Doing the COVID19 Ramble

So what to write about? Its another weekend and the keyboard and I are staring at one another. I honestly thought that this was the keyboard’s weekend to figure out a topic, but I guess not. So, I will spend the majority of the day, cheering on the blinking cursor on the screen. Sooner or later, that damn thing has got to win. What exactly, I’m not sure. Sort of like the pod-races, I’m at a loss to totally understand the rules. but I’ll watch….because its shelter-in-place and I am looking for some excitement.

How about we ramble on for a bit? It worked for Led Zeppelin…

So, while I was sitting here, the movie “The Martian” was playing on the television. Its a movie I enjoy quite a bit because its about improvising. Astronaut Mark Watney improvises to stay alive on the planet Mars with very little foodstuffs available to him. At the end of the movie, the character makes the following observation to a class of Astronaut candidates in a classroom.

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

The quote, for me, is an interesting to recognize in this particular time frame. Currently, we are fighting a global virus that has the capacity to kill its victims within five days. Our medical professions are struggling to keep people alive, while research professions are solving the problems to find a vaccine and/or cure. Let’s leave the politicians out of this for the moment. Let’s realize that the quote from the movie is actually an accurate depiction of where we are right now. We are trying to solve the problem of staying alive. To do that, we are solving smaller problems – medical supply issues, shelter-in-place orders, personal masks made of whatever materials we can find, staying away from each other – each one of those is a potential solution to slow the spread of COVID19. That’s right its not meant to stop the virus, only slow it down. The slower infection spread will keep our medical facilities from being completely overwhelmed – even as this has happened in various places. The point is that we, as a collective species, are trying to find the solutions. At least for the most part.

Now we can bring the politics into play. We’ve got a knucklehead President, here in the United States, who cannot fathom the problem – even when his own hand-picked advisors are telling it to his face in the middle of a press conference. He makes suggestions for people to inject themselves with disinfectants to “cure” themselves of COVID19 (don’t even think about doing this, people), as well as promoting drugs that are meant to manage other diseases are cures for this one (proven to be ineffective by several studies). Instead of being a helpful part of the solution, this President becomes part of the hurdles and obstacles that have to be overcome. And I haven’t even mentioned his idiotic statements concerning the delivery of supplies to some of the hardest hit areas in the United States. Add to that, people that are protesting the state governments to re-open now, so that they can go shopping again. Brazenly holding up protest signs that proclaim that the virus only targets the weak. It doesn’t; though, individuals with pre-existing conditions, the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems are at greatest risk of death from contracting the virus. But let’s consider this more of an obstacle to get around than part of the problem.

Now, I’m not a scientist. Nor am I part of the medical professions. I have friends that are part of both. I am a researcher, but not the right kind. All I can do is step back, and let these people solve those problems. I can take precautions for myself though. I am a diabetic (Type-II), I have an immune system that has been weakened recently (within the last two years) by a bout of pneumonia, as well as a diabetic seizure related to extremely high blood glucose levels. I stay in the house as much as I can. I only get out to get groceries, and even then I order through the app and do a pickup – rather than shopping in the store. Its become an issue of grocery lottery. I never get everything that I put on my list. There is always something that is out. I deal with it. I make due with what I have on hand. I improvise. For nearly a week, I wiped my ass with Kleenex because there was no toilet paper to be had anywhere nearby. And I sure as the Nine Hells was not going to go on a search-and-destroy mission to find some. The last grocery runs have yielded good old butt paper, so the world has started rotating on its axis in a proper manner. When I am out and about, I wear one of the three masks that Shadow made for me. I know its not 100% effective, but its better than going around without one. When I am out and about – I stay away from everyone. I keep my distance. Why? Because I know my immune system sucks. I don’t want to catch this. And I sure as the Nine Hells don’t want to be in a hospital or die. I have enough to live for in my life.

Yeah, its not really doing the math and solving the problems, right? Or is it? I know that my immune system can provide a path for this virus to enter my body and fuck me up good. I stay away from people. I calculated the odds of staying away from people versus interacting with every schmoe I met on the street. I choose the method with the safer odds. I stay in the house instead of running all over town. Why? Because I calculated the odds that it is safer for me to be in the house. I wear a mask? Why? Because Shadow made them specifically for me. She wants me to be safer than I am without them. And I wear them because it lessens the odds of me catching the virus when I do have to be out in public. I am doing the math. I am solving the problems. And hopefully when all of this final settles down and the virus can be held at bay for a huge majority of the planet’s populace – I get to live. Because I do want to live.

My meditations with my Gods have shown me that this is the Storm that I have feared. Not the unraveling of a capitalistic “empire”. I still have faith in what the United States will do going forward, and faith that the Constitution will provide the pathway for that to take place. I have faith that American voters will change that tide, by coming out in larger and larger numbers. No, the Storm is here and its COVID19. How we weather the Storm will be up to each and every one of us. We cannot come together in manners that we know and understand. Rather, we have to rally around one another from a distance, and help each other to be strong through these times. That’s what our larger Pagan community should be about, and what our smaller, local communities, and “tribal” groups should be doing now. Helping one another, being there, supporting each other. Your friend can’t get out for groceries? Email them and ask for a list. Go and get it for them. Have them order the items on an app, get a delivery time and place from them – and get it for them. We can be innovative in this time of need for others. Even if we can’t give them the hugs we all so richly deserve.

–T /|\

It is Not About the Gods, it is About the Power….

I love to walk with crow brethren. In real life, it happens from time to time when I walk around the college campus I work on. Most of the time, they want food, which I am happy to supply from the last portions of my lunch. But in my dreams, the time spent with them is more of conversation. This dream-world is where I get a lot of the ideas which populate my dream journal, as well as my personal journal.

A few nights ago, one of the typical “conversations” eventually led to a question from me concerning leadership. Why do leaders seemingly reach a point where they abuse others. I was aware of the origin of the question – both then and now. Recently, there have been a large number of people who have been charged with abuse of others – Judge Moore in Alabama, Senator Franken from Minnesota – just name two. Why would the God(s) allow this to happen? Surely, particularly in the cases of individuals in positions of leadership in religious communities, the God(s) would intervene and not allow such abuses to take place in Their name(s). One of the crows supplied an answer, which I wrote down when I woke up in the morning….

It is not about the Gods…it is about Power. It does not matter what one practices or believes…tyranny is about what power they hold over others…not about what beliefs they practice.

Now, I have been in positions of leadership to one degree or another throughout my life. I understand the seduction of power, of playing favorites amongst people who look to you for direction and (shudder) answers. And power is an extremely seductive force. To have people do things when you tell them or to be able to utterly ruin a person’s public reputation with a few well-placed words. To have people hang on your every word. For your every intonation to be treated as the sacred word of the Gods. Who would not want such command??

Well, me, for one. And perhaps I am just the odd duck when it comes to something like this. In my job, I am considered to be a subject expert when it comes to writing programming code. If only I saw myself in that same vein. I am a good programmer. I understand all the manners in which to make most programming dance to my fingertips. But I am by no means an “expert” at my trade. I am merely the best in the environment in which I am in. I know my limitations as a programmer and have little doubt that I have a long, long way to go before I can even be considered “very good”. But in a world of neophytes, even the individual of average knowledge seems to be an all-knowing God. I have no desire to become an all-knowing God…and I am always ready to improve on what I know – ready to adapt to change.

When I was a supervisor in the Air Force, I had subordinates who literally hung on my every word. I had been in the Air Force for over five years at that point. Each of the airmen under my supervision had been in the Air Force for a little under a year. I was their authority figure. Not because I had earned it, but because my rank dictated that I had. For them, I was mother AND father. What I said was law before I uttered it. And I grew up very fast in trying to live up to that responsibility. I realized that responsibility was easily shared. And while authority from above came in the form of rank, it was easier to split that up into equal pieces amongst all of us. Together, we shared the responsibility for getting tasks assigned to us completed. We learned how to work towards resolving issues quickly, not pointing fingers of blame first, and when the task was completed – trying to find out what went wrong at that time. After a time, we learned our strengths, our weaknesses, our incomplete knowledge areas – individually, and collectively. There was no need to dictate what needed to be done. We assessed together, resolved based on our strengths and weaknesses, and treated each other as equals regardless of rank (a concept that runs counter to military organizations).

I see similar aspects in some Pagan communities, whose power dynamics I admire greatly. Responsibilities and leadership are shared commodities with individuals stepping into positions of ownership with what they have been tasked to do. Leadership roles are rotated, along with other aspects, regardless of knowledge or experience. Each individual gets a chance to do, to plan, to organize, to execute tasks, to resolve issues….and each individual grows and learns. And that growth and learning and experience make a more rounded individual. As a group, these well-rounded individuals have their own strengths and weaknesses. Taken together, each member of the group feels empowered to be a part of the solution. Each member of the group has an ownership in the group. And that empowerment and ownership are paramount towards the continued growth of the group.

But we are talking about people here. People are seduced by the power of being the place where answers come from. People are seduced by the concept that they have all the answers where others don’t. One’s Experience becomes a bludgeoning tool with which to keep others away from becoming that Oracle of Knowledge. And soon enough, the power leads to being abusive. Using that power of dominance and leadership to reach for aspects that normally would not be available. We have all heard it before within the Pagan community – the charismatic group leader that uses his/her position of authority as a means to be sexual with someone else. Oddly enough, what the Pagan community has gone through before (largely, to my knowledge, in the 1990s), the evangelical Christian community is getting a taste of here lately. Judge Moore does indeed come from an evangelical Christian background. And I do find it interesting that the evangelical Christian community is rallying around the accused rather the accusers, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly pointed against Judge Moore.

The Dream Crows are right though. What Judge Moore is accused of is not an indictment of Christianity. Nor is it an indictment of the evangelical community. It is a harbinger of something that needs to be looked at far deeper. But its definitely not about the Gods or even the Christian God. It is about the abuse of power. A power that is provided to the individual by the community. The Gods can direct us to do Their will throughout the world. But even They are aware of the frailty of human beings. Even They are aware of what the seduction of power can do to a human being. This is not about Their will, but rather the lack of ours…ours being the “collective we”….

 

Its More Than Just Typing on a Keyboard

Ok. So the last post I wrote was rather bleak in its outlook. The prospects of nuclear exchange can do that for you. But there’s more to life and being alive than being frozen in time by fear.

The calendar has us pointed directly at one of the two yearly turns of the wheel that I tend to run for solitude. Beltane and Samhain are both periods of time that I tend to avoid the outside world, and wrap myself in the cloak of my solo work. But that has more to do with the approach of others towards these two points of the year. This year; however, holds a slight bit of difference – at least for Beltane.

Part of the whispers I hear from just over my shoulder have involved me getting out into the wider community. I live in the middle of of nowhere – on the border between Oklahoma and Texas. The nearest Pagans that I am aware of are over an hour’s drive in any of the four directions. So getting “involved” in the “community” requires a lot of thought, a lot of moving pieces in the calendar, and a lot more dedicated commitment on my part – all of which takes this solo Druid outside of his comfort zone. But no one ever said following what the Gods want and direct you towards will ever keep you in your comfort zone.

Part of all of that has been about me going to gatherings and conventions. Earlier this year, I felt like I lived out of a suitcase. Now, everything seems to be calming down a bit more, and I am getting my legs back underneath me concerning my connection with my local environment. But there’s still the need to get better connected with the wider Pagan community.

Sure, Facebook does some of that, but that’s not what was meant when the pesky freaking beak hit me behind the ear. It just so happens, that in February, an opportunity for re-connection was provided, in the form of two folks I have known for quite some time. Both members of the Denton CUUPs group, John and Cyn asked if I would come down to their Beltane celebration. Apparently….well, its not apparent, its a definite fact…the Gods are poking them towards a particular celebration that I had only witnessed from the top of a hill at the last Pagan Pride Day event in Dallas (that was 2013). So I said “yes”. And apparently, a lot of other folks – both local and from distances much further than my own – have also said “yes”. And as each day passes, the reminders keep coming back in meditations and dreams.

The most poignant reminder has been:  “Remember your word.” I have been poked and prodded about rejoining the wider community for quite some time. And while I make efforts from time to time, it winds up being a dipping off the toe into the water. I usually remember all the politics of the wider community, and my overall distaste for crap like that – and the result is me backing off yet again. The problem there is I am not giving these folks a chance to be who they are. Rather, I wind up painting an old picture onto their new canvas. Many, not all, of the Pagan leaders I remember have disappeared from the scene. They have either moved elsewhere, passed beyond the veil, or dropped out of the Pagan scene for one reason or another. And the Pagans that are here now, are not the same Pagans I recall. Nor is Paganism the same Paganism that it was back then.

So, I find myself at one of those moments that I find in flow charts. A decision. Re-enter the community? Continue to be solo and isolated, with a few celebrations and conventions to punctuate the year? And all of that brings me back to so many other thoughts I have had over the past year. My struggles with the concept of being a Priest. My struggles with having the label of “elder” applied to me. And as I look at all these pieces and concepts, scattered across the grassy area of my Inner Grove, I start to see how each fits together. Whether I like it or not – I am an Elder. I am a Priest. I am a Druid. I am a Student. I am a Teacher. I am a solo Pagan. I am a member of the Pagan community. I am a Friend. And the Gods have slowly pushed me to a point where I can see all these individual pieces, and many more I have yet to completely identify, set out before me. And I can see how these pieces fit together, and where missing pieces remain. So, yeah.

This Beltane, with what John, Cyn, and their group of folks are planning, will be a special event and moment. Its also going to provide another Sea Change for me. I asked the Gods to help me grow and become the Druid, Pagan, and Priest that I am supposed to be. All these steps have led to here, this coming moment. Its a very scary, and uncertain step for me. But there are people that I know here. And other people that I have already met that here, too. And so many others that I haven’t. Be the Priest that I am to be? The Druid that I am meant to be? Be the Pagan that I definitely am? For all that take place, transformation will need to take place. Some of that has already been done – internally. I need to change myself externally, as well. And that means doing more than just typing on a keyboard.

 

Time Stand Still – More Than Just a Rush Documentary

Last night, I trekked over to the Dallas suburb of Frisco to take in “Time Stand Still”, a documentary about the last tour of the band Rush. Between the physical ailments of guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, this past tour is likely the band’s last one. The footage to the documentary not only took in the band’s point of view, but also that of their tour management, the people that work behind the scenes for the band, the fans who come to the concerts, and that of some of their contemporaries. The entire show will come out on DVD later this month, and I will purchase a physical copy so I can watch again and again. But there was certainly a lot to process throughout the entire documentary.

Just about everyone is aware that I am a Grateful Dead fanatic. Literally, I have several gigs of music and concert video of the Grateful Dead and the many incarnations that have come about. The Dead have been a constant backdrop to many writing sessions. Their music inspires me to write my feelings, forge my thoughts against the anvil of the world around me. But I also have nearly as much Rush music and videos in my collection as well.

Where the Grateful Dead were a link to the past, Rush has always been a link to the present. This trio has always been a part of my musical lexicon. And much like the day that Jerry Garcia passed away, the closing of this last touring chapter of Rush is just as difficult to process. Peart’s lyrics have always played a huge part within my concept of spirituality. Not because I got spiritual essence from the lyrics, but because he eloquently stated a lot of what I feel. For instance, “Tai Shan”:

Clouds surrounded the summit
The wind blew strong and cold
Among the silent temples
And the writing carved in gold
Somewhere in my instincts
The primitive took hold
I stood at the top of the mountain
And China sang to me
In the peaceful haze of harvest time
A song of eternity

I have never experienced climbing to the summit of Tai Shan. But I have experienced that moment of calm and serenity looking down into the valley between the mountains in Glacier National Park. The misty clouds were above and below me. And standing there, on the side of a narrow road on a near cliff face, my fear of heights was overcome by how peaceful everything felt. If I could be a bird of some sort, this would be the valley that I gravitated to. And I could definitely feel the primitive aspect of myself as a human being coming forth. The feeling that the world around me was completely connected to me, and I to that same environment. Yes, to me that connectedness is not only an aspect of the sacred, it is also an aspect of the primal – instincts that we, as the human race, have taken the time to purge from our instinctive nature. Suppressing it deeper, so that we can feel separated from Nature rather than a primal aspect of it. The song Tai Shan did not help me to realize this. Study, meditation, and time brought me there. Joanna van der Hoeven deserves far more credit for assisting me in getting to that realization through her writings than Peart’s lyrics for this song. Peart only formulated what I had been thinking into a string of cogent words and utilized them in a song to describe his experience of ascending the 7,000 steps.

But this is what Rush has meant to me. Intelligent lyrics coupled to excellent musicianship. And as I watched the DVD, I listened to what everyone was describing about this band, as the trio marched towards their final concert date in Los Angeles. It was readily apparent that these people were also touched by their experiences with the band, particularly through the concerts that the band played. Many of the people were describing the number of times that they have been to a Rush concert. Fifty, Eighty, Ninety, One-hundred and eleven. And I felt envy for them. I have never seen the band live in person. But that does not lessen my connection to their music. That does not make me any less of a fan of their music. But seeing how these fans connected to one another through their concert experiences, I could see the invisible strands that tied them together as a community.

Yes, concert going fans made a community among themselves. They even created their own convention – Rushcon – which meets at one concert per year. These folks made the Los Angeles concert. After the show was over, you could see the emotions in their eyes. Something that they loved was coming to a close. And they were all going to need their own time to process. But their connections to one another had not changed. In fact, it had grown stronger. They had shared experiences of something that was not going to change. Something they could share between one another. I have seen that look before at the close of OBOD East Coast and Gulf Coast Gatherings.

Imbolc Retreat 2015 – photo by Amanda Godwin

Shared experience is a wondrous thing. I saw that after Shauna Aura Knight’s workshops at Pantheacon earlier this year. People walked out of the room knowing that they just experienced a wonderful, touching and compelling moment. Forged together, those shared experiences make people stronger. It links and binds them together as one. I enjoy most of my rituals alone. My shared experience is between myself and the Gods. I have attended a few of the Denton CUUPs public rituals, as well as one of the Imbolc Retreats that are graciously offered by the Hearthstone Grove (ADF). The connection that each of these groups have with their members is incredible to watch and experience. It is even more amazing to be a part of their rituals. Anyone out there nodding their head as they read this, understands what I am talking about. I am quite sure that anyone that has attended a Rush or Grateful Dead or Dead & Company concert show will be nodding their understanding as well.

Music brings us together. We sing, play musical instruments, and dance around campfires into the night. It is no different than a concert setting. Well, except for the fire. That’s never a good idea in an indoor arena setting. Every Rush song has its own energy, its own feel, or if you prefer – its own vibe. And if you pardon my over-stretching of the concept, each song can literally be considered a mini-ritual. “Red Sector A” has its own energy and feel. Compared to the very politically charged and angst-filled song “The Trees”, the energy is quicker, the feel is more akin to a run than it is to defiantly standing with a raised fist aimed at the corporate machine.

I entered into the theater, thinking that I would see something closer to a DVD. What I was treated to was an exploration of Rush – the band, their road crew, their fans, and their music. At the end, the entire showing was exactly what it should have been – a gift from the band to their fans. A piece of who Geddy, Alex and Neil are, seen through the lens of their perspective; and just who their fans are. The band and their management left the door open for the occasional live performance, or even the occasional recording. But there was a definitive moment of closure at the end. It had the feel of a “last goodbye” from the band. Lighthearted, uplifting, starkly open and honest; “Time Stand Still” is a tender hug and kiss from the band to the fans who buy their albums, fill the concert venues, and purchase the related books, poster and other materials.

 

It Must Be the Cloak….

Ever been to one of the many Pagan-themed conventions?  How about a local gathering?? You know – the places where all the authors, bloggers, podcasters, and well-known Pagans come to?? Ever go all fan-boy or fan-girl on these folks? Well, let me relate an experience to you, along with a handful of observations.

This year, I made my first trek to Pantheacon. My very first time in California. My very first time to a Pagan-themed conference of any sort. Previously, the largest Pagan-themed event I had attended was the Dallas Pagan Pride Day. And I helped work part of that, so I didn’t get to play free-form experience like I did at Pantheacon. There were a metric ton of people there, and then some. And there were a metric ton of authors, bloggers, and even musicians there as well – some of whom I had more than a passing knowledge of their material.

I was lucky enough to have a part-time guide, and roomie for the entire Convention from my local area – John Beckett. Now, John’s a fairly well known Pagan in his own right, and I not only highly respect John’s point of view – some of his blogs have influenced aspects of my own perspective on personal, individual spiritual experience. John provided me with a few helpful hints of how to survive Pantheacon, and even spent a bit of his time walking me around to get the lay of the land (so to speak). But for three days, I was essentially on my own. I had my own panels that I wanted to catch, mostly from Pagans that I knew or had talked with online.

My first experience of meeting someone that I knew/read was with Shauna Aura Knight. It took a few minutes – actually quite a few – to hold back in the background and let other folks talk with her. Eventually, I got my chance to meet her, shake her hand, and talk with her for a short bit. And yes, I fan-boy’d a bit on her. After all, her blog introduced to some of the more difficult to grasp concepts of group leadership – an area, which I admit to being so lousy at, that I tend to stay in the background in most groups I am with. Because I know I am no good at it. Talking with her via Emails and Facebook messages was great, but getting the chance to talk to her face-to-face was a really big moment.

My second experience was catching a panel by Kristoffer Hughes. I had already been around Kristoffer at the East Coast Gathering, but here – he was just off the hook. I was introduced to some of the funniest moments of the entire Pantheacon experience in this panel. Kristoffer’s off-hand comments about the heat of San Jose were nearly side-splitting. His panel was one of the most intense moments I experienced, particularly from a knowledge perspective.

My final experience was in a very laid-back, very cerebral panel on the cross-collaboration between Science Fiction and Fantasy with Mythology. Here, I came face to face (nearly) with an author I had read for a long time in my life – Diana Paxson. She was one of three individuals on what turned out to be a fascinating time, which I have written about in several previous blog posts.

But I found myself doing something I had never realized I had done until long after the fact. Many of the authors, bloggers, musicians, artists, and even us lowly podcasters get placed on pedestals and treated differently than other Pagans. Its almost as if the books that are written, the blog posts that are thought out and articulated, the music that is played, the podcasts that are formulated and mixed down, the sculptures, paintings and other items that are created — its almost as if all that makes those folks different.

None of that stuff truly makes any us different from anyone else. As a podcaster and a blogger, I am just trying to present ideas and points of view that can help people start a discussion – even with just themselves. Our community’s artisans (I will use this as a collective term for all that I have mentioned here – as well as some things I haven’t) are sometimes placed on high pedestals. These folks are championed for having the bravery to place who they are and what they have to say in a format that we all take in and incorporate (or not) into our own lives. Sometimes, we even forget that these folks are just like we are. They laugh, they sing, they have good days, they have bad days. They cry. They do everything that we do. And sometimes we forget that and hold them to an even greater standard. When these folks may have had the shittiest day in their lives for whatever reason; sometimes we expect them to place all that behind them and be there for us. Because we happened to be there. We make them into super-heroes – and they are that indeed – but e forget to let them be ordinary people, too.

We sometimes forget that they don’t always want to talk Pagan stuff. Sometimes, they want to talk about ordinary, everyday stuff too. I had a wonderful time at Pantheacon. I had a wonderful time talking with Shauna, listening to Kristoffer, and allowing Diana and the panel she was a part of to absolutely melt my brain on the concept of modern-day mythology. When I got ready to leave for the airport, I walked over to Shauna to say goodbye. She asked for a hug. And I got my first taste of being treated on equal footing. By someone I admired from a long distance and had spent time in her panel gleaning more information on leadership techniques that I have found ways to apply within my own mundane job. And sitting at the airport, waiting for our flight back to Dallas – I ate dinner with John, and we talked some about American football. Afterwards, I teased John about the many pictures I took of my foot at his panel – waiting for the right moment to get a single shot of him. If I happen to see Kristoffer or Diana at the next Pantheacon, I plan to take a moment and just ask them how their day is going. Nothing of a Pagan-esque nature. Just how their day is going. So they don’t have to be super-heroes every single moment of the day.

Super-heroes. Indeed. It must be the cloak….

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The Whispers From the Four Directions

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

Its been a while since I have dusted off of my old poetry moniker. Back in my early days as a Wiccan, this was also my “Craft” name. Eventually, Wicca faded as a part of my life, but the moniker continues as my writing name.

This piece of poetry I wrote last night. I had set some music from the Johnny Whitehorse series of albums on rotation, and pulled on my headphones to block out noise. As I listened, I let my mind wander to my inner grove, while watching my stone circle in the backyard being bathed by the sprinkler system. It eventually brought my mind to the perspective of water, which naturally led my mind to what is going up in North Dakota. People were protesting, as peacefully as they could, the building of an oil-transport pipeline underneath the Missouri river. Any leak at or near this point threatens the clean drinking water source for the peoples of this area, and everyone else downstream. This includes farmers, whose crops feed the markets of this country where people shop for their food. Odd how all of that is so interconnected when you think about it, right? Not really, to be honest.

There’s nothing truly odd about the interconnection of all of us. What we do to the environment, our communities, ourselves, others, the animals, the air, the water, the land….it affects all of us to one degree or another. That’s a huge part of what I have come to understand and relate deeply to within my Druidry. There’s more than a “Circle of Life” – there’s an interconnected web, where everything finds harmony to one degree or another with everything else around. Everything that is, except mankind.

As human beings, we have managed to be arrogant enough as a species to consider ourselves above everything else in Nature. As a collective species, we have even managed to excuse that arrogance with “divinely inspired” spiritual perspectives that categorize the earth, the animals and everything else to the position of a giant grocery store for our use and abuse. We place ourselves above everything else, and then excuse our abuse and overuse of resources by declaring that there will be an end to this Earth, and the righteous will be flung up into the heavens to enjoy a plentiful and never-ending paradise. The wicked will be sent to a place of eternal damnation. And the planet and the animals?  Who cares? Its use will be finished. We can just wade it up, and pitch it over our shoulders. After all, we’ve managed to create a very disposable society in the same vein. But I digress slightly…

lakota-siouxWhen I wrote that last night, I was remembering that time and again, the clarion call of the Wild Hunt’s horn in my dreams and meditations. I remember a few meditations that were filled with whispers on the wind. “The battle draws closer”  “I do not ask for war. But I do ask you for to defend when the time comes”  “Remember, your staff is not just for aiding you in your walking”  Those were some of the louder whispers that I heard. For me, a determined peace-loving Druid, to speak of hearing whispered words of war is a difficult thing. I don’t like violence of any sort. I prefer to find peaceful, negotiated manners of dealing with conflict. But many times over the past months, I have been reminded that sometimes physical battle comes to one’s doorstep despite your best efforts to quell it.

The issue at Standing Rock is starting to resemble those moments where one has to reach for your staff because peaceful resolutions cannot be easily found. Last weekend, during a three-day holiday stretch, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipe Line decided to bulldoze a large swath of burial ground that is part of the area that is to be built up. The protesters there immediately started to attempt to stop what was happening, only to be met by a “security” detail with poorly trained (if at all) dogs. The protesters were attacked by dogs that were encouraged to attack by their handlers. Protesters, including children were bitten. Many other protesters were maced by these same “security” folks. All the protesters had to defend themselves with were a makeshift flag on a stick, and their bare hands. What they really should have had in their possession were mace canisters. Not to attack with, but to spray at both the “security” detail and the dogs once the attacks against them (the protesters) had started.

I have always lived by the perspective that being non-violent and peaceful in protesting is the key to getting one’s message across. But just because you are being peaceful and non-violent does not mean that you are not prepared to defend yourself with forceful means. Trying to resolve issues with words and negotiation is the appropriate measure to take, but always be prepared to defend yourself against violent action. Defend, not retaliation. Retaliation belongs in the realm of vengeance, and that is a business that is far more serious, and should be far more thought out and appropriately measured.

From my perspective, and my interaction with Gods and Spirits….there’s a palpable anger on the wind. And return is coming…like I said, vengeance is for deeper thought, and far more measured response. I leave that to the Gods. Should They decide to utilize me as part of that response, I’ll know when They tell me. Until (of even, IF) that time, peaceful, non-violent, legal protesting is the call for the moment. Standing Rock is the battle line.

I Know Them When I See Them

So, in the last post, I was making some notations about Pagan leadership, but as was pointed out to me by one of my three loyal readers – I never really discussed much of what I felt made a leader. That’s fair. So let’s start with defining what a Pagan leader looks like.  Wait…I have a picture.

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Ok, ok.  I’m kidding. I am definitely not what I would consider a Pagan leader. I wouldn’t even say I was a person of any notable status. But. There are aspects of what I do that fall into what I consider to be the arena of a Pagan leader.

See, I am not talking about people that just “do” things, or write books and articles, or even those that sing songs. Those people have some of the aspects of being a leader, in that they get things done, or write their thoughts out and place those where people can read or experience that. Leaders, in my mind, are a lot more than that, and are generally not as out in the public eye. Though, I would suggest that they should be.

For me, leaders are inspiring. They don’t have all the answers, nor do they pretend to. They do know where to start to find the answers, and typically, they are not seeking the answers for themselves. Most leaders shun the spotlight. They place their community and group before themselves. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work – even when they are not asked or when they are a guest.

For me, leaders don’t prod people along a path. There’s no need to herd cats. That’s not what being a leader is about. In my opinion, leaders are mentors. They are not trying to create a hierarchy. They are not gathering people to themselves so that there will be someone to hear their words. They are there to help others on the Path. Willing to listen, and offer advice when asked, a leader is a communicator that speaks when necessary.

With that said, I will offer a bit more observation and opinion. I have been in the Pagan community; both as a semi-active member and as an “edge of the circle” observer. I have been a Solo Adherent, and a member of a coven or two. I have seen “group leaders” in social environments, as well as private. Sadly, the Pagan community, by and large, has very few leaders. There are a lot of loud Generals, and not nearly as many of the leaders that I think would be ideal. But perhaps, that’s because these people are so low-key, that its hard to discern who they are with just casual observation?? Perhaps.

On the flip side of all of that, I have met quite a few people that I would consider to be leaders. They are low-key. They are nurturers. They are teachers. They tend to shun the spotlight. Rather, they want their fellow travelers to step up and become the right individuals in charge. These folks lead their church congregations. They serve in positions on national organizations. They nurture individuals that are in their immediate circles when there is confusion on a topic. They write blog posts. They write articles. They write books. They make music. They take time out of their lives to travel, meet others, and teach the values of being a kind, nurturing leader to others. They hope. They dream. They are no different than any of the rest of us. And that is what is most important.

There is no need to name these people. They are easily found. They are easily approached. They will talk with you like any other person. They will laugh with you. They give the most wonderful hugs. They look just like anyone else. And its not the spotlight that they seek. Its not the notoriety. They have no desire to become the Big Name Pagan. They merely want the Pagan community to grow, mature, and nurture itself. If being a leader is about getting your name recognized by others…your priority is way off-base.

What is a leader? Its not the cowboy wrangling a herd of cats across a river. That is a cute commercial, but nowhere near the ideal image of a leader (and it should be noted that the commercial is meant to be absurd, not taken seriously). Your Pagan leadership is around you. Those folks are generally not trying to locate the nearest tv camera crew, nor are they trying to find the nearest beat writer to drop a story. They work tirelessly behind the scenes at your conventions, and gatherings…and if they are good at it, they are unseen by most people attending these gatherings. And like so many people that I have met in these conventions and gathering over the past year, they are no different than any of us. Those that are polytheists are trying to honor their Gods with what they do. Those that are doing other things within their belief systems, are focused on those as well.

Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon for the first time. I met many new faces. Some of whom I had only conversed with online. Some I had never met before. And being the people watcher that I am – I sat on the sidelines and observed. I saw many Pagans, happy to be who they were. And I saw leaders. Quietly being who they were. None of them walked the hallways near the meeting rooms with an entourage walking before them to announce their entrance to the area. Many of them were approachable by anyone…and easily entered into conversations with strangers. Even the strange hippy with the Grateful Dead t-shirts and the thinning long-hair. They were nurturing to others. They were there with helpful suggestions. They listened intently to total strangers that approached them with a story or a suggestion or a question.

When I talk about leaders, I don’t mean people who bark orders at others – and direct people to get things done. Anyone can do that. Leaders are those who look to be the anchor for those that need a momentary harbor from the raging river of Life. Leaders are those who help others to grow. Leaders are those that are there. Sure, decisions can be made by those that show up, but Leaders are derived from those that show interest in others. Leaders are derived from those that try and help a Community grow, not try to gather followers like a friending contest on Facebook.

So, to answer the question – how do I know what a leader is? I know a leader when I see them. Pinning down an exact definition is like trying to nail jello to the wall. But I do know them when I see them. Even if they don’t believe that they are really leaders.

Paying the Priest Another Visit

Priest. I have written before about how I struggle with this term. How I cringe inwardly whenever someone mentions that I am on a Path towards a priesthood. Depending on my mood, my frame of mind, the temperature outside, and how much good IPA beer is available at the moment, I can embrace the idea that I am a Priest. But later down the line, I will back away from the entire concept, nearly aghast at how I was able to embrace the concept. So in many ways, its a love/hate/love-to-hate concept for me.

Perhaps some of what I am feeling comes from my dislike of labels. Or perhaps, more appropriately, it comes from my pairing of the concept with the archetypal image that resides in my mind. The black outfit, the white collar, spending time trying to fashion the religious directions of those who are lost. I mean, who is to say that I am not also treading the Path in my own fog? And yet, I would argue that I am here doing just that with these blog posts, and with the podcast episodes I do manage to put out. Providing a light for others that are walking through a similar fog in their lives. But then, I would toss aside the concept of being a Priest, and place that under the descriptives of being “friendly”, “helpful”, “kind”.

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The forest is my church

Interesting descriptives there though. I’ll circle back around to the priestly concept in a moment. But let’s focus here for a few paragraphs. When we talk about our Pagan spirituality, we discuss things in terms of doing this or that for the worship of the Gods and Goddesses. We – well some of us – leave offerings to the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits of the Land because it is a giving part of our worship, our dedication to Them. Our focus is on our rites, our magicks, our rituals, our Gods and Goddesses. We do circles and rites to work against those who choose to use and abuse our environment as a resource, and ignore our collective attachment with one another and that same environment. We certainly focus well in these areas as a collective community. But we also tend to miss out on another important area…one another.

A recent post by Cara Shulz on the Wild Hunt brought some of this focus into my mind yesterday. A serious medical diagnosis for her has changed a lot of her focus, and has certainly brought areas of the world into focus for her. Cara and I have had our run-ins on Facebook over the past few years, and mostly because I was being a flippant ass. Her sharp rebuke of me over my behavior was appropriate at that time (and would be as well today). Despite that, I have a lot of respect for her, as she is very dedicated to showcasing Paganism through her stories on the Wild Hunt. Both the good and bad sides…after all, we learn from good stuff, as well as the bad. Her individual story from yesterday is not easy to read. Even this morning, knowing what is said within it, brings tears to my eyes. But another side of her story made me realize that I am approaching this entire concept of “Priest” from the wrong angle.

See, I keep looking at Priest from a religious clergy perspective. There is a lot more to being a Priest than just the religious perspective. Priests also look after the folks that are part of their parish, congregation, group, whatever you want to call it. They also look (or should) look after the people in their local community – even if they aren’t of the same faith as the Priest. Let’s face the facts though – many people who perform the role of Priest or clergy for their group don’t really care about those outside of their small circle. Which goes against some of the points that Jesus ben Joseph made to His followers. But this post isn’t about indicting Christian believers over what they do or do not do in the area of consistently following the teachings of their risen Savior. Thus, I digress slightly (as I always tend to do).

In a recent post, John Beckett pointed out that change does not readily happen from the top-down. Its far more beneficial and long-lasting if it comes from the bottom-up. This holds true for this as well. We can all lament how others have not fulfilled the conceptual role of a Priest when it comes to administering to the needs of others, particularly in the Pagan community. We make the offerings to the Gods on behalf of others, but sometimes its not the offerings that they need. Sometimes, they need people to come over and tidy up the house, do the dishes, mow the yard, run out and do some grocery shopping, help out with the laundry. Sure, they are ill, and the offerings to the Gods are done to assist with getting them to better health…but what about rolling up your sleeves? And before someone wags a finger at my Solitary ass, let me be the first to point out – I am far more guilty than many others in this respect.

So, I definitely need to do a lot more rethinking on what a Priest is. And I need to start by ditching the Christian and mainstream definitions of just what that role is. Perhaps a better way for me to approach this, is to define what the role means to me, and apply it right here – and not project it out onto others. Start at the base of what the definition is, and work upwards from there to build and strengthen the word’s meaning to me, and me alone. And to remember that the application of that meaning is for me and me alone. How I perform the function of Priest becomes something that inwardly is between myself and the Gods – and is projected outward into how I work within my Community….both mundane and Pagan.

Perhaps, instead of trying to shun the label, I need to embrace it. I can be a Priest, just not the way that the mainstream definition holds to it. By ditching the overtly Christian diagnostic of the term, I can utilize the term in a way that is a positive reflection of who I am, and where I walk on my Path. Perhaps, its because Druidry taught me that. Terminology should be flexible, able to grow and change with the needs of the role it describes. Definitely a thought going forward…and a lesson in how to release myself from Christian dogma that is heaped on terminology that I should see far differently.

 

I’m a Long-Time Reader of the Blog — Six Years on WordPress

Well, six years ago today (11/23), I moved my blog over here to WordPress. Its changed a bit — such as the title going from “Footsteps on My Path” to “Life With Trickster Gods” — but the aim of the blog has always been the same. Its a chronicle of some of the topics I have come across in my Daily Path. Sometimes, I manage to talk about stuff from a Spiritual perspective, and sometimes I tackle topics of a mundane nature. But the thoughts are generally mine. There are some quotations that I have found to be profound enough to include, but for all intents and purposes, the blog is a chronicle of me.

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Around the fire at East Coast Gathering (2015)

The blog also continues the chronicle of me, as done in the past through my nine-year podcast: From the Edge of the Circle. I have had many instances of people telling me that they enjoyed what I did with that particular podcast. But to be honest, I found it to be cringe worthy from time to time. I am not built to be a celebrity of any kind. Nor am I the type to be a Spiritual Leader of any sort for anyone, except myself. And in a way, I found myself in some of that particular spotlight through the podcast.

And that is something I have had to come to grips with to some degree. There is a celebrity status that comes with putting your head above the crowd, and talking with a loud voice. I am far from being an authority on anything, except for what works for me. I have no desire to be the person that people see as a “shining example” of anything…and yet, just sitting in front of a microphone for nine years, blathering about whatever topic came to mind seemed to inspire some listeners to explore on their own Paths. or as I like to state in my typical self-deprecating manner, they saw someone as stupid and foolish as me doing this; they figured they could do as good a job, or even better for themselves.

I’ve noted before how terrified I get when people approach me with a statement that they are “long-time listeners of your podcasts…”. The spotlight is definitely not a place for me. I speak in front of a microphone attached to my computer. But I am not – in my own opinion – a good public speaker whatsoever. Some of my students in the college classes I have taught may disagree with that statement, but to be perfectly blunt and honest – even standing in front of them and talking about computers made me nervous as I could ever be. Its a lot easier speaking to a solid red light on my Snowball microphone.

Writing the blog is even easier. I just write what comes to my mind. And I hope its coherent. For me, I believe that writing blog posts is like opening another chapter in a book that folks get to read. For me, this is the safest manner to communicate – especially since I don’t have to try and interpret the way all the silent eyes staring back at me might be thinking – or how those eyes may be the indicator of whether my message is getting across or not. Damn communication…

There are days that I wish I was a bit more articulate behind the podcast microphone as Mojo and Sparrow of the Wigglian Way are. And there are days, I wish that my writing was as well thought out as that of John Beckett. And there are days that I am glad that I am not either of those days. Because those three folks are very, very excellent at what they do. And they all work hard towards those ends. And I feel that I would be competing with them. And then I remember the mantra that seems to be the primary voice of all the Pagan podcasters that are out there:

We do not compete with one another. We are each a singular voice in the wider conversation.

…and for me, this remains one of my biggest reminders about the Pagan community is within the various social media platforms. Its a giant conversation between a large number of people – sort of like what you witness at any festival event. People split off into various areas and groups – and they talk. Sometimes the conversations are private, and sometimes you can join in. Nine Hells, you can even start one…. And that’s really what this blog represents: conversation, communication, discussion… I’m not here to compete with anyone. Yes, I get statistical overviews for page views here, as well statistical overviews of the podcasts. And to be honest, the only thing the numbers tell me is how well the topic of interest resonates with the people who want to read. Beyond that, there’s not much interest or worry for me in that area. People will read the blog, that want to read the blog. People will listen to the podcast if they want to. Either way, I’ll continue writing posts; I’ll continue putting out podcast episodes with Upon a Pagan Path. Because I believe that it may be worth reading or listening to — just as another conversation/discussion within the Pagan Social Media Sphere… I will; however, continue to be freaked out when people tell me that they are long-time listeners of the show or long-time readers of the blog.

–Tommy /|\

 

 

Being A Solo Pagan Doesn’t Mean That You Are Alone

Being A Solo Pagan Doesn’t Mean That You Are Alone

As I sit here nursing a cold, and listening to a wild Texas Rangers-Detroit Tigers game – I am reminded that there is a rhythm to the year. And currently that is aiming us solidly along to Samhain and the Halloween season. Much like Beltane, this is not one of my favorite times of the year. But its a little different this time around….

Gizmo hiding...sort of
Gizmo hiding…sort of

I’m not a huge fan of the overly commercialized version of the Samhain-Halloween concept. I grow very tired of commercial displays of shoddy, plastic costumes and the tons of candy that is set out where kids can pester their parents constantly for these items to be purchased. Do not get me wrong — I see an endearing quality in kids trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods in costumes that they make themselves (or with help from parents). I see a very strong connection to community with kids trick-or-treating at your door. But in this environment, where kids are preyed upon as victims of sick manners of abuse and harmful intentions – I can also see why things such as this no longer seem “wholesome”. And coupled with the over commercialization of the “holiday” season…well…

That brings me back over to the “scary” movies within the horror genre — something I am not a fan of. At least not in today’s movie environment, where the emphasis is on blood, gore, and abusive acts – rather than plot lines. To be frankly honest, I thought the movie “The Blair Witch Project” was absolute genius, in comparison to many of the blood-dripping movies that precede and follow it within the genre. The individual viewer’s senses and anticipation of what might happen next were key to the movie’s emphasis…but I digress ever so slightly….

Samhain is about a lot more than scary stuff. Its the time when the veil is at its thinnest. A time when communication between here and the Otherworld is easiest. Contact with the Ancestors is far more common. So, with that in mind, my own emphasis for this time of the year is in honoring those who have come before in my family. And if anyone has paid attention, I am not close to my blood relatives whatsoever. However, I do honor those individuals that I am related to. And Samhain seems the most appropriate time for that.

With my mother and father passing away over the past year – my understanding of this time of year…my understanding of honoring my ancestors – is a little stronger than before. While I was never that close with my parents in my adult life, but I do acknowledge that many of the values I have today come directly from growing up with my parents shaping my life. We were a military family, so we moved a lot. Which means that my friend-base changed constantly. It also means that some families we were very close to. And we crossed paths with them many times over the years. The strength of those relationships are part of what fuels the way I see family today.

My family consists of a lot of people who are not related to me directly via blood-lines (or at least not as I may have thought). But there is a very easy, very quick connection that occurs with these people. And one of the things that I hold to with them — what is mine, is theirs. And there are not very many of these people. Generally, they know who they are fairly quickly…and eventually understand how deep the connection is. These people are important to me. A statement I make constantly is that I would walk barefoot over broken glass for them. And I seriously would. That’s what “family” means to me.  And some of those people have passed beyond the veil as well. And every Samhain, I remember who they are, what they still mean to me….and how much my life has a very empty hole that is shaped like them.

Yes, there’s still a very lovable quality to Halloween. The tradition of trick-or-treating has a very strong community factor to it. Even with the danger of certain people doing dangerous things to children — there’s still a need to remember that part of being in a community is participating in little traditions like this. That’s what keeps things safe in a community. Knowing one another – and being committed to one another. Perhaps, its a trait we have gotten away from in our individualized society…and to be honest, I have to remember that even as a Solo Pagan, I am part of the wider Pagan community. Both those physically close to me – and the wider ranging Pagan community online. And keeping our community safe and strong means being a part of it…not standing outside of it. Being solo means practicing my Druidry alone — not being a Pagan alone. Quite interesting that this comes to me as we get closer to Samhain. But not so unusual when you consider the context that was in play at East Coast Gathering….

ECG Leftovers — Solo Practice Thoughts

I have been back from OBOD’s East Coast Gathering in Pennsylvania for a little under a week now. I cannot get the sights, sounds, and conversations that I encountered throughout that weekend out of my mind. I was not really involved with too many of the conversations, as I had chosen to be in the background of most things, such is my nature as a solo practitioner. But there was a single moment that still sticks in my mind.

Yes, that moment in time was Cerri Lee’s talk as I had mentioned previously. There was a lot that she talked about where ritual was concerned – the logistics, the mannerisms towards making ritual a much more robust experience. But then, she started discussing how public rituals – as well as gatherings like ECG – served another purpose for those solo practitioners: providing the experience of being in a group.

Now, I am a solo practitioner – I am really beginning to detest the term “solitairy” – by choice. I have several Pagan and Druidry groups around me. I could easily join one and get the “group experience” that many Pagans enjoy. But I enjoy being a solo practitioner – able to choose my direction from a moment’s thought, and explore. And not have to be tied at the ankle with someone else, who may not be wanting this same direction of exploration at the time. My rituals for the Wheel of the Year are done by myself with no one else involved. These are impromptu as well — utilizing the OBOD ritual schematic as a framework, but weaving in what seems and feels right at that moment. Sometimes spoken, sometimes not — its a manner and style that works best for me.
But these public gatherings provide a different element for me. I am able to watch and observe others in ritual. See how they encompass the roles they are provided. During the Alban Elfed ritual, the Queen of the Harvest strode into the center of the circle, shrugging her cloak off with an effortless motion, and strode forward with a bearing that suggested she was the Queen. Her bearing was incredible — and she had me envisioning her as the Queen. She sold me on her part in that role. And I watched and observed, seeing how she not only played her part – she channeled it. She was the Queen, the physical embodiment of that role. I watched others as well – the fluid, easy-going manner that some had. As if ritual was a natural part of who they were – whether they were in the circle or not. Their bearing was the same inside the ritual circle as it was outside. In a way, I could observe them anywhere and see their Druidry in action. Sitting at a table discussing something as mundane as a Science Fiction television show, or something as deep and personal as their observation on what the Gods and Goddesses mean to them.

Cerri Lee also made the comment that “lone wolves were few and far between.” At first, I disagreed with this comment – after all, I am that Lone Wolf that she was discussing. However, in thinking further and deeper on that – she has a valid and important point. I can definitely remain in my aspect as a solo practitioner. However, at some point in time, I need to rejoin with people that are like me:  Pagans and Druids – and not necessarily those that are also solo practitioners. After all, OBOD has become my family. My tribe. My brothers and sisters. At Gulf Coast Gathering, we all cautiously sniffed at one another – trying to get a feel for one another. At East Coast Gathering, it was like a family reunion. My tribe.

My tribe. As a solo practitioner, the idea feels a little strange to me. As someone who has been on my Bardic grade for a while, I had never really noticed that before. And it showed in the way I went about my studies. I kept looking at some of the lessons in terms of solo work, and never added in the elements of working with others or others figured into what I was doing. Now, my studies have changed somewhat – I look at both aspects, and a lot of what I was not “getting” is starting to feel natural to me. But again, as a solo Pagan, it can sometimes be a little odd feeling for me.

In a manner of speaking, its a lot like living in a third-floor apartment of a forty-floor building — and being the only person living there. Once other people start moving, you start to understand the needs of being in a community. There’s the degree of protection, but there’s more in the spirit of fellowship as well. Of knowing that if you get stuck somewhere – you need only ask for help. And as I start to truly understand all of this, as I start to realize that respect, compassion, and truly loving and caring about others in a group can be possible — my ability to respect others, to have compassion for those in need – and even those who have no respect for me — I can feel my Path changing. Expanding. Growing. And all of that brings so much more meaning into every single moment in life for me. Each moment is unique. Everything around me is changing in each moment. Some at more rapid rates than others. All of them affecting and exchanging energy with others to varying degrees. And the depth of that thought is amazingly deep for me to contemplate.

Such deep, deep waters indeed.

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United We Stand — When There’s Common Ground

Imagine you could rid the Earth
Of anyone you choose
Which ones would you need the most
And which ones would you lose?

Do we want to judge another
Lest we be judged too?
Careful now… The next one might be you
–Prince, Planet Earth

So, I sit here – trying to figure out what to write for this particular blog post. There’s a hundred, million things swirling around in my thoughts. “Being scared of politics” — well, not really that one. That’s more a private joke these days than anything else. But there are lots of other things swirling around in here. As is my typical method for writing – I put iTunes into a random rotation, and let it pick something to color my aural landscape. What I get is the above Prince song that I have quoted from. Because it has touched on something that is becoming a stronger voice in my ears: community. Plus, the song touches on aspects of taking care of our environment, another cause I am hearing louder and louder with every day.

Looking at Community From Another Angle

Community is an interesting concept, so much so – I have written about it numerous times here in the blog. But community isn’t just about identifying with a group of people over belief, politics, hobbies, or even the geographical area that you are living in. Its about connections. Its about relationships. Its about inclusion. Its nearly the opposite of our modern society.

Take, for instance, my local community. I live on a block of houses that totals five down my street, and three more on the opposite side of the block. Eight houses total. That’s not including the houses directly across the street from me. Just the houses right here. Remove me from the equation – that’s just seven houses….or if you will, seven families. I have been here right around seven years in this house. In all that time, I have had direct contact with only three of the families here. The neighbors on either side of me, and the family immediately to the other side of one of these neighbors (the other lives on the corner). In seven years, I have spoken to all three of these families – right around a dozen times. Total. The other families, I would never know who they were, if they passed me in the frozen foods aisle at Wal-Mart.

Its not from a lack of trying to talk to these folks.  We are all friendly enough to one another to wave an acknowledgement of our existences to one another. But that’s as far as it goes. Granted, I live in what is termed a “commuter town” in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. People who live here generally work elsewhere – so they spend their time driving to work, or in some instances, taking the train to and from work. The majority of their time is spent with co-workers. On weekends, there is the obligatory maintenance of our respective yards, and then into our routines of spending time with loved ones and the friends that we don’t see during the week. In other words, we cherish our weekends and holidays to spend with the people we consider to be our “community” — our friends, and relatives. Individuals whom we choose to spend our time with. The people that live around us? They just “happen” to live near us.

Then there is the time-suck fashion of the internet. Its an awesome tool for closing the distance between us and family that are geographically living a distance from us. Or connecting with friends who live in another part of the world. We can spend time chatting via text, or over a video connection – catching up on one another’s lives – reconnecting with our chosen community members who just don’t live close enough to visit on a whimsical weekend.

So, we have what has become the modern-day aspect of a community. Let’s remember, this doesn’t describe EVERY community, but can be utilized to describe many aspects of what has become a modern community within today’s society. We’re not just disconnected from one another. We’re also disconnected from our environment, from the plight of our planet. Take, for example, the political football that Global Climate Change has become. We have individuals that say that its a “myth” – something that is just made up from whole cloth in order to bilk people out of their monies as donations to help support the cause come in. On the other hand, there are those that point to climate data to support their assertions. This leads to the opposition raising their tone to drown out the other side. And the other side increasing their volume and urgency to offset that from the opposition. In the end, we wind up with a lot of yelling, point-counter-point silliness — and nothing gets accomplished.

Breaking For an Opinion

Rainbow near Divide, Colorado
Rainbow near Divide, Colorado

I do have an opinion on this — and so I don’t get accused of not providing my opinion. I shall do so here. I’m no scientist, but I am a numbers-cruncher and an analyst in my mundane job. I can look at the data that is provided and see the trends that are pointed out. By both sides. However, I do not blindly believe one side over another. If I did, I would already have told you to ignore the climate-change-deniers. However, I’m not that person. I don’t believe either of the data models provided. By either side. I would honestly like to see what data was thrown out of the study by both sides, where the raw data is, and have a quick look for myself. Being someone that observes the weather on a regular basis, I would submit that the wild weather fluctuations are something that provides inference that the Climate Change is a problem. How far mankind goes into contributing to that – and mankind DOES contribute to some of the changes, its just a question if its 5% or 500% or anywhere between or beyond – that’s not something I can endorse one way or another without seeing the raw stats. SO, to provide it in a single statement:  I do believe that Climate Change is a real issue facing our combined populations on this planet. I am sure that if we take the appropriate steps to reduce carbon emissions, we can help bring this issue to something more “normal”. I also believe every day we wait, the longer it will take for human kind’s efforts to reverse the extreme intensity shift we have been watching happen. In other words, I am not all that interested in ascribing blame. I’m more interested in what we – as a population – can do to bring balance back to our environment. We are, after all, only now beginning to understand how we affect our environment through our interactions.

Back to the Point

We all talk about making a “community”. We want like-minded individuals. We want to be inclusive – of Pagans and Pagan friendly folks. We want those who believe in building a utopia of our thoughts. No monies. Barter and trade for goods and services. Removal of capitalist structures that we deem to be “evil”. Why do we oppose these things?  Because each provides “power” to a select few. We exclude those things that we believe to be evil or bad — we will kick Christians, and Muslims to the curbs because neither can spend time with others without starting to wars to eradicate those that don’t believe as they do. They exclude others. Isn’t that we’re doing here? Excluding Christians and Muslims based on the actions of others in the near and distant past that may or may not practice the same Christianity and Muslim faiths of the people we have before us.

Do we want to judge another
Lest we be judged too?
Careful now… The next one might be you

Yeah.

Making a Community is Messy

Let’s be realistic and honest here. Making a utopian community can be done. If you are willing to build the walls, man the gates, prepare to fight off the hordes of “undesirables” that do not conform with what you want. But is it really necessary to build all of this from scratch again? The under-pinnings are already here. We have our desired “chosen” communities. Perhaps, we need to find a way to integrate some of those “chosen” communities back into how we interact with everyone else. Rather than building up walls to keep our “chosen” communities free of what we term as “riff-raff” – we can find ways to interact and communicate with folks of different faiths, ideologies, backgrounds….and locate our common ground. Or as Rage Against the Machine reminds us:

How long? Not long, cause what you reap is what you sow

Time to cultivate common ground. And see if we can provide a crop that gives the power to the have-nots.

 

Pagan Culture – Quote

The Pagan Community does have its own culture. The full meaning of that culture depends on the moment, on the platform, on the environment in which it stands at that moment. And when that moment is finished, the culture continues to change. Yes, the Pagan Community has a cultural aspect to it, the Community just does not seem to realize it until the moment has past.

–Tommy Elf

Building Towards the Ideas of a Pagan Community Future

Not that long ago, I remember the Pagan blogosphere was dotted with a few pieces answering the question of what the writer wanted to see the Pagan community build. A few folks mentioned shrines, temples, and sanctuaries as possibilities. And I do somewhat recall John Beckett making a notation of a Pagan-oriented seminary collegiate type of environment. In a recent post, Jason Mankey made a point about a Pagan Broadcasting Network. All of these are fantastic ideas, in my opinion.

I even have visions of all these ideas being combined into one. A Pagan collegiate campus, focused on religious studies, with a Pagan Broadcasting Network hosted in one of the buildings. All of it encapsulated and integrated into a forested environment, where the environment is allowed to grow wild. The broadcasting arm of the campus would provide audio and video materials of talks and lectures from many different Paths, and the music of Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, Fionn Tulach, and many others would amble along the airwaves. A vision that truly grabs at my professorial heart and appeals deeply to my Pagan soul.

Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)
Medicine Wheel (Wyoming)

But I also have to be somewhat realistic. The chances of me seeing a vision such as this happen within this lifetime are fairly remote. Sanctuaries, Pagan musicians, and even Pagan-oriented collegiate environments are a reality. So how far down the road do I see this vision of my own? To be completely honest, I have no idea. It could be five years, it could be fifty. But this idea of a “building” vision got me to thinking about what I would like to see from the Pagan community on a smaller scale.

There’s a lot of things that I could desire from my Pagan community. I am proud of the way my local Pagan community stepped forward to donate canned goods and blood during last year’s Pagan Pride Day. But more intriguing to me, is the idea of a collegiate scholarship fund for a student looking to head to college. For me, the degree would be immaterial to the point – instead, I look at the fund as a monetary manner to invest in the future of our Community. I am not sure of the specifics related to this entire train of thought – that’s not the point. Plus, I have no idea what such a fund would take to get it running and such. But it is certainly a dream that I would love to see giving a chance.

But really, I am sure there are plenty of other dreams that people can have in regards to this question. After all, the Pagan community is a rather large, and quite a diverse group of beliefs and points-of-view. In the end, any and all of the visions that can be dreamed of really lead to one point – what do we envision for the future of our community? How do we go about continuing to build and grow our community? And considering the current growing pains that the Pagan community at large currently faces — this is quite the same as asking a six-year old child what he/she wants to be when they grow up. The resulting answer is likely to be quite different than the answer that eventually arises. And while the final answer may not be quite what was originally dreamed of – oh, think of the full, wonderful set of experiences that combined to bring that child to that point in adulthood. I certainly envy the experiences that the child will go through – having been there myself. And how I relish the experiences we shall go through as a Community, as we continue to grow towards the dreams we dream together….