Drinking in the Experiences of the Night

sword-fluteI am sitting outside with my iPad in my lap, watching the light fade from dark orange hues in the west to the all-encasing shadow that arrives on the heels of the Sun’s departure. Yes, I am outside, experiencing the dying of the light, and the increasing strength of the night’s shadow. I still hear the faint calls of the Chickadees nearby, and the occasional song of the Starling that has taken a liking to my feast of birdseed that I spread near the bird bath. But as the twilight fades and my ability to see further than my fence without the aid of the street lamp flees with it – the night gets quiet. Soon enough, the crickets take up their long, drawn out aria for the evening – their song punctuated by the inevitable whoosh of cars rushing down my street. I can hear the steady thump of their tires as each one passes over the cracks between slabs of pavement that comprise the roadway. Sometimes, I am greeted by the shrill and deafening sounds of the music playing in their cars. As they pass and move further down the street, the sound slowly dies out, and the symphony of the night begins again.

I am literally astounded by the sounds I experience – and the rush of emotions that each will elicit within me. The feeling of serenity with the sound of the crickets. The warm, spreading joy as I hear the sounds of the birds settling in for their night. The annoyance at each intrusion of sound inevitably introduced from the passing motor vehicles.

As my eyes adjust to the dimmed light, I can vaguely make out the stars in the night sky. I know they will embrace the company of the Moon soon, riding through the sky in a triumphant parade of celestial bodies. So tiny in the night sky, but each a much greater entity than I could ever fathom. Some of these stars could be planets, reflecting their brilliance in the night sky. But which, I do not know. I have never been really strong on such things as Astronomy. A little voice inside me sounds a reminder that I should. I work for a college where I can take such classes at no cost. And more knowledge is always a good thing.

I still feel the heat from the day’s sun. It was a very warm day today – the hottest day so far this year, if I remember the temperatures of the previous days well enough. Here I am, sitting in the dark, and I can still feel the heat of the day, rising off the ground below me. Such a curious experience to notice. And yet it is there – and I am experiencing it. And that is exactly what this time is all about – experiencing a part of the cycle of the day that I normally do not. I used to be such a night owl when I was a much younger man, stationed at Carswell Air Force Base, working the night shift. The night-time was when I was awake. But I never really paid much attention to the experiences I was having. I was more interested in partying with friends, hoisting a few pints, throwing darts, making mischief. Very, very different experiences.

Its time to come in now. The sprinkler system has started its rounds on the backyard, and I have no desire to be completely soaked. So I gather my iPad and myself and come inside. But not without stopping and saying a silent “thank you”…to the Gods, to the Spirits of the Land, to myself – and to the denizens of my backyard, for their serenade has been a wonderful experience. An experience I will duplicate tomorrow.

 

The Magick of the Night, the Magick of Memories

Moonlight

Night time. The pitch black of the night – or in my case, about as close as you can get when punctuated by the various street-lights and houses around you. For the past few nights, I have been wandering outside and sitting out by the stone circle in my backyard, just as I do when the sun comes up. And once the back yard settles down from my noise entrance through the patio door, the sounds of the night begin anew.

Occasionally, the whoosh of a car goes by on the street just beyond the fence, hurtling its occupants to destinations I can only guess at. Once, a jogger strode past on the sidewalk, pulling his canine companion along – the fluorescent tape on the clothing making an eerie yellow glow in the night as the street light catches the material just right. And through it all, I sit. Watching, listening, marveling. The night has many secrets.

The first time I did this, I went out shortly after the sun had set. The twilight was marked by the noisy chattering and chirping of grackles bedding down for the night in a nearby copse. The neighbors were just starting to head inside after a day of lounging by their pool. Slowly, the night was enveloped by the deafening roar of quiet. I live a few miles from one of the busiest interstates in the United States – silence is nearly impossible, even this far from that heavily traveled road. When the quiet finally arrived, the crickets took to singing their song of welcome for the night, while I gazed skyward. Skyward, hoping for a glimpse of…clouds. I had forgotten to check the forecast to see what kind of night I would have. Instead, I sat and focused on the sounds of the night. Particularly the soft whoosh of the wind caressing the leaves of my backyard giant.

The second night was much the same. On the first and second nights, there was a smell of rain in the air. I do not know how else to describe it. It *smelled* like water, fresh water. Not the heavy smell of chlorinated water which occasionally wafts over the fence line from the neighbor’s house, if the wind is just right. Its the same smell you get right after a nice, soothing, cool rain on a hot Summer day. The third night was different though.

The weather pattern for the area had pulled much of the cloud cover to the East. And this night, I was treated to a view of the night sky. There were wisps of cloud accentuating the sky in various places, so it was not a completely clear picture. But I could see the Moon in all of her glory. Somewhere between full and three-quarters, hanging in the sky like a lopsided yellowish melon doing its best imitation of a piñata. Waiting for a stick to rise through the air and score a direct hit – showering the world in my favorite candy – Milky Way candy bars!! Oh if it were just true!

It was the stars that held my gaze the longest. I could only imagine how much life there was beyond the world that we live in. Surely, this could not be the only location that sustains life? And how would we define life? Ah, such wonderful questions of philosophy running around in my brain, as I watch the unmoving will o’ the wisps high in the dark velvet fabric above me. Even sitting here in the backyard of my home in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas – I find myself easily transported several years back. Laying in the back of my Ford Ranger pickup truck with the tailgate down, legs dangling over the edge of the tailgate. My date and I watching the night stars while we talked back and forth about whatever subject came to our minds. Our location was a country road fifty to sixty miles out side of the west of Fort Worth – out in the country. Any subject was on the table – whatever came to your mind at the moment. And then it was explored, discussed, analyzed. We stayed there until the sun came up to our East, reminding us both that we needed to find food and then a bed for sleep. A magickal time, a magickal moment. One that is etched deep in my memory. The night does have this effect on me. There are deep memories attached to this period of time, when the Sun is caressing the opposite of the globe, and the Moon reflects His brilliance onto the darkened side – to remind us that the Sun is going to be back.

Like many a Pagan before me, I have stepped out into the environment around me, intent on finding the Spirits and the Gods – and occasionally I am lucky enough to do so. But there’s also magick to be found, the magick of memories. And there is also magick to be made, which will become even deeper magick of the memories. The Gods, the Spirits, the Magick – its all around us. We just have to be quiet enough and still enough to let that under-current reach us.

 

My Imbas. My Awen. My Inspiration…

Rainbow near Divide, ColoradoMy morning routine has been fairly consistent over the past year. Up around thirty minutes prior to the dawn, make a cup of coffee and some breakfast (typically a bowl of oatmeal). Then outside to be near the stone circle and watch the sun peek over the rooftops here in Suburbia in north Texas. I do not always get the chance to be outside though – sometimes there’s rain – and believe it or not, sometimes there’s snow. Sometimes its just too bloody cold to be outside as well. On those days, I stand at the patio door, peering outside of the glass waiting for my daily companion to start that ascent to the heights of the sky. Sunrise has always been a fascination of mine. I love watching the sky change hues just before the Sun peeks beyond the horizon. The soft blues, oranges, and the egg-shell whites that permeate the sky remind me of an artist’s palette with little blobs of paint dotted all over it, just before the artist starts to mix colors to get the correct hue for their visual moment.

For me, artistry is everywhere. The beauty and color of the skies, the landscape in its natural formations, the people that dot the entire day in their chosen hues and style of dress, even the cars that we drive. Everything has a tinge of inspiration behind its creation, a hint of Imbas just vaguely perceived but there nonetheless. I am reminded of the lyrics to the song “Mission” by the band Rush from their 1987 album “Hold Your Fire”:

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame ’til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it

If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I used to be quite envious of painters, graphic artists and musicians – each have a talent I only wish I had. When I was younger, I doodled around the Bass Guitar. I never was very good at it. I could replicate a handful of bass lines from Chris Squire of Yes, but when the complicated riffs and runs started – I was out of my element very quickly. I have always been envious of the gorgeous pieces of work that people can create with a little color and a set of tools. Pencil, pen, water colors, oils – the medium did not matter – its the glorious creation that they brought about that mystified me. Like the song implies, I could feel the Imbas of their creation – I could sense the creative juices flowing through me as well, but would be unable to create anything remotely on a scale of anything beyond “amateur”.

I turned to poetry as an outlet. I have always been fairly good with the written word. In high school, I took the song “Black Sabbath by the band Black Sabbath from their self-titled album (odd how that all worked out), and turned that into a short story of my own for an English assignment. My teacher loved it, even though I was too lazy to put it into the appropriate format. In my senior year of high school, I discovered the joy of writing poetry. That carried over into the next seven years of my life – where I shared my work on a local Bulletin Board Service called “Renaissance BBS”. Sadly, much of that work is no longer in my possession, and I have no idea where else it might be.

Then, for a few years, I wrote nothing at all. I had just left the US military, and life was not an enjoyable one as I struggled to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism and greed I found myself dropped into. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get my head above water. Eventually, I went back to school for a degree. Soon enough, I re-embraced my love of writing and have never let go.

I have always had the dream of being a writer. Being able to make a meager living out of my words and inspiration. And yet, I am an adjunct professor at my local junior college. I may not be able to bring my words to the classroom, but I do try and bring my inspiration and love of technology to the classroom. I try to show the students that creativity is not limited to the musicians, artists, and writers. That the computer that we use are also works of inspiration. That each piece of software originated as someone’s quest to quench the mad fire within their spirit. Admittedly, not everyone wants to “hear” what I have to say. In three-plus years of teaching students, I have encountered more than my fair share of students that see the class as a hurdle that they have to jump. A topic that they have to finish to get a credit of some sort towards their graduation. Not everyone enjoys the madness of what Imbas can bring to them.

As I said, I love to write. My many journals (I keep three and am about to add a fourth one today) are a testament to this. I still have the dream about making my writing earn me a meager living. I realized long ago that having millions and millions of dollars may solve some of the issues of living, but all of the responsibility that comes with such large sums of money can also snuff out the joy of living. I merely want enough money to live comfortably and not worry day-to-day about my bills or where my next meal may come from. As I sit here writing this, I find myself seeing my feet stepping on to that Path, for the first time. Where that will take me, I have no idea – but this looks like the possible start of an interesting journey. I am looking forward to the adventures, pitfalls, and lessons that are likely to come my way.

My Imbas. My fire in the head. My inspiration. My Awen. May the Muses be kind, but firm in the lessons they will provide….

 

Why I Choose to Be a Solitary Pagan – A Look at Ritual

SunriseMornings always bring a new perspective on the Path for me. When the sun rises up over the horizon and starts that slow climb into the day-time sky, I can typically be found with a cup of coffee in my hand – watching. Its a morning ritual that has served me well. During the time of sunrise, I clear my head of the cobwebs from my sleep during the night. I can put my mind into gear and start to prioritize my day in my head. But there is a lot more to my morning start….

I spend a few minutes doing my first centering and grounding exercise of the day. Next to my large backyard tree, I can visualize myself growing roots through my legs and feet, reaching deep down into the ground. I can feel the strong comfort of the earth embracing me, holding me upright. At this point, I usually set my coffee cup down, and reach my hands towards the sky. I can feel my arms and hands embracing the warmth of the sun’s rays, and the air gently moving around me. After a few moments of embracing the world around me, I move internally and find my center – my grove of the heart.

This is my internal sanctuary. The place where I find solitude and comfort. This is typically where I meet my Dream Crows. Even five minutes in this place will remind me of how I need to approach the world around. My worries, stress, and anger are not necessary. I remember that each moment, each breath, each action is a celebration of Life. I entwine myself in that thought, took another deep breath, and come back to this moment. And I begin my day.

Rituals do not need to be complicated motions and incantations – rote statements and actions. That works for other people, and I applaud them for finding something that works for them. My approach is much more simple. This is the style of ritual that holds deep meaning for me, it is a deep reservoir that I can access at any time and place. Most importantly, it works for me.

No, it has not escaped my notice that my perspective of ritual comes from a singular perspective. My ritual style will not translate well to any aspect of group dynamics. But this, I have come to understand is why I am a Solitary Pagan on a Path of Druidry. My rituals are in my Grove of the Heart. I cannot translate accurately what that Grove looks like. I cannot translate correctly the emotions that are tied to every experience.

I do the best that I can with the writing I do in my journals, but those words splayed on the pages hold more meaning for me than for anyone that may forage through them. Each statement made there is charged with attached meaning and understanding for me. I wrote those words, and the memories and emotions attached to it are my own. Thus, I am able to translate what I have written there in a manner far more meaningful than anyone else. Much like we all attach feelings, emotions and memories to the songs we hear on the radio, the words I place on a page will have a different meaning to me than to someone else.

In contemplating the idea that I am a Solitaire by choice, I realized that the word itself implies loneliness. The lone individual traveling through a Spiritual Life, alone. No friends, no one to discuss those experiences with, no one to celebrate the turning of the Wheel with. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a Solitary Pagan by choice, but I do spend a lot of time talking with other Pagans. Occasionally, I will attend events and group celebrations to touch base with those same friends and to encounter new friends. A Solitary Path is not a lonely one. Yet there is the implication that it is. In my manner of thinking, this is from a deeply ingrained perspective that is brought about by our modern society. For instance, lonely people are thought to be deeply depressed, deeply resentful of others around them, and that eventually they will snap in a violent manner and strike out at that connected, communal world around them. I am quite sure that there is some aspect of psychology that can be set forth to “prove” my point to be “wrong”. That’s all right though – I still stand by this point. No, I am not lonely. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am a Solitary Pagan by choice.

This is only the first in a series of posts that I will be making on all of this. I am exploring the perspective of why I have chosen to be a Solitaire. I am not questioning whether I should remain a Solitary Pagan. I am trying to explore a bit more of who I am, and why I am. My first look here has been at this from a perspective of ritual. There will be more to come…

Tommy /|\

 

Connections of Tradition – a personal thought….

HandsTypically, one can find me with my eyes glued to a book – electronic or paper – as evidenced by the profile picture I have. That’s me, sitting on the beach, reading a book. Now, to further that image, people who know me well are aware that I do not like going to the beach. I’m more of a forests and mountains type of person. Thus, I brought a book with me for a trip to the beach. 🙂 The picture is about eight years old, but today you can find me doing the same thing – constantly reading.

Currently, I am reading Nimue Brown’s book “Druidry and the Ancestors”, which has been a very different perspective for me. She approaches topics from the perspective of three types of ancestors – Ancestors of Blood, Place and Tradition. Much of the material presents a viewpoint I had never truly considered, so its fairly fresh – and at times, a little confusing. But like anything I read, it has provided an implication to my thinking that has allowed me to examine my own understanding of the world around me with a new lens.

I am a very connections oriented individual. When I look at things – physical things, beliefs, politics – I always try to find the corroborating threads of connection. Or if you may indulge me a moment, those threads of relation. How does this one thing fit into the entire picture? Where is that fitting between these two, three or many things? For me, at least, its understanding how those connections work that provides me with perspective.

So I started to look at some of the connectivity aspects of my various relationships. A short analysis found that I have a much stronger connection with people not in my local area. I do have some strong connections here, but my strongest and longest lasting connections have come with people in far-flung places from Texas. England, Germany, Holland, Australia, Washington State, California, Pennsylvania….none of these places is very near. And many of these people I have never met face to face. How does a strong connection get made so easily? I am not sure I can really answer this question definitively.

There are lots of factors to consider – individual personality, common interests, common personal background, etc etc. I am not sure that I could round anything down to one specific aspect. And yet it is there. Strong connectivity across a long distance. If I had to try and bring a “labeling” about for it, I would most likely utilize Nimue’s perspective on Ancestors of Tradition. That there is something in our backgrounds, particularly in our beliefs, that connects us together. Trying to explain that, will probably take time…a lot of it.

I just have to be cognizant that it takes one step at a time to achieve this understanding…its not going to arrive in my head like a lightning bolt from the blue…

Remembering Freedoms

I sit here, watching the light rain falling outside, and have some Night Ranger playing in the background. The backbeat and guitar takes me back to my late teens and early twenties – a time when I was a very different person than I am today. My focus was hardly that of which it is today. Politics and religion had very little room in my life. I had no worry about a collegiate education. My focus was on living each moment like my hair was on fire. Full steam, straight ahead… I was playing soccer and helping out with plays at the local independent play-house. And I was learning…

Strange how that thought is a major part of my thinking for that time period in my life. I was learning. Many of the folks at the play-house were introducing me to classic literature, and I even found someone to show me a bit about energy play. But Paganism did not even enter into the conversation for me. I had vague perceptions that I thought there was more than just God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – as I had been taught in Catholic boys schools. But I was not interested in developing that part of my thinking.

After exhausting my collegiate options through poor attendance and poor scholarship on my part, the only option I had left to me was the United Staes military. I joined. I was taught to do things the way the Air Force wanted, but there was always that area of my life I kept off to the side. The side of me that wanted to ask more questions, seek more answers, and accept people for who they presented themselves as. A slightly naive way of looking at the world – but one I have never seen the need to remove.

I still accept people at face value. I still expect them to be who they say they are. The ones who have done so in openness and honesty, have remained my friends throughout. The ones who haven’t – I try to dig past the facade and see who they are. After all, every person has layers to them – parts of themselves that they hide from the glare of the public light. Some just reside deeper in their cloaks than others. I never consider that someone has lied about who they are – merely that they had a reason for being cautious. Yes, I try to see the best on people….

When I started meeting people in my local area that were on the same Bulletin Board Systems that I was – I found out just how much people could hide from the world in an online personality. Nine Hells, I have done – and still do this to some degree. Everyone does. We always want to present one side of who we are to the world at large. It takes a while to walk around that online presence and determine the three dimensional aspect of a person.

Take Facebook for example. Or any other online platform. People put their best social foot forward, and sometimes that’s only their sandal. Not the foot that is in it, or the leg that the foot is attached to, or the rest of who they are. They don’t want the world to know that they are overweight, or that they are not as pretty as they think others may imagine them to be, or they have a fading hairline (that’s me!) as they move further into their living years. And honestly, no one can blame them for that. Its the way our society works – we judge people based on how they look – rather than on who they are.

There’s no question that a thin, large breasted woman is pleasing to look at for guys – at least from a physical perspective. I’ve looked at many a pleasing figure in my time. But its not what makes the person interesting to me. The physical appearance is pleasing, but it is only a single dimension of who that person is in my eyes. And honestly, its not even close to being the most important. There’s intelligence, wit, personality, the ability to carry on a conversation, the ability to listen, the smile, the eyes….all of that attracts and excites me far more than a person’s physical appearance. The physical appearance is not that big of a deal to me…I do not need or want a supermodel on my arm. I would rather have the person with the physical flaws, because there’s so much more to them than just their physical appearance.

Yet our society plays up on the physical attractiveness of a person as being a primary factor on who is the most ideal mate. We see it in the movies, we see it in the product advertising that is on television, we see it in the television shows. A person with an attractive woman/man on their arm is considered to be “lucky” and is to be envied. And yet, I envy the guy with the nerdy lady on his arm, having wonderfully intelligent conversations, and enjoying tons of fun with witty banter.

Why do I bring this up? Because we have freedoms to make choices. We can choose to find what is pleasing to our eyes, pleasing to our ears, pleasing to our touch. Here in the United States, we live under a doctrine that gives us the freedom to make those choices, to explore avenues that some may consider to be “taboo”, to sate our curiosity….and we maintain a military to defend those rights, not just for us, but for anyone. Those individuals that choose to defend this country and its Constitution give up the right to be judged under that same Constitution. They give up many of the freedoms we enjoy here – to defend those very same freedoms. And in the end, some give more than just a few years of their lives in this position of service. Some give their limbs, and parts of their bodies. Others pay the ultimate price with their lives.

…and that is what Memorial Day should be for, in my opinion. Not to thank a current military member – but rather to thank those who paid these terrible prices. I am free to explore my Paganism, in ways I never comprehended earlier in my Life. I am free to be who I am. All thanks to people who paid that price for me. The very least I can do is remember them.

 

005 – Goatman’s Bridge and Being a Priest

UponPaganPathIn this episode, I talk about my trip to the nearby Old Alton bridge here in Denton county, otherwise known as The Goatman’s Bridge. I also spend a little bit of time going over some changes I have had in my mind concerning the title of “Priest”. I also spend a bit of time talking about the upcoming changes to the podcast as well.  This episode’s music is from the lovely Kellianna and is her song “She Moved Through the Faire” from her album “Traditions”. Such awesome stuff!!  The Spoken Word segment is my rendition of “Spring Pools” by Robert Frost.

Kellianna’s music can be found at her website:  http://www.kellianna.com/ . As always, if you like the music you hear on the show, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE buy it from the artist, so that they may continue to provide us with such rich and wonderful sounds!


Contact Information

Email: elfster@gmail.com

Google Voice-mail: (972) 514-7315

Skype: tommyelf22

Twitter: @t_elfster

Shownotes: https://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/


Direct Download link:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/paganpath/PaganPath-005-May2014.mp3

 

Yes, I am a Priest

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading - even when I go to the beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

If you have been reading the blog, you would have noticed that I posted a review of “Paganism 101” from Moon Books (editor, Trevor Greenfield) – a book that has given me many, many writing prompts. Today’s blog post will be no exception to that, as I tackle a concept and descriptor that I have eschewed for most of my life: “Priest”.

Anyone who has read this blog or listened to my long period of podcasting or even knows me personally – is aware of my hardcore avoidance of the term and title of “Priest”. I am no Priest for anyone except myself. I have always avoided the usage of the term where I was concerned, so that I would not be wrapped up in any misconception over my role as a Solitary Pagan practitioner. I am a group of one…me. And yet, as I have learned over the years as a podcaster, by placing myself out in the public through my podcasting and my blogging – I am more than just a group of one. For the longest time, I avoided the descriptor of “teacher” – until I understood that even standing up and talking about my manner of being a Pagan on a Path of Druidry placed me in a position of being a teacher. I am not teaching anyone about the mysteries of a belief system. I have no formal students, but I am showing people where I stepped along the rocky Path of my beliefs. In essence, I am showing them where the slippery rocks are, and where I had slipped and stumbled. And for some folks, its a helpful learning lesson that they utilize, and pass on to others. Strangely enough, I am finding out the same thing about the descriptor of “Priest”.

In “Paganism 101”, the very last section is titled ‘Celebrant Work’ and the introductory paragraph is written by someone I admire a great deal – Cat Treadwell. Considering the large amount of celebratory works that Cat conducts through handfastings and other rites in her local area, I was hardly surprised to find her writing this particular introduction. In reading through her essay, I found several passages that have really managed to grab me by the throat and make me take a longer look at my perceived discomfort with the word “Priest”.

What people seem to be looking for in The Person Leading the Rite (whatever their title) is someone to do precisely that. An experienced, preferably trained individual who is capable of holding together a group of varied individuals, leading them to a specific purpose. To act as a Priest, in fact, as this term would usually be understood by the wider society. (p.251)

 

There is very little, in fact, that is common to all Pagans, except for our reverence of and for Nature, and our active lives within it. (p. 252)

 

Every Pagan worth their salt has to be able to justify their beliefs on demand. We’ve all heard that simple question: “So, what’s a Pagan, then?” or “What exactly do you do?” The extent of our answer depends on our own deep (or shallow) understanding of what it is that we actually do. Those questions still make me question myself, my own beliefs and practices. And that’s before we even get into the muddy ground of explaining ourselves in a way that is actually understood. (p. 253)

 

Remember: those who do this are standing for the rest of the community. As I said, each of us speaks for every other Pagan when we’re describing what we do. Imagine that, multiplied to include everyone who is watching. I always have that awareness in my mind when speaking publicly: do I accurately represent each and every one of those Pagans out there? If I saw myself on the television, would I roll my eyes and turn away, or nod and smile? The responsibility is terrifying, and for someone who isn’t a natural show-off, never, ever fun. At heart, I can only ever be myself. But I promised to do my best for my community, and so I do. (p. 254-255)

Four simple statements. And in reading through them, some of you might see these and say – “How in the Nine Hells are these related Tommy?” But they are, my friendly reader. They are. Taken individually, these statements may seem like simple individual statements, but for me – they are pieces to a small puzzle. The first statement shows the typical response to the notion of what a Priest is – an individual that leads participants in a Rite or Working. The second statement is a reminder of what binds all of us on this wide-arching set of beliefs together – as Pagans under the wide big-tent of Paganism, as my friend John Beckett has mentioned a few times on his blog “Under the Ancient Oaks“. For me, the third and fourth statements combine together as a reminder – we can only be ourselves. No matter what training we have received, no matter what order or group we have made ourselves a part of. In the end, we can only be ourselves.

In “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“, Emma Restall Orr states:

Every ecosystem is a community of beings, perceiving, sensing, experiencing, responding, and more, each community, the whole community of life, being in a constant flow of interactions. A community, then, is a pattern of relationships; within each pattern there are countless smaller patterns, and each pattern itself is a part of a larger pattern and a part of other different patterns. (p. 200)

Taken in with the quotes I have brought here from Cat’s essay, for me its a fairly easy perspective of seeing the role of a Priest. The Priest’s role is to help celebrants locate and experience the interconnected aspects of the web that weaves us all together. If we looked at everything around us in the context of a Song that is sung all day, throughout the day – the verses strung together by our thoughts and actions, with participants in the song constantly stepping into and out of the verses – the Priest is there to bring the chorus into focus, to help bring the Song together between each verse. And where are the Priests exactly?  Who are they?  We all are. Each one of us adds a voice to the Song, adds a strand of a verse to the Song, helps hold down the rhythm that weaves its way underneath that Pattern.

I am a Priest. Whether I want to believe that or not, I am. Just as you are. Every day we add to that pattern, add to that celebration of being alive, in the here and now, living each moment so that the future continues to unfold in front of us. We sing the Pattern of the Song, so we can celebrate each moment as we experience it, but also so we can remember the experiences as we go forward. Each strand we weave into the Pattern of the Song is important, no matter how great or small – each strand helps to create the Pattern we are.

Yes, I am a Priest – just as you are. I may not fully embrace the title or the term, but I embrace the workings that are part of it. And in my estimation, that is far more important than whatever descriptor I attach to it. I celebrate Life every day. In every breath that I take. In every action I perform. When I add mindfulness to that equation, I discover where I am on the Pattern, and how my strand of the Song fits in. And at the end of the day, when I step out on to my porch to wish the Sun well on its journey to the other side of the Planet, and greet the Moon as She rises in His place – I celebrate what I have managed to create. I celebrate my workings as a Priest.

— Tommy /|\

Review: Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans

Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans
Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans by Trevor Greenfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodness, but it took me a really long time to finish this particular book! But, that was not because the material was boring or uninteresting. Yes, this book is an Introduction to Paganism. Yes, I have been a Pagan for nearly a quarter of a century now. But that does not mean that material like this would be something I could not learn from. And learn I did. Written from many different perspectives, the book covers the realm of what Paganism is about, and what Pagans do (in general). Extremely accessible for both the newcomer and the old-hand, the information in here starts with various authors covering the topics – and then other Pagans from various Paths chiming in with their thoughts. The material is not only thoughtful, but also thought-provoking. For me, it helped me to clarify some of the manner of approaching the inevitable question: “What is Paganism?” In the past, I have always recommended Margot Adler’s tome “Drawing Down the Moon” as an introduction for newcomers. That does not change in my mind, but “Paganism 101” will be handed over with that as well, with the directive that “Paganism 101” should be the starting point – and Adler’s book the immediate follow-on. If you are curious about what Paganism is about, and are looking for a way to see which of the many Paths might be interesting and/or appropriate for you – this is where you should start!

View all my reviews

Podcast and Blog Decisions

tommyelf1One good thing about hiking in a wooded area by yourself, is that you get to open up your mind a bit more than if you were traversing the area with someone else. Yesterday, while traipsing around in the trails around the Goatman’s Bridge, I had plenty of time to think about how to get the podcast back on track.

I created Upon a Pagan Path to help showcase the personal Spiritual Paths that others are on through interviews…and while I have had some luck getting folks interested in coming on to talk about such – its a little harder to mesh personal schedules to accomplish this. So, I have reverted a bit back to what From the Edge of the Circle was about – talking about topics from my own perspective – essentially holding a conversation with myself. Sounds a bit like a desperate cry for mental health assistance…but really its not. So, bringing that particular aspect back to my podcast repertoire allows for a little more flexibility. And it also allows me to push the podcast back on to a better schedule. So here comes the particulars….

Format

The show will consist of a few segments – consisting of:

  • Interviews/Topics – depending on the availability of guests and personal schedules it can be one or the other. I will also be attempting to record a few talks and lectures along the way as well. Topics with me reflecting from my own perspective will come with the title of “From the Edge of the Circle” to distinguish this as my own perspective.
  • Musical Features – I have always been in favor of the independent, Pagan musician – and will continue to feature such music on every single show.
  • The Spoken Word – I have not featured the Spoken Word – poetry and readings of short stories – as much as I have wanted to. While I do write my own poetry and will read it from time to time – I will also read poetry and short stories and myths as part of this segment. Every single show will feature a Spoken Word segment.
  • The Mail Bag – I do get the occasional eMail from listeners as well. And while its been a good few years since I have read eMails and the such on the show, I will feature this segment whenever I do have a comment or eMail to read.
  • Around the Blogs – I read a lot of Pagan blogs, and the topics that come up there are not always material that I can turn into a full show. When I manage to get a few of these together, I will spend a few minutes talking about what was said, where I got it from, and my own personal take on the topic as well. Most likely, this will not be a segment that comes up near as much as the others.
  • Shout-outs – I got away from doing shout-outs to various folks and the other Pagan podcasts – and I realize its a practice that I miss doing. So this particular segment will return with it most likely taking place at the very end of the show.

Each of the segments will have their own intro sound – much like the show has its usual intro and exit sounds. Also, I will be bringing back soundfiles for other podcasts as well – but I will limit that to three per show, and rotate these in and out. And for those that have had issues with my “potty” mouth – I will probably go back to utilizing Red Dwarf speak to cover up those words, so that the show is a little more “family friendly” or at least something closer to a PG-13 rating.

Schedule

Which brings me to the entire aspect of the podcast’s schedule. We are approaching the midway point in the calendar year – and I have been sporadic in getting episodes out the entire time. That has to change on my part, so I will utilize a schedule I can remember far better than before. I will aim at getting each episode out sometime around the 22nd of each month. Why is this easier for me to remember?  Because 22 is my soccer jersey number. I have never worn another number…so its easy to remember.

Blog

Which brings me to the blog. “Footsteps on My Path” was meant to be more of “me being me” and less of being the podcast. However, the podcast is me…and I am the podcast. Its hard to divorce the two – and thus, I will be bringing the two blogs together here under the “Footsteps on My Path” title. Podcast episode show notes will now be held here in the blog under the tag of “shownotes”. I will add and backdate the posts that were under the old blog, and delete that particular site. The way I figure things – its far easier for me to handle one site than it is to separate myself into two distinctly different entities.

Well, that’s all I have for the moment….I have some recording to do over the next two days…see you in a few days….

 

Goatman’s Bridge and Pilot Knoll Walking Trail

Old Alton Bridge - aka Goatman's Bridge - Denton County Texas
Old Alton Bridge – aka Goatman’s Bridge – Denton County Texas

As I had mentioned in my last post, there is an old bridge near my house called “Old Alton Bridge” or as local legend decries it “Goatman’s Bridge”. The two local legends are what gives Old Alton Bridge its alternative name. On the one hand, there is the legend that the area is inhabited by a demonic Satyr, who supposedly throws rocks at people visiting the area, particularly at night. For me, not a particularly believable legend. The second legend, has it that a local goat farmer – a black man with a very honest reputation – was lynched from the bridge by local Ku Klux Klansmen. When the KKK members pushed the goat farmer off the edge of the bridge to hang, they looked down to see an empty noose and the goat farmer nowhere to be found. In a panic, they traveled back to the goat farmer’s house and slaughtered his family. The legend continues that if you traveled over the bridge without your headlights on, you would see the goatman on the other side of the bridge, warning you to turn on your lights. When you did so, the goatman vanished. The Old Alton Bridge was in use for normal traffic until 2001, when the concrete bridge nearby was built. Old Alton Bridge is only wide enough for a single vehicle to go over at a time. To facilitate the traffic flow, when approaching the bridge, traffic had to honk their horn to signal that they were crossing the bridge, so that oncoming traffic would slow down.

I showed up at the Old Alton Bridge around 0930, realized that I had forgotten my flash card for my camera – and immediately returned to the house for it. I only live 2.3 miles from this bridge, so the return trip was fairly quick. My first stop was to underside of the modern concrete bridge that replaced the Old Alton Bridge. As one would suspect, the area has become a haven for teenaged drinking, and the resultant trash and graffiti associated with it. The feeling of the land here was not a very strong one, until crossing underneath the Old Alton Bridge on the exposed sandy bottom. There was evidence of some night-time fires having been lit down here, along with smashed ceramic materials and a multitude of discarded beer bottles. The feeling of sadness here was fairly strong, and I suspect it would be helped with a little cleaning. This is definitely something I will think a bit on – and try to come up with an idea of how to go about changing this. Druidry has a service element to it, and I cannot think of a greater way to provide service than to clean up this area. A little planning is definitely in order.

Moving back towards the walking path towards the bridge, there is evidence that remote cameras are here to try and stifle some of the local shenanigans in this area.  It is obvious that this is not too effective from the manner in which the area has taken the brunt of the “activities” here. The grass is a little overgrown in places, certainly showcasing a little disuse or forgetfulness by whatever city or county maintenance crew that should be taking care of this area. When you step on to the bridge, you can certainly feel a part of the Goatman legend. There is certainly a presence located here, and is still quite strong, even in the daytime. Crossing over the bridge will place the traveller into a walking path that leads to a large gravel parking lot at the foot of the Pilot Knoll walking trail. By the way, on the opposite of the bridge – prior to walking over – is the trailhead for the Elm Fork trail which I did not walk along.

I walked along the Pilot Knoll trail for about two and a half miles. The terrain was a bit rocky in some places, and extremely deep sand in a few others. The trail is also covered in deep roots crossing in several places, so footing can sometimes be a little treacherous. Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes – I found that I would have been better prepared with some hiking boots and a walking staff. The trail follows the edge of several fence lines for private property – including a pasture where a pregnant mare and some cows were located. At about the two and a quarter mile point, I found myself walking behind some extremely large houses – again with a defined fence line between what was the walking path and their property lines. Having not set myself up for a long walk (no water, no food stuffs), I turned back at this point and retraced my steps back to the Goatman’s Bridge and my Subaru Forester.

The entire time I was on the trail (approximately three hours), I encountered a total of seven people. Mostly runners, and a few walkers. But the area and the Path is mostly in the tree line. Very shaded, extremely quiet, and very open with the Spirits of the Land. For the most part, I was ignored by those Spirits I encountered. But I definitely got the feeling that there was a sense of being neglected by these Land here. When I made similar walks in Germany nearly a decade ago, I marveled at how clean the forest trails were. I was thoroughly disgusted at the amount of trash I encountered on my three hours on these trails. Again, there’s a lot of need for some cleanup here – and while a desire to cleanup is nice, a little bit of planning needs to be done on my part. I was also astonished at the lack of ANY garbage cans in the area as well, which in my opinion leads to a desire to just pitch the trash wherever as well.

While I do love walking in my local neighborhood, I do believe I will spend some time out on these trails in the very near future. Its very obvious that the Spirits are here – hemmed in a bit by the continuing growth of housing developments and the such. I will definitely be returning here again, perhaps with a handheld recorder to try and capture some of the lush sounds for a future podcast. Its adefinitely an area with a strong magickal presence…and a very good area for getting away from the feeling of suburbia without having to drive extremely long distances to do so.

Photos from my walk can be found at My Flickr Page.

Cities, Suburbs, and The Goatman’s Bridge…Saturday Morning Thoughts

The morning is a little overcast, and the temperatures are a little low for this time of the Spring. But I know its Spring. My yard is greening up nicely, my backyard trees have their foliage of dark green leaves with a light-green underside on display. And I hear them again. Every morning for the last week and a half, a squadron of geese are winging their way down my street, following the slight twists and turns of that concrete pathway that points the direction to Lewisville Lake. Its not like the geese could miss the lake, its extremely large with an estimated surface area of over 30,000 acres. If the geese were somewhat lost, all they needed to do was gain some major altitude and they would be able to find their way there easily. But that’s the problem, these geese are not flying very high. Every morning, they wing their way right down the street, just barely above my second floor window of my two story house. And they are loud. Their honking is constant. When they are moving towards the house, on their southerly course towards the lake, you can hear their sounds in the distance. And as they get closer, they get louder. Much louder. Once they arrive near the house, you can make out their massive, dark shapes in the sky. And as soon as they pass, their honking dissipates nearly as quickly as they disappear down the street. And this will continue all through Summer and into the start of Fall. Then, they take wing and head somewhere else. And I know that Winter has truly arrived.

My Backyard Stone Circle
My Backyard Stone Circle

I live in the northern part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess in Texas. Comprised of a little more than 6 million people, living in twelve counties here in north Texas, the Metroplex is approximately 9300 square miles, according to the statistics listed on Wikipedia. How accurate all that is? Not really sure, but it seems close enough. DFW is a super large place. When I lived on the western side of Fort Worth, a drive across the heart of the Metroplex to the eastern edge in Mesquite would take nearly an hour of constant driving. That was back in the early 1990s. I am sure that drive takes a little longer time, especially considering the growth of the area’s population and the increased building of the Arlington area (somewhere in the middle of all of this). Its not the easiest thing being a Pagan in such a built-up, thriving, modern society. This also does not take into account the overwhelmingly large and somewhat aggressive Southern Baptist Christian population here.

There’s quite a lot of modern structures located throughout the metromess. In fact, its fairly obvious to tell where the small city-like areas are located – with their multi-storied glass and steel structures that dot the skyline. Suburban sprawl is everywhere. Commuter towns, such as Corinth (where I live) dot many parts of the metro area. On weekday mornings, traffic patterns mainly move from these commuter towns towards the inner city areas, where many companies are located. In the evenings, the traffic patterns typically reverse. Any single commuter accident can literally bring life on the Interstates and Highways to a near dead-stop – literally for an hour or more. The cities throughout the metro area have worked together to create a mass transit system throughout the Metro area, but even that system can be tedious and time consuming to utilize. Sadly, the massive amount of commuters on the highways helps to add pollution to the environment – not to mention the amount of garbage that is tossed on to the side of the highway by these same commuters with a cavalier disregard for the impact that such action causes.

All of that is enough to make a tree-hugging, hippy Pagan such as myself crave time out in the wilderness, far away from this teeming pool of humans packed in like sardines, and polluting their own environment. But the truth be told, there are plenty of areas that are not that built up within the DFW area. Near my town, there are a number of wooded areas that can be walked into – and it feels like the crowded human city just melts away. One area is that of Old Alton Bridge or is it is locally known – The Goatman’s Bridge.

The Goatman’s Bridge has two tales that are associated with the name. The first follows a children’s tale that there is a demonic Satyr that inhabits the wooded area around the bridge. The second tale relates the story that a black goat farmer was hanged from the bridge by Ku Klux Klan members. When the Klan members shoved his body off the bridge to hang, they looked over the edge to see his twitching, dangling body in its death throes. What they saw was an empty noose. The Goatman did not land in the river, because a splash would have been heard. Nor was he found anywhere in the vicinity of the bridge after a hurried search. Panicking that their attempt to murder the Goatman would be found out, the Klan members returned to the Goatman’s house and slaughtered his wife and children. The legend continues that when cars travelled across the bridge at night (it was in use until 2001 when a new bridge was built nearby) without their headlights on, the Goatman would be seen at the end of the bridge – warning the darkened vehicles to illuminate their headlights. On Monday, I will make a trip over to the Goatman’s bridge to take some pictures and to hike in the surrounding Equestrian and Hiking Trails. I have driven past this particular area numerous times in the eleven-plus years I have lived in the area – and had not stopped by to investigate. I am looking forward to the side trip (this is less than five miles from my house) – as well as the chance to see if I can connect with the Spirits of the Land located here.

Medicine Wheel in Wyoming...one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.
Medicine Wheel in Wyoming…one of the most magickal and alive places I have ever been.

Over the past few years, I have taken numerous Summer trips to various areas – places I had always read about or seen pictures of, but had never experienced for myself. Last year was a marvelous trip up to Montana to visit Glacier National Park, with side trips into South Dakota and Wyoming. At Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, I had a wonderful time communing with the Spirits of the Land there, as well as feeling the incredible presence of the People who had utilized this amazing location to worship their Gods and Ancestors. I hope to make another trip there in a few years, to revisit this extremely powerful and extremely peaceful place.

In a few weeks, I will be taking another trip – this time headed eastward to Florida. This trip will not be focused on the Spirits of the Land – though I am sure a few places where I can attempt to commune with those Spirits will be happening. Rather, the focus of this trip is to visit one of the most Awen-inspired feats of mankind I have ever known – the dream of Spaceflight. Yes, I can understand where someone may feel that there is nothing “natural” about the Shuttle Atlantis or the area where it was brought into the dream of Spaceflight. I can also understand where someone may look at the Space Program as a way for man to try and dominate his own environment. I do not agree on either aspect. I see the Space Program as a way for man to explore his environment, and attempt to get a better understanding of that same environment. For, in my opinion, in trying to understand the environment better and exploring further into our environment – perhaps we (humans) can find a better way to be a part of our environment, rather than trying to dominate and control it.

It truly is a matter of personal perspective. I can relate to the opinion that it is difficult for a Pagan to live in the suburban sprawl of the glass and steel of a city’s metro area. But I also see the perspective that Paganism – and in my case Druidry – is about how we relate to our environment – both the wilderness aspect, and our more modern side. I can believe that many Native Americans looked at the log cabins that the first white settlers built and saw that as a blight upon the “natural” aspect of living. I truly do believe that it is a matter of perspective…and a matter of learning to live WITH our environment, rather than OFF of our environment. Its a matter of changing the calculus of the situation – looking at our environment as something that we are a part of – rather than as a resource that we can use to survive. Steel, glass, and concrete cities and suburban sprawl is how we live. Perhaps, we can find a better way to make those cities and suburbs a part of the environment, rather than the environment as a place where we can force those cities to exist?

Just some food for thought for a Saturday morning…

Too Close to the Forest – Where Did the Trees Go?

After spending a day thinking about the potential changes to “Upon a Pagan Path” including a thought to change the name back to “Edge of the Circle” – I have to agree with my two listeners, Troy and Scott. The podcast name does not need to change – in fact its a far better title for a show than “From the Edge of the Circle” was. It reflects who I am far better than being on the outskirts of things. However, I will be changing some of the aspects of “Upon a Pagan Path”. The idea is to continue to bring interviews with people I think are interesting and/or have an interesting topic/story to relate. But I am also going to add some other elements to the overall show as well.

Currently, the show has four thematics associated with it – “Interview/Topic”, “Personal Opinion/Topic”. “Featured Musical Artists” and “The Spoken Word”. Those aspects of the podcast will not change. In fact, the first three will definitely remain the same. However, I will be expanding “The Spoken Word” segment from poetry to include retellings of various short tales and myths that I come across. I am not the world’s greatest story-teller, but I think that in retelling some of these stories and myths – I just might be able to entice some of you to do some deeper research into some of these areas. I will also be re-adding the commercial segments for other podcasts to the format as well. I have a rotational set of about five shows at the moment – so if you know any show that might be a good add…send me a shout.

Also, I will be creating a show ad of my own as well. Something that can be traded with other shows. The way I see it, the best advertisement that we can do – is to help plug other shows out there and cross pollenate with one another. After all, as Pagan Podcasters, we are not in competition with one another – we are here to add our voices to the entire mix.

—-

Now, let me get into something else. I have started noticing a few things in my own personal life…particularly how difficult it is to do the things that I am wanting to do. And over the past few weeks, I realized what it was: I was over-committing my own time. For instance, I had decided to go back to school for another degree. This wound up sucking down a tone of my own time. Enough so, that I always felt that I had never accomplished much at the end of the day – any day. I already have three degrees – a Bachelor’s degree and two Masters degrees. Another Masters degree is not going to help me accomplish the things I want in my life. So, I have dropped out of my degree program, and have started the process of refocusing on the things that matter more to me – such as my own Spiritual Life.

The last three years have been tough. Things of a Spiritual Nature have taken a back seat to too many other mundane aspects of my Life. Not just because the mundane things were important – all of them were. However, I had over-scheduled things, and placed myself into positions of impossible commitments. Now, I am at a point where I can take a few minutes to breath, and re-collect myself. I am learning the process of saying “no”. And much of this got into the way of the podcast schedule, and the one process I have come to rely on the most in my Life: the time to write.

Writing has become far more important in my Life over the past decade. I am keeping two journals – one for my OBOD studies, and one personal journal. I am about to start a third journal for another set of studies. And now that I am realizing that I am over-scheduling my free time and changing that, I am finding the slots that I need to be able to write. And that also means that I will find the time to connect and re-connect with folks as well. I have found that I am missing much through my over-scheduled life. And part of that which suffered was connecting with folks in the Pagan Community.

Foggy ForestIts been a hard and difficult set of lessons to learn. The adage of being “too close to the forest to see the trees” certainly holds true. Taking a major step back, and allowing myself to breathe, relax, and look over what I was doing was extremely helpful. I live in a very busy American metro area. Just because I live here does not mean I have to adopt that way of living my Life.

 

 

Schedules and Changes – Thoughts on the Blog and the Podcast(s)

sword-fluteI am not much for keeping on set schedules. However, I will need to try and do better. Here on the blog, I am trying to commit to three posts per week — and have done a somewhat adequate job of doing so. Thankfully, I have found that taking my writing prompts from some of the books I am reading is quite helpful for finding topics to write about. So I will hopefully manage to keep that time schedule with the blog here.

The podcast is a little more problematic. My desire was to focus on interviews with other folks – to showcase what they believe. However, one of the more difficult things with doing that is finding time that meshes with my personal and professional schedule (which changes from semester to semester) and that of the individuals I would love to put on to the podcast. So, I will bring back a little bit of “From the Edge of the Circle” – where I discuss some topics from my own perspective. And I will attempt to get the podcast out once per month – twice per month when I manage to mesh time with an interviewee. I discussed this a bit with a few friends…and the mention was made to bring “Edge” back out of the grave. And it is certainly a thought with some merit. Edge still garners downloads, even though I have put the podcast into sunset mode.

So if I did look at bringing Edge of the Circle back into existence…I would need to make a few more changes to what I have been doing with it previously. Obviously, I would need to add interviews to the entire show format. There would still be a “Spoken Word” segment, the “Musical Feature” segment, but am wondering what else could (or should) be added to it?? Obviously, I would need to rework the Opening and Closing themes for the show – that’s not difficult. And I could work up Opening themes for each of the segments. But would the podcast need anything more?? Or should the podcast be brought back to Life??  Perhaps with a change in the name?  Removing the “From” at the beginning of the title, perhaps??  Definitely a few things to ponder….and really, I could always use the input from folks out there too. After all, I put the podcast out to give back to my Pagan community – which means input from ya’ll is always a nice thing to have….

Just a thought…at the moment….

Tommy /|\

 

An Attempt at Personal Articulation on Pagan Ethics (Part Two) – Life in Every Breath

I have now sat at this keyboard for close to fourteen hours (off and on) trying to figure out how to approach the corner that I painted myself into for this post.  To refresh, my last statement on the Part One blog post was:

But this still leads me back to trying to decide between what is “good” or “right” versus what is “bad” or “evil”…

Yeesh….but I said I would try and figure this part of my Personal Pagan Ethics (let’s just abbreviate that to PPE, shall we?) – and I will certainly attempt to give it my best attempt here.

The difficult part in trying to articulate all of this boils down to my problem with perception. What is “Right” or “Good” about a decision or action is a rather subjective thing, in my opinion. What I may consider to be a “good” decision or action may be the complete opposite when asking someone else. To use a political perspective to make the point – here in America, the Republican Right likes to point to the choices made by the Democratic Left as being “bad” for the country. In essence, the perception that they hope to sow with such statements is that the Democratic Left do not make decisions and choices based on a love for the country. The reality is rather different. The Democratic Left love the ideals of what makes America what it is just as much as the Republican Right does. Their focus is a little different, and thus the choices that they make are based on that focus. And before I start to digress on what I feel is wrong with American politics, let me come back to the topic. The choices are made on a perspective of what is “Right” or “Good” in the focus of the Democratic Left, just as similar decisions are made by the Republican Right for the same reasoning.

So, in trying to define what is “Right”/”Good”/”Wrong”/”Bad” — I am left in a corner that I have painted myself into. Once I define these terms, I am creating what is my own personal dogma or core principle. I can only hope that you – the very few readers of this blog – can see that I am applying these only to myself. I am not trying to determine what is Right/Wrong or Good/Bad in relation to your own choices, decisions and actions.

When I think in terms of how my decisions and actions are good/bad – wait a moment here. I really need to make one alteration here. Instead of using the terms Good/Bad/Right/Wrong – let me change that to two terms I am far more comfortable using:  positive and negative. Just wanted to put this in here, so that you won’t be too confused when I change the terminology on you here. When I think of how my decisions and actions are positive/negative, I am reminded again how each choice I make sends ripples out through many ecosystems, even into those that I was unaware of being connected to. In this scene from the movie “The Last Samurai”, the characters of Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe discuss a part of Bushido, the way of the warrior. The phrase “Life in every breath” plays heavily on my mind throughout each day.

When I think of the impact I have in every motion I make, in every action I take – I see the ripples that affect my immediate ecosystem. Every morning that I change the water in the birdbath, and sprinkle bird seed outside by my backyard stone circle – I am helping the small animals in my neighborhood with their everyday existence. They can come to my birdbath for clean water. They can come to my yard for a small amount of food – particularly in the warmer months, when their food and water supplies get much more scarce. When I commune with the Spirits of the Land in my neighborhood on my walks, I venerate their existence, and even when I feel that they are unaware of or are oblivious to my existence. When I hold rituals to thank the Gods for their presence in my Life, when I do my daily meditations, even when I eat – each action and decision has a ripple through my immediate ecosystem, and cascades even further into others. I am not always aware of where those ripples go or what action they may cause. But I am aware that with each action and decision – each breath I take, each mouthful of food I ingest, each statement that I make – there is a ripple. In every breath, there is life…

To come full circle now – good, evil, bad, wrong, right – these are merely perceptions of what our actions, reactions, decisions and choices come to. These are subjective to the position of the individual viewing the aftermath…the result of what has come. How does this relate to my PPE? That I try my best to be aware of the ripple effect of those choices. That I remember that every action I take, every statement I make, every choice I ponder can and will effect others. And that others are not always human in nature – that I am merely a single entity in my ecosystems. In my opinion, once I am aware of my choices and decisions, I am also aware of how those can affect others. Life in every breath….

 

An Attempt at Personal Articulation on Pagan Ethics (Part One)

As I have noted before, I am reading “Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans” from Moon Books, and I have found it to be a wonderful, detailed starting point for those Seekers wanting to know more about the various aspects of the Pagan Path. I am not completely sure whose idea it was to put a book like this together (my guess would be Trevor Greenfield, the editor of the book) , but this little tome is pure genius. I have found many writing prompts throughout the book – and the current section I am reading in Part-II is no exception. Entitled “Ethics” it covers an area of Paganism that I have always been careful to tread lightly around. The initial essay is written by Emma Restall Orr, a Druid that I respect highly. Her book on Animism, “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“, has had a profound influence on how I look and think about my place within my local environment. So, naturally, I was quite intrigued to read her take on this area that I have been semi-effective in dodging for some time.

Emma starts her point by noting that “…Paganism is not a single religion” but

…is an umbrella term for a vast number of traditions, each one the accumulation of countless years and stories, formed by particular places, people, events, and memories. These traditions are further subdivided into groups, groves, hearths, covens, for which the acknowledgement and celebration of local heritage, the stories of a town and its surrounding landscape, are a crucial part of what forms and identifies that group, whether it meets for ritual, for teaching or purely for social purposes. (p. 131)

At first, I was slightly miffed at the thought that this essay would approach things from the perspective of groups only. After all, even solitary (solo) Pagans would have a set of ethics and values based off of their own individual areas, and their own experiences. But apparently, I jumped the gun on that thought process, as Emma notes a few paragraphs later that “..many Pagans acknowledge that each subject, each individual, perceives the world differently, and that it is through one’s own perception that one’s own truth is formed.” Which mirrors my own thought process as exactly as possible (at least in my own mind).

All of that leads me to a point of asking:

Q:  Just what do I think Pagan Ethics are?

Now that’s a heady perspective to tackle. And it really brings me back around to the beginning steps of my thought process. Essentially, I was purchasing the cart before I knew whether I had a horse, a donkey, an ox or a dog to pull the cart with. So, time to take a step back – and find an initial spot to start from. And in the area of being honest here – I am not a theologian of any sort – nor do I really desire the idea of being one. In many ways, I have always attributed questions such as these to be the domain of people that prefer to discuss and debate such matters. But in being so dismissive of the aspect of discussing and debating theological matters, I have missed the point completely about learning about such issues for one’s self. In essence, I put on my own set of blinders and then declared my singular view as being “just fine”. Thus its time to remove the blinders and look out on the countryside as I walk along.  🙂

So, I find it is likely appropriate to start at the bottom and work my way up. Looking at the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term “ethics” is defined thusly:

      1.  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.
      2a. a set of moral principles :  a theory or system of moral values.
      2b. the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group.
      2c. a guiding philosophy.
      2d. a consciousness of moral importance.
      3. a set of moral issues or aspects.

So, its a fairly good guess that a set of Pagan Ethics are the moral principles that guide Pagans toward a perspective of what conduct is good or bad. And looking back on this sentence, all I can think is “Whoa. That’s a setup for an empirical statement. So not cool.”

Seriously, I do not get into the notion of making empirical statements relating to things such as Personal Beliefs. In my experience, saying that “…all [insert belief here] adherents must believe [insert empirical statement of belief here]”, typically brings about several exceptions to this empirical statement of belief. Even in a statement as simple as “All Christians believe in the sanctity of Jesus Christ as the risen Savior.” In my opinion, it boils down to how an individual or certain group may define the terms of “sanctity” and “Savior” in the context of the statement. Then, from that one empirical statement begins the rise of hard, set-in-concrete dogma – and thus begins the exclusion of individuals that just don’t believe [x] – and you have the start of branding individuals as heretical. I just do not adhere to the idea that something as personal as Spirituality and Belief must be so rigid and dispassionate to not take into account differences in the way individuals may personally interpret key words or phrases that comprise such statements. I know, I am sliding a little off-track to the entire idea of what Pagan Ethics are, but please, allow me that little latitude with this paragraph. I truly believe that this statement is necessary to correlating what I believe is my personal interpretation of “Pagan Ethics.”

In trying to formulate my perspective of my Pagan Ethics, I wanted to share one more passage from Emma Restall Orr’s essay – which I believe reflects a major perspective of how I see and interact with my environment.

…nature is not an authority that must be obeyed. Nature is instead a teacher, and one of its crucial lessons is that of context. Everything exists within an ecosystem, ecosystems being layered within ecosystems, each a complex pattern of interaction, influence and relationship. Nothing is isolated, nothing is alone. Every atom, organism, sentience, is connected within the whole, unfolding through time and space, moment evolving into moment. Upon this foundational premise, not only is it accepted that every thought and action has an effect, but every decision that is made consciously must take into account its specific context. Different circumstances, available resources, language culture and comprehension, different biological and emotional states, all suggest that our actions may result in different effects, different consequences. What can be reasoned as ethically correct in one situation may not be justified in another. What may be life-threatening there may be harmless here. As the Pagan’s primary teacher, nature appears then to sanction ethical relativism. (p. 134)

In understanding that each action I take, every decision I make will have some effect on my environment around – will cause some ripple throughout my connected perspective to the ecosystems I touch, I have come to understand that I must be more conscious about the “whys” of what I do in my Life. That, in essence, my choices are made based on the knowledge of what I understand of the connections that I have in the ecosystem around me. If I am unaware that a particular choice I make or a particular action that I take adversely affects some part of an ecosystem connected to me – my decision or action remains an ethical one, provided I made that decision or took that action while trying to understand the effect that would take place on the ecosystem or environment immediately within my area of knowledge.

But, this still does not approach the perspective of what I would consider to be “good” versus “bad” in the choices I make and the actions I take. Furthermore, if I follow the aspect of relativism, it seemingly sets a perceived boundary around those actions and decisions. For instance, when looking for a quick meal while at work, I may choose to eat at a fast food business. I recycle the products that I can and place the other into the appropriate waste bin. In consuming the food, I made the choice to actively ingest fried foods that are harmful to me, as well as the large amounts of sodium and sugars that are contained within those. As a diabetic with high-blood pressure issues – those were not the greatest choices in the world to make, but I am only harming myself with that choice of meal. Perhaps not. The production of the containers that were utilized once for my consumption may have been made elsewhere in the world, under a company that works its employees long hours for very little pay – merely to keep up with the massive desire for products for consumption here in the very material-oriented West. My choice to get fast food bought another of these one-time use products, and thus enabled the business processes that occur at this factor. My consumption had a ripple effect of keeping such a company in business.

Armed with a little better knowledge of where my products come from – I can now see that my choices, along with the choices of many millions of others, has a ripple effect far beyond the ecosystems that I am aware of. And with that knowledge, I hopefully make better choices on my lunch-time consumption habits. But this still leads me back to trying to decide between what is “good” or “right” versus what is “bad” or “evil”…

…and that will be the continuation of this post for tomorrow.

The Natural World

This post will prove to be something a little different. Currently, i am in Arkansas to help someone move back to Dallas. My job is not to load the truck, but to drive it back. Since i am the only person in this particular circle of friends that knows how to drive something bigger than a pickup truck…its what i was asked to do. So, here i sit in a hotel room, typing this post on an iPad. I decided to go without my laptop this time around…mostly to see if i could manage with just this little device. So far, so good. UPDATE – while initially starting this post on my iPad, I was not able to finish it because of demands that I had elsewhere – I am now continuing this post from home on my iMac.

I teach a class on Business Information Systems – which might best be described as an Introduction to Computers and Applications for the non-technical professional. I am constantly amazed at how much electronics cN change over the span of a short period of time. A few years ago, i would never have guessed at how much the tablet computing market would change and how mature the technology would become. I marvel at the Awen driven individuals who dreamed of this technology being a viable part of the business environment.

However, i do catch some grief from friends who remark that i am very technology oriented for an individual who professes a spiritual love for the outdoors. And commentary like this tends to spark the debate over what is “natural”. The discussion usually begins along the lines of man-made items not being “natural” – which I vigorously disagree with. We, human beings, are a part of our environment. The cities we build from concrete, steel and plastics, the vehicles we drive in, the homes we live in – all of that is a natural part of the environment. The problem does not arise from human beings creating things, in my opinion. Instead, it arises when we (human beings) look at our environment as something to dominate, something to use – rather than something to seek harmony with.

Yes, I am advocating that man-made structures are a part of the natural world. Back in the days of “From the Edge of the Circle” I did an entire show on the point that urban Pagans have many aspects of Nature around them. Look, I get the point that man-made structures don’t exactly “feel” natural. I very much get the point that getting away from the perspective of modern, urban living by escaping into the wilds of the wooded areas is great. Trees and uninhabited (by humans) areas are wonderful medicine for me. But at the same time, I feel just as much pull to the Spirits of the Land here in the metro- and urban-sprawls of life. Particularly in the areas where little bites of wild growth is allowed to stand side-by-side with city life, such as the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens area. And there are plenty of examples throughout cities to attest to such aspects.

American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO
American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO

There are plenty of examples where humans decide that natural is not better. Such as when waterways are diverted because of seasonal flooding to an area. I have never understood why the waterway had to be diverted. Perhaps it would have been better for the human beings to relocate somewhere else in the first place? I am also not a fan of stripping the land for its resources, such as the American Eagles mine near Cripple Creek, Colorado (see the accompanying photo). In instances such as these, where humans seek to dominate their environment rather than co-exist with it – I have problems with the attitude there. The environment, in my opinion, is something we (as humans) exist with – not something that we must dominate and subjugate to our selfish Will. I am sure that there are people around the world that would disagree with my opinion there, but so far, nearly every Pagan and Native American I have managed to query on the topic has been in some manner of agreement with me. I am not saying that this makes me “right” – just that people of a similar Spiritual bend tend to agree with me on this, according to my extremely unscientific personal polling method.

We are part of the Earth, She is a part of us. Of all the creatures placed on this planet, we (human beings) seem to be the most capable of taking care of the issues. And I do believe that this ability makes us unique care-takers in that regard. All it takes is a different mindset. Sure, we will need to re-arrange parts of our economies to make it work. But sitting around and doing nothing will solve nothing. We do not have to change huge parts of our ways of living to make this happen. We do not have to tear down our cities of concrete and steel. We do not have to live in grass and mud huts and eschew the technologies that we have. We just have to find better methods for our energy uses, find ways to exist within our environment…and it can be done. All of this is part of the Natural World….all of it.

 

Deity – Terrified and Reassured at the Prospective of the Unknown

Currently, a nice cool rain is coming down this morning. Just a moment ago, I heard a loud peal of thunder, and watched as one of my cats put herself as low to the ground as possible and hurriedly crawled underneath my desk. Poor Shadow, she is always like this when the rain comes in. Born as a barn cat, her instinct is to be afraid of the sounds associated with rain. Why exactly? I am not sure, but I can see what I deduce to be fear on her cute, furry, and whiskered face. Essentially, I see her reaction to the sound of rain and thunder, and then ascribe the feelings I believe I am seeing in her. In a manner of speaking, I am ascribing human feelings and emotions on to her. I could be completely correct about what I am assuming is her reaction to the thunder and rain; however, I could also be incorrect on that thought as well. Since Shadow cannot communicate her exact feelings to me in a manner that I can completely comprehend, I will never be able to correlate whether I am completely correct or not.

At the moment, I am reading – and thoroughly enjoying – “Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans” from Moon Books, edited by Trevor Greenfield. Thus far, the book has exceeded my expectations. The first third is a depiction of various Pagan Paths by the practitioners of those Paths. The second Part, which I just started, gets into the nuts and bolts of what Paganism is about. The first part of this section “What We Believe” concerns Deities, and the first passage was written by Robin Herne, whom I had never heard of before this, but has intrigued me enough to place on my list of “authors to look for” list.

This particular passage had me sitting up late last night, sitting in the dark, pondering what I perceived as a deeply thought-provoking passage. The exact quote is as follows:

To some extent the argument about wether there are fifty gods, one god, or no gods is all a bit pointless without being able to define exactly what it is that we mean by a deity in the first place. Its a remarkably hard question to answer, and clearly different religions have varied notions on what they consider their respective deities to be. I suspect that one of the problems faced in this exploration is that many people feel obliged to find a unifying theory that incorporates all possible perceptions of deities as if they were all the same thing, when quite possibly there are a number of distinct types of entity that get labelled under the catch-all of ‘deity’. -Robin Herne, p. 107-8

…and thus began my late-night roller-coaster of thoughts, which would keep me up well later than I had originally intended. I sit here, trying to formulate just where to start with where my head currently has me at in this arena of thought. Perhaps, its best to do what others have seemed to accomplish – let’s start with what I believe.

I have read numerous blog posts from other blog authors on this particular topic, and am going to avoid some of their areas of thought. I am not going to describe myself in terms of polytheism, animism, atheism, monotheism, and what have you. Nor am I going to approach the concepts of pantheism and polytheism. I hear a lot of people explain their start to this topic with “I am a [insert term here]”. This is where I am at:  I believe in the Gods. I have conversed with some of them. I believe in the Spirits of the Land. I have communed and conversed with quite a few of them. I believe each to be a separate, unique entity. I also believe that everything around me has a manner of consciousness. I figure there is a term out there that may describe me. Whatever *-theism that might be, I have no idea. As for the other descriptives I have heard – weird, strange, crazy, insane, out-of-his-head, odd…if that is the descriptive that helps someone else define me for their little collection boxes, so be it. I just know I am a Pagan on a Path of Druidry…and that I believe in the Gods, the Spirits of the Land (or Water, Air, Fire, Spirit – if you prefer), and that everything has some form of consciousness to it – even if I cannot perceive it. Whatever that defines me as is fine by me. However, none of this really answers the question posed by Herne of just what I mean when I ascribe the term “deity” to something.

Deity is a tough term to define, as Herne notes, since the simple desire is to try and find an all-encompassing, all-inclusive definition – thus watering down our own personal definition in the process of doing so. It is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable for a human being to want to be inclusive in a statement – particularly in an area so personal as religious or spiritual belief. So, in taking a queue from Herne, I will attempt to define the concept of Deity in what I personally ascribe to. Perhaps the best thing is to start from a base, and usually the best place for that is a dictionary. Dictionary.com described deity as:

de·i·ty [dee-i-tee]

noun, plural de·i·ties.

1. a god or goddess.

2. divine character or nature, especially that of the Supreme Being; divinity.

3. the estate or rank of a god: The king attained deity after his death.

4. a person or thing revered as a god or goddess: a society in which money is the only deity.

5. the Deity, God; Supreme Being.

Word Origin

c.1300, from O.Fr. deite, from L.L. deitatem (nom. deitas) “divine nature,”coined by Augustine from L. deus “god,” from PIE *deiwos (see Zeus).

Now, we’re getting somewhere….divine nature. A deity can be described as something that has a divine nature. Which would be what? I fear I have just dropped myself back to Square One without ever really leaving Square One in the first place. But, I remember something from the SciFi show Babylon 5. where the character G’Kar tries to explain an unknown to a space trader that has encountered something near his empire’s territory.

Catherine Sakai: Ambassador! While I was out there, I saw something. What was it?
G’Kar: [points to a flower with a bug crawling on it] What is this?
Catherine Sakai: An ant.
G’Kar: Ant.
Catherine Sakai: So much gets shipped up from Earth on commercial transports it’s hard to keep them out.
G’Kar: Yet, I have just picked it up on the tip of my glove. If I put it down again, and it asks another ant, “what was that?” [laughs] How would it explain? There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They’re vast, timeless, and if they’re aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants, and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know, we’ve tried, and we’ve learned that we can either stay out from underfoot or be stepped on.
Catherine Sakai: That’s it? That’s all you know?
G’Kar: Yes, they are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe, that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk near Sigma 957, and they must walk there alone.
(http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012572/quotes)

In quite a few ways, I approach the idea of what the Gods are in the same way. They are there. What precisely they are – beyond a consciousness – I cannot say for certain. And I am not totally sure I want to try and explain them completely. They are there. They do exist. I have talked with some of them. Others I have no idea exactly how to communicate with. But I am aware enough of their presence in the world around me. How much they are aware of me, I am not completely sure. Herne notes that “Animism surely implies that sapience is not actually restricted to animals with brains, or even necessarily to things that current science regards as alive in the first place (p. 111).” Plus, this line of thought further questions the difference between the Gods, the Spirits of the Lands, and consciousness in our environment around us. Where does the line get delineated?

I know the Gods exist. Would I be able to convince someone else of their existence? Or perhaps I should ask, should I convince someone else of the existence of the Gods? Does everyone have to believe in the Gods as I do, so that I can justify my position on an issue by a force of numbers? I enjoy having my beliefs challenged with thought-provoking perspectives and questions, but am completely turned off by people that present their beliefs as an either/or perspective – believe in the sanctity of Jesus Christ and the fact that he died on the cross to atone for your sins, or you will suffer an eternity of punishment and agony in the burning pits of Hell. However, I am so sure in my manner of having my beliefs challenged, that I think everyone else should have their beliefs challenged in the same manner as well? I know what I believe. I am secure in my understanding that the Gods are singular entities that can be communicated and communed with. I am also secure with the idea that no one else in the world has to believe as I do, because what matters most is that I believe.

The Gods are real to me. They are singular entities. Exactly what they are – I not only cannot fathom the answer to that – I also cannot provide any descriptive language that may adequately convey that to another person. Experiencing the Gods is a personal thing, and widely different for each individual. My friend John Beckett is on a similar Path as mine…and yet, his experiences of the Gods will be different than my own. That is because he is John, and I am Tommy. And while I love John as a good friend, I have no desire to swap places with him in any kind of “Freaky Friday” scenario (no offense John).

I know, I have accomplished what can be considered a very poor description of the Gods…but as Herne noted, this is a difficult question to answer. Attempting to describe the Gods can be an uphill battle. After all, each individual will have a different experience of what the Gods are – and their descriptive language can be quite varied. And since each experience is unique to the individual…trying to describe that to someone else can be done in terms that the second individual has ascribe some other experiential meaning to. For me, this is an internal conversation I will have myself throughout the rest of my time on this cycle of the wheel of my life. And in the end, I am not quite sure I will still have a much clearer understanding of how to describe what I have experienced as Deity. But as I said previously – I do believe in the Gods, I do believe in the Spirits of the Land, I do believe in the consciousness throughout my environment. I am only recently aware of the connectivity between each – and its those connective strands that bring my sense of awe and wonder. For I am both terrified and reassured that there are things that I cannot explain…and am completely thankful for the opportunity to explore them.

–Tommy /|\

Damn the Numbers…

Numbers. Just numbers. A counting of sorts. Sometimes, its amusing, sometimes its just something to glance at and wonder about for a moment. Other times, I barely pay a moment’s attention to it. My checkbook? No, not even close. I’m talking about the stats that I gather for my two podcasts – From the Edge of the Circle, and Upon a Pagan Path – as well as the stats I occasionally glance at here on my blog. To be openly blatant about it, if I were a syndicated television show – I would have been cancelled long ago for low ratings. If I were relying on this to make money for my mortgage or for food and clothing – I would be homeless, hungry and naked. And that’s the open truth about it. And yet, none of that bothers me whatsoever.

When I started my first podcast, From the Edge of the Circle, i envisioned it as a labor of love – an offering of sorts. It was my gift back to the wider Pagan community. A sort of signpost for Seekers walking the Path – where I discussed a bit about my Path, and some of the pratfalls I encountered along the way. And for the most part, it stayed that way. Oh sure, I wandered in and out of various political discussions, I added various aspects to the show – such as Spoken Word segments, and music from Pagan artists. The Spoken Word segments were material that either inspired me, or that I had written – hoping that the segment would strike some form of a spark in others. The music segments was my desire to help promote the independent Pagan musicians, and trying to showcase their music to listeners. And those two segments have wandered with me into Upon a Pagan Path – with the same hoped-for results. But overall, the numbers were never overly large then, nor are they now.

There’s a handful of thoughts behind the “whys” of it all. I do not advertise my podcast’s or blog’s existence that much. I do have a business card with the pertinent information listed on it – but I rarely hand out the cards. I figure that those looking for the show will find it. And if they think it is good enough – they will say something to others about it. But candidly, its never been about the number of downloads.

In the beginning it was. For the first two years of the existence of From the Edge of the Circle, I would check the numbers daily and update a spreadsheet where I tracked the numbers. And I found myself obsessing over the numbers – trying to figure out why this episode did better than that one. And then tweaking the show constantly to try and see if that would help the change in audience numbers. And then one night, I was brought face-to-face with the way I was treating the show…and in all places, it was a dream.

In the dream, I had managed to make it into the internet – and was watching the small strands to grab the show’s episodes come to the web site. And as I sat there watching, two Seekers sat down next to me and asked what I was doing. I told them I was watching the downloads of the show – and I had an abacus in my hand, on which I moved the beads with the completion of each downloaded episode. The two Seekers were quite young, and they started to ask me about my own personal Path, but I quickly silenced their questions with an impatient wave of my hand. After four attempts to speak, they both got up and walked away. Both of them shook their heads and looked back at me sadly from time to time. After a short time longer, a Crow landed near my knee, and looked up at me. “You are doing the wrong things, you know”, the Crow said softly. I looked down and gestured to the abacus and replied that my count was accurate. The Crow leaped up into the air and snatched the abacus from my hand, and moved so that the abacus smashed into pieces against the wall. “You are doing the wrong things, you know”, the Crow said more forcefully, “and you are not listening either.” I sat there with my eyes wide open, completely flabbergasted that someone would be so rude to interrupt me in my counting of downloaded episodes. “You have forgotten the ‘why’ and have become focused on an outcome that does not matter. Remember your focus” intoned the Crow in soft tones. And with that the Crow flew off, and I awoke from my dream.

I only remember this dream, because I immediately grabbed my iPhone and recorded the dream as I remembered from that moment that I woke. It came out a bit more jumbled then this, but once I got all the parts put back in the right places – its a dream that I can now easily recall. Its not about the downloads. Its not about the number of times that posts get viewed. That’s a result of everything else. Its about putting my perspective out there for others to read. For others to choose to accept and adapt what they read or to decide it does not fit on their own Path, but allow my perspective to challenge and strengthen their own.

I read a good many blogs, and listen to quite a few podcasts. And while I enjoy getting a little sideways glimpse into the lives of those blog authors and podcasters – I also enjoy having my own perspective on something challenged. That helps me to grow, it helps me to find my footing on my own Path. Perhaps, I don’t tell these authors and podcasters that I really appreciate what they do for me as much as I should, but I tend to believe that they already know that what they put out there will help others to think about issues – as well as create a strong bond with their listeners and readers. That’s because it has never been about the numbers, or the popularity, or the prestige, or whatever else you can think of that goes with putting your heart and thoughts out there for others to read/listen to. Its about the message. Its about the connection. Damn the numbers…