Progression on One’s Path – A Personal Perspective

I have written a few posts that explain the why of my working within Druidry. What I haven’t done is explore some of the aspects of progression in one’s own Spiritual Path. For this, I need to work from another person’s perspective. My choice is a Druid who influences me greatly with what she does within her own practice. A few years back, I took the opportunity to take a year long study program with her to get an even deeper perspective on my own approach to Druidry. Yes, I am talking about Cat Treadwell, and specifically a passage from her book “A Druid’s Tale“. This is one of my go-to references, when I am needing inspiration on my own Spiritual path, so it is no coincidence that I pulled this off the bookshelf for today’s post.

Every single quote I am about to add to this post comes from pages 118 and 119. I add these passages to provide some emphasis for part of my own Path over thirty-plus years, and especially over the last thirteen to fourteen.

If you are serious about your spirituality, a point will come when your practice as a Pagan (of whatever Stripe) becomes your way of life. It will be so integrated into your world that the practice is almost entirely natural, not an activity separate from your work, your family or anything else. You are a Druid (or Witch, etc.). This is not special or different, it’s just part of who you are. Many novices aspire to this – and it’s a good goal to aim for.

My first twenty years or so as a Pagan, my personal Spirituality can best be described as a “caravan gypsy.” I did some rituals on my own, and even practiced with a group of Wiccans a couple of times, but at best, my concept of Paganism was more deeply rooted in an academic perspective. I spent a lot of time studying Paganism, but not nearly as much time doing it. Over time, slowly, my personal, individual practice of my beliefs through solo rituals increased my understanding from one of pure knowledge to one of understanding what that knowledge really meant: actually being a Pagan. This was the point where I started looking into Druidry as a more structured aspect of what I was trying to do. That still took a little bit of time to start changing who I was – finding a more serious direction for my practice.

I understand that the entire focal point of some modes of religious practice is to achieve enlightenment of some sort. That’s not Paganism, and certainly not Druidry. It’s a constant. You are, in a sense, continually being enlightened – as you practise, you learn. You are continually waking up each new day with new experiences and perspective, healing the past and moving forward with new potential into the future. That’s active and rewarding life, continuous inspiration that you use personally and share with those around by your expression of it.

When I finished my Bardic grade in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, this perspective nailed me like a brick flying across the courtyard. I even found Druidic inspiration in my daily, mundane work as a data specialist in my mundane job. As odd as it sounds, finding daily functionality in my Druidry helped me to recognize not only the relationships with the world around me, but also how to interpret relationships in my database work. Of course, I had not learned the art of subtlety at this point, and many of my brash observations on the college’s data were taken as criticism and arrogance. All of that possibly led to my eventually termination, though I was seen as someone who could readily interpret relationships and quickly help setup extremely complex data studies. I have never been known to sugar-coat the truth, which was likely the reason that upper management saw me as quite abrasive. Regardless of that fallout, seeking relationships between this thing and that thing has become a strong hallmark of my daily Path of Druidry. Cat’s notation over this making for an active and rewarding life is something I find to be very understated. Whatever your job, whatever is the truest aspect of your mundane life; I am quite positive that you will find that connection and inspiration. It may take some time, but if you have that curiosity to dig deeper, to open your mind to whatever possibility exists – you will find your Druidry open new ways of seeing the world around you.

But there is more, should you wish it. In other traditions, it may be a calling or vocation, but it’s that time when practising purely by yourself is not enough. You want to work with others. Or for others.

Initially, this may be for personal reasons. A group to learn with is wonderful, sharing the journey together, and validating your own experiences. A light is brighter when made up of many flames.

Or you would be called upon to truly be Pagan ‘for other people’ – to serve as a Priest. You may not have ‘completed’ your training (when have you ever?), but you want to be there for others, to help when called upon, whether they are actively seeking their own way or simply looking for information.

Here we go.These three little paragraphs are where I am right now. I struggle with the term “Priest.” However, I am learning that the term does not fit with the Christian baggage that I carry from my time in Catholic schools during my formal schooling period which my parents thrust me into. As Cat notes, one does not have to be complete in their “training”, which as an Ovate student – I am not. I struggle through my most of my Ovate studies, only because it has not been nearly compelling to me as my Bardic studies were. However, it is knowledge I need to understand going forward, so I work my best that I possibly manage. I do; however, feel the Calling to help others on their own Path. To be there to help them back to their feet and being able to stand up before moving forward on their Path. Far too often, I have pushed seekers of assistance or knowledge to others, without even trying to do more than get them to other people. That certainly is a form of assistance, but I need to stop, actively listen to them, and see if I might be able to provide the assistance that I have reserved for others. After all, those people sought me out, I owe them that much. Do I doubt my ability to do this? Somewhat. That may be inexperience talking or just my lack of self confidence to be what I perceive in these other folks that I know. While I might not have all the answers – no one else necessarily does either. Plus I will never know if I can help, if I keep foisting those needing help on to others. At some point I have to roll up my sleeves and get started. Now seems better than any other time.

Cat’s book, “A Druid’s Tale,” is a wonderful book, as is her book “Facing the Darkness” which is a definite go-to book for me when I hit those down-times in life. I am lucky enough to say that she is my friend, and even luckier to have had her as a teacher. While I know she is blushing furiously over this particular paragraph, I will also reiterate that she is a superb role model on how to get things done. As one of the ‘Tom’s” from among her litters…I am humbled by how much I have come to understand and experience within my own Spirituality, just from small comments and suggestions.

My Path in my Druidry will likely never be complete. I will work towards completing my Druidry grade with OBOD. Beyond that, I am not sure where my Path will set my feet, but there will always be more learning and experience to find. Of that I am sure. All that I have described here is what I would consider a progression in one’s own Spiritual studies. You start out with the basic, and then finding how these all configure into your daily life. And then, maybe, you will want to be in a deeper role, helping others on the myriad of Paths here within Paganism. That would be your individual choice. Wherever you decide to stop and find yourself completely at home in your Paganism is definitely your individual choice. The whys of it is nobody’s business but your own. There may be those that look down on you for not continuing from where you are…and that’s their loss. They are not seeing the beauty of you continuing to thrive right where you are. But your Path is not theirs to walk. Whatever your Path, whatever your choice…I, personally, think it’s the most beautiful thing that can happen. Your happiness, your curiosity are the most important parts of your daily Walk. To quote the Grateful Dead:

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

–T /|\

Thinking About: The Moon Was Full, and I Was Left Unsupervised

In my defense, the moon was full and I was left unsupervised.

This is, by far, one of my favorite memes on the internet. When I read it, I get a little chuckle out of the idea of being unsupervised and being able to blame my craziness on the moon. With two Trickster Gods riding shotgun, it would be such an appropriate perspective. Except that it really is not.

Let me take you back to sometime between April 1984 and February 1986. This was so long ago, that I cannot pinpoint with any degree of accuracy just when it happened. It did; however, happen sometime after I graduated high school and just before I entered the United States Air Force. Therefore, I can lay down that somewhat wide time-frame. At the time, I was exploring beyond the Catholic faith that I had been taught in high school. My protestant parents wanted the best possible education for me and decided that Catholic school was the direction to go. While I learned about the Catholic faith, it definitely was not calling to me. Once I graduated high school, I set out to find something that might suit me better. My first stop was Pentecostal Christianity. Don’t look so shocked. Shreveport, Louisiana is a fair hot-bed of this wing of Christianity. I stayed within this culture for a little under a year. The waving of the hands, speaking in tongues and so-called possession by the Holy Spirit seemed to be more staged and dramatic to me than anything else. Plus, I learned quickly not to question anything openly with the church members, as I got castigated fairly heavily. Still, I could not fathom how these concepts were not anything more than play-acting in the name of their God.

About four months into all of this, some of the other teenagers from the church wanted to go to a tent revival that was near my house. We all piled into two cars and went. When we arrived, we were ushered away from the back of the tent, where the preacher was sitting and smoking cigarettes with a few other folks. Folks who were moving and acting like normal people do. Once the church services got underway, these same people had “afflictions” that they did not exhibit at that back area of the tent. The preacher would call them up one by one, slap his hand on their foreheads and declare them to be healed. My friends ate it up. It was the Will of God being shown to us. I saw even more dramatic play-acting. When the offering plate was passed around, I simply moved it from my left hand to my right to hand it to the usher standing at the end of my row. The look I got was one of complete contempt. I know right then….this was about money, not God.

Needless to say, as I knew my departure date for the Air Force was getting closer and closer, I started feeling no worries over repercussions over asking questions. When I was reprimanded over my doubts, I renewed my questioning of what I saw. I was told that I was not allowing God to speak to my heart. I was also told that everything that was to happen to me over this questioning was to be “God’s Will.” That, essentially, my life was not mine. God would aim and direct me in all the endeavors that occurred to me – even the bad stuff – so that I would learn and grow closer to God. Needless to say, I shook the dust off my feet when I left that situation.

I do; however, hear a lot of folks within the Pagan community stating that what happens is the ‘Will of the Gods”. To this, I disagree. Crow and Coyote certainly do speak with me. They do give me tasks to accomplish for Them. They do spend time to teach me perspectives I had never considered before. But never have They been the direct focus of my daily life. They do not interfere with what I do. If I err in judgment or action, that is for me to learn from. Intervening on my behalf would teach me nothing. Plus, it would turn the Gods into an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), as John Beckett has said before. If I wanted something, I would just ask the Gods to give it to me, instead of doing the hard work to get what I was wanting. Certainly, the Gods can pat my on the shoulder and tell me that I should continue working hard…but They are not going to do the hard work for me.

Thanks to COVID-19, I have put on about fifteen pounds over the past three to four months. The Gods did not do that to me. My inactivity did that to me. The Gods are not going to snap Their fingers and have the fifteen pounds melt away tomorrow (though I certainly do wish). Me getting into an exercise routine in the house, so I stay away from people outdoors, is how I will lose this weight. Me changing my eating habits is how I will lose this weight. The Gods can – and probably will – provide support for my efforts. They are not going to make things happen any different than it would normally. I walk this daily Path. Sometimes They will walk beside me. Never will They carry me.

So, when I hear people tell me that whatever happened to them is a result of “God’s Will” or the “Will of the Gods,” all I can do is hold my commentary. I am not the person that needs to alter or change their perspective. Only they can do that. If they asked me why the Gods would let this (whatever bad has happened) occur to their lives…my advice would be fairly frank. The Gods did not do this to you. Your choices are what did this to you. And sometimes, we make the wrong choices – even those choices seem rock solid. Because sometimes, life is tough. We can tighten up our belts, pull back our shoulders and move forward or we can collapse from the weight of things. And sometimes collapsing is the only choice you have. That’s where the rest of us come in. We should help those who have collapsed from the weight of their choices. Help them to stand up. Comfort them. Let them know that there are people who are there to help. Assist them in making better choices for their lives – all with the understanding that the point is to help them get back on their Path. Because they have to walk it. Not alone though. Because we can walk beside them too. Just as the Gods will, when you ask. They will not walk your Path for you, but They can be there to support you.

So, in the end of it all – we are not puppets on strings. We are not here for the entertainment of the Gods – though we can be entertaining. We are here to walk our individual Paths in Life. If there is any “Will of the Gods” that might come into play, its likely that They would want us to succeed at what we do our best to accomplish. That is, after all, the best goal we can ever have – to do what we set out to accomplish, within reason.

–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 /|\

The Right Speed to Deal With These Times

How do I deal with everything going on in the world? This is one of those questions I hear from a lot of folks. Constant wall-to-wall coverage on COVID-19, the constant idiocy of the Trump Administration (or some other world leader), the stresses related with not having work or having to alter the way you deal with work, kids and spouse constantly at home, and on and on and on – everything crashing down like tidal wave after tidal wave pounding you into the sand on the shore, while a hurricane looms just offshore. I completely grok where folks are coming from. How do I deal with things? Well, to be honest, I either make everything line up and deal with things one at a time or I push them off into a corner and come back to deal with them later.

Of all the things, the news is the easiest to mess with. Turn off the tv, radio or whatever web browser you are getting your news from. Trust me, it will be there later. Then take the time to lean back into what you’ve learned in all your studies in your Pagan tradition or Path. Grounding and centering should be your first defense. There are lots of ways to go about grounding and centering, my favorite is an OBOD “Tree Meditation” that I stumbled across on YouTube a few years ago. I have continually used this as a manner of pre-work towards other meditations. For me, it is a perfect grounding and centering technique. By the way, for those of you that have trouble getting into the so-called “right frame of mind” for meditations, you might consider trying this technique before you attempt your meditation work. Just a suggestion.

As for everything else, its best to just shove that stuff into a small pile, go have a nice drink (alcoholic or not – your choice), flip on the tv and watch some show or film or documentary and then get some sleep. Trust me, that shit’s still going to be there in the morning. You might have a clearer perspective after a nice evening without dealing with those thoughts.

The other method that I use is to try and stay focused and level. Losing your cool means that you’ve relinquished control to someone or some other thing. That is giving power to that person or that thing to drive the narrative. Getting control back from a thing is relatively easy, but from another person? That is not always the easiest thing in the world to manage. I try and remember what my first High Priestess taught me about controlling myself. Yes, this means a little bit of a story-time moment.

I was relatively new to the idea of Paganism and Wicca. I had just started my “Rainbow” year with the coven. for those unfamiliar with the idea, it is a year and a day process, where one is taught the basic basics of Wicca, Paganism and the Tradition. So, this was….mid to late 1986. Maybe even early 1987. As a group, we had decided to go shopping at a Pagan-centered store down near the Dallas Fairgrounds. I don’t recall the name of the shop or its precise location, so that’s about as good as my fuzzed-up memory will get me. I was overly excited, as this was the first time I had ever seen such an establishment. I was literally vibrating with energy and excitement. By the time we had returned from the shop, it was difficult to be around me, I was bubbling so much with exuberance. I was pulled over to the side with the High Priest and High Priestess, who helped me get calm by working with me on grounding and centering. The next weekend, I arrived early for the rainbow class for that period (I drove nearly forty-five miles one way to attend the classes, so I was naturally always very early). My High priestess sat me down and asked me if I remembered about grounding and centering. I explained the process the best that I could, which led to a long discussion about being in control of myself (apparently, I was a dervish of wild emotions all the time). She noted that when I wasn’t in control of my emotions and my energies that it was easy for others to nudge me in directions that I might not necessarily want to go. The first step was to understand more about myself, so I was given the task of listing fifty positive things about myself, and fifty negative things about myself. This part of the exercise took me a lot longer than I thought it would – particularly the positive side of things. However, I eventually finished. When I brought the lists back to the next class, she looked over each list, smiled deeply at me and told me to write an essay comparing and contrasting the two lists. The essay was to be no longer than two pages, typed but not double-spaced like an English assignment. Once I completed this part of the assignment, we talked again. She noted that every single item on each list was a type of energy within me. She also noted that some of the items in the two lists crossed between the two, which meant that this type of energy could be manipulated in different directions. The trick was to control all these energies, so as not to emit them broadly to the world around me.

Since that time, I have worked hard to be able to control my energies the best that I can. I don’t always succeed, but I do manage my best to not let things get out of control. Again, I don’t always succeed, but I certainly do try my very best.

So that’s nice, right? How does all this apply to everyday life in these weird-ass times we are currently living in? Well, if I ingest too much news, I find that it is easy for me to get extremely angry at the people on television and, to a different degree, the people that are being reported on in the news cycle. Or I can find myself starting to feel depressed over the lack of ability I have to make things better – not just for me, but for everyone. That is me letting those energies have completely control. The way to hold off that energy is to peruse the news just enough to know what’s going on, and then turn off the news. When I feel that constant pounding of the emotional tidal waves crashing down on me and driving me into the sand, I know it is time to back off and find something else to do. And the first place I tend to dive into? The Tree Meditation.

The reality is this is the development of coping mechanisms for when the world gets dark and cold. I completely understand that this works for me. It might not work at all for someone else, particularly those who suffer from severe depressive bouts. For those moments and folks, I recommend that the rest of us try to be understanding, calm, and very nearby. That way, we can be available for that supporting shoulder or the chest that someone might need to cry into while being held by receptive and loving arms.

Look, our current world is a scary, ugly, depressing place to be right now. There are those that will pick up the torches and run out to burn down the repressive aspects of government. Bully for them! I support that action every single time. But there are those who cannot do so. And these folks need the medicines that we have within ourselves, just as much as those on the violent front lines will need medics when the tear gas and batons come out. I am not one of those who can rush into the front lines. I can; however, be available to help those that need help, those that need a reassuring hand and soothing voice telling them that they are safe now. I can be the individual that stands between them and their oppressors, their demons….and says ENOUGH. Because everyone needs that protective aspect when they are hurting.

So how do I deal with these times? One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. One issue at a time. This is a linear thought process, but when the assistance needs to be calm, reassuring and healing…one issue at a time is, in my experience, the right speed.

–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 /|\

The Gods – Dealing with First Contact (One Pagan’s Opinion)

One of the more frequent questions that I tend to field from folks just beginning on their Pagan Path is about hearing and experiencing the Gods. Usually, its a query of how to go about having an encounter with the Gods, getting Them to speak to you. Sometimes, it is about that first moment you realize that They are speaking to you, which is what I want to deal with a bit here.

The sounds of flying swiftly, which makes it hard to find
The pathway through the darkness, every time I fall behind

I think I hear a whisper, around nearly every turn
But what the voice is saying, I barely can discern

The echoes that are following, the contours of the ground
Ebb and flow and eddies in a tidal wave of sound

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning of expressions I barely can discern

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning of expressions I barely can discern

The echoes that are following the contours of the ground
Ebb and flow and eddies in a tidal wave of sound

And through the mist, I think I see your face and try to learn
The meaning the of expressions I barely can discern

— “Discern”, performed by Trey Anastasio

The above is a song written and performed by Trey Anastasio, a member of the band Phish. Its a song from his solo work. I think that the song is a beautiful summation of dealing with the Gods that encounter you, as well as Those that choose you.

Most Polytheists that work directly with their Gods, remember that first encounter. That feeling of bewilderment at a Voice or Presence that feels so incredibly unknown, different and powerful. I remember my first encounters with Coyote. There was nothing super special about it. Most of my work with my Gods comes through meditation and dreams, and Coyote came through meditation – at least the very first time. I do not go through a process of emptying my mind when I start to reach for a meditative state. Rather I aim towards a state of “rest” and “calm”. I try to still my mind, rather than empty it. When I reach that state of stillness, I work through emotions and thoughts, one at a time. Except during that moment of first contact. Coyote was at the forefront of my mind, a feeling of another Presence within my being. Not expecting such an encounter, it frankly scared the shit out of me, and scared me right out of my meditative state. I spent several days feeling “unbalanced”, which for a Libra is quite an unsettling moment. I did not try another meditative state for another two weeks after that.

“Mother Nature”, Hot Springs, Arkansas

First-time encounters can be rather jarring and unsettling. I have heard some people describe those initial moments as feeling of panic, where they latch on to the notion that they might be going crazy or having some form of a psychotic episode. ::shrug:: That may actually be the case, but I cannot judge anyone else’s encounters with their Gods as being similar to my own. We all are individuals with our own way of dealing Life. Who am I to say exactly how someone else’s moment of initial contact with a God would be like? Or even with a Spirit of Place? Or a Spirit of Ancestor? Each of these entities would be quite foreign to our mindset of the world around us when we initially encounter Them. Your reaction would be what is appropriate to how you are. No judgment here. Everyone will have different reactions.

In my discussions with other folks, there seems to be a tendency towards two different reactions. The first is a proper fight-or-flight response. Folks tend to challenge the unknown and to try to assess the risk of continuing to deal with Whatever has arrived. Or they seek self-preservation, disengage from whatever activity got them here, and get out. The second, is that moment of curiosity. What is This? They peek further. Try to find some definition that works in their mind of just What they have encountered. All of this, as well as other choices that I cannot think of, are valid. Trust me, when you encounter a God, a Spirit of Place or a Spirit of Ancestor…it can be a rather difficult moment.

I have been approached by a few folks that wanted to talk about their own encounters with the Gods. Without divulging who they are or intricate specifics, let me tell you – generally – about the conversations. One conversation took place around an early morning moment at a Pagan gathering, around the still smoking ashes of the previous night’s fire. We were the only people awake in the camp, just before dawn. We sat together by the pit of ashes and discussed the entire encounter. I tried my level best to encourage this person that they were not going crazy; that what they had encountered was really there. Another conversation took place around another early morning fire, around 3am. We shared a bottle of whiskey between the two of us and discussed the encounter in-depth. The clear night sky with the hundreds upon thousands of stars were a surreal backdrop to our hushed conversation. We discussed how to try and communicate with the Entity that was encountered, since there did not seem to be an English language spoken. This particular conversation matches up very well with Try Anastasio’s song “Discern” that I posted above. There was even talk of how to make the Entity go away, if the person did not want to work with Them.

One of the more popular posts that I have here revolves around my attempt to discern aspects of a series of sequenced dreams that I had. At the time, it was a period where it seemed that the Morrigan was reaching out to so many people to gather into what was perceived to be a battle group. The post I am referring to is “The Morrigan is Not a Valkyrie.” I have no desire to work with the Morrigan, which may come as a shock to many people. My perspective and my walk on this Path does not seem to readily find a cross-walk with Her. And I am not obliged to blaze a trail to find that Path either. My walk lies elsewhere. However, were I called directly, I would have a lot of thinking to do. I know I could not and would not answer readily. Her Path is not mine. Saying “no” to a God Or Goddess can be done, but there may be consequences to that choice. Thus the reason I would have to think about how I would respond. This was the same advice I gave to the individual seeking advice on how to tell a God to “go away.”

Now, with all that said – I am no expert in how you handle your approach to the Gods. In fact, I would say that what I have written here is advice – from my perspective. All, some or none of this will have direct or indirect or no influence on your own approach. The last thing I ever want in this world is to be considered an expert in ANYTHING with one exception: my own, individual perspective as it applies to me. So far as I have ever come to understand, I am the only expert in me. As such, I also believe that you are the only expert in you. How you deal (or not) with your Gods is for you to decide. Only you can walk your Path. Our Paths, and likely will, intersect at any given point, where we can lend one another support and comfort at that point. But you still have to put your feet on the Path for yourself.

Should you find yourself having encountered….SOMETHING and you need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend or an eye to read what you think, I am here. So are so many others. Don’t be afraid to talk, its sometimes helpful – even on issues not involving the Gods. And for those of who who find yourselves being approached for such talks, be prepared to listen. And remember, you’re not the expert…I know I’m not. I only have thirty-some odd years on this Path, and I am still finding myself seeing some aspects of all of this with the wide-eyed, doe-like eyes of a newbie. Even though that’s the case, I’m always just an Email or a text message away….as are so many others. We grow together on this Path, no matter how short or long we have been here.

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 /|\

Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way – Thinking About: Leadership

So, I am doing my usual Thursday routine. Sitting at my keyboard, music pouring through the headphones (today its Deep Purple, and currently its the album “The Battle Rages On…” which may be quite appropriate), and trying to come up with something to write about. I mean, this is a ‘Thinking About” post. It should be as easy as ever to come up with some kind of concept to babble on about. Except its really not. Writer’s cramps (or writer’s block, if you prefer) has been in a strong hold for the last week-plus. So I sit here wondering what to write on. I can tell you that moments like this are frustrating, but also a lot of fun. Quite the contradiction, don’t you think? I get to spend time turning topics over and over in my mind…hopefully I can latch on to one and get started on all of this.

For some reason, the concept of leadership continues to boil around the edges of everything that I am thinking about, so let’s go there. Most of my perspectives of what makes one an ideal leadership come from what I learned in the military. The United States Air Force thought enough of my potential to lead that they sent me to two leadership schools. But before we get too excited over this, both are mandatory training schools for those who sign up for a second hitch with the United States Air Force. I took my first class, the Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory School in my fourth year of my first enlistment, shortly after I had signed on to my second enlistment. The premise of the school was to teach leadership skills and how to build effective communication skills – focusing on making me into an effective front-line supervisor. I did not exactly excel at this training, but I was not at the end of the group either. I learned about methodologies to create more effective communication with subordinates, as well as finding my footing as an individual that would be able to lead. In particular, the school taught me a lot about how to lead by example, something I have tried very hard to do in whatever job I have been installed into. Three years later, I was inserted into the NCO Leadership School, which was a continuation of what I had learned three years previous. Many lectures ensued. I was taught how to march subordinates as a unit (a skill I personally found to be utterly useless), as well as more training on weaponry and tactical skills that I might need to use in a combat situation. Through all of that, hardcore emphasis on leadership skills and abilities, as well as effective communication were heavily emphasized. Much of what I have learned in methodologies, I have carried forth in my life since then.

Capricorn – Max Ernst

What makes an effective leader? Well, for me, its obvious – an ability to effectively communicate with others coupled to an ability to lead people towards a common goal. In thirty-plus years in Paganism, I have encountered effective leaders, and those that would make you laugh and cry at their ineptitude. For some, the power of being a leader goes to their heads, and they become tyrants. If you need a visual, think Donald Trump on a much smaller scale. I have also seen quiet leaders, who roll up their sleeves and start getting the work done. They don’t push others to do the work, they might openly ask, but they hope that their example of getting the work done will inspire others to be involved. I like these types of leaders. Not only do they seem willing to do the work, but they typically are also willing to show others how to do the work – so as to build their skills too.

But that brings me to another thought. What about being a good follower? After all, not every single person can be in charge. Unfortunately, I see a lot of the “too many leaders and not enough followers” within the Pagan community. I get the perspective though. Everyone has a better idea of how to run things compared to whoever happened to step forward. I’m the same way. Whoa. Don’t look so shocked. I have ideas of how things should go. I have ideas of what the better steps of making things run should be. At least from my own perspective. It took a little bit of growing up and realizing that I do not have all the right answers to set me straight. Making something that is setup for the good of everyone means that you have to swallow your pride and sit on your ego, when the direction is not completely your own personal vision. To be a good follower, you may need to remember the direction that the cause is going. Plus, no project or vision went anywhere without people doing the hard work. That means taking direction. That means using your talents and your sweat to get things accomplished. That also means that you cannot always be the one at the top of the pile. Success happens when everyone works together.

My previous job was at a local Community College. To be honest, I have never seen a more dysfunctional work environment in my life. Upper Management declared that they would be transparent in all that they do with the entire staff and faculty base. Over time, it became obvious that they only shared what they felt everyone else needed to know, while continuing to cling to the perspective of being transparent. The work environment felt like the Pharaohs themselves had returned. Many employees were told to just do their work and not worry about the direction that everything was headed. People that wanted to be good followers were confused with the say one thing and do something completely different approach. Leadership was ineffective. Employees tried to offer ideas of how to fix things and were shot down without a second thought. That lead to anger and resentment, and these folks started to do just enough to get by with their jobs. That lead to anger and resentment from others who were working hard. And all of it was due to a single variable: ineffective communication by upper management. There’s a few other things that exacerbate the entire situation – leadership that constantly and continually changes its mind concerning short and long range plans. And while I no longer work there, I still feel sad for all those that do.

When I was in the military, I learned a phrase that I still use. In fact, at my previous job, I stated this to my supervisor behind a closed door one afternoon: “lead, follow or get out of the way.” Accomplishing things is important, particularly when a group of other people are relying on those results. Ever wondered what goes into planning a Pagan conference like Pantheacon? A lot more than I really wanted to know. There are lots of moving parts. Everyone has a role to fulfill. Some are time intensive. Some require everything to be right at a particular moment in time. Power struggles are unforgivable lapses in accomplishing one’s role. In an environment like that, there’s a lot of “get out of the way” involved. In the military, one of my functions was to insure that crypto-communications were cycled to appropriate command-level personnel in a very timely fashion. Morning intelligence briefings had to be cycled down to the USAF Intel group, the US Army S2 group, and the NATO Intelligence group before 6am. Being late because a printer broke down was an inexcusable fault. My unit’s job was to make sure things ran correctly so things like that would happen. We accepted our role in the process, and agreed to perform to the very best of our abilities. We agreed to be good followers. We were not about to go down to each of those groups and tell them that the large Intel briefing should be held after 8am, so that we could have our breakfast and coffee without being rushed through that momentary morning pleasure.

Now, Pagan communities are not military units. But there are roles and functions to fulfill. Not everyone can be at the top trying to pull everything together. But those who are, they better damn well understand the need for effective communication. They better understand the concept of rolling up their sleeves and working side by side with those that they lead. And those who have roles, functions and responsibilities need to understand that they have agreed to do what they are being asked to do. And if they cannot or will not do what they are agreeing to…they need to get out of the way.

I still hold by the basic principle that I am not a leader. Because I am not. I understand how leadership works in theory. In practice, I’m not the greatest at it. And I know it. I know how and where my personality clashes with others. I know where my weaknesses are. I know my strengths. I know precisely where my intolerances are located, and how far I can be pushed before things go beyond a controllable point. Am I a good follower? I try my best, but not always. But I do recognize leaders that I would follow. I see what they are capable of and where they can be pushed a little further. I know who I would follow and who I wouldn’t. And for me that counts for something. What that means to you, for you, or about you is something you will need to determine for yourself. What leadership looks like….that all comes back to your own personal understanding.

–T /|\

Dark Spirituality, Light Spirituality – Two Sides of the same D20

The past few posts, I have dug a little deeper into my own personal story, but as one reader (who wished to not be named) mentioned that I do not tend to delve much into the darker side of my own Spirituality. This is an interesting point. Most aspects of my Spirituality can be described as some degree of neutral between light and darkness. Rather than using the extremely common dichotomous perspective of light and dark being either side of a coin, I tend to see this lightness and darkness aspect as something similar to twenty-sided die, with one being one end of the spectrum, and twenty being the other side. Numbers two through nineteen shade closer to whichever perspective that each is closer to. If you work out the differences, you will find that there is no true neutral position, as ten and eleven provide the exact middle – one to each side.

Yeah, its not a perfect example, I do not think there could ever be something that would be – at least not in my eyes. Nor do I assign positive to light or negative to darkness. Positive and Negative are not so easily denoted in my view. After all, in the darkness, there can be found help, knowledge and even love. Its the intent of how each is used that provides the positive and the negative perspectives.

Most of my Spiritual work is held somewhere between the two points. With two Trickster Gods, sometimes delving into the darkness provides a better solution to my questions than seeking out the light. Plus, Coyote, and sometimes even Wolf, will set me down that path into the darkened woods.

So why do I tend to work between the two extremes, rather than just diving full depth into one or the other? Well, I’m your typical Libra. I always strive to find the balance of the fulcrum. This is one of the reasons that I cannot rail so deeply against Christian belief. Do not mistake what I am saying. I am not a Christian. Their belief system does not work for me at all. I tried Christianity, and found it to be a complete anathema for me. That does not mean I do not see the beauty in what is practiced, nor can I condemn the strong piety of its followers – provided that their fervent belief does not take them down the same road as John the Baptist – convert or die. In my experience, forced conversion is a tactic of those that must have their faith validated by any means, but that’s a discussion for another time, as this leads us down a trail I was not intending to go. Most Christians that I have encountered are more than willing to share their Gospel with you, but very few do so and rain anger upon you when you politely decline. As I have always said, adult discourse is far better than yelling, shouting and pushing.

Now my personal perspective on the Christian faith is an example of trying to find that balance between dark and light. Within many Pagan traditions is also the practice of cursing individuals. Not exactly my favorite tactic, but it can have its uses. For me, if an individual harasses you, utilizing a curse on them is akin to dropping a nuclear bomb to swat a fly. Your use of it is certainly up to you…I tend to keep my usage of this to an absolute minimum within my life. In fact, I can say with all certainty that I have not utilized a curse against a single individual. I opt for more direct approaches to solving such issues, such as confronting an individual directly. Should that not work, magickally there is always the use of binding magicks, essentially placing a boundary against the individual from being in your world space with their negativity. Have I used it before? Yes. But very sparingly. Again, I prefer the face-to-face, direct approach wherever I can manage it.

Where I utilize such measures as cursing and binding sparingly, I also eschew from using magick to help provide assistance or help to things that I want around me as well. I don’t see magick as a toy that I play with nor do I see magick as a first alternative in anything within my life, thus the “dark” or “light” application of it has always been as a last resort for me. And to be completely certain, binding, cursing, using magick to obtain results, protective barriers, and what else you can come up with are not automatically dark or light parts of Spirituality for me. Its the individual intent behind each of these magickal tools (how I actually see these to methodologies to really be) that provides the dark or light aspect.

Going from a psychological perspective, everyone has a so-called “dark” side to their existence. Really, I’m no different. Hurt or threaten the people that I love….well, let’s just say that Coyote and Crow help reinforce my “happier” side, but Wolf certainly can embody that darker aspect. While I love Wolf dearly, I do my best not to let Him have control too much. Life is certainly more interesting with Coyote or Crow at the helm. Or at least, I tend to think so.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

There other aspects of the “darker” Spirituality that manifest themselves in my studies. Sometimes, what I learn about feels like an old forest, where the canopy of the tall trees muffles the sunlight and the wind barely rises within the underside of the canopy. Such an environment can be a scary and daunting place to travel, especially when you know not what might lurk in that dark, stifling environment. However, sometimes your studies can take you to such places, and you have to ratchet up your resolve to enter, and open yourself to what you experience. What I have encountered within, both in real life and within the Spiritual realm, has been uncanny and frightening, but some of those lessons have been the deepest that I have experienced. As Robert Cray says in his hit song “Don’t be afraid of the Dark.”

Honestly, it took me a long time to realize that my Spirituality encompassed a darker side that I need to embrace. Working with that darker side has taken even longer, and I am still slightly uncomfortable when I utilize it. However, its there when I need it. I just hope to never have a need to utilize it. Sort of like my staff and my sword. I have a staff that I use for walking. I hope that is all I ever need it for. And should the staff prove not to be enough, I have my sword, and my knives. I’m not a gun owner. Not because I am anti-gun for everyone…just that I don’t want one. And that is also a conversation for another time.

–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 /|\

Us versus Them – Just Thinking Aloud

Today has been the same old conundrum: what do I write about? Most folks who read this blog already know that I do my posts as unplanned topics. For me, its a more organic style of writing. The only problem is that it can sometimes be a complete blank for a good part of the day. Well today was one of those days. So I just let my mind wander a bit and….well, politics started the entire thought process off. Don’t groan. It started the process, but its only the manner in which to get the topic started. So, shall we?

On July 3rd, the massive Orange Peel of a President here in the United States gave a rather passionate speech. I know most folks didn’t watch it. I know I didn’t. But I read a lot of the summary material. Donnie railed against the Left, as well as the BLM protesters – lumping them into the same pot, and declaring them as “the enemy.” this entire manner of thinking should sound familiar. He declared the media to be the enemy back in 2016. He declared the “deep state” of career government employees as the enemy. He declared the Democrats as the enemy. From those three declarations he created a straw man to attack, declaring he was going to drain the swamp. Every chance he got to speak, he beat the drum about this compiled straw man that he had created. And the people on the far right heard the dog whistles that they needed to hear. They had a common enemy to deploy their votes against. Donnie was declaring a change in Washington DC. He was going to drain the swamp. Except that he didn’t. In fact, he never intended to do so. He cleared the way for his “yes” people to put in charge of various aspects of the political structure, and fired those who obstructed the way. Now, in 2020 – an election year where his poll numbers are lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden – he latched on to the two pieces that he needed to create a new straw man – the vehicle he hopes to get elected by. He has made several derogatory statements aimed at Black Lives Matter, pointing to the destruction of statues and various instances of destruction of property to label them as “dangerous” and “the enemy”. To help with his election process, he has attached the Democrats to this straw man as well, hoping to equate the destruction that has occurred with Blake Lives Matter. And to make it more personal, he has added a charge that this straw man of BLM and Democrats is out to erase History, change the very fabric of what we know of America. Strong, heady, and quite shrewd campaigning tactics. Add to that his politicizing the wearing of masks during a time of a pandemic – one that he wants to ignore as much as he can, since it happened on his watch – and you start seeing the way he wants to spin the playing field. He is creating a paradigm of “Us versus Them” – Them being portrayed by his caricature straw man.

The “Us versus Them” paradigm is a very heady potion to create and get people to quaff. However, its rather easy territory to cover, if you think about it. We see it in our films, our cartoons, in the novels we read, in the tales we tell one another – the fight of our side versus those “bad guys”. The UvT, as I like to refer to Us versus Them as – is a story formula we have been weened on. Our literature, movies, even our History is carved in this type of portrayal. So its not a difficult thing for someone like Trump or even Biden to latch on to. For Trump, he is trying to appeal to those who do not want to see the world around them change. They are complacent and happy with where things are for them. The world is easily placed into two piles – the stuff that is right, and the stuff that is not. The other side of the equation are those who are demanding change. They see the world is balanced unfairly, and they want things to be brought to a level of equality. If you flip the script, you will notice that it still balances into a UvT, just in a different direction.

The insidious part of UvT theory, is that neither side are hunting from common ground. Its either this or that – nothing else. When you have two sides in disagreement and unable to find compromise, you wind up with war at some point. One side or the other is going to feel frustrated, and step way over the line of somewhat civil discourse. Once that happens, bringing either side to a point of resolution will be difficult. And this is precisely what Donnie and the Republicans want. At the moment those folks are in absolute control. Once they goad the other side into taking things beyond a certain point – they will have the excuse they need to do far more destructive things to the other side. Through laws, through brutal enforcement of current laws, even through simple Presidential decrees to round up and imprison dissidents. Sound familiar? Do you hear the clinking of the chains of the fascism that everyone wants to fight against? Donnie has already made statements that the folks represented by his new straw man are the “true fascists” in all of this, again in his July 3rd and July 4th speeches. All in the name of the UvT theory.

Now, I am ex-active duty military. Back in March of 1986, I raised my hand and swore to protect the Constitution of these United States from aggressors foreign and domestic. I left the military in April of 1994, and not under the greatest of circumstances. But how I left, and when I left never cancelled that oath. When I took that oath of enlistment, the terms of what I must do never waned. My allegiance is not to a political party. My allegiance is to the Constitution of these United States, the document that outlines how we, as a nation are to be governed. I watch politics careful – not because I want to, but because I have to be vigilant against aggressors domestic. I absolutely loathe politics. I am an unaffiliated voter because I wish not to make allegiance to any party. Politics is that slimy to me. Do I feel that Donnie is a good President? Not one bit. Do I feel that he fulfills his own oath to the Constitution and to the citizenry of this country that he took back in January of 2017? Not at all. I see a self-centered, self-absorbed individual who only makes law that benefits him in his corporate world. I see an individual that I would have a very difficult time serving in the military under him as Commander-in-Chief, were I still in the active duty or reserve component of the Air Force. he is a shrewd user of the UvT theory….sow division among the citizenry, and get them to choose sides, stoking the fires of one side over the other….creating his version of “Us” – and by definition, if you are not in the “Us” grouping, well….. So long as there is argument and chaos, no one is watching the under-handed things he is going to benefit himself, and his equally criminal family.

Now, I’m quite certain this post is going to piss some folks off….I completely grok that. I have quite a few friends that are quite happy about the Cheeto-in-Chief being in charge. I get how they would be upset with much of my assessment. I also understand that there are those that will think my assessment doesn’t go far enough in damning this current Administration. However, I will remind you – this is my personal assessment of where things are, and what is going on. I have no political affiliation with any party – and I don’t want one. I am affiliated with the Constitution of the United States. My approach will be different than yours….because neither of us is the other. We are all individuals, who can think for ourselves and make up our own minds. My biggest hope is that this post will stir the idea that some form of communication needs to be kept alive. Without that line, all of this slips further and further towards the anarchy and fascist approach that none of us should want. Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarians, and whatever political affiliation I am leaving out – we all have an identity that should be held up above any political party – we are all human beings, and deserve the same respect.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Being Alone in Paganism

I am in quite a few groups on Facebook and while I do not always participate, I do read them. A few weeks back, in one of the groups (I do not remember exactly which one), an individual who was also studying the Path of Druidry dropped a question that instantly felt like a plea for help.

Does anyone else feel alone on this Path?

I saw that quite a few folks had already responded to the individual, so I left the conversation alone. The question; however, has lingered with me since. For the most part, my personal Spirituality has me on a Path where I am alone. I do not have a grove to study my Druidry with. Or to hold ritual with on a regular basis. Or to socialize face-to-face – though that is truly impossible with the increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections here in Texas. With my health conditions, I would turn done even the most innocent gathering of more than two people.

Most years, I get the chance to feed my social interactions with others at events such as ADF’s Imbolc Retreat held by Hearthstone Grove here in Texas, and OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana. Like Said….most years. This year….well, its definitely a little different. Both events were cancelled for this year, which put my social interaction with other Pagans and Druids at zero, in a face-to-face setting. While online gatherings are a nice way to somewhat reconnect, its not truly the same. Thus, the feeling of isolation creeps in a little deeper. Sort of like a body check by Scott Stevens. So, when I read the individual’s post on Facebook, my mind immediately answered back.

Nine Hells, yes. Especially this year.

Now, I am in the Ovate grade in OBOD. My studies are meant to be taken and completed alone, which in some ways exacerbates the entire feeling. I cannot speak to how other Druid orders do their training, as I have never done or participated in any of them. So I started wondering, how often might others feel this way?

I can only guess, but I would hypothesize that its a fairly sizable number. Adding to that, the pure isolation that social distancing from others in this new age of COVID-19 may give an extra edge to that feeling as well. I know quite a few Pagans who have issues with being out in the open community, for one reason or another. And that fear of being around other people – I would guess social anxiety might be the best descriptive for it – can be an extremely paralyzing moment. I’m a fairly social creature (I dare you to get me to shut up in a social setting, right Shadow?), so I can only attempt to understand how all of that feels. In a new social setting, I can be the ultimate wallflower, believe that or not. However, once I get the feel for the people there, I am more than happy to sit and talk. About anything. So social anxiety is not something that I, personally, suffer from. I do; however, know many folks that do. And I have bothered to quietly ask what that feeling is like. Suffocating. Paralyzing. The general feeling of panic and a need to flee for the safety of solitude. So, it leads me to wonder if this particular individual might have been feeling the same thing??

On the other hand, when walking your Path in your Spirituality, there is a series of moments that I refer to as “travelling the dark woods” that happens. Where you find your footsteps have taken into a part of your Spirituality that feels dark, foreboding, and downright scary. Where you feel like you are going to need to wash out your underwear when you manage to get beyond this…IF you get beyond this. Those moments can feel like the entire world abandoned you on the doorstep of the Nine Hells with only a teaspoon to defend yourself with. And that’s if they were being nice to you before leaving you there alone. That moment in your Spirituality can be an extremely lonely moment. I have had this happen to me several times in my thirty-plus years on this Pagan Path of mine. Each time has a slightly different feel to it, but the feeling of lonliness has always been there each time. No lie, that stuff can feel rough.

Do I feel all alone on my Path? Depends on what day and hour you ask me. Right now, with all the COVID-19 issues out there keeping people from meeting – my answer would be yes. When all this clears up, and I can get out and meet with other Pagans? Probably not. In the meantime, I do the best I can to cope. Emails, texts, video playback of gatherings that happen online ( live streaming is a little difficult from where I am at) – this will have to suffice as I move forward. In the meantime, to avoid thinking about the solitary aspect of my walk as it currently stands in today’s environment, I go back into doing my Ovate grade studies. And sharpening my database and programming skills. And reading. And listening to the playback of Shadow playing Ark on Twitch (I love the farting dinosaurs). All of this comes down to one prevailing thought. In all of the dark times I have encountered in my daily walk, the only way out was to keep walking. To keep moving forward. No matter how lonely it felt, I knew it couldn’t last forever. Because I cling to hope like my old, beat-up Teddy Bear from my childhood. Were it not for that tattered Teddy Bear as the physical incarnation of hope, I am not sure what might happen.

–T /|\

I’m Not an “Advanced” Pagan – Just a Pagan

“Advanced Pagan”. Gods, I have come to really dislike terminology like this. The idea that Paganism is this level-by-level building block just remains a big turn-off to me. Sort of like a set of collegiate course work on learning programming, where there’s this “101”, “102”, “201”, “301” and so on progression. You make it through one to get to the other. Linear progression.

My experience has been quite different. Sure, there are some linear progressions in working through your own Spiritual path, but for the most part – you can grab the basic basics, and then move on from there to other topics. You can bypass the “201” levels and head straight to the “301” and “401” stuff. You can grasp those topics and concepts quite easily without the “201” stuff. Which makes me wonder how and why we get to this particular place…that its this progression that *HAS* to be done.

The closest approximation I can find is that many of us have progressed through a collegiate program somewhere in our lives. This would be where we buy into the idea of linear instruction. Nine Hells, I am currently going through this with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. First there’s the Bardic grade, then the Ovate grade, and finally the Druid grade. Each is a set of progressions to the next grade until the coursework is completed. However, the linear learning format only goes through the grade progression. Within the lessons, you work at your own pace. You can even set lessons off to the side and continue forward – eventually coming back to the lessons that you had issues with later. The hope is that you can learn a little more as you go forward, so that you can come back and get the necessary lesson later on. To be honest, this is also a way of learning a programming language too. When I was learning more complicated progressions in SQL, I came across concepts – such as Virtual Tables – that made little or no sense to me. I set those off to the side, and continued on with more traditional concepts such as If-Then and For Loops. Eventually, I came back to Virtual Tables and took a longer look at how it worked, using the understanding of Looping in SQL to realize how things were being done. Even in learning SQL, I was handed labeling such as “advanced SQL” – even by my peers at the college. The only difference between us was that I searched out the knowledge of these conceptual perspectives out of necessity. They only handled SQL to a level that they could comprehend in the handling of their daily work.

So, is there really an “advanced Pagan” or are there people who learn other components of Paganism out of need and necessity? I would submit it is the need and necessity that drives people to those areas. For instance, I understand and work with ritual on a daily basis. I moved into an impromptu manner of working ritual out of personal need and necessity. This doesn’t make me a wizard when it comes to ritual. It was a need and necessity that I had to fulfill for my daily Spiritual Path. Now, come towards the topic of magick work or spell work – and my knowledge is rudimentary at best. Why? Because its an area I have no need or necessity for. I consider magick and spell work to be a last resort. Granted, that’s my perspective – there are a major ton of people who would openly and vehemently disagree with me. Why? Because magick and spell work fulfills a need and/or necessity in their daily Spiritual Path. But if you made a comparison between myself and them, in terms of ability, you might apply a label of “advanced” on them or “beginner” on me. Neither label is correct. “More experienced” and “less experienced” might be a better way of describing such avenues of ability and thought.

I have railed often against labels…and this would be another such instance. For me, a Pagan is a Pagan is a Pagan. Some people are more experienced than others. Some have been on this path for what feels like an eternity. Sometimes it feels that way to me, after thirty-plus years. but my overall time on this Path doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I’m not an expert on anything other than my own path. I’m no “advanced” Pagan because of my years….I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. No extra descriptives are needed. Unless you want to add some Anglo-Saxon terminology to all of it. I’ve heard it before. And will likely hear it over and over again. But strip away the adjectives, I’m still just a Pagan. I’m still just a Druid. Advanced? No. No thanks. I’ll just take the terms of Pagan and Druid…and be content with just that. I know others will disagree – and that’s ok. Their Path is for their footsteps alone…mine is for me. We can walk alongside one another, but we still have to walk it ourselves.

Thinking About – Where I Stand

Yesterday, I was confronted by an individual I had friended a long time ago on Facebook. This individual told me that I essentially stood for nothing, so they were wondering where exactly I stood on the issues of the day. Frustrated, I wrote the following as a status on Facebook….

What I stand for….

* I prefer the world to see everyone as human beings…not whatever their skin color is. Yes, I believe that All Lives Matter, but that starts with Black Lives Matter because we need to fix that first. After that, everything else should be easy to get to fall under an umbrella of All Lives Matter. But we gotta do what’s needed first.
* I believe that all Confederate statues should be removed. Not destroyed. Removed. And placed in a museum where contextual markers can be created, placing the Confederate aspect of the war in the light it should be portrayed….as wrong.
* I would like to see the Designated Hitter rule abolished for both leagues in Major League Baseball. Not for a current season, but starting in 2021. I do not think Major League baseball should play a season this year.
* I hope to see an America where third parties begin to thrive and gain a foothold in the conversation regarding the governance of this country and the states. Having only two parties seated at the table does our country a dis-service, when it comes to new ideas and the handling of laws that need to be created or changed.
* I want term limits on Congressional members of both the House and the Senate. New faces mean new voices. New voices mean new ideas. New ideas mean that effective change has more than a silent whisper in either chamber.
* I would also like a term limit or perhaps even an age limit, for judges at every level of the Justice system. This includes the Supreme Court.
* I want police reform, now. The usage of choke-holds, kneeling on the throats of detained individuals, and the concept of Qualified Immunity has got to come to a stop. I realize that the first two are far more easily solved than the last one – but all three can be accomplished – even while respecting the very tough job that we have placed our police officers into. This needs to be done in a manner of decorum and respect, not under the auspices of mob rule. I can understand the frustration, but acting in a disrespectful manner does not win the day.

Lastly, if any of this offends you…save your breath. None of this is up for debate with me. These are my views. Don’t like them so much that you are offended…unfriend me, block me….whatever you want to do. That’s your choice. I promise, you’re not going to hurt my feelings.

Now I’m not going to out this particular individual, even going so far as to not using any gender related identifiers. Why? Because (a) I did not get permission from the individual to use their name, and (b) I don’t think it carries much relevance beyond this paragraph.

So why am I frustrated over all of this? Well, its rather simple. I have always felt that I wrote clearly as to where I stood on stuff like this. Apparently, I have danced around the topics enough that some folks are just not sure. So, I wrote this status to clarify. But as I read through it, I noticed a few other things that I have left out.

Kneeling for the US National Anthem. Nine Hells, you can class this for ANY Anthem of any type, National or otherwise. I see nothing wrong with people doing such. Back when all of this kicked up in the national Football League, I wasn’t of the mind that it was something that I would do. But I did (and still do) have my own protest for this. And for much the same reasons that Colin Kapernick stated. Here in the United States, the primary method of how to handle the moment of the National Anthem is to stand, face the American flag, and place your hand over your heart. If you choose to sing, that’s acceptable. For me? I do stand at the National anthem. I do not remove my hat. I place my hands behind my back. I stand quietly. And yes, I have had people approach me afterwards about how disrespectful I am being. That’s about the time that I remind them that I am a US military veteran. I raised my hand and swore an oath to protect the Constitution of this country against all aggressors, foreign and domestic. And so long as Donald John Trump remains President, I see a domestic aggressor against the Constitution. Whatever anyone says to me about that means absolutely nothing to me. My enlistment oath didn’t stop when I left the military. People that don’t like or agree with me on that…I’m perfectly fine with. Not everyone is going to see things as I do.

I know a lot of people are going to have issues with my stance on “All Lives Matter” – that it is something that is necessary. I also know that many of the ALM folks are going to have issues with me prioritizing the Black Lives Matter perspective as well. Look, All Lives do Matter. But to get there, we have to protect and stand up for the Black Lives Matter aspect. They are in danger, especially in encounters with law enforcement. It has to stop. Once we get past that point, it will be far easier to reach the aspect of where All Lives Matter. We can’t run first, we have to walk – one step at a time.

And one last thing. I am a Pagan. I do believe in many distinct Gods. I also believe that not everyone will be on the same Path as I am. Everyone makes their way through Life in the Spiritual perspective that makes the most sense to them. I have no desire to burn down churches, temples or whatever else you can dream up. I also have no desire to see iconography destroyed to make some point about all beliefs being equal. All beliefs are equal in my eyes, and I will defend the rights of anyone to practice whatever beliefs they want. Do we need to march in the streets for that? Well, if you do, I have my colander ready. I’ll be stepping proudly next to the Pastafarians that follow The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Again, I am frustrated. Frustrated because I thought everyone essentially got the idea of all people are equal. Equal in the eyes of the law. Equal in the eyes of the Gods. Able to practice their beliefs freely. Able to walk in their communities without the fear of an encounter with law enforcement becoming something deadly, simply because of the color of their skin. Paraphrasing the words of G’kar from Babylon 5 – We taught people this lesson before. We can and will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years or whatever number of lifetimes…everyone shall be equal and free. That I promise you.

–T /|\

Bits and Pieces of My Mind

I don’t always wind up with topics that I can write forever on. For those, I usually set them to the side and wait to see if anything further can germinate. Sometimes it does, most of the time it doesn’t. When I get enough of these little topics or talking points – I eventually make a post like this, just a bunch of hits and pieces.

Personal Spirituality

I catch all kinds of the Nine Hells over the fact that I work with two Native American Gods. I completely grok the perspective of cultural theft, but neither Crow nor Coyote have expectations of me trying to become a part of the People. Nor do They have any expectations of me becoming a Medicine Man or some form of tribal Shaman. In fact, neither have the expectation of me joining or working with a tribe. My Path with Them was made very clear. The only intersection I have with Native American traditions are these two Gods. My working with Them is not to become part of the People. My Path is to be who I am and work directly with Them for guidance, direction, and to be Their “worker” (that’s a horrible descriptive, but that is about as close as I can get) for what They request and require of me. I try not to become unhinged at those who aim the cultural theft descriptive at me. After all, they don’t walk my Path. Nor do I walk theirs. I just worry about my footsteps, especially when the Path leads me out onto a narrow ledge. I even wrote a blog post over this quite a while back…

Statues and the Confederacy

All over the news are stories about various statues being pulled down, vandalized or destroyed. I completely understand the anger towards symbols such as these, especially those that were erected here in the southern tier of the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of these were built as a subtle reminder to the generations of slaves and their children and grandchildren, just what their place in society was meant to be: Free but Unequal. I am one of those that does not want to see the statues destroyed but placed in more appropriate settings – such as museums, where context can be added in far greater detail. As for the Confederacy, most believe that they were fighting for slavery – and they were to a small extent. The big difference fell on the concept of States’ rights. Slavery was one of the issues that made up that complex ball of issues and started back at the founding of the Nation. The southern states were not content with having issue after issue forced upon them by the more industrialized and populous (remember, representation in Congress was – and still is – determined by population) northern states. By the way, this is an issue that is still held today by the middle-section of the United States, commonly referred to as “flyover country”, as the far more populous states on the East and West coasts continue to dictate aspects of States’ rights. But yes, slavery was a bad thing and it is wrong to hold up the Confederacy as being something worthy of praise. The overall issues that led to the Civil War is far more complicated than the singular perspective of slavery.

Major League Baseball

Anyone that knows me well, realizes very quickly that I am a huge baseball fan. My beloved Cincinnati Reds are not exactly the greatest team on earth and haven’t been very successful for quite some time. Ever since the breakout of the COVID19 pandemic, Major League Baseball has been on hiatus, trying to wait out the pandemic to reach a starting point for the season. This morning, it has been reported that the owners have voted to start the MLB season sometime near the end of July. Yah. Baseball is back. Yes, it seems that I am not enthusiastic about this because I’m not. Surprisingly, I am all for cancelling the entire season, as an abundance of caution. Not just for the players, but also for the umpires, the television crews, the grounds-keeping personnel, and any other workers that would be there. Currently, it sounds like the same would be played without fans in the stands, but should they decide to move forward with that – also for the fans, and all the stadium personnel and concessions workers as well. I just don’t think it is a good idea to do the restart of the country as is currently taking place. Yes, I get it that people need to work to make money to pay their bills….but I’m not for doing so and putting so many lives in danger. Yes, I think it is that bad.

Wear Your Fucking Mask

Which leads me to the last thought of this post from me. Wear. Your. Fucking. Mask. Especially when you are out in public. I hear all the excuses for not wearing one – its stifling to wear, it’s a political message designed to do (x) (whatever you want to dream of), its government control of the people who follow directions blindly, and it doesn’t stop COVID19 spread. Guess what, you’re right. It doesn’t stop the spread of COVID19 one hundred percent. A three-layer cloth mask probably stops COVID19 at a sixty-five to eighty percent rate. But guess what? Not wearing a mask stops COVID19 at a zero percent rate. Personally, I would rather take the more effective measure. Twenty percent rate of infection is far better than one-hundred percent chance. I will continue to wear my various masks. If you’re not willing to do so…awesome. Just realize, I’ll be keeping you at a distance.

And there you go. The scary roller coaster ride through my mind. Told you it wasn’t that bad. It’s about as scary as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney. ;)~

— T /|\

Inspiration + Creativity + Enthusiasm = Personal Passion (Thinking About)

Inspiration. Creativity. Enthusiasm. Mix that all together, and you have your passion. All that wrapped up together creates an energy that is unlike any other. A heady elixir that you will crave to the end of your days in this existence after you taste its first drops. Some people search for what will drive their passion throughout their entire lives. Others know exactly what it is at an early point in their life, and spend their days pursuing it in a maddening, inspiring chase that at times resembles the travails of the Wild Hunt at its pinnacle.

Recently, I have been watching Ant Anstead Master Mechanic tv series on the MotorTrend channel. Now, I am familiar with Ant’s work from his time with the show “Wheeler Dealers”, also on the MotorTrend channel. He has a very peculiar sense of humor, but also gets really passionate in explaining how a car part actually works. Now, I’m not a mechanic whatsoever. Unless you count working on computers as being a type of mechanic. I learn a few things about how cars work through Ant’s explanations, but not enough to roll up my sleeves and hang my shingle as an auto mechanic. No, what really draws me to Ant is his passion for what he does. On his new show, the Master Mechanic one, he is building a tribute car to the 1930s Alfa Romeo 158 Grand Prix race car. I watch and marvel at his ability to create this vehicle from scratch, using old car parts from a Fiat Spyder (I think that’s what it was) and some newer technology parts to make the vehicle far safer than its inspiration. Watching him work and explain is like watching a kid in a candy store with $100 in his pocket and no adult supervision.

I love being around people that are like this. I love listening to them explain whatever it is that they are doing, even when I don’t understand one bit of what they are talking about. Its not the topic, its the energy. The way they glow as they describe all the intricate details of what they are doing. Its just amazing to bask in their exuberance.

I have been told that I can get the same way, too. No surprise to me there. Databases are a fascinating world to me. I can remember when I got hired at the college, I could talk anyone’s ear off about how to setup a database or how to write a complex query. I’m passionate about the storage, maintenance, and reporting of data. I can also remember during my last year at the college how quickly people turned me off as well. That’s the other side of having that uncontrollable passion. Not everyone appreciates it for what it is. In my case, it essentially turned me into a pariah within the system – someone that was shunned and disregarded, even in my own field of passion. Truth be told, when I got fired, it was no surprise to me. In fact, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my chest and I could breathe freely again. You can snuff out someone’s enthusiasm quite easily, particularly when you dismiss that passion as “useless”, “misguided”, or “stupid” – all words that I was told to my face about how I felt about working with data. yes, from people in a college who had been directed by upper management to become “data-centric” in their decisions. In many ways, I’m quite content to not work there anymore. But that’s getting side-tracked…

One of the big points that Ant makes in his show is that building a car from scratch requires about “80 percent preparation.” This is true of anything you do, even within your area of passion. Database schematics need to be determined and figured out – right down to the data type. Which key fields map to what tables is also important. The same holds true for anything that you are passionate about. You have to lay the groundwork to be able to create from. This even holds true within your Spirituality.

I have talked quite a bit about how my own Spirituality is rather free-form. However, even that requires a degree of preparation as well. Before I could get to the point of being able to free-wheel what I do on a day-to-day basis, I needed to take the time to build the basics, or if you prefer, develop the groundwork for everything. For instance, how to construct the beginning aspects of a ritual for just myself. Do I draw a boundary between myself and the world? No. I prefer to have everything in the open and not bound away from the connections I feel with the world around me. Do I call to the Four Directions? Yes. Plus, I have certain Gods and Goddesses ascribed to each direction, all of which has meaning for me. Do I do magickal workings once I have completed the start of the ritual. That depends on what you call magickal workings. Most of the time, I meditate and seek guidance from the Gods and Goddess I have chosen to work directly with. Sometimes, I write. Sometimes, I just sit and let the experience of my immediate surroundings wash over me. Just depends on what and why I am doing this for. Regardless, there is a basic framework I manage. On top of that framework, I add my own flourishes to make it my own.

Does that work for everyone? I don’t think so. But I can only speak for myself. You would have to do a lot of asking to find out the true answer to that question. But before I could add the flourishes that I use, I had to know what the basics were, and how each worked. No different for database work or automotive work. You have to understand the territory you are about to work within before you start moving things around.

For me, it helps that I am super passionate about my beliefs and the ritual patterns associated with it. That passion keeps the framework in my mind, and makes it easier to recall those requirements when I have need of them. Same thing with databases, and the same for automotive issues, I would guess. Now, I do tend to forget things from time to time, which is why I have things written down. That way I have somewhere to reference when my mind doesn’t want to remember. Its the same reason my bookshelves are lined with several texts on databases. I always have something to reference when I am forgetful or even when I am about to really experiment with what I have. I can check to see what the rules and requirements are before I start playing the mix-and-match game.

I’m willing to bet that you are super passionate about something. Star Wars, maybe. Or writing. And I’m also willing to wager that in your passion, you have learned the basic components of what you are passionate about. Those basics are the foundations of what really excites you…the stuff that really gets you. And that’s important. Its quite a heady drink to have. And it is so very worth it – even when others scoff at what is important to you. Don’t be deterred when others don’t “get it” – just keep stepping and bouncing to the beat of your drummer.

–T /|\

Teaching Happens All the Time

Today’s blog is going to start in the Star Wars universe, but I promise it won’t end up there. If you do not mind indulging me for a few paragraphs….

This past weekend, I was flipping through the television channels and came across a broadcast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. It had been a while, so I stopped in to watch. Now, I have seen every release of the Star Wars movies for the first time in the theater, including the one-off movies “Rogue One” and “Solo”. Episode VI is a very favored memory of me and my father, who dragged me to the theaters to see it. I had no idea what I was being taken to see, and to be honest I didn’t really comprehend what I had seen when I left the theater. Like many folks, I have my favorites. My favorite of the films is “Rogue One” which had some powerful storytelling to it. The last three movies of the story arc, VII, VIII and IX are my least favorite films. I don’t care for the story pacing, the story arc, the acting, the directing…none of the three are good films in my mind. So it was an interesting moment for me to stop on a tv channel to watch a film I didn’t like very much.

Maybe I was bored. Maybe I had nothing to do. Or maybe I just wanted to hate on the moment that happened to be on the screen – the start of the scene where Luke comes to burn the Tree and the Jedi Temple, so as to kill the Jedi Order. I remember in the theater, I absolutely hated this scene. I never believed that a character such as Yoda would laugh at Luke with scorn, much less burn the Temple to the ground with a lightning strike. It was a moment in the film that captured every ounce of my scorn, and here I was watching it again. I braced myself to start hating this film again. I watched what happened in the scene. I listened to the dialogue. And suddenly I realized what I was missing…one part of Yoda’s dialogue that had basically blown past me with all my gathered emotions in the theater.

Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. –Yoda

There was a deep lesson here for Luke. The Temple meant nothing. The “sacred” texts of the Jedi meant nothing. It was his teaching of Rey, showing her not only what he knew, but where he had failed that mattered. Yoda’s point was that each passing generation grows the knowledge a little further, expands on the experience just a little more. Their passion, their energy, their joy, their anguish – that keeps the knowledge thick and able to spread further, not allowing it to thin to a super-stretched, elastic substance that holds nothing and can be seen completely through.

There is a lesson for me on this as well. I am constantly touting that I am no teacher. Whether I like it or not, I am. I am because I exist. I am because I have been on my Pagan Path for thirty some odd years. I am because I write about my experiences and thoughts in this blog (and elsewhere). I might not be formally training people (yet – never say never), but there are folks who gather information and thoughts from what I write. They take that information, process it for themselves, and assimilate what they need for their own Path. Like it nor not, we are all teachers. Like it not, the future of Paganism springs from all of us.

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

Every year I have been to Gulf Coast Gathering or some other Pagan gathering, I notice the younger people that are there. I am in my mid-fifties, though I feel a lot younger on some days and much older on others. I see the twenty-somethings at these gatherings. Especially those that are obviously hungry to add something with meaning to them within their lives, seeking that deeper connection to the world around them. Certainly, they dress and look wild, are a bit louder and far more full of energy than an old fart like me. But then, I remember when I was that young, twenty-something Pagan. I am sure my enthusiasm and exuberance at finding footsteps that felt “right” on my Path made the same impressions on the elder Pagans that I met. I know Pattalee Glass-Koentop made that comment to me one day in her store in Grand Prairie, Texas (Flight of the Phoenix). “You need to find a way to ground yourself, though your excitement and energy is certainly catching.”

I know that teaching my knowledge is a part of my Path. Its a part of all our Paths. We all teach others, every day with every interaction. Whether we understand that or not. My way is not the only way. However, it works for me. Maybe parts of it will work for others. Maybe not. Will I formally teach my knowledge? Perhaps. There are strong indications that it would not only be a good thing but also fun and informative for myself as well. What would it look like? I have no idea. At the moment, its a secondary part of where I am pushing myself. I have my own Druidry studies to get back to, as well as a path to clergy status to figure out – as well as how all of that will look and be within my life. One step at a time. One task at a time. And yes, I recall that I must always be mindful of the living Force. Star Wars may have created that out of some aspect of thin air…or based it on something…but its quite close to the primary part of my Druidry: connection to the world around me. So, live long and prosper…wha? Yeah, I know its not part of Star Wars, but what does that matter?

–T /|\

No-no-Notorious

This blog post originally started as a Q&A response on Facebook. I sometimes get questions in my Facebook Messenger from folks, and I’ll pick a few to answer publicly rather than privately – because either I find the question interesting or it seems to have a much broader appeal. So, here’s how things started….

Q: I think you could do excellent as an online teacher for Pagans, Druids, etc etc. Have you thought about exploring that direction at all? I think you would be awesome!!!!!
::blush:: Thanks. Have I thought about doing that? Yes. I have taught face-to-face and online Introduction to Computer classes for a handful of collegiate systems. But that’s a bit different than what you’re suggesting here. But yes, I have thought about it. Only issue I have – is charging money for it. Yes, I get that its “my time” and I should be compensated for it. I just don’t feel right about charging something that could be done over a handful of conversations sitting around the fire, sipping a drink of our individual choices, and enjoying the stars. I also grok that people are hungry for knowledge and direction for a Spirituality that has firm roots within Nature. This also boils back into my podcasting….feck…..let me change this over to a blog post, because this is going to get lengthy.

So, let me approach this a bit more methodically and a touch more in-depth.

Teaching

I have been an adjunct faculty member at a few junior college systems in Texas, as well as a few national for-profit systems. Teaching is something I had a lot of fun doing. There is a strong appeal to helping people understand concepts, whether those be related to Information technology or their own Spiritual Path. That moment of seeing the light-bulb go off and the individual actually “get it” is a real rush for me, as the individual that helped guide them to that point of understanding. When I left the adjunct faculty base to work in Administration, I was sad to leave all of that behind. Turned out, I could continue to teach even in this capacity. Faculty and Administration folks would come to me with data requests or questions about the data sets that they had procured. I essentially fell into a role of Data Evangelist at the college I worked with. I helped more than one faculty member put together data studies for a dissertation or some sort of grant funding, which was a lot more fun. I got to teach them about their data, and I learned a bit about their topic. So I do have to admit that teaching an Introduction to Paganism type of class has a certain allure to it.

Podcasting

This is another area that I get a lot of questions on – will I go back to podcasting? Well, I can’t say “never” – that would be foolish. However, I have said in the past, and continue to say now – “never again, without someone else joining in.” I enjoyed running my two podcasts, “From the Edge of the Circle” and “Upon a Pagan Path”, and you know there is a “but” coming… But I really hated essentially having just a conversation with myself. After a time, I felt that the shows were becoming repetitive, dull, and stale. Thus, I stepped away, twice. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it was a lot of fun – particularly when the listeners would send Emails and we could converse back and forth. I never really got that intense about download numbers. I truly didn’t care enough about how many times the episodes got downloaded. Just like I don’t really care how many times these blog posts get read. I only hope that the stuff reaches at least one person, who needed to hear or read what I was saying at that moment. I’d be more than thrilled to go back to podcasting again…but not alone.

Book Writing, Blogging, Etc.

I have been asked if I ever thought about writing a book. Yes, I have. And I am. Currently, I am not sure it will ever see the light of day, though I am on thinking of publishing pieces of it on Patreon. If I ever decide to do that, I will let everyone know it exists. by the way, my Patreon level is set at the lowest possible point – $1. And it would stay that way, even if I published portions of my writings there.

Blogging…well, I actually enjoy writing. I am not the greatest in the world at it, but I do try to put my emotions behind what I write. I write here on the blog for the same reasons I did the podcast – in the sheer hope that a single individual will read what I have to say and be able to get something out of it at that moment. That really is all I have ever asked out of Life. To be helpful.

See, I have no desire to become some kind of “well-known” Pagan. Nor am I willing to present myself as a matter expert on anything – except my own Spirituality. I know what works for me. What works for you might be the same, somewhat similar or so different so as not to seem to be the same thing…and all of that is awesome, from where I stand. I’m not writing to denigrate someone else’s Spiritual perspective. I write to discuss what did or did not work for me, in the hopes that it stirs some internal debate for you. So that you might turn over the topic on your own, ask yourself the hard questions, and hopefully be honest in your replies to yourself. All of this feeds into the last aspect of all of this teach classes online thing….cost.

Gimme Your Cash-Flow

There is a ton of debate about paying for services within the Pagan community. How much should you pay for a hand fasting, a Tarot reading, for someone to perform some kind of ritual based on the Wheel of the Year, a Pagan-oriented convention, a weekend gathering, etc etc.?? Now, I am of the mind that you pay for whatever services you are accepting from someone else. An online tarot reading? Sure a twenty-spot (US currency) should sound about right to my ear. Not that I do tarot readings…but that’s another blog post. I have no issues paying for services that I procure from other Pagan folk. But somewhere inside of me, I have an issue charging people for my services. And its something I cannot readily explain. However, if you were looking for the greater sticking point to me doing online classes and teaching and stuff….this is the tip of that iceberg.

So, would I teach an online class? Maybe. At this particular moment, I have nothing planned or even organized. So the appropriate answer would be – not right away, if I was going to. Will I go back into the podcasting world? Maybe. Find me another person or persons that want to do a show together. Not alone. Not ever again. Will I write a book? Sure. Publishing it is another story altogether. 🙂 There is one larger reason why I move with slow reluctance in all of this – I have no desire for fame or even fortune. I only need enough money to live comfortably, and the way I live – its not that expensive in the first place. And fame? That’s certainly not my bag. I just cringe at the idea of being considered a “subject matter expert” on any topic. I am always learning, always finding new methods, changing, improving….I’ll never consider myself an expert. However, I can steal from Duran Duran….I could get used to the idea of being No-no-Notorious….. 😉

–T /|\

Thinking About: My Potential Role and Why

So…another Thursday dawns, and with it another ‘Thinking About” segment. This time, I want to pull the focus back from all the politics, revolution and talk of change to the concept of police forces. Not that this stuff does not have an importance in everyone’s live, but uber focusing on it certainly gets old after all – and all the talk around it starts to feel like a tremendous echo chamber. So, its a little important to pull back a bit, if for nothing else than sanity’s sake.

In my mundane life, I’m what is usually referred to as a “Generalist”. I have programming skills. I can handle networking and system administration functions adequately. I can troubleshoot issues with desktop systems and help non-technical users manage their way out of confusion. I can build and repair hardware systems. I am quite capable of working Project management timelines and associating costs to tasks. I can troubleshoot difficult software problems. My area of primary ability – where I am the strongest – is in managing and dealing with database systems. To that end, I can also do some data analysis, though my skill set there is rudimentary, at best. I am not a “professional” looking individual. I am closer to the wild-eyed, coffee-guzzling, grizzled Information Technology geek that is kept in the back. Honestly, this is where I am most at home. Let me know what needs to be done, and I’ll do it. Bring me up front in front of all the Executive members, and they will wonder what sewer you dug me out of. I am better at being your “Mr. Scott” than being your “Mr. Spock” or to quote a sketch from the comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”: “Scotty, just fix the fucking engines…”

Would it surprise you to know that this type of role is also where I am most comfortable within the Pagan community? You know, the Pagan that rolls up their sleeves and tries to get things completed….or in some cases, just started. I am not comfortable formulating the overall plan, but I can look over the plan and tell you where things might have issues – where things will potentially bottleneck. Ask me what the best route to take to get a local Community from point A to point B, and I can formulate a few suggestions, but I doubt many of them will be good. Ask me how to get the community moving in the direction of point B, I’m more than likely your Pagan. But there is a problem.

I am not just a technician. I ask questions. Furthermore, I will try to determine better paths to a solution. There are a lot of people in leadership roles that have issues with people like me. Many folks in leadership spots are accustomed to providing directives and having folks do what they are asked. But I do have to ask questions because I like to make sure every avenue is explored. Plus, if I do not understand what is being done, I tend to ask. Not because I am questioning the ability of the person who set things up, but because for me to do my job correctly and efficiently, it helps to know what the end result that is attempting to be achieved is. What I have found is that this tends to irk people, rather than them feeling that I am trying to be helpful. That leads to a lot of friction, which cascades into personality issues. I am more than understanding over the fact that I can be quite abrasive, especially when I feel that I am being blown off so that I will just get back to work.

So how does all that fall back to my Druidry? Well, the way I work is an intricate part of who and what I am. I cannot turn that off. I do the same thing within my Druidry, and the results of that type of working is probably a large part of why I choose to work alone. See, while I do ask a lot of questions, I am also a conflict-adverse individual. I do not like to start up arguments or even continue an argument – unless there is a valid reason to do so. To me, short-term conflict and disagreement is useful, but only if there is discussion associated with it. If the response I get is to “shut up and just do it”, as I have heard so many times in my previous job….well, I tend to stop asking questions or offering solutions after a while, which runs counter to my nature. I like to be helpful. But I can only be beaten down so much until I become unresponsive. To avoid a lot of that, I work alone. That means that my arguments tend to be with myself, as do my discussions. And now, you have an even clearer picture as to why I tend to follow my Path alone.

But I am not completely solo, Han, Hope or otherwise. I do like to be around other Pagans. I do enjoy conversing with other folks and discussing where and how they are on their own Paths. Those conversations are not only fun, but informative. And yes, I do offer advice and a different perspective from time to time. I’ve never worried about whether someone follows what I tell them. They have to figure out that for themselves, and its a point I always try to make clear.

Tuesday, I posted about finding one’s leadership role within today’s society. Don’t worry, I am not about to go on a short rant about that here. Rather, I want to focus on the Lakota proverb I posted.

Do not only point the way, but lead the way. — Lakota proverb

My role as a Druid (Ovate grade, OBOD) is simply this – to be there for others. I am not going to tell people what to do. Rather, I am going to gather up the lantern and help find the way for not only myself, but others. In a weird sort of way, I am like Charon, the Boatman of the river of Styx. I just don’t have a boat nor am I requiring the payment of the coins placed on your eyes to ferry you across. Or maybe, I am a signpost, pointing the way, with the number of miles left to go. My role is not to lead you, but to help you find your own footing on your own Path. In a super strange sort of way, that’s what this particular blog is becoming. I don’t overtly point you down your Path. I do my best to provide with points and topics to turn over in your own mind as you travel on your Path. Some are not going to see me in that light…and to be honest, I am perfectly fine with that. What I have to say and the way you interpret it, is for you and you alone. I’m no Oracle. I’m no Seer. I’m just the guy in engineering….

And Captain, its those damn dilithium crystals that are causing the problems!

–T /|\

Do Not Only Point the Way, But Lead the Way

Do not only point the way, but lead the way. — Lakota proverb

I came across this tonight while reading Twitter. This was from the account @NativeAmWisdom which I have been following for a few months. Accuracy of the quote? I have no idea. And honestly, even if its not a Lakota proverb, its a timely perspective – at least for me.

I know that anyone reading this sees what is going on in the United States (and some parts of the world) right now. The death of a single man at the hands of brutal and uncaring police tactics has led to protesters in the streets. Their anger and anguish at a system that has promoted systemic racism in nearly every corner has led to the destruction and looting that we saw early on in these protests, which are fourteen days running at this stage. Over time, we have determined that much of the violence and destruction was being done to create chaos and blame for the African American community that was at the forefront of all of this. There has been a lot of wringing of hands, a lot of worry, and a lot of wild lashing out from the White community, of which I am a part of. But all of that hand wringing, worry, and lashing out provides a convenient cover for not listening. Being concerned with laying the blame over the violence and the such excuses what sparked all of this – brutal tactics by the police, much of which is disproportionately aimed at the Black and Hispanic communities. Its systemic racism by the system.

But once you have listened and heard what the problems are…what’s next? The anger and frustration isn’t going to get better because everyone gets tired of it. The more that empty platitudes and nothingness are utilized to assuage the anger and frustration, the higher that anger and frustration is going to rise. Like it or not, we have reached a point where our society has to make some major changes so that we can go forward. And those societal changes are not going to be easy, particularly for those who have been in the positions of privilege. And its not going to happen overnight, as much as many of us would like it to. As a world society, we are standing in a heavily populated minefield. Any step we take is dangerous, but standing still is no longer an option. Going backwards is not even an open avenue. Where do we go from here?

I’m no seer. And I have no desire to tell anyone else what they should do with their lives or how they should think. You’re grown-ass adults (for the most part) and capable of making your own decisions and stepping in dog-shit on your own. I’m happy to offer advice for how to get the stuff off the bottom of your shoe, if you ask. So, I definitely don’t have any or all the answers for this. Plus, I’m one voice of many, many others. Nothing makes me the guy that drives the world bus.

Or is there something? I may not be the driver of the bus, but I can certainly try my best to help people get to the bus. As the proverb states, I not only have the chance to point the way, but to also lead in getting there.

I grew up as a fairly privileged middle-class white kid. Granted, I was an Air Force brat, so I changed schools every single time my father got a new duty station. On average that was about once every two-to-three years. I grew up with kids from all kinds of family backgrounds. But even in the military housing areas, race was a bit of an issue. White kids hunt out with White kids, Blacks with Blacks – and so on. There was another dichotomy that took hold there as well – officers and enlisted families. My father was enlisted, so we were often housed in areas where enlisted families were. Once I got into the active duty military service myself, I also noticed a further dichotomy between branches of the military. In a manner of speaking, it was a “natural” segregation, except that it wasn’t. We learned our segregation techniques from our parents, who learned it from their parents and so on. And as those folks moved forward in their society, and formulated the laws and rules of the 1980s society that I would live in – their prejudices and desires for separation were turned into legal statutes and eventually became a further cementing of the institutionalization that has become where we are. We teach, preach and advocate for everyone to have the same opportunities and chances, but when you’re not fairly well off, there are a lot more hurdles in your way. Leveling that playing field is nearly impossible.

So….where do I think we should go from here? Well, in terms of short-term solutions, I see a need to de-militarize the police forces. The small city just to the north of me has a military-grade Assault Vehicle for their Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. In the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, part of his program showcased a police training specialist who told police officers that he was training that they would be in a position at some point to take a life. Could they? If they could not, he noted “You should probably find yourself another career.” I really do encourage you to watch the video, as he goes into a lot more detail on a lot of other points. However, de-militarize the police department. Yes, de-fund the police and put the de-funded monies back into Community programs. That’s a start. The Dallas police department adopted a “Duty to Intervene” policy, where officers witnessing brutal attacks and methods being used by other officers must intervene and stop what is taking place. About a week back, I noted that the protesters needed to intervene with those people who were destroying property and trying to incite violence – essentially insuring that others did not take control of their agenda. The Dallas Police Department is doing the same. Again, a good start. But more can be done. More communication backed by actionable ideas that are followed through on. A police department is there for the safety of its community, not be feared by the community. For me, this is the starting point. After this, I have no idea where things can go. But this needs to be done nationwide. No more racial profiling. No more using brutal tactics where those being arrested have to fear that they may die from what is being done to them. No more choke holds. Let’s bring the police back to what they are supposed to do, and alleviate them of the stuff that should never be in their hands in the first place.

I have already contacted my local police department and my county sheriff’s offices asking for budgetary and spending numbers for the last three fiscal years. Once I have a better idea of what I am looking at, I’ll find the office of my city council-member and ask for a polite sit-down to discuss what I find and what can be done about it. I’m living in yet another super-Republican county. Everywhere I look in the county, I see people with yard signs (and even flags) proclaiming their support for Donald Trump, so I am not sure how much traction I will get. But at the very least, I can try.

In the meantime, I am shutting my mouth and listening. To be able to help with the fight, I have to understand where I can help and what exactly is wrong. Trust me, these are not the easiest conversations in the world for me. In high school, my best friend was a Black man from one of the poorer parts of Shreveport, Louisiana. Stan got into the all-boys private school that we attended because of his brains. Like many of the Black students in the school, he worked in the cafeteria during his lunch breaks, to help cover the costs of his education. The rest was picked up by scholarships. I never really understood how degrading that could be for a student at the school until a few weeks ago, when I started remembering what life was like at the “elite preparatory” high school. We hung out after school, I visited his home where his mother (single parent) treated me like I was a member of the family. I only hope I can carry on her attitude that all of us are the same. Except that now I am starting to understand that there was an unspoken “but” in that statement. All of us are the same, but we are treated differently because of the pigmentation of our skin. Gods, I can only hope that one day we can erase the “but” part of that statement, and make her statement a true reality. First, Black Lives must Matter. Once we can get that measure to take place, the other measures will be even easier, and the playing field will be as level as we can make it. At least where race is concerned.

–T /|\