Thinking About: 2021 and Questions to Ask

I am writing this post as the 2020 Year starts to wind down. The coming year holds a lot of promise and hope, but the reality is that we will not find either until we find that in ourselves. The removal of Donald Trump as President may solve a few things and relieve some of the pressure in various areas. COVID vaccines will hopefully help bring the virus under control and allow us some degree of normalcy in our lives, which we haven’t seen since March. But let’s consider both aspects as symptoms that allowed various things to come to fruition in our lives just a little faster. COVID removed some of the immediacy that we had in some relationships while forming new ones that we never saw coming. COVID also brought some realities of our lives to the forefront that we had never considered. In the end, some of that happened for the good of things, and in others created utter devastation that we could never have imagined. After all, life is short. We need to live with no regrets.

2021 is not going to be better just because Joe Biden is President. The only way it gets better is when we start to take stock of who and what we are. Me? I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m me. And I have my own problems that I have to figure out, for myself. My world is different now. In complete darkness, I am trying my best to pick up the shattered pieces and rebuild something that resembles a fucking life. So, for me, 2021 is not about hope. It’s not about the promise of things getting better. 2021 will be about finding myself again. 2021 will be about being able to look in the mirror in the mornings and see some kind of day that I can move forward in. And I sincerely believe that we will be doing much the same thing as a collective society.

Who are we? What are we? What are we going to believe? As a collective society, we are going to have to take a few moments, catch our breath, and consider quite a few things about the world around us. Racism is not dead. ‘Us v. Them’ is still alive in every corner of our lives. Discriminating against others because of differences – whatever those differences are – is far more pervasive than we thought. You can see it right out your front door if you look deep enough. But finding it, pointing it out, getting others to see it – that’s the easy part. Thanks to the last four years, we’ve all seen it. The bigger question is ‘what now?’

I am really the wrong person to be asking where things are going or even how do we get there. I’m an idealist. I prefer to see the good in people. I expect people to defer to doing the ‘correct’ thing, the necessary thing. And typically I’m disappointed every single fucking time. It’s gotten to the point that I no longer hope for people to do the right thing. I expect the worst. And with my state of mind, I can expect some really, really bad shit. Stuff that I really don’t care to entertain in my thoughts whatsoever. Because I have seen the worst that human beings can do to each other. And it’s not pretty.

So all I can really do is answer the questions from my own perspective. Who am I? Well, that’s easy. I’m a Pagan. I believe that the natural state of the world is best when mankind stops fucking with it. I’m a Druid. Because I believe the concepts laid out in Druidry are some of the better starting points in how we can deal with one another on a daily basis. And I’m me. Because I believe that individuality is important, particularly in a modern, plastic world that emphasizes that everyone should be the same in their daily approach to Life. Being you is more important than anything else. Your uniqueness brings more beauty, life, and sanity to this world than anything else possibly could. That without you, the world loses a little of its vibrancy. What am I going to believe? Well, I am going to believe in you. That your presence; however small you may believe it to be, brings everything together. And that without you, the world loses a bit of its beauty. Yes, this even goes for me…digging my own way through the deeper recesses of who I am. I believe our differences make us stronger, and that does not dilute the so-called “purity” of what we are as humans. Our diversity is our strength because we can see so many different perspectives. Some even diametrically opposed. Those differences allow us to find unique, stronger solutions. But only when we listen. Right now, we have closed our ears to that perspective…for whatever reason.

2021, not 2020, offers us a chance to move in a different direction. But like a large ship on the ocean, it takes a while to make a new directional change. We’re not going to shift ninety-degrees immediately. It will take time. It will take effort. It will take conscious thinking on everyone’s part. And it will take forgiveness. Not just of those who voted for Donald Trump. That’s small stuff. We are going to need to forgive our collective selves. Forgive ourselves for allowing things to happen, and then get started on doing things right. No pointing of fingers. No assigning the blame. We can deal with that much, much later. We are hurting now. We need to bandage the wounds and start the healing process. We can figure out who is to blame much later on.

Again, we need to decide who and what we are. Are we a mob demanding immediate justice? Or are we people who seek to first find healing and help for those in need? For me, it’s obvious…I prefer healing and help first. Those in need should always be first and foremost. The next question…is how? That’s where the rubber meets the road.

–T /|\

Thinking About: This Year and What is to Come

Yesterday, I took the day to go to Denton County for medical appointments. When I lived in Lindsay, it was a little easier, as the drive one-way was forty-five minutes. Now, Hillsboro to Denton County is about an hour longer, which makes me pile my medical appointments one top of the other for those Wednesdays, and turns a trip to Denton County into an all-day affair. I could just move to new doctors down on this side of town, but once I am comfortable with a doctor, I hate to give them up. On the way home, with my eyes all blurry from being dilated and my right getting a steroid shot to help with my vision (that’s right, I get shots in my eyes about every seven weeks or so), I decided to stop for Chinese food on the way back home. No dine-in option, because the local Chinese place doesn’t deem it safe to have the dine-in area of the restaurant open due to COVID-19 concerns. All of which suits me just fine – given that I am still not comfortable being out in the public spaces for any length of time. So drive-thru window it was to be. I went home, ate about three-quarters of what I ordered and promptly went to sleep. Today, I have struggled to find my topic for today, until I opened my fortune cookie and saw the message hidden inside.

At that moment, I started wondering what in the Nine Hells this was trying to tell me. I’m not one to believe in fortune cookie sorcery, but I always take a moment to pause and consider how these generic messages inserted at random in some fortune cookie factory might fit into my life. I have always found this to be an excellent source for self reflection, and have come away with some really good journal entries concerning my feelings towards where that particular cookie brought me. But this one? This floored me in a way I was not really ready for.

See, I am just like anyone else. I see all the troubles that inhabit our current times. Police brutality issues that are centered in an unbalanced manner against people of color, our out of control President here in the United States, our Senate here in the States that enables his outrageous behavior, the cries for justice that are happening everywhere, our desire for the freedoms promised to all citizens of this country that are our current government seems to hold as dear and proper for only those that support the President, and the ever present fear of COVID-19. I look around and I see people who are behind on their rent and with the eviction restrictions that our governor placed on landlords about to expire over this coming weekend – I just cannot fathom what or how those evicted are going to be able to manage in an environment where they have been furloughed or outright laid off from their jobs. I look at all of that and feel the weight of despair, injustice and the growing anger that is seemingly all around me. I live in a VERY Trump-supporter heavy county. Nearly every vehicle that has a political statement in the form of a sticker has one supporting Trump. If you go into any public space within the county, you will encounter a multitude of red-hats being proudly displayed. If you drive between Cleburne and Hillsboro (the two nearest large cities), you will drive by house after house on the rural highway that is displaying either a Trump/Pence 2020 yard sign or flying a Trump flag (yes, a flag) in their yard. And these people are active in the Facebook groups for the county, and very vocal about their support for the President. And even more vocal about what they would do to protesters in the streets, if they came across them. That anger and hate is laid out as naked and arrogant as possible, with a hint of violent tendencies just beneath the surface for those that don’t agree. So, in terms of the so-called “long-game,” I am not overly optimistic.

But there is hope, which is what my fortune is seemingly reminding me of. Trump does not get elected solely off the vote here in Hill County or even solely off the vote from here in Texas. However, if he does manage to eek out four more years in the White House, there is still hope. Because we still have each other. I look to the love and caring I get in messages in Email or in Direct Messages or in Facebook status posts, or tweets on Twitter. Take away all the politics, all the ridiculous online debates, and even turn off the news….and the best is still there. Even despite COVID-19, we still celebrate life among one another. We celebrate birth dates, we rejoice in anniversaries of dates we became friends on Facebook. We find happiness in each other, no matter the distances. When we feel down, our friends take time out to console us, they write private messages to engage us, they comment on posts to help heal us – no matter how small that might feel like. All of that is triumphs that we have in our lives. Why does that happen? Because we are in this together. To steal a movie quote from Matrix: Reloaded:

Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it. I stand here, before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No, I stand here without fear because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me.

Morpheus

What comes after this point? An election. A hopeful end to a devastating virus. A new world that will change every step in my life for the future. I know there will be an election, I know a vaccine that helps drive down the devastation of COVID-19 will be found, and I know that a new life is waiting for me, just around the corner. The what and when of all of that, I cannot predict, but I am not about to stop fighting or believing in any of what I just stated. Why? Because I believe harder than you? No…as pointed out by Morpheus in the quote above, because I remember and look back on what has gotten me to this point. All the hard work, all the struggle, wrapped up in all of the time and effort I put into going forward. I believe that I can continue to go forward and that I will see positive change, but only so long as everyone else remains willing to fight, work, and struggle. I have faith in your ability to work together and move forward for change. I have faith in all of you that are pushing for a world of equality for all. Certainly, we live in uncertain and unstable times, but our goals for change happen further on. This is not a time to despair over where we are, it is a time to remember where we are headed – and knowing that there is still much work to be done. I do believe that….all thanks to fortune cookie that I opened, just a few hours ago. Who says that the Gods don’t work in weird and strange ways? 🙂

–T /|\

Thankful for Hope

Here in the States, we have reached the time for Thanksgiving. Traditionally, it is a time for being thankful for what we have in our lives, until the following day when we all head out to the retail stores to beat the crap out of each other for cheap(er) prices on various items that we did not really need in the first place. Or at least that’s the theory.

Thanksgiving is also a time that lends itself to levels of gluttony where food consumption is concerned. For me, no thanks. I am fat enough already. I could be mistaken for the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey at my current weight.

This is also the time frame where families get together, to remember that we are all related to one another, and that we should be nice to each other. That is, until the inevitable talk of politics kicks in, and the dining room table breaks into a war zone where Trump supporters form to one side, the lone Hillary supporter to the other, and the Sanders’ supporters block the way to the kitchen. By the time the stuffing has slid down the wallpaper, someone is packing to leave early. And thus, the traditional family fight begins the holiday season.

In all those aspects, I guess I am lucky. The physical, geographic distance between myself and my DNA relations is great enough that I am just considered the “odd family member that lives too far away.” My extended family tend to live on other continents from me, so that travel is generally out. So it is really just a stay-cation for the holidays. Sure, there is a copious amount of food that still gets made, but it is not for a single meal. The design is to be enough to last through the entire weekend. So there is no need to gorge. And Black Friday shopping is typically limited to a handful of stores (if at all), along with a trip to the barber for my twice yearly haircut. So, Thanksgiving is a typically quiet affair for me.

But there are things to be thankful for. I still have my health – as it seems to be for the moment. I still have a paying job – as it seems to be for the moment. And while I hold them at arm’s length, I do still have DNA family. I have the right to follow the religious beliefs of my own – for the time being. And I have the company of Crow, Coyote, and Fliadhas. I am thankful to be able to be who I am, what I am, and continue to become what I am meant to be. And for me, that is more than enough in life. I do not need to drive my enemies before me, nor do I need to hear the lamentations of their women. That works for Conan the Barbarian, but not for me.

This election cycle has certainly drawn some long, deep, and difficult divides between folks. It has emboldened some to showcase their hatred and disdain for others. It has driven many to places of hiding, seeking shelter, and being wary of so many around them. The election of Donnie and Mikey has struck the tower bell and started sounding the alarm that things are changing. The coming times have the hallmark of being truly perilous times. Times that will test many of us in ways that we never thought possible; ways that we thought were better thought of in a generation or two in the past.

I can understand the trepidation. I can understand the fear. I can understand the inability to see or focus beyond what seems to be bad. But deep down, deep within, there is always a reason to be thankful. Even if the thanks are for some of the smallest things. As Jyn Erso has been heard to utter on the commercials for Star Wars: Rogue One — “Rebellions are built on hope.” And in my own estimation, one of the best ways to stick it to the incoming administration is to just continue to be yourself. Do not let any of this change who you are. Be you. That is my two pence into the pot. If you happen to be the lucky winner, do not spend it all in one place.

 

Which Wolf Will You Feed?

Last weekend, I went to the movies and watched Tomorrowland from Disney. It was an interesting film — once it got going. Its painfully slow in getting started, but there’s a message in all of it. The movie discusses how the chance to reach for the unknown – for a future that remains possible – can drive the dreamers forward. Or to put it another way, so long as we know that there is a chance for any number of outcomes, we will strive towards our dreams. There are far more statements within the movie, but I wanted to focus on this one for a bit.

Two Wolves

I have a little rubber bracelet that I got from a trip to NASA in Houston a few years back. It has the iconic statement emblazoned on it: “Failure is not an Option.” For the longest time, I applied that statement to my students. When I was in the classroom, I tried to be as upbeat and encouraging with them as much as I could. I’m quite sure that a few of them understood where I was coming from. Even more probably viewed me as some sort of Pollyanna, and dismissed me out of hand. After all, I focused very intensely on very positive outcomes. But it wasn’t because I refused to see the negative outcomes, not at all. Its because I believe intent is driven by what we consume. Or to put it in the words of Tomorrowland‘s heroine, Casey:

There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is… which wolf wins?

The answer is “the one you feed”. I found another aspect of this on the Nanticoke Indians website located here. Interesting, is it not? What we are talking about here is a concept very similar to magickal workings. We form our intention – to feed whichever wolf we want to – and then move forward in our actions to do just what our intentions are aimed towards. I will come back to this in a short bit.

Further in the movie, Governor Nix (played by Hugh Laurie) has a long statement about how humanity embraces the concept of the “end of the world.” At the end of this monologue, he states:

…because the wonderful thing about giving up on the future is that it doesn’t require you to do anything right now.

Which brings me back to the point of knowing the outcome, as well as branching into another point of thought I will get to in a moment. When we know the outcome, without the shadow of a doubt, human beings are more likely to give up, embrace the outcome, and find a way to adapt (if there is one). Tomorrowland points out how this kills creativity and the desire to reach for the unknown. After all, if the outcome is already known…who cares about what we don’t know about already? In the end, its a useless activity to find out more, particularly when there is no changing the outcome. But if the outcome is only 99.999% certain, there are some human beings that will strive with every fiber of their being to find that 0.001% chance of a different outcome. Where there is a hope of altering an outcome, there is always the struggle to utilize our creativity to find that/those other solution(s).

The End Times

So, we come to one of the biggest differences between Christianity and Paganism, at least in my mind. Pagans embrace an idea that we can change the outcome in our world. If we put into motion the idea that we are a part of our environment, rather than the environment being a resource that we can dominate, and use – we find that there’s no need for an “End Times” scenario. We can live within our environment forever (whatever that means), provided we see ourselves as a part of it – rather than the environment as a resource to devour. Christianity, on the other hand, points to a Dystopian future on the Earth. When the time is over, Christians will be pulled into Heaven, a Utopian environment that cannot be accessed until your death or the Rapture. The Earth will be left to Satan and his minions, and setup as a Dystopian environment of misery, pain, and suffering for those non-believers who were “left behind”. Its fairly obvious to see there’s no need to conserve resources for the future. There’s no need to be a responsible caretaker of the environment. After all, in the end, God will take us from here, to another place. A Paradise. Oddly enough, my favorite Eagle’s song “The Last Resort” addresses just this point.

Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.

Tomorrowland doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the future. Because the future isn’t determined yet. There’s still hope that things can be changed. There’s still a chance that we can make things better, that we can reach for our dreams. And that, is my point here. There’s always hope. There will always be room in my environment for my dreams. My dreams of a world where our environment is a treasured part of who we are, not merely something to admire or use. My dreams of a world where we choose to live together and are respectful of our differences. How do we get there? Well, I am not completely sure. But I have started walking down that Path myself. And I see things that I need to change in who I am. I need to find ways to be more understanding of the followers of the Christian faith. I see where I need to find commonalities between my Independent political leanings and those of the Right and Left in the political spectrum. That little bit of understanding, those commonalities – that’s common ground. And from fertile common ground – that is where I believe the dreams I have will be cultivated from.

Which wolf, indeed….

My very first sight of Space Shuttle Atlantis
My very first sight of Space Shuttle Atlantis