Revisiting – Static or Dynamic Mythology

Back in February of 2016, I wrote a blog post discussing the idea that the Gods are alive and continually growing. Badly titled as “Static or Dynamic Mythology”, its not a common post to show up in yearly blog hits. However, a reader of the blog wrote me privately asking me to do go back and take another look through the post and update my feelings on it. From time to time, I get requests like this – a request to go back and look at what I wrote. So, I title these as “Revisiting” posts. Honestly, I don’t do these that often, but its an interesting point, particularly when considering that my own perspective on things is always growing and changing.

Looking into the way-back machine, I recall that this post was a continuation on a panel at Pantheacon earlier in the year. The panel was titled “Morphing the Myth” with S.P. Hendrick, Diana Paxson, and an Australian gentleman whose name I never did get. The focus of the panel was on the reintroduction of mythology through the more modern methodologies of books, comics, tv shows, and movies. There was a lot of focus on the reinterpretation of the myths by the writing and production teams that put these reinterpretations together. As is always the case for reinterpretations, there are changes that are made to the entire original story – most done for effect for an audience. Some of the changes include combining characters in the story into a single entity to allow for a more cohesive flow to the story, or the less popular adding a new character out of thin air. If you’re wanting an example of that, remember the addition of Tauriel to “The Hobbit” movies which were based on the novel of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Utilizing this addition to Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece, let’s apply the question at hand. Is this change to the story a good one? Or is it bad? That’s a double-edged sword. Having watched the movies several times, Tauriel is a good addition to the story in my mind. However, her addition does alter aspects of the story in a way that doesn’t stay true to the novel. People who have their first introduction to the Tolkien novels – and in some cases it will be their only brush with Tolkien’s works – will forever have the understanding that Tauriel is a primary character that Tolkien created. After all, while the movie is an adaptation, they will never know the difference until they pick up the book. The addition of Tauriel does alter the story of the original novel in a way that shoves the story in a different direction. In the far-flung future, there will be an understanding and perception that Tauriel and her story-arc, particularly with Legolas and Kili. In this instance, we have a movie bending the story-arc for a novel in a manner that changes the overall story. For better or for worse? Well, that depends on the individual you talk with. Purists will find the change to be abhorrent. Only a story line that remains true to the original novel will do. Others, such as I, will see the change in the storyline as bringing an element to the story’s arc that provides some integral aspects of cohesion to the story to help move aspects of the plot along. An example of this is where Tauriel argues with Legolas over why the Elves should be involved in pursuits outside of the woodland realm – that Elves are part of Middle-Earth and will eventually be drawn into the coming inevitable war. Again, depending on who you talk with, the perspective of its good or bad nature can be seen from either direction.

The same holds true for movies, tv shows, books, and comics featuring the Gods and Goddesses and even the Heroes of Mythology. To be able to capture an audience, the Gods and Heroes depicted are provided with personalities that sometimes feel like these might be antithetical to what can be derived from works of mythology. Personally, I’m not fond of the depiction of Loki in the movies. However, I understood why the director, producer, and screen writers went to the trouble of making this depiction. It helps drive the storyline, which helps drive the ticket sales. Getting people into the theater means creating story lines that resonate with people. Completely understandable. Is this a bad thing or a good thing when it comes to the actual mythology?

Well, I would posit a question in a slight pivot from this. Could the Gods be capable of the depictions that we see and read about? In some cases, the Gods are shown as growing – changing perspective from one point to another over the course of the story. Is this possible? Well, as controversial as what I am about to say may be – I do believe that is true and possible. The Gods can change. I am not saying that Loki will suddenly slip out of the perspective of a Trickster to suddenly take over the mantle of the God of Justice and Law from Tyr. What I am suggesting is that the Gods can change Their perspective on areas of understanding as it relates to human beings and this realm. Instead of seeing humans as mere playthings, a feeling of endearment which sees humans as something to treasure and protect could come about. That’s just an example though. My belief is that the Gods can change Their perspectives over time. In other words, I don’t see the Gods as being static and unchanging. As humans change, the Gods Themselves can change as well – without changing the primary aspects of who They are.

At the end of the blog post, I approached another point that is just as critical to this line of thought. The debate of written versus oral. As I noted, good storytelling comes in three forms: oral, written, and visual. However, the true nature of storytelling comes from the storyteller themselves. Many people know a particular tale that can be told around the fire, but if you let them all tell the tale individually and independent of one another (in other words, none of them hears any of the other storytellers before they tell their version at the fire), you end up with many versions that are different from one another. Some storytellers will embellish on a perspective with additional information. Some will omit aspects of the tale that they don’t wish to add, for whatever reason. Others will alter pieces in a manner that emphasizes the parts of the tale that they like over others. Yet, its all still the same tale. The tale grows, alters, and morphs with each telling. Such is the nature of storytelling.

Could we not also consider the myths and tales we tell around the fire of the Gods to be the same? Not set in stone – static displays that never change – but tales and retellings that grow and change, just as our culture does? Morphs into new retellings that have new backgrounds, new perspectives that mirror our more modern settings? Our more modern understanding of morals and behaviors? One of my favorite moments from the television show the Highlander has Methos trying to explain to Duncan McLeod why he slaughtered villages of people on the steppes of Russia, which eventually had him portrayed as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. When trying to justify his killing of the villagers, Methos points out that: “…the times were different. I was different. The whole bloody world was different.” Indeed. We look at our Gods, at Their mythologies, through the lenses of today’s society. Like it or not, we’re all carved through the morals and judgments of today. We look and listen to the stories that were produced in a time far different from our own. Stories that have been altered through the passage of time by the storytellers who kept such things alive – adding, subtracting, altering with the changing societal perspectives of the times. We tend to see the written word as a safe lock against that constant change. If its written, it can’t evolve, it can’t be changed. We have the “truth” as it should be. But are we locking the Gods into one shape, never allowing Them the capacity to change, evolve, and live? Does locking Them down into perspectives only mandated from the written word keep Them in that state – never to change? Never to provide Them with the ability to see the world around us differently? If They can’t change, and we can…who would really be the God? Just a thought… Me? I prefer to see my Gods as living, evolving, changing…for me, that’s what makes Them alive. And I truly believe that They are. That’s how I experience Them. Perhaps that’s how I should have titled this back in 2016 – “How I Experience the Gods”. Here in the dawn of 2022, it certainly makes more sense to me. Thanks to my evolving and growing perception of Them. 😊

–T /|\

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

Revisiting: What Kind of Druid/Priest Am I?

There are a lot of topics that occupy my thoughts, but the two that keep coming back more often than others are the most difficult ones to manage. Specifically, these two questions are “What kind of Druid do you want to be?” and “What kind of Priest are you?” I have struggled with both, for a lot of reasons. With my change in my approach towards Druidry within my life, I realized that it would be a good time to revisit these two questions again.

I have made very little secret that I have sought out professional help in working through my depression. Much has been accomplished in those sessions. There is much more to complete. In a recent session, a particular touchstone was uncovered, which has helped me towards answering the two questions at hand. If there is a single word to describe who or what I am, it is “non-conformist.” Going back into my sophomore and junior years of high school, I have always been determined to do things my own way. Even in a rigid frame of structure as the United States Air Force, I have always managed to carve my own Path towards whatever needed to be accomplished. I found ways of staying within the framework of what was asked, while putting my own personal stamp on how it got accomplished. Even to this day, I constantly find myself seeking my own way through an issue, rather than taking the footsteps of those before me.

Even within Druidry, I choose to do things differently. I have mentioned this before – I hate white robes. Here in the American South, white robes bring up a certain imagery that equates with a racial past that is entangled with the Ku Klux Klan. Plus, I think white is a horrible color on me. 😊 My preference is jeans and a t-shirt, along with my green cloak and tennis shoes. I have never been very partial to the idea of “dress-up” when it comes to my approach to my Spirituality. From what I have seen of various OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) and ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) gatherings – I’m very much in the minority on that perspective. I am however, quite “ok” with that. I have never been into the idea of finding out whether I am “Pagan enough” for others.

So, what kind of Druid do I want to be? Well, that’s an easy answer. I want to be the kind of Druid that I am right now. Handling my own Spirituality on my own terms, and always there to help others the best that I can. I would guess that the best term for this is that of the role of a mentor, but that is also not completely me. As the line from the Tommy Shaw song goes: “I don’t want to grow up to be a preacher. I don’t want your soul in my hands.” I have nearly zero ambition or desire to create/run my own Grove. A study group? Sure. So long as I am not the one in complete control.

What kind of Priest do I want to be? Well, I’ll defer this back to the “Druid” question. I have always been reluctant to completely embrace the “Priest” concept. Too much of a Catholic upbringing in all of that I guess. However, if we can somewhat equate Druid with that of a Priest, we begin to step into the ground I am more comfortable with.

Why that of a mentor? People will investigate my military background and assume that a role more akin to that of a warrior would be more appropriate. I’m more comfortable with being a teacher. I enjoy showing others some of the mysteries that are right in front of their eyes, and then watching as they move further along to investigate areas and concepts that catch their own interests. I get more joy out of watching others grow in their knowledge and understanding than I do in lecturing to them. Or trying to have them memorize material. I love to facilitate the directions that others can find for themselves. I didn’t teach anything to them – I merely opened the window and let the outside in.

In the past, I have always harbored this idea that Druids are Peacemakers. That the duty of every Druid is to step into conflict and help resolve issues towards peace. There are certainly Druids that do exactly that. I’m not one of those. I am not here to be an arbiter. I have no ultimate authority over any group of people, save for myself. I have enough trouble trying to decide what I want to have for lunch. No settling disagreements is not the place for me, unless I am invited in. And even then, I am reluctant to do just that.

Druidry means a great many different things to a great many people. Each of those people have their own individual way of seeing things – even they are looking directly at the same thing, from the same physical vantage point. We see things, we experience things, and we process that input (and so many more). Our minds sift through all that sensory information, and we utilize our experiences and our knowledge to come to a conclusion. Each of those conclusions are shaped by so many different perspectives, experiences, and understanding that nearly all will be different in one degree or another. We are unique beings with unique perspectives. You might read through all of this and come to a far different conclusion about what Druidry is or is not. That’s wonderful! Because you will see things differently as I have. Those differing perspectives will be everything going forward. These will provide a basis of better understanding one another. Those differing perspectives will also show us how the world around us is perceived differently by others. That will open a whole new perspective to us, a whole new way of looking at things. That, my friends, is the essence of Druidry (in my opinion). Being able to open one’s eyes to other perspectives.

What kind of Druid am I? I still fall back to what I have said before. I’m me. Nobody special, but somebody unique.

–T /|\

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

Revisiting: Paganism: Forty to Fifty Years…Maybe

The future of Paganism. A heady topic, to say the least, and one that many bloggers in the so-called “Pagan Blogosphere” have grappled with from time to time. Back in 2016, the Pagan news aggregate site, The Wild Hunt, published an article tackling just that perspective. Where would Paganism be in one-hundred years’ time? I was intrigued enough with the perspective that I wrote a post on the topic and published it nearly to this day (1/27) in 2016. I happened to catch this in my Facebook Memories, and jumped over to the post to read what I had written. Or I should say, what I had not written.

My post is vague on what I believe things would be like in forty to fifty years. I understand why I wrote it the way that I did. I am not one for looking to the future with a definitive perspective. For me, what is to happen has so many cross-roads and forks in the road, that it is almost impossible to determine which way anything will go. This time around…well, I will try to be a bit more upfront. I am sorry to say, my outlook is not very rosy. The time frame I chose was forty to fifty years. That puts things around the time of 2056 to 2066. So, I will continue to stay with that choice.

As a momentary aside, I will point out that much of this post is written from a perspective of Paganism within the United States. After all, I live here, and am a citizen here. That is not meant to spit on Pagans elsewhere in the world, merely that my viewpoint is narrowed to where I live. I cannot speak to how things are or might be elsewhere in the world, and certainly those that live in those parts of the world would be far better (and far more informed) than myself at expressing an opinion concerning that.

My first stop was on the concept of public acceptance of Paganism. There have been a lot of steps taken towards the acceptance of Paganism within the public sphere. I was a part of some of those steps. The more open acceptance of Pagans within the United States military services. Circle Sanctuary was an extremely large part of that push, providing information to military chaplain services, and helping those of us trying to gain equal footing on a spiritual level with our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform that practiced the “big five” faiths. That took a lot of time and effort, and that ball has been moved a few yards down the field, but there is still a lot left to be done. Much of that effort was done in the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, and yet there is still a long way to go before anything close to equality can be achieved. That was a little over twenty-five years ago. Using that as a poor measuring stick, I think that public acceptance of Paganism by 2066 will continue to move forward, but at a very small, incremental pace.

The second point that was made was concerning temples, sacred spaces or other venues that would be akin to the common day Christian church. I live in central Texas, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. Here in this small, rural large town, there are seven churches within three miles of the house I live in. Seven. In the rest of the town, there are four more. Hillsboro is far from being a teeming metropolis. Yet, the number of churches is quite large for such a smallish population. To my knowledge, I’m the only Pagan living here. Certainly, there are far more Pagans living to the north of me. But even in the DFW area, I am only area of a handful…well, less than five…public Pagan groups. Two of those reside within the arms of the Unitarian Universalist churches. Not truly Pagan, but it is a start. The point here is that there are not that many spaces that can be construed as “Pagan” and temples or sacred spaces. But these do exist. By 2066? Well, I would posit that there would be many, many more. Not in the numbers that current Christian churches exist. I think only Starbucks rivals that number. However, I do see this number beginning to grow, but also at the incremental number that I have mentioned previously.

Now I will add a little bit of politics into all of this. Sort of. During this past Presidential election cycle, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was showcased quite emphatically. Now, forget the two people running for the position. Instead, let’s focus for a moment on the overall demographics of the voters. Republicans, particularly those red-hated MAGA idiots, self-identified as Christian people. Again, let’s discard the semantics over what Jesus would be like if He were here. Look at the numbers of these self-professed Christians. It is large. Once you add the self-described Christian folk from the rest of the populace – voting or not – the wider Christian belief system would probably be about one out of every two people. Probably not quite that number, but close. The wider Pagan community – the “Big Tent” or the “Umbrella” or however you want to classify it – would make up far less. Will the Pagan population be bigger by 2066? Of course, it will. The growth numbers bear that out.

However, let me throw one more perspective out there concerning all of this. I have no scientific data to back this up, other than my opinion. I do believe that many of the Pagans in 2066 will be unaffiliated within any organization – be it a Druidry order, a Wiccan coven, a Pagan seminary, or a national Occult group. I see the many Pagans going the route of what I call the “Do It Yourself Paganism” thematic. With more and more Pagan books showcasing ways for Pagans to manage their own Paths, I can see many folks choosing to go the DYI highway with their Spirituality. Something that I do not believe is a terrible thing. Though, I do believe that there is still a lot to be said about traditions and being with those of a like-mind. However, I am looking towards 2066 – not right now.

The future, as much as we want to keep pushing it back, keeps coming forward. With that future, comes new Pagans. With those new Pagans comes a desire to try “new” things or to alter things as those stand now. In my mind’s eye, for Paganism, 2066 will find its standing on the public stage a little different, but still as a background player in the play. I can see more places being designated as “sacred spaces” but nothing approaching the stature and number of today’s common-place church. The animosity of the Christian right towards any belief that is not theirs will continue, until social change takes effect here in the United States, and that is if it happens at all. Until that occurs, smaller belief systems such as Paganism will continue to hold far less of the spotlight in the world of Spirituality. I do; however, see changes coming within Paganism itself. A tidal change towards a more self-driven aspect of Spirituality.

Of course, with any future predictive analysis…I could be way off base. In baseball, there are always predictions on how bad a team will be. But a season is one-hundred-and-sixty-two games. Anything can happen. One only need to look at the miracle season of the 1969 New York Mets, a team that was left for dead before the season began. They went on to win one-hundred regular season games – and the World Series. You must play all the games to find out what the future holds.

–T /|\

Photo by Tomas Ryant on

Revisiting: Thoughts on Spiritual Flexibility

Back in July of 2016, I wrote a post titled “Thoughts on Spiritual Flexibility“. I thought it might be a great time to revisit some of the points in this post. I found it interesting that a July post in a Presidential election year would be facetiously noting things such as what Donald Trump may say to make headlines, since that became a fairly commonplace thing in the four years following. However, I brought the post back to the arena I wanted to set things in:  devotional practice.

My devotional practice has changed a lot in the following years since this post. At that time, Crow was my primary devotional. Even though Coyote was already a part of my Spiritual Path, our contact was sporadic at best, as it has become lately. Abnoba had not even entered into the picture at this time. So much of what I wrote was geared towards daily devotionals to a single God that I was working with. Now, with three, daily devotionals  can take a different tack in the wind. But I’ll serve that up a little later.

One thing that has not changed about daily devotionals is my perspective that it just is not work. And if it resembled work, I would have problems seeing it as part of my devotionals to two Trickster Gods and a Forest Goddess. perhaps, it might be best to set down a foundation as to what I consider to be devotional aspects of my Spirituality. Merriam Webster describes devotional as:

1a: religious fervor PIETY
b: an act of prayer or private worship
c: a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation
2a: the act of dedicating something to a cause, enterprise, or activity the act of devoting
b: the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal
3 obsolete the object of one’s devotion

Merriam Webster

So, the two I will focus on are 1(b) and to some extent 2(b). For my, my daily devotionals are something akin to prayers. Not quite the same thing, but that’s about the best that I can put into a descriptive thought. For instance, every time I drive down to Houston from Hillsboro, a trek of a little more than two-hundred miles, I always ask for the protection of my little triad of Gods. In a strict sense, this can be considered a type of devotional to all three of Them. Most mornings that I wake up, I stop for a moment and thank Crow for waking me. I don’t always do that, but am usually on point with it. But these little statements, these little moments….I don’t have to think about them, I just do them. Its a part of me. Its about respecting and recognizing the two Gods and the Goddess that are such a focal part of my Spirituality.

Now, granted, everyday life can and does get in the way of this. When I miss a day or five, I don’t kick myself for forgetting. I don’t apologize for forgetting. I get back into the cycle of showing my respect and recognition. Trust me, the Gods are not going to absolutely freak if you miss a daily devotional – unless They are requiring it of you, but that’s a different story.

I am going to quote an entire paragraph from that July 2016 post, because I just don’t know how to write this any better than it already is.

One’s Spiritual beliefs are what they are. What you believe is what you believe. I happen to believe in the Gods and Goddesses. You – whoever might be reading this – may have a belief in something different, or even nothing at all. But whatever the case may be, it shouldn’t be “work” – at least in my opinion. Being in your element Spiritually is something that should feel natural, and welcoming to you. Don’t mistake what I am saying though. Growing in your Spirituality is, and should be, work to one degree or another. That’s actually important. Growing is about stretching your Spiritual muscles, and much like physical muscles, there’s work to be done for that to happen. But just being who you are Spiritually? That should be as natural and comfortable as your skin.

Thoughts on Spiritual Flexibility, TommyElf
Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on

I’m quite comfortable with who and what I am. I don’t need the wider Pagan community to acknowledge or tell me if I am a Pagan, a Druid or a Polytheist. I know I am those. I’m comfortable with being those. I continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of all of those. I don’t need society to accept the fact that I am Polyamorous.  I am. Our modern Christian society tells me that I am going to Hell for beliefs such as that. My only response is “you first.” I’m not judging people’s lifestyles nor am I saying that mine is better than theirs. Except that is better than theirs – for me. Don’t be on the fence about who and what you are. Figure it out and accept that for yourself. What others toss out there only matters if you let it.

Why do I bring this up? Because being who you are is important. Knowing who you are is a constant search. Understanding who you are is key to being comfortable with yourself. If devotionals aren’t your thing, don’t do them. But don’t piss all over someone else’s belief in devotionals. Respect it for what it is – a part of who they are, a part of their beliefs. I don’t particularly believe in the Holy Trinity, but I am not about to piss all over the concept. But if you are into devotionals and its your thing – don’t kick yourself in the ass when you miss one or five in a row. Just get back on the devotional cycle that you’ve set for yourself.

–T /|\

ReVisting: “Finding My Way”…and Going Even Further

Well, we have made it to the weekend, actually the near end of the weekend with the 8:45pm point of writing this post. Maybe I need to alter my writing of these posts by a day or two prior to the publishing date, but I digress. This is one of the “ReVisiting” I have decided to work on. This time I went way back to 2012 – nearly the beginning of the blog, and pulled up the post “Finding My Way“. This post was a sort of internal phrasing of where I was at the moment. I was burned out on nearly everything I was doing, and I desperately needed a long break. A three-week long trip was planned to drive up to Glacier National Park, with stops in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Colorado in both the going and returning aspects of the trip. The trip turned out to be exactly what I needed. An internal reset. I certainly could have used such a trip earlier this Summer, but COVID-19 had other plans, which have kept me in Hillsboro, Texas for quite some time. This has also allowed me to step back into the analytical approach as to how my personal Path has been going, where it has been, and where I hope it might go.

In the “Finding My Way” post, at the very end, I left a rather disjointed statement about getting back to my poetry, which I have, as a means of bringing things back together. Now, a little over eight years later (I wrote the original post on June 12th, 2012), I have started to understand far better that the Path is not always a straight line. And sometimes I have no control whatsoever where it will lead me to go. While the analytical part of what I wrote was a good look at where I had gone with my career, which is currently not at all where I ever envisioned it would be, another song besides Rush’s ‘Finding My Way” (the lyrical inspiration of the post) brought a much deeper piece of analytics to me – Queensryche’s “Someone Else” from their “Promised Land” album. There are two versions of the song on the album, and this one is referenced as the “full band” version on the 2003 reissue of the album. As follows are those lyrics:

When I fell from grace I never realized
How deep the flood was around me
A man whose life was toil was like a kettle left to boil
And the water left these scars on me

The chains I wore were mine, dragging me towards my fate
Planned for me long ago
I played by all their rules, went to their right schools
Who was I to question?

They used to say I was nowhere man
Heading down was my destiny
But yesterday I swear that was
Someone Else, not me

Here I stand at the crossroad’s edge
Afraid to reach out for eternity
One step when I look down
I see someone else, not me

I know now who I am, if only for awhile
I recognize the changes
I feel like I did, before the magic wore thin
And the baptism of stains began

Sacrifice, they always say… is a sign of nobility
But where does one draw the line in the face of injury?
I’m just trying to understand

Standing here at the crossroad’s edge
Looking down at what I used to be
A drowning man, trying to stay afloat
Heavy with the past, but somehow keeping hope
That there’s something more that is seen
But it’s somewhere out of reach

So I keep looking back
Looking back and I see someone else

All my life they said I was going down
But I’m still standing stronger proud

And today I know, there’s so much more I can be
I think I finally understand

From where I stand at the crossroad’s edge
There’s a path leading out to sea
And from somewhere deep in my mind
Sirens sing out loud, songs of doubt, as only they know how
But one glance back reminds and I see
Someone Else, not me.

I keep looking back at Someone Else… me?

I realize it is a lengthy quote, but the song has some real meaning to me throughout my life. All the way through sixth grade, I was a student that was ahead of everyone else. I read on a near collegiate level, while most my class lagged far behind me. My teachers had nothing but very elevated praise for me. When my father reached the end of his thirty-two year Air Force career, we rotated back to the United States, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama to be precise. My parents enrolled me into Catholic parochial elementary school for my sixth grade (a repeat grade for me because I did not have all the credits required to move to high school due to the differences between US schools and DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents Schools). This was also my first introduction to the concepts of main-stream, popular music. That was predictable measure for my grades to drop. I went from the top of my class to a continual and constant finish at the back of my class through to my high school graduation. As the song notes, no one had a lot of hope for my ability to make anything of myself. And I certainly listened to all of that and played predictable to it, with the exception of my extremely high ACT and SAT scores. But scores never mattered to me, and I kept to my constant routine of being more of a failure than any kind of success.

My long hair also did not endear my very well to my extremely strict and conservative father. The fact that I immediately went back to wearing my hair long past my collar after I left the US military brought a lot of the anger and disappointment of both of my parents aimed directly at me. Much later, my mother confided in me that my father was never more proud than when I was promoted to Sergeant. And never more disappointed than the moment that I was removed from the military with a General Discharge (Under Honorable Conditions). He was disappointed. I was ready to live life under my own terms.

Most likely, I am a typical Libra. I see all sides of an issue. I see the good and bad in people. I always seek balance. Except when I am traveling my own road. I am quite the free traveler in all of that. If a certain pathway looks more intriguing to me, I will take it – if I can. My entire world view has been one of experience – both good, bad, and disastrous. I remember points in my life where I lived in a one-room apartment. My meals were ramen (yummy and salty!) and popcorn. Yes, I bought those large bags of pre-popped popcorn, and I could live off of that for nearly a week. From that point, I have also owned my own home, had more than enough money to pay the bills and then some. I have seen both sides of that hill. I have driven cars that I am absolutely sure were never safe to be on the road. I’ve purchased brand-new cars. My life has always been about experiences. And it likely always will.

I have tried a few different aspects of Paganism. And my Spirituality continues to be about experiences. That is an integral aspect of my Spirituality. I cannot fathom any part of my lifetime without that.

Each of those experience are what I consider to be “crossroads” in my Life. Now, at fifty-four (almost fifty-five), one would think that these crossroads would begin to be less and less. Not so…crossroads will always occur throughout this Life, and continue on into whatever happens beyond the Veil. I would hope that I am less likely to jump in any direction than I was in my youth. I hope that I am far more considerate about what each direction might hold before setting a single footstep in that direction.

At the very end of “Finding My Way” I made the following observation about trying to move forward with the expressed intention of folding more creativity into the daily recipe of me:

In other words – just let the G-ds club me upside the head with Awen — and see what happens.  And through that — explore the “me” a little more.

In essence I was a little naive in my thinking. Creativity is all around me. Not just mine, but everyone else’s too. Someone’s creativity created the laptop and the Windows 10 environment I use. Someone’s creative created the WordPress platform I am typing all of this into. The creativity of the band members of Queensryche provided the music I am listening to. Creativity is everywhere. There are waves of it invisibly washing over us every moment of the day. Just gotta grab one of those waves and let it take you wherever, while opening yourself to what it is and whatever it brings to you. As a simple aside, this is exactly how I do the writing for this blog. I do not typically write the way other folks seem to – find a topic, plan out what to write, and then fit what you type into that. I just let the wave take me wherever it does.

A long time back, everyone in my life told me that I would never really be anything in life. And I listened. Until the military showed me I could do anything I put my mind to doing. When I came out of the military and into the world, I did not try to conform to anyone else’s standards of what I should do. I conformed to be what I wanted me to be. I took my lumps for it. There were some truly dark times associated with my choices. But those were my choices. I owned the consequences of those choices, and in my opinion – I grew up in ways I never thought I could do. My father always told me I would be irresponsible as an adult, simply because I didn’t follow his way of doing things. A few years before his death, we reconciled our differences and he admitted he was impressed with the way I handled my life. It was what I truly needed to hear…even if it came too late to really soften my heart towards his stance. But that’s another post of self examination….

–T /|\

Revisiting “Morphing the Myth” – Building a Mystery or Personal Self-Examination?

All of what you are about to read started with a question posed to me in Facebook, which I turned into a status post. From there, what I perceived to be a touch of playfulness from Cat Treadwell turned into me turning that same point over and over in my mind. First let me setup what happened to get this entire aspect kicked into gear.

Q; Biggest Pagan confession?

Well…its not much of a confession, as a lot of people do know this about me. I’m not a fan of the Mabinogion. Never really was enthralled with it when I read it (all three times, different translation each time), and its generally not a part of anything that I practice within my Spirituality. I grok that it speaks to others….just not me. Now what’s my penance? ::eye-roll::

This was what started everything. A simple question, followed by my answer. Many of the members of OBOD – and many more Druids – are inspired by the Mabinogion. For me, its an odd series of tales, which provide no area of ready comprehension for me. That prompted the following….

Cat: So what story speaks to you instead?

Me: Mythological?? Theseus and the Minotaur.

Cat: I do wonder who set those Pagan Rules. Tolkien made his own mythology. I’d love to see yours.

Me: Mine would be really messy…I mean REALLY messy….

Cat: Do it!

…and all of that started my brain racing.

A few years back, I attended Pantheacon in San Jose, California. Actually, I attended it three years in a row. In one of those years, there was a panel that I attended called “Morphing the Myth” which I wrote a blog post on. There’s actually about six or seven blog posts that tie to this panel, but you should get the picture with the one. If you want to read further, just do a search on “Morphing the Myth” here at the blog site, and you should pull up the other posts.

Back to Pantheacon’s “Morphing the Myth” panel… Much of the discussion fell towards how Science Fiction and Fantasy open the doorway to Paganism for so many people. Cat’s point on Tolkien really struck home with this thematic for me and realized that I was suddenly thrust back into the panel’s wide-ranging discussion. Tolkien wrote a very impressive universe for his stories to live in. His vivid depictions of places such as Fangorn Forest, the formidable and dangerous land of Mordor, and the dwarven fortress of Erebor, provide the fertile ground upon which the seeds of his stories grow and take deep root. In much the same way, we find similar fertile ground in the myths and legends that we read, study, and explore. For some of us, certain legends resonate deeply with who we are and the manner in which we connect with the world around us. As I noted, the Mabinogian holds no such cherished treasure for me. Furthermore, while I identify greatly with Theseus in the story concerning the Minotaur, is is also not a story that calls deep to my heart either.

Oddly enough, I am drawn to the stories of the old West here in the United States. The stories of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Billy the Kid, and so many others ring deeply in my soul. However, it is not the lawman that resonate with me. I’ll use a very specific example – the movie Hidalgo, which depicts the legend of distance rider Frank Hopkins. The character is one that does things his own way, a trait that plays well in my way of dealing with the world. I am also drawn to the mythologies of the First Nations, some of which do not dove-tail neatly from tale to tale. As I noted my idea of a mythology would be extremely messy, and this rag-tag mythology of tales fits right into that particular point.

Building my own mythology. While it certainly sounds intriguing to my ears, its a direction I cannot tread – other than through a fictional narrative. I have often though about creating my own world for characters that wander through my mind. There is a certain appeal to doing just that, through short stories which I might be able to weave into a longer tale. As I noted, it would be messy. And while I am not completely seeing how I might be able to do this, as I said there is a certain draw to it.

You come out at night
That’s when the energy comes
And the dark side’s light
And the vampires roam
You strut your rasta wear
And your suicide poem
And a cross from a faith that died
Before Jesus came
You’re building a mystery

“Building a Mystery”, sung by Sarah McLachlan

The “Morphing the Myth” panel did have one extra feature to the discussion that I thought was an incredible point – we give life to the Myths and Legends that we hold close and dear. We don’t always get all the points absolutely correct in the retelling, and this literally brings these stories back to having a renewed life. Plus, there is some aspect of retelling these stories with updated parts to the stories – told against the background of a culture so alien to the original story. Take for example, the 102nd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Darmok”. Much of the story parallels “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and is a very interesting showcase for how an old myth can be painted against a futuristic backdrop. I have often wondered at the inspiration of so many other films and whether or not that inspiration may have been drawn from a myth or legend that have long been put to the wayside.

I don’t keep an altar in the house. This is as close as it gets.

Would I create my own mythology and legends, from which I could use as a backdrop for a series of characters? I do not know about the “would” part, but the “could” reaction is that yes I could. It would be messy. As if the entire aspect of the myths and legends was not completely preserved. This is a thought that I have constantly had concerning the myths and Gods and Goddesses that we all work with. Yes, this God was a god of this or that, and there are references to the God having certain characteristics and personality traits from the myths and legends. However, I have often wondered if we paint too much of a two-dimensional portrait of the Gods in this manner? Maybe the stories, legends and myths that have survived are not a complete understanding of that particular God or Goddess. Maybe Pan was more than just the epitome of a collegiate student headed to the Florida beaches for Spring Break. We just don’t know about an alternate, more serious and studious side of Pan because those stories did not survive being handed down during the ages.

And what if we have an incomplete understanding of the Gods? Does it negate what energy we have put into worshiping and working with Them? For me, that answer is easy: no. Over the years, I have developed my own relationship with both Coyote and Crow. Both are tricksters and enjoy having fun at my expense from time to time; however, both can also be quite serious about things that need to be accomplished too. For me, this is a case where the myths and legends only show you a two-dimensional aspect of who the Gods are. If you believe that the Gods are individual Beings who have Their own lives and make Their own choices…then of course, the myths and legends will only show a singular side of who They are. Do I believe that? Yes, I definitely do. Do I have a complete understanding of who Crow or Coyote are? No, not even close. My relationship shows me a side of each of Them that is chosen to be shown to me. I know enough of Them to do the workings that I need to do for Them.

…and all of this came from a single comment made on a Facebook post. That’s generally considered diving down a rabbit hole. Except that it is not. That one comment opened a doorway I have walked through many, many times. That comment lead me through the doorway to something that I have done my very best to consider, evaluate, understand and believe for a huge portion of my adult life, and will continue to take up my thoughts far into the future. Is my perspective empirical fact? Nope, not even close. It is; however, a part of my own UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis. And as such, you might even be able to consider it a part of my own personal Mythology. For me, it is just the prelude to some chocolate eclairs for this morning – and a topic that I will continue to obverse, evaluate and explore well into my next lifetime.

…and I certainly have to thank Cat…for knocking the door off the hinges, so I would walk through. 🙂 Conversations can take us all to some supremely strange places.

“‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?'” Indeed Alice…what are legends, myths and stories without internal observation and personal examination. Indeed.

–T /|\

Revisiting- Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress

New to the blog schedule are the re-visits to older blog posts. Except, this time, I decided to not go that far back. “Killing Me Slowly With Over-Scheduling and Stress” was published a little over two years ago…June 21, 2018. At the time, I was trying to find ways to free up an overly scheduled life. This was written about the time that I brought the podcast “Upon a Pagan Path” to a close. Podcasting is a lot of fun, as well as a lot of work, and I really needed to chop off a lot of what was happening in my life at the time. It was only natural that it was ended.

Not only was I writing blogs here, but I was also writing blogs for Moon Books on their platform, until major changes were made in how to get material published, and that slowly slid away as well. Add to that, I was writing haphazardly here on the blog with no committed time schedule for publishing posts, so some organization was desperately needed.

As I noted in the blog post at the time, I was using Google Calendar to try and keep things on track. It took a little longer for me to get away from scheduling at certain times for tasks such as writing blog posts. I try to get these done at some point on the day that the schedule states….sometimes it doesn’t always happen, but that’s not a big deal. A little slip in the schedule will happen for a variety of reasons. Instead of beating myself up over it, I have learned to make due, and continue moving forward. Now, the same cannot be said for other tasks that require timely aspects to them, but that’s another perspective altogether.

The last two paragraphs, as I reread things, really bring some of this into focus for me.

All of this over-scheduling was really killing me slowly. My stress levels climbed beyond belief. A trip to the cardiologist revealed a need to drop a lot of the stress from my life. Revamping my calendar and task list has helped. I have to continue being careful of how I schedule everything and taking down-time between tasks and events. After all, I want to be here a lot longer.

But I do wonder…are we over-scheduling our lives to try and complete more stuff in our lives? And in that process, are we missing the small, beautiful details of our lives as everything passes us in a speedy procession?? I certainly do wonder…

So, I sit, remembering stuff from two years ago. My job was extremely stressful during this time. Silly demands, constant alterations to the department, the personnel, my job responsibilities….all of that had me constantly trying to get settled into a routine that was constantly being tipped over. My upper-level management could not commit to structure changes for more than two months at a time, and trust me, constant upheaval in the workplace is a difficult thing for anyone to deal with.

Now, with all that almost a year behind me now, I find that I can breathe a little easier now. Except that Life has gone back to being just a dice-roll. COVID-19 has certainly altered the entire ballgame. Getting outside is not as easy as it once was. Being out in public, among people, has a hint of being quite dangerous. Hill county, where I currently live, has had less than fifty COVID-19 cases since the beginning until about two weeks ago. Each of the last two weeks, the numbers are spiking at nearly double the rate each week. There was only a single death due to the virus in the entire county until two weeks ago. Now we have six. Being out in public is a strict no-no for me, which has forced me to look over things such as grocery runs with a different perspective. I stock up on foods as much as possible. I freeze whatever meats I can get. Essentially, I treat my world as if I am barricading in from the zombies that I mentioned in the June 21, 2018 post I have referenced. I made a laughing reference to becoming a hermit, but that is starting to turn into reality here. The social aspect of my Paganism is essentially online these days.

When will things change and go back to what they used to be? Will things ever be what they used to be? How is all of this going to alter what I do as a Druid?

The reality is that things will not be the same when some sort of “normalcy” finally happens. Life is going to be altered to a large degree in some manner. What I remember as everyday life will be different. How? Well, that remains to be seen. Of the three questions, the one that I cannot answer at all, is the last one. I still practice my Druidry through meditation indoors, and my prayers and outside time in the backyard. Fairly soon, I will start seeking out places that are a few hours’ drive away, where I think very few people will be. But what defines “fairly soon?” At this point, I am not sure.

I keep to my calendar. Some sense of normalcy is important. I don’t have near as much stuff contained within it. But I still use it to provide some degree of routine for me to follow. Otherwise, I am not sure I would even bother getting out of bed most days. I completely understand everyone having similar feelings. All our daily lives got turned upside down and then churned into shark chum. Now, we pick through the flotsam and jetsam, trying to see what we might be able to salvage, and what we might be able to use for a new start. But remember, we’ve all had issues with over-scheduling our lives. Now, we have a chance to take those schedules back and reduce some of the stress in our lives. Just a thought, going forward.

–T /|\

Revisiting – Thanks For Your Service

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post about this particular statement – “Thank you for your service.” It’s a rather simple statement usually provided once people find out the extremely small detail that I served in the US military for eight years. And even now, some seven years after I wrote this article, it’s still a statement that makes me cringe. Not because people are thanking me for the eight years of my life that I freely gave up. No, not that at all. Because, for the most part, it’s an empty platitude usually meant to elicit a response from the public on the querent’s profound sense of patriotism. In other words, the person making the statement wants to be recognized as being patriotic in the eyes of others by thanking a veteran.

Now, I know that’s not always the case. Some people are genuinely expressing their thanks for me putting on a uniform, foregoing my rights to be judged under the very structure of the Constitution that I am swearing to defend, and potentially laying my life on the line in the defense of the freedoms of this county and its citizenry. But in my experience, those folks are so few and far between. I know that many others are saying thanks to show pride in what I did for eight years, hoping to provide a moment for me to feel good about my service. They are trying their best to erase an ugly moment in our history, where troops returning from Viet Nam were spat upon and decried as “baby-killers”. Certainly, there were instances of bad behavior by troops within that war zone, but the American public painted with a broad-brush, as it often does – splattering blame on military folks who had nothing to do with such atrocities. However, painting with a broad brush is no excuse for what did happen.

Rest assured, I saw a lot of bad behavior while I was in the military, both here in the United States and overseas. In Germany, military personnel accounted for a large majority of the rapes in the Kaiserslautern Military Community while I was there. Drunken driving, and the resultant accidents were also predominantly military issues. During the riots in Los Angeles after the trial of the assailants of Rodney King, there were military members that overturned vehicles on Sembach Air Base – sharing in the emotional outrage that had occurred. Military personnel are no saints, and they are prone to the exact same bad behaviors as their civilian citizenry is. Again, rest assured, I was no saint either.

That’s right. I accumulated some bad behavior while I was in the Air Force. Specifically, I played the role of “dog robber” for my unit, a NATO designated unit under control of NATO command at Brussels, Belgium. We did not receive our equipment or our unit funding from US military command authority. Ours came from NATO and as such, we were severely under-funded and under-equipped. A “dog robber” is the same thing as a scrounger. I took equipment that we had too much of, and utilized that to barter for equipment that we didn’t have and needed. This method of equipment transfer is illegal in any military and is referenced as “black marketeering.” Typically, military equipment gets sold to civilian counter parts for illicit monetary payments. My manner of operating was to trade equipment with other military units, so that we could comply with necessary TT&E (Training, Testing & Exercising) requirements. I never traded with civilians because I could not get what we needed from them. Plus, transferring equipment between units was a “look away” moment from command, whereas trading with civilians was considered to be criminal (as it should be). For my unit, I traded sixty ice cream makers (seriously) for three-hundred-and-seventy-five magnetic tape reels with a US Navy Frigate docked in Rota, Spain. In another transaction, I obtained a Connex shed (essentially a shipping container that you usually see being loaded on ships and trains) for my unit to store excess equipment in (such as our chemical warfare gear). None of this was done with implicit command authority knowledge, but my commander had made the comment that it would “sure be nice to have…” My job was to make it happen. And most of the time, I did.

Me – USAF – July 1992

I never finished my second hitch. My first enlistment was for four years. My second was for six. I only served for four. My mortal sin was missing a single early morning exercise. Not the kind with rifles and military combat training. Exercise, as in jumping jacks, push-ups, and aerobics with a step-board. It was held at the gym on Sembach. I worked a night shift until 1am and went back to Vogelweh to catch a quick nap. I was due at the exercise at the Sembach gym at 6am. I never showed. I was fast asleep on my couch with the tv still on. This earned me the wrath of my Command Sergeant, who never liked my way of dealing with things. I was always on the edge of the line. This was the opportunity to nail my ass to the wall. And he did. I left the Air Force on a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions, thanks to my commander. My Command Sergeant was going to process me out on a Dishonorable Discharge. My commander intervened on the process type, but my separation from the military was going to happen regardless.

I would not consider my time in the military to be an overall happy one. However, it did teach me a skill set – utilizing mainframe systems. I parlayed that experience into the career I have today. But those words – “thank you for your service” – still ring hollow in my ears. Except when they come from another veteran, because I know they understand. I know they’ve experienced some of the same military idiocy that I did. Where commanders, upper-ranks sergeants all seemed to think that spit and polish equated to combat readiness. Where the worry was on how you looked, not on how you managed to think on your feet in the middle of a crisis moment.

No, I don’t need to be thanked for any part of my service. Much the same as the way I approach my work. I worry about the results…how I look or how I get there is immaterial. But I also realize that don’t need to be the salty veteran that feels the need to piss all over some well-meaning kid’s empathy – even if it is misplaced. So, I smile – in the days before COVID, I would offer my hand for a handshake – and I say, “No sir (or ma’am as the case might be), thank you for remembering.” Even when I don’t feel like their statement is merited. Because there’s a level of decency that goes along with being a real American citizen. And Gods, I sure as the Nine Hells don’t see a lot of that currently. Our deep division in politics, our inability to find reason on the issues of race and the such, the violent arguments over something as inane as wearing a mask….there’s no need for me to react angrily over a simple statement. There is a need for me to lead by example, and graciously accept the statement, even when it is an empty platitude.

–T /|\

Revisiting – Musing on “Elder” Status

Back in October of 2018, I wrote a blog post titled “So You’re an Elder…What Now?” where I started the overall discussion by noting that I am an Elder within the Pagan community. At thirty-plus years on my Pagan Path – I started down this path in mid-to-late 1986 – I am certainly an Elder. This is also a role that I continue to have my own personal issues with. At nearly fifty-five years of age, I do not feel “old” in any sense. However, I cannot run like I used to. My poor knees cannot take that kind of punishment. So no matter how I might “feel”, my body reminds me nearly daily that I am not the young man used to be. Never mind that when I let my full beard grow out, I have extremely white whiskers on my cheeks. No matter how hard I fight the idea, I definitely am an Elder.

Following those slight musings, among a few other points, I wrote the following two paragraphs:

Traveling through this part of my feelings, and my struggle towards accepting my own role as an Elder has brought me to this point. What in the Nine Hells am I expecting of myself in a role as an Elder? My struggle with this has nothing to do with the people that stop me along their own Path and ask questions. No, my struggle comes back to a feeling of being responsible for someone else’s Spiritual Path. Which, to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m not trained as a Priest. I do not, will not and cannot perform those functions. There are members of the Pagan community who are more than capable of doing these functions. They have pledged their lives to be Priests for their communities. Part of their function is in assisting and training others who are also on their Path. It would be wrong, unethical, and very unwieldy for me to perform such functions. I am not a clergy member. It is not my function nor my role.

All of this took another six months for me to start changing my perspective. I still struggle with the idea of a wider role within the Pagan community. The only role I have in the community that I have moved into is to just be me. To my knowledge, there are no Pagans nearby, making me into a local community of one. What am I expecting of myself in this twilight of my life in this existence? Well, probably the best way to explain that is to drop into the second paragraph from the article. I may not be trained conventionally as a Priest, but I am capable of fulfilling the role when needed. It will be a little wobbly, quite unconventional in nature, but I can definitely fulfill the role. Could I train someone on this Path? Not likely, but I can provide direction to those that can. For instance, someone wanting to get into Druidry, I can point them to the closest ADF folks to where they are or I can provide them with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. As someone on an Ovate path, I cannot teach much, but I can be available to listen to any difficulties they might have, and provide some assistance – though a better source for that would be their assigned mentor.

So, as I struggle with my own myopic view of what an Elder is, how can find my own role within the context of this label? Or do I really need to? I work in my Spirituality under the precept that I need to handle my own approach as my own. If it doesn’t conform to what someone else is doing, that is perfectly fine, so long as it works for me. As I learn more and more about my own Path, my own perspective, my own Path – I have started to realize that my divergence from what is essentially the mainstream of today’s modern Pagan Paths is not because of a desire to be different, but a need to follow what is a concern within my own personal Spirituality.

So, I continue to see myself in the role of a mentor, of sorts. I am not going to be the Pagan that teaches you about magick or spell work – those are not arrows in my quiver. But I can help you make the connections to your immediate environment, so that you can experience your immediate place in the world around you.

And the resulting conversations with some of the newer Pagans on their own Paths is not about converting them to my way of thinking, but just pulling the curtain back on where I have walked and how I have managed to get here. I can show them the hows and whys of getting here…they still have to walk the walk. They still have to want to do the hard work that gets them to a point similar to this. I am not their Priest. I am not their Guru. I’m just me.

I still worry about people placing me on a pedestal. As I note here, I am a Priest of one – me. I am no Guru. I just happen to have been walking this Path since 1986. None of that makes me special. However, it does make me who I am. All of that experience informs my daily walk. All of that experience has helped me to develop stronger connections to the world around me. All of that experience will help me as I continue to move forward on this path, and in this existence. The way I think, the way I work through issues – even in my everyday, mundane life – is informed from my experience, and my experience alone. To get here, I did the hard work. To get further, I have more hard work to get through. I don’t do it for a title or to be an initiate to some grade in some Druid Order. I do it because its my Path to walk. It took me around two decades to find myself here. This is the Path I was searching for. This works for me. I’ll be more than happy to pick up and support those who stumble along the way. I’m also happy to help those who are lost on this Path to find the Path that works better for them. Why? Because it strokes my ego? No. Because its the right thing to do.

My role as an Elder is truly a simple one: be me, and be available. Talk. Discuss. Point others in the directions where you have been. Talk with them about your approaches. Provide advice when asked for. Try not to be judgmental about other approaches. Simply just be there. And you do not even have to embrace the title of “Elder”…you can simply just be you. Just another Pagan, living each day in service to your Gods, experiencing what life has to offer…and being there for others. In the end, this should be service enough to others because a safe place to discuss any topic is where and who I should be. And through all of that, none of it marks me as “special” – merely that like anyone else, I am unique.

I loathe mission statements. To me, those are corporate leftovers which make a statement to the world, but are rarely followed internally. However, if I was looking for a mission statement, this quote may surely be it. I am no holder of some secret, ancient knowledge. I hold my experiences in everyday life, as well as life within more closed and intimate environments, such as Druid Camps, initiation circles, and the intimate, delicate conversations around a fire at two or three in the morning. Some of those experiences are closed events, not to be shared with others. Not just because of the private matter, but so that the moment (such as in initiations) can be experienced with fresh eyes and emotions by the initiate. Life is all about experiences. Sometimes those experiences can be confusing and even downright scary. I have been there. I’m more than willing to sit and listen. You need someone to hold you at the campfire, just so you have someone close….I’m your Druid. An Ovate, but still a Druid.

We are all unique. We all react differently to events that unfold around us. Sometimes, we need a shoulder to lean. Or a hand to hold for a while during a short distance on the Path. Or someone who will wrap us in their cloak and be that warm, soothing companion against the chill of the night or the tremors that stepped up at an unguarded moment. Part of being on this path for so long means that I am here to be that person, should you need it. I am an Elder. I am a Priest, maybe not in the conventional sense of the word, but still a Priest. I am a Druid. I am approachable. I am a safe place for anyone that needs it.

–T /|\

Revisiting “Hashtags, Labels and Bias – We Are Not Talking to One Another”

These past few days, I have spent some time and effort looking through some of the older posts that I have. As I read through these posts, two things occur to me – (1) my writing has gotten better over time, and (2) in a lot of those posts, I did a fairly poor job of getting my point across. Thus, I created these “revisiting” posts, along with the category tag here on the blog. The idea is not to rehash what I wrote, but to provide some clarity, as well as expanding on where I was headed on those topics. The post I picked for this treatment works on a topic that is a particular pet peeve of mine – labels.

This particular post is not all that old, having been published back in July of 2016. However, it does represent a particular frustration of mine – categorizing people into convenient little buckets which are then provided vague, sometimes categorically racist descriptions. For instance, in American history, the prevailing understanding of African Americans were that they were “lazy” and “incapable of intelligent thinking” – both holdovers from an America that had created institutional slavery throughout the southern states (and elsewhere in the north, though this is rarely discussed openly). Descriptive labeling such as this continues even to this day, and America, as a society, continues to struggle with this perspective.

However, this post is not about racism, its about the convenience behind the perspective of labeling and categorizing people. Its about the slippery slope that I believe labeling can set us on. My approach to politics is fairly well known. I am an unaffiliated voter, meaning that I choose not to self-identify with any political party. My understanding of how the American government *should* operate in regards to the Constitution and the American society as whole, is much closer to that of the liberal aspect of things than that of the conservative side. However, I not only see and grok what the conservative perspective is – I even agree with some aspects of it. My middle-ground stance has had me labeled by some of my friends as a “liberal” or “Republican” – depending on who you talk to. I have been called some rather colorful Anglo-Saxon terms over my approach, with some friends actually deciding that I was no longer someone that they wanted to associate with.

In many of these instances, I have been told that I do not love or want my country to survive the current Constitutional crisis taking place in the halls of Congress (the impeachment process of President Trump). Where I am branded as a liberal, I am accused of wanting America become a communist state. Where I am branded as a conservative, I am accused of letting America slip into the world of a tyrannical dictatorship. The reality is that I have absolutely zero desire to see America move from a Federal Republic to a Communist state. Nor would I sit back and let America slip into the hold of a tyrannical dictatorship. My oath of enlistment into the United States Air Force was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Though I have been out of the United States Air Force since 1994, I do believe that my oath is still in effect – and will be until the die I pass beyond the veil.

So, how to deal with this labeling stuff? How can I make a difference on this? Well, I am not sure. I treat people as individuals, and desperately try not to lump groups of people into a single category based on some vague descriptive. I am human. I wish I could say that I am one-hundred percent perfect in doing this. I am not. I have caught myself doing exactly what I am describing here. But I do try my best not to fall back to this default programming that has been sustained for many more years than I am alive, thrice over (or more). I do not make my friendships or relationships based on some political scale. That is a lousy way to live life, in my opinion.

Liberals, Conservatives, and everyone in-between – they all love this their respective countries. They just differ on the ways it should be governed. The reality is that what really works is somewhere in the middle of the two – in a place where compromise can be found. In our current political climate, where it seemingly is more fashionable to be offended than it is to roll up your sleeves and step forward to work *together*, its hard to see where compromise can be had.

Sitting here listening to Rick Springfield (yes, I’m a fan), I am reminded that the current political fight is like watching two people fight over what gets played on a stereo. Other folks might like to hear some Tool (not a fan) or maybe some smooth jazz or rap. let me relay this a bit more with a story from my past…

When I was in Non-Commissioned Officers’ School (yes, there is a class that teaches enlisted personnel how to be a Non-Commissioned Officer), I was placed in charge of playing music during class breaks. In the entire six weeks of class, I never brought in a single CD of my own. The other twenty-four members of the class brought their CDs instead. I placed these into an order of when each was received. We played everything. Jazz, Country, Rap, Rhythm and Blues, Hard Rock, Pop, Metal, and even some Classical music. All of it got played. You knew that your music might not get played during a particular class break, but eventually it would be played. Furthermore, everyone was exposed to other music types – even the types that they might completely hate. The point was not to expose us to various types of music, but to realize that compromise means that you don’t always get your way, but eventually – you will. You merely have to build some patience to wait for your turn. And that for this process to work, everyone had to respect their classmates’ musical choices while waiting their own turn.

Respect. In my very biased perspective (yes, I have bias – I admit that), this is what is lacking in today’s “modern” society. Like spoiled toddlers, we scream and yell because our choices are not being chosen. We draw lines in the sand (figuratively) and claim a hard-line, instead of seeking compromise. We berate others’ perspectives because it does not line up completely with our own, rather than trying to find ways to get some of what we want while giving the other side some of what they want. So, what do we get? Here in America, we have a populace that is divided over political perspectives. We have folks we no longer have as friends because they voted for the “wrong” person – when voting is an opinion. Perhaps, we really should slide into a Communist environment or a dictatorial government. Then, we might be able to move forward without having to fight over getting “our” way *only*.

A little too fantastical? I mean, is there any way that a world-power such as the United States devolves in such a manner, just from the overuse of labels? Perhaps. But as I noted, labels are just a convenient way of describing those who are different than we are. We have never done anything as drastic as changing our government over something like that, right? Tell that to the First Nations children who were forced into government run institutions, such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where they were forced to abandon their cultural heritage, in order to change them from being “savages” into “civilized” humans.

That is just a singular example of what labeling can bring about, when taking things into the beyond. I am not saying that society is on this Path….yet. Sure as the lowest level of the Nine Hells, I hope we are so far down this Path. I’m old. I’m not in the greatest of health. But I will fight to my dying breath to keep stuff like this from happening. And to keep it from happening, in my opinion, it all starts with respecting one another…again.