot of money in that realm. They may seem to be poor, but they are living the way that they wish. To them, it may be the richest lifestyle ever.

So, everyone that offers classes, writes books, creates things, offers services – they should do that stuff for free, right? Well, no. They should be compensated for what they provide. Perhaps in trade, if the terms are equal in the eyes of those involved in the transaction. However, we shouldn’t look down on those who are asking for compensation of any form for what they are providing. I have heard the snide remark that the “Craft should not be sold”. Sorry, that’s a load of bullshit. If you don’t think that what is being offered is worth you parting with your hard-earned cash – move along without comment. Or – maybe you can try and barter for a lower price. Just don’t be offended if the lower price is rejected. Don’t argue about it either. Just thank them for the potential to discuss the issue and move along without being crappy about it all.

This is probably not a popular opinion, but I see the question of “Why does it always seem that Pagans are so poor?” to be a rather elitist question. The question comes across – to me, anyways – as wondering why other Pagans just can’t seem to compete on your level within a capitalist agenda. A long time back, my mother reminded a teen-aged me that you cannot truly understand someone else’s life until you have walked a few miles in their tennis shoes.

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Incomplete Thoughts: Diversity

Lately, I have been plagued in my writing by what I call “incomplete thoughts” which are simply blog posts that I can’t find a way to conclude. These are usually shorter than the small essays I try to write, and I have a small clutter of these hanging around. Since I already use Thursday postings as the typical place for ‘Bad Poetry Thursdays” which happen infrequently, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from time to time to add “Incomplete Thoughts” to that mix as well.

I like diversity. Not just with race or gender or what have you, but with everything. I like my politics to be a diverse set of perspectives, not just Right-wing or Left-wing. I want to hear from those perspectives in-between and even further Left and Right. In my opinion, a wide range of perspectives makes for better decision-making and opinion-forming. America’s dominant two-party system just sucks. I prefer lots of musical styles. A wide variety of musical viewpoints is refreshing. I love Jazz, in all its forms, Classical, neo-Classical, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, County and Western, Swing, Ballroom, Rhythm and Blues, some Rap, and a lot more. Each style, each presentation of musical and lyrical content helps me to see deeper into a wider world of Awen than I could ever have dreamed on my own. Diverse perspective provides clashes where two (or more) perspectives cannot ordinarily mesh. That conflicting perspective provides more than one way to look at things, and allows the spectator (me, you, or others) a glimpse of the differences. Those differences provide a perspective that we can utilize to determine what does and does not work for us individually. Those differences help us to make choices for ourselves.

What I am not for is using diversity to make choices that can be utilized to drive deeper wedges between “Us” and “Them”. We saw a lot of that during the last Presidential cycle. Both sides making charges that you either vote for (x) candidate or you are against us. I opted out of that silly game. I see value in every individual – even those that think and act differently than I. We all inhabit this same planet. We all breathe the same (somewhat polluted) air. Whether we agree with it or not, we all survive together. What a shame that we cannot collectively agree enough to bring and end to violent conflict as a means to solve our differences. While I value diversity, I agonize over our lack of humanity – our lack of decency towards one another – our lack of compassion for those that are different than we are. But I still hold out hope. Because if I didn’t…I don’t even want to think about that.

–Tommy

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