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.

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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…

 

The Background Track of My Life

There are so many sides to creativity…so many different ways to express that burning desire that resides deep down inside of one’s deeply interwoven self. My way to express myself is through Poetry and writing.  More so the Poetic side of me, but I do have moments where the written word comes from that intense inner fire. But there are so many other aspects of personal creativity that can stoke that fire and make the flames lick ever higher inside me.

View From Medicine Wheel
View From Medicine Wheel

There is the gorgeous beauty of the world around me. The breath-taking view of the surrounding area from Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming moved me to a sense of pure awe and joy. The serenity of that moment has stayed with me for a little under a year now, and I sincerely yearn to return to Medicine Wheel and spend a much longer time up at that very moving place. There’s also the artistic aspect as well. I can spend hours in a museum and marvel at the beauty of works of art – particularly paintings and sculptures. The photo I have here is of a recreated sculpture of “Capricorn” by Max Ernst. Many people I have talked to about this particular work of art get a little

Capricorn - Max Ernst
Capricorn – Max Ernst

creeped out by it, but I find it completely fascinating. A piece of Surrealistic sculpture done in bronze, it captures little ripples in my thinking in such a free manner. When I saw this at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, I was literally spellbound for several moments. There’s also the moments of acting brilliance, such as Robin Williams’ portrayal of the fictional John Keating in “Dead Poet’s Society” – a movie that still excites me today, particular as I have started along my Path as a college professor.

But despite all of these – its music that remains my primary love, and the truest part of inspiration for me. And my taste in music is quite eclectic. At one time, I can be listening to Damh the Bard, Fiona Davidson, or Spiral Dance. The next moment can find Queen, Rush, Epica, or Kamelot piping through my speakers. Other times can find Al Di Meloa, Yanni, Kitaro, Coyote Oldman, or Douglas Spotted Eagle playing softly in the background. It all depends on my current mood and frame of my mind. But rarely do I not have music playing on my iMac’s speakers. Currently, I have Judas Priest’s “Out in the Cold” playing as I am typing this.

For me, music sets the stage for my mind. Hard-driving music gets my blood pumping, and makes for a good companion during my walks through the neighborhood. When I am trying to write, I typically have some soft instrumental music in the background – usually First Nation in flavor. When I am grading papers, my choices are normally the various “sounds of Nature” tracks that I have. Even the sounds of animals making their typical noises, and the wind whispering in the branches and leaves is a form of music for me. And a form of inspiration I can draw from.

I also find music is a good form of bonding with my fellow humans. I cannot relay the number of times I have had lengthy conversations concerning musical artists with people I barely know. Nor can I count the number of times that the same strain of conversation becomes the opening line for a second and third meeting with those same people. There’s a connective matter at hand there – and connections are so very important.

At one point, I was attending the Dallas Summer Musicals every weekend. It was enjoyable. That Summer, it happened that my favorite musical – The Phantom of the Opera – was being performed on my birthday. It was absolutely amazing – I sat in the dark and marveled at the story I knew so well, being played out before my eyes – and the sounds of the songs I know so very well. I think I may have to look into attending the Dallas Summer Musicals again next year – this year, I have a trip to NASA in Florida planned – and that would eat into the schedule significantly.

Yes, there is a music of the Elf – to slightly twist a musical phrase. Its an eclectic mix of hard rock, opera, First Nations, New Age, Classical, R&B, Classic Rock, Country, and Pop music. But its more than that – its a background to my Life. Just hearing the opening strains of “Heart of Rock and Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News will instantly remind me of a long road trip to Ruston, Louisiana with friends. Epica’s “Unleashed” reminds me of several scenes of me – dressed strangely and in manners I have never done so. Whether its touching some strange dream I had or something else, I cannot say for sure. But it certainly does touch something that seems to be a memory.

Music has power. Music brings stimulation to memory. It can be a powerful addition to a ritual or a personal meditation. It really is the background to my Life…

Its Not About the Money or the Time…

IMG_5718Its been a little while since I have managed to get a blog post out. There’s a couple of factors in the middle of all that. My three classes that I teach are wrapping up – so I have some final assignment grading to finish – which I should have completed by the end of today. But on the bad side, I am a little worn down from some kind of bug I have apparently come down with. So sitting at the computer has not been a pleasant experience. However, it has afforded me the chance to get a little more reading and writing (the kind with paper and pen) completed as well.

Beltane has finally made its way through my zone of influence – as I noted before, its not my favorite time of the year to be around people. I like the ritual and symbolism that are part of Beltane, I’m just not a huge fan of the few people that shove their overt sexuality into the faces of others. But my Beltane was a lovely set of moments in the middle of my day yesterday. I was not feeling the best, but I still took the time to get outside, soak up some of the glorious sun that was out, and meditate out by my backyard stone circle – my small sanctuary in the middle of the DFW suburbs. I had a few “visitors” during my time there – a smallish, light-red Cardinal, a couple of my noisy Grackle friends, and my two uber-curious, fuzzy squirrel tenants that live in my backyard tree. None of these little denizens will come out when you move around the backyard too much, but if you sit still and stay quiet – they tend to make a few short visits.

It always does my heart and soul good to have these visits happen. It reminds me of the little connections that I have to each of my little neighbors. Every day, rain or shine, I spend a few moments making sure that my little neighbors have what they may need for the day. I spread some bird seed out by the water fountain, and if the water needs changing in the fountain, I do so there as well. I water my huge tree every morning and every evening – particularly now that the weather is getting a lot warmer. And every chance I get, I spend a few moments listening. Listening to the slight breeze moving the leaves above my head, providing a soft whisper for my ears. Listening for the soft chirps of my feathered friends – nearby, and always watching. Granted, I live next to a super-busy street in my neighborhood – and with the ever-present construction on both the near by interstate highway, and a local Farm-to-Market road — the number of cars passing by my backyard fence has increased several-fold. So there’s that extra added sound that is continually in the back ground.

But regardless of all of that, the connections I am seeking are there. It may be confined to my lovely backyard, but it is still there. And its those connections – to my feathered friends, my squirrel tenants, my sheltering tree – that provide the under-tone for my day. Those connected feelers, like a pair of hands intertwined together, fingers laced together – that provides me that feeling of belonging. My feathered friends and squirrel provide me with joy as I watch them eat the bird-seed and sunflower seeds that I leave for them. My tree provides the shade for my kitchen windows, and keeps my house from being too warm in the Summer months, as well as providing some degree of shelter from the wind. In return, I provide each of them with sustenance with the water and bird-seed…and a shelter of sorts from the rest of the neighborhood. Our little environment may be small, but it is something we all cherish and gain something from.

On my walks, I typically carry a trash bag with me. Most of the time, my walks tend to turn up a small amount of trash. Except on Mondays. Like I said, I live near a busy street. Throughout the weekend, our nights here are punctuated by loud engines, loud music, and squealing tires – as the exuberant high school youth “blow off some steam” from their earlier week. or whatever it is that they do. All I know, is that the result is typically a nearly full trash bag of beer cans, beer bottles, and assorted detritus from their activities spread throughout the neighborhood. On my walks, I pick up what I can get to of this mess. I don’t do this because I want to be a nice neighbor – though that’s a great by-product. I do this, because I want a cleaner environment (my local neighborhood) for my animal neighbors to continue to enjoy and live in. In a way, I feel like a babysitter cleaning up after a bunch of rowdy toddlers, but at the same time – I know that if I didn’t do this, there’s a chance that someone else might not. I’d rather it be taken care of. I’m just one person…hopefully my example gets others to think of doing something similar themselves. As the commercial says – courtesy is contagious. I hope the same can be said about trying to take care of one’s local environment.

I don’t get paid anything monetarily for this. Its just like my teaching gig – if it were about the money, I would definitely be doing something different. Teaching for me, is about touching other people’s lives. Inspiring them to better themselves, to continue on their educational track. The same can be said for being the caretaker of the neighborhood. Does it make a difference? I would like to think so. I cannot point to anything absolute that says that it does. But I cannot accept the idea that it does not. After all, from my perspective, my actions are mandate from the Gods to me – to take care of what I have. To be a part of my environment, rather than to treat the environment as something that is just used to further my existence.  /|\

 

Embracing the Change…

My Poetry Journal
My Poetry Journal

There’s a lot of change in the air on this side of the monitor. Some of it fairly good, some of it – well, a little uncertain. Most of you know that I am an adjunct faculty member at the college, so my job is always a shaky prospect from semester to semester. But that’s not the kind of change I am speaking of – though it certainly adds to a little of that shaky feeling.

As I noted a few posts back, a poem I entered into a Literature contest at the college won first place, as well as the Award for Literary Excellence for the poetry category. That was the first moment that I can put my finger on – the moment where things started to change. That realization, that I had reached another small crossroads in my Spiritual Life – one that could easily change a lot about who I am. I mean, shit folks I’m nearly 50 years old. I thought that Life would have me on a fairly firm Path at this point – a job that I was working towards some kind of retirement, and a fairly set Life in a lot of other regards. Instead, I find myself at a crossroads in my Life when it comes to my professional career. And then I get hit by a potential change in my Spiritual Life.

Its fairly obvious to me that I am a Solitaire by my nature. I handle ritual and celebration much better as a solo practitioner than I ever did as a group member. There’s no eventual expectation on me to hive out of my group and create a new one. I’m a group of me – there’s not a whole lot of expectation of hiving off. But there is the expectation of constant learning, constant evolving. When I first set foot on a solo path, I utilized the strains of Wicca I had been taught during my early time on my Path, when I was in a group. Some of the ritual I changed to fit my needs and whims, some of it I kept since I felt comfortable with it. But over time, I felt the push to move on to another Path. I really didn’t know what that would be, until I stumbled onto the Path of Druidry through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The framework is something that I have enjoyed utilizing, and is definitely the right structure that I needed.

I decided early on to utilize the Native American Path as the thread I would work through the framework, and found myself adopted by first Crow, and then Coyote. Crow was more of a messenger, constantly leaving me items in my meditations and dreams – little puzzle pieces I had to work with. Coyote is different. We are kindred spirits. Through Coyote, I have learned to not take myself so seriously – to see mirth in every aspect of Life. And it will continue to be an ongoing lesson throughout my time on the Wheel. Crow, on the other hand, has started pointing me in a different way. This started with the poem and the contest.

As I have said before, I do not take my poetry all that seriously – its an emotional outlet for me. Entering that poem into the contest was done under some major cajoling from friends and family. And its a weird moment – because in the rest of my Life, I take myself far too seriously, and yet here with my creative writing side, I was not taking myself seriously at all. That has started to change. Crow has had some moments of moving me towards other areas of inspiration within the Gods and Goddesses. I had figured it would be the more familiar Greek or Roman thematic that would be the stronger pull for me, but that proved not to be the case. Somehow, I find myself drawn towards Taliesin and Lugh – the Celts.

My ancestry is mostly Germanic and western European, so I would guess that it makes some sense. I am still a little muddled on all of that. I have never identified with the Celtic aspect all that much, so some of this makes no sense to me. Taleisin, of whom I have been studying quite a bit through my OBOD lessons, seemed a natural fit. The Bardic strain runs deep within there. But Lugh, is a bit of a mystery to me. And one I will have to start doing some research on.

Yes, I find myself on a Bardic Path. Not just as a grade of learning within OBOD, but in how I present myself to the world. I am already spending major amounts of time writing – just automatic writing, anything that comes into my head – and than seeing if there is anything there that I can work with later on. I am looking at my older poetry, and trying to see if there are ways that I can improve some of the wording there. I am already looking into mythic stories that I can attempt to learn for recitation. Nine Hells, I already do this in the classroom – my lecture style is very informal, and interlaced with story-telling of good and bad times within my career. I am not at all sure how I got here – how my feet have led me to stand high on this mountain I now find myself…but I am here. All I can do is embrace what is in front of me…and feel those rays of sunshine on my face, and that fire deep inside…  I know that my Path will not be a purely Celtic one – I am not here for reconstruction, I am here for inspiration – I am here to find the salmon…

 

Why I Celebrate Beltane Alone – An Opinion

RedRocksWell, Beltane is squarely upon us. My least favorite of the spokes on the Wheel of the Year. Oh I get the celebration part of it – the Maypole Dance, the festivities, the feasting, the fun… All of that is absolutely wonderful. The ritual? I actually have enjoyed the Beltane rituals I have been invited to. I have seen – and participated in – several very moving Beltane rituals. No, none of that is my problem. Its the over-the-top sexual overtones and the “need to get laid by any means whatsoever” that bothers me.

Now before anyone starts wailing about my Victorian scruples showing from underneath my cloak, let’s get a couple of things right here. I have no problem with the sight of a nude form – male or female. I have no problem with the idea of any combination of people coupling together. I have no problem with public displays of affection – UP TO A POINT. I do have a problem with extremely graphic, adult-oriented nature on display, where children can experience it – visually or through hearing. And I have been to far too many Pagan gatherings where this type of behavior has been excused with a shrug and the comment “What? Its Beltane for crying out loud.”

At an adult gathering, I have no problem with it – provided everyone participating is doing so with consent and knowledge of what they are getting into. And honestly, I am not trying to be a prude about this. I think that there should be no issue with the human body or the mutual sexual attraction between two (or more) individuals. I am just not in line with the idea of putting graphic displays of affection (such as oral sex) or coupling between individuals on display in front of everyone. I’m all for a nice time of coupling – even straight down dirty sex, but its not an exhibition sport in my mind. You want to watch? I’ll prefer to charge admission if that’s the case. Well, not really – but its an extreme point being made in a semi light-hearted manner.

Over the last month, we – as a wider Pagan Community – have discussed issues related to sexual nature. We have had issues of child pornography, issues related to consent, and the eventually discussing of issues of power in relation to those as well. Our gatherings and festivals have started to have more children around and involved. It was inevitable. As the Pagan movement grows, individuals become couples, and some of those couples will have children which they will want to include in all aspects of their lives – including Spiritual and Social.

I am not advocating the removal of this aspect of the Beltane celebration or even this aspect of the upcoming outdoor festival schedule. I am only remarking that there’s a pretty big need to rethink some of the aspects of these festivals and gatherings going forward. As I have read many bloggers write – its long since time for the Pagan Community (the wider and local Communities) to grow up a little more. And by this, I mean that perhaps we need to be a little more cognizant about how we act and react in a public manner – and who is around when we over-react and act on certain urges in the open.

I do love the atmosphere associated with Beltane – and have very much enjoyed the Beltane rituals I have been a part of. But its the over-the-top sexual overtones without regard for anyone else around – this is what drives me to celebrating this time of year by myself. I do enjoy getting out into Nature on my own, drawing up my own ritual, and spending time communing with my environment, the Kami and the Gods. I am a Solitaire, after all. But there’s always the need to socialize with others from time to time…and I can only hope that we all – myself included – can rethink some of the aspects of our behaviors when it comes to openly celebrating our time on the Wheel.

 

A Few Thoughts on Awen…Inspiring and Being Inspired

Awen
Awen

I am completely intrigued with folks that not only embrace their creative side, but are completely consumed by it. Growing up, I had my own areas of hero worship. My love of technology had me completely absorbed with anything that Steve Wozniak had a hand in creating. On my home office wall, I have an Apple ][ motherboard that I mounted to a piece of wood. Its there because I see not only the technical side of its setup, but I also am enamored by the sheer beauty of its simplistic design. I am also very much drawn into the musical side of things as well. During my latter high school years, I had two individuals I looked up to – Randy Rhoads and Cliff Burton. I played bass, and really wanted to be able to play like Cliff Burton – and had wanted to play on stage with Randy Rhoads.  Just once. Each of them died in accidents while on tour – Randy in Florida in a single-engine plane crash, and Cliff in Europe in a bus accident. I still look at their contributions to music as a major inspiration in my life.

Back in my late teens and early twenties, it was really easy to look and see the beauty in someone else’s playing of a musical instrument or the creation of some piece of technology. As I got older, I found inspiration in other areas through the creative of others. The movie Dead Poet’s Society left a lasting impression on me in many ways – the creative in the written word, the creativity of the spoken word, the beauty of inspiring others to reach deep within themselves to find who they truly are. And I find myself being able to do just that with some of the students I encounter in my classroom.

I teach a fairly boring subject – Business Information Systems. To be completely honest, there’s not much you can do to excite someone’s passion about finding patterns in data that can be exploited for the increase of a company’s profit margin. I do my best to try and keep the students focused on the material – but I do attempt to inject some other information into the material as well. I try to show them where the information comes from, how much of it is them just freely giving away pieces of their lives in the Social media platforms, and how companies try to draw these patterns into a series of relationships and assumptions of them as consumers. I spend approximately seventeen weeks with the students in a normal semester. And over that course of time, I learn more about them. I eventually find out where they are trying to aim themselves in their lives, what their goals and ambitions are – and most importantly, I eventually get to know what it is that drives them in their lives. I have had students that are writers in my classes, students that want to get into the medical professions so that they can help others, and students that are just trying to find a way to make as much money as they want. I don’t always agree with their dreams and desires, but I always try to help point them in directions where they might get more knowledge to achieve those dreams and goals – or encourage them to take chances by submitting their writing somewhere – and encourage them to look at rejection in the light of

Its not a ‘no‘ – its ‘not yet‘.

And watching them accept a new way of seeing the world, watching them learn how to don their armor against a world that may reject them outright, and in some cases, getting the chance to see them succeed beyond their wildest imaginations – that inspires me. I will be honest, I get paid shit wages for the time I put into the students. With money running tight, I am now seeking a part-time job that will help hold off some of the bills going into the future. I am not looking for a job that will replace my teaching, but rather something I can do to augment what I make as a teacher – so that I can continue to do what I have come to love.

I have said it numerous times before – I never viewed myself as a teacher or as a leader. I am now entering my fourth year of teaching – and have discovered a job that I enjoy doing, and something that inspires me to take chances in areas I had never dreamed of trying. Earlier this year, I submitted one of my poems into the Literature contest put on by the English Department. I not only won first place in my category, but I also won the award for Literary Excellence – a sort of “best in show” award. I have never won any award for my poetry before – but I have never considered my poetry to be that good. I was inspired to take a chance – and its shed light into an area of my world that I had never considered to be more than outlet for my own emotions.

I’m aware that not every single student I have is inspired by the things I say or the material that I show to them. Not everyone finds my teaching style to be engrossing or fun. Everyone sees the world differently – I am merely glad that I can get some people inspired enough to chase their dreams – and am completely excited when I am contacted by former students who have made their dreams into reality. Every semester, I run into former students who are excited to see me in the hallways or in my old classroom – and they want to tell me how well they have done. And I listen, smile and laugh with them over their triumphs. Inside, I am humbled to the point of being on my knees and shedding tears for their joys, their triumphs, and their personal discoveries. There are days that I will stand in my classroom and see disinterested students staring into the distance – and wonder to myself what the fuck am I doing in here? And all of that melts away, when I met students that I managed to touch that strain of Awen within them – and I see how much they smile when they see me. And that’s the moment that I remember – this is what I am doing. This is why I teach. No curriculum will ever approach that. No set of quizzes, tests or Case Study will measure this outcome. And for me, this Outcome is far more important than any letter-grade or number-grade I could ever give to a student’s submitted assignment.

And walking to the window
He throws the shutters out against the wall
And from an ivory tower hears her call
‘Let light surround you’
-‘Surrounded‘ by Dream Theater

Earth Day – an Opinion

So another Earth Day has come and gone. A lot of friends asked me if I was doing anything special for today. “You know, ” the addendum to their statement would typically start, “Some kind of ritual, or a prayer to the Gods?” It can seriously be a royal pain in the backside to be the only Pagan in the group. Too many times, I drew a deep breath, counted to twelve, and made nearly the same reply every time.

Every day is Earth Day for me. I give thanks to the Gods each morning at sunrise for helping me see the connections with my environment, as well as my individual place within it all. The only ritual I need is to continue living life in a manner where I try to accord some bit of balance of my own. My silent prayer every night is that human beings could not only see the connections that they have with their environment, but also realize that they are doing damage to the very environment that they hope to sustain them into future generations.

I like the sentiment behind Earth Day. According to Wikipedia:

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day )

And this typically works well, especially trying to get non-Pagans to understand that this is not necessarily a Pagan function. It fits in well with many of the ideals held by many Pagan belief systems, but its origins are not Pagan whatsoever. However, my approach to Earth Day is a little different. For me, Earth Day is a time to get outside, to set aside my electronic devices, turn off the television set, and step outside for a prolonged period ofView From a Cabin Near Divide, Colorado time. That is, provided I do not have other daily functions that keep from doing so – such as teaching class – which was the case today. And it was a shame, because it was a beautiful Spring Day here in north Texas. I only hope we have the same weather tomorrow – when I am not teaching class. Because I intend to be outside, and enjoying the outdoors as much as I can.

I do realize that there are many, many other essays and articles on Earth Day and what it is in relation to that author’s opinion. Please, seek those out and read what their perspective is. But once you are done with that…I implore you, get outside. Check out your local environment. Take your shoes and socks off.  Let your bare feet feel the new, growing grass, Let your toes wiggle in the earth’s surface dirt. be careful of brambles, rocks and sharp branches underfoot. Stop, shut up, and LISTEN. You will be surprised at what sounds you are missing with your earbuds in and your music cranked up to 11. For me, that’s what Earth Day is all about – experiencing the environment around.

 

Experiences and MetaData – the Inventory of “Me”

Its always interesting to take a few moments and see what the inventory of “me” holds. Sometimes, I find myself completely fascinated by some of the concepts that cling to me – mostly gleaned through my reading – and other times, I have known about some associated concept for some time, but have just never had a name or descriptive to give to it. In the database world, those descriptives are called MetaData or information that describes information. And when I take inventory of the “me” – all that MetaData gets poured out on the ground, and it becomes a lot like building a jigsaw puzzle – and not knowing if you have all the pieces before you start.

There is a lot of stuff that makes up all of that MetaData. I am a student, a teacher, a podcaster, ex-military, a Pagan, on a Path of Druidry, Polytheist, Animist, an amateur Poet, a Journal writer, a Computer Systems Administrator, a Computer Technician, a Database Systems Administrator, an observer of the world around me, and a bazillion other descriptives. Each one provides only a small snapshot of exactly who I am. Each is only a single part of the puzzle. And the fun part is that some of these are seemingly in conflict to one another – and yet, the addition of each makes perfect sense to the order of who I am.

I have talked about my desire to not be labeled by anyone – most of all myself. No one definition or descriptive completely describes who I am. I am a human being, capable of rational and irrational thought – and capable of violating any common perception or rule, if I so choose to do so. I can make decisions that fly in the face of reason and logic – and I can accept the Path of less resistance. I am able to make and choose my own Path as I need and/or want to.

And yet…. all that damn MetaData is still there. And with each descriptive, a set of related expectations is  dragged along with it. Each assumption from those expectations is pasted upon to one’s understanding of who I am. And with each individual pasting those assumptions, comes a potential for a different understanding of the assumptions associated with those expectations. In other words, how each individual interprets the MetaData will possibly change the assumptions – possibly in a small manner or a great one – depending on each individual. Thus, an understanding of who I am – in relation to other people’s assumptions can range widely from one extreme point to another – and all points in the area between. And that’s a lot of assumptions to live up to – or to fail to live up to.

…and in the end, only one expectation and assumption associated with the MetaData really matters…my own. Trying to live up to the expectations and perceptions of others – that becomes a life lived for others. And I cannot do that. To live up to the expectations of the Gods and the way that I relate to them…I have to be who I am. I have to live up to my own expectations. I have to be who I am…live up to my MetaData…and the way that I interpret that. I may wind up being wrong about those interpretations from time to time – but that’s part of living life…experiences…

 

Pagan Leadership: Catching Swords From Watery Tarts

tommyI have been seeing a few comments and posts popping up around the inter-webs lately – discussing the needs for Pagan Leadership, and some of the problems with getting leaders to step forward. In reading through the comments – and the counter-comments – and the various posts by individuals – I started to let the idea brew around in the ol’ pot of stew I call my brain. The result was that I could not come up with any solution to the so-called “problem” — and found myself left with even more questions. I am sure over time, I will find some answers to my questions…or at least answers that will let me move on in my own understanding of the issue. But I am sure that in satisfying those questions – even more questions will result….which, for me, may be a natural process – but in trying to find proper “leadership” will not bring about a result whatsoever.

The “Big Tent” of Paganism

When I started reading some of the posts and commentaries on all of this, I noticed a simple division had taken place. There were essentially two camps. One, saw the problem with getting individuals to step up into the positions of leadership that were the “correctly” qualified (more on that here in a bit). The other, wondered how any individual could be set aside as a leader over a wide-range of belief systems that preferred to have autonomous control and authority? It just so happens, I fall into the second group here. I am a Solitary Pagan on a Path of Druidry. And while I am a student in the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – I have no group that I engage with. I know that this is a similar case to many others around the world as well. And this does not even bring to bear how Wiccans, or Asatru, or any other faith system will react to having a member of a different faith be their “leader” – appointed or anointed. John Beckett has talked about the concept of the “Big Tent Paganism” on his blog – Under the Ancient Oaks – quite a few times. And while I am not overly enthused with the over-arching concept – there is a point in all of what he has said. And it brings me to the biggest question I have concerning this idea of Pagan Leadership…

How in the Nine Hells can there be a “leader” of a group of autonomous and independent belief systems, when the leader is likely not to represent a large majority of the groups and individuals that they have become a “leader” for?

You’re Qualified!

Which brings me back to the other side of the discussion table. Setting aside the “Big-Tent” issue – let us assume that a leader can be found – and that various systems of belief will allow such an individual to have authority over and speak on behalf of them. One of the lamentations I have seen on this, is that many of the folks who step forward to assume that mantle of leadership are not always “qualified” to be leaders. That the “qualified” individuals will not step forward and assume the position of leadership for a wide variety of reasons (pick your poison here, but the reasons are not necessarily germane to the issue here). So, what qualifies one to be a leader? In several instances, I have seen people set forth authors, lecturers, and other well-known types as good starting positions. That, in doing whatever it is that makes them well known, sets them forward as leaders of the community. Really? If I followed that logic, my status as one of the longest running podcasters in the Pagan community – with my two podcasts (the defunct “From the Edge of the Circle” and the current “Upon a Pagan Path“) – would entitle me to step forward and claim such a mantle of leadership. I am not sure I would even desire to make such a claim. Which comes back around to the position that the ones that would be good leaders, typically do not step forward to be leaders for [x] reason. But again, I am led back to my own manner of thinking – where I do not believe that I can be a leader of any group of people, where my beliefs and theirs will not necessarily match up.

But what about your position in helping out with the DFW Pagan Pride Day? Are you not assuming a position of leadership with a wide-range of Pagan belief systems? I certainly hope that no one sees me as being a leader because I volunteer to help out with Pagan Pride Day here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I help out, because I believe this this event is a wonderful way for Pagans to discover one another, and to be able to come together and talk – as well as a way to have non-Pagans find out first-hand how wide-ranging Paganism is, and that we are no different than they are. I am not assuming a position of leadership by doing this. I am finding a way to be helpful to my community – to give back to my community – some of the same reasons that I have been podcasting for so long. None of that bestows any position of leadership upon me. To quote Dennis:

Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.

So, What About Pagan Leadership?

To be completely honest, I do not know. I just cannot see leadership festooned upon someone simply because they do a podcast or write a book or publish a blog. I am quite sure there will be those who disagree with me. As the old saying goes, ask a three Druids a question and you will get seven answers. From my own perspective, I am just a little unsure of how followers of belief systems that espouse a heavy system of autonomy and independence would be able to set forth a leader – even in a spokes-person role – that all would readily agree upon and completely support. Its definitely a discussion to watch and listen, and even participate in. I am sure it can – and most likely will – create huge rifts between both sides of the argument. I am also quite sure it is a discussion that will need to be had. After all, our Pagan community is beginning to grow up, and is starting to ask the hard questions, such as this. How it gets answered? I have no bloody idea. But I am willing to listening and discuss.

 

My Purpose-Driven Life – Its Not Quite What *They* Mean…

I have definitely become a morning person. And that’s really somewhat strange for me. I definitely was not such a person early in my life. When I was in the military, I usually worked late night shifts, and over-night blocks. I used to joke that I was a vampire, since I had a tendency to sleep during the daylight hours, and head to bed shortly after the sunrise. But I also have to remind myself that I am now nearly thirty years down the road from those days. My life has changed quite a lot. And I have found that the mornings are definitely the time frame that works best for me.

The sunrise intrigues me, and invigorates my senses. For the past three years, I have been adjusting my own body clock to rise before the sun, make a cup of coffee, and spend a few moments watching the world slowly brighten as the sun rises in its daily path through the daytime sky. Even on cloudy days, such as today, the change is noticeable. People awaken in their homes, and the lights go on in their kitchen areas, as they all break their nightly fast with some kind of morning meal. After a short period of time, they bustle out of their houses, climb into their cars, and drive hurriedly through the streets to get to their jobs. Their children shamble through the streets, to their usual morning hangout, waiting for the yellow, lengthy beast to come and consume them – before it too moves hurriedly down the streets to regurgitate them in the parking lot of a place of learning.

Quite a while back, I commented about how Emma Restall Orr’s book “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature” had helped me understand and realize the myriad of connections within the world around me. And as I have become more and more aware of the manner in which we are all connected, how each little action can make waves and ripples – sometimes beyond comprehension – I have started to really see what some folks try to explain as a “purpose-driven life”. Except that I see it a lot differently than they have intended.

In many instances, I have heard explanations that center on doing specific actions to achieve very specific results. Essentially, cause and effect relationships to achieve some desired goal or result. But I see a “purpose-driven Life” in a little different vein. If I worried about how every little action I did effected the world around me, I would spend much of my time second-guessing everything I do – from having a cup of coffee or having a pint at the local pub to flushing my toilet. And in my estimation, that’s not a life lived. What I can do, instead, is find ways to make my daily life into a series of positive actions and thoughts. For instance, smiling.

No matter where I go, I always walk past people at some point or another. When I was learning how to be a part of Red Force in the Air Force, we learned not only how to infiltrate a location – but also how to keep suspicion from being drawn to us. One of the techniques we were taught was to make eye contact with people we encountered casually – and smile and greet them. The point was that most people will look ANYWHERE but at you. And while it does work enough to get people to not pay attention to you in that manner – I noticed a side-effect as well. if you smile at someone and greet them warmly, that interaction sometimes changes the way they go about their day from that point. So do other actions, such as holding the door for people coming in or out, helping someone carry a large load or a heavy load to wherever they are going – even if its out of your way. You know – common courtesy.

I do watch my interactions with the world around me in other ways as well. While I am not ready – nor do I think I ever will be completely – to go Vegan, I have started to watch what kind of foods I do eat. I have started to reduce my intake of red meat. I am not about to give it up entirely, but I definitely do not need to eat more of it. I have started to step away from sodas altogether. I have also started looking for fresh vegetables and fruits over pre-processed, canned, or frozen. That’s a step towards becoming more healthy – but also towards seeking out items that are produced in a far more environmentally-friendly manner. I’m still not on-board with all the folks going after companies such as Monsanto….I do see some merit in what they are trying to do with food modification, I just think the study needs to be a little more in-depth than those companies are currently doing. But I do see the point that some of my friends are making as well.

And there are so many other points to be made about living a life with purpose…or a purpose-driven life as many of the Christian ministers have pointed out in their sermons and teachings. I know what they mean by those statements, but its definitely not what I mean when I talk about it. They are trying to achieve some goal – I’m just trying to live my daily Path. Hmmm…come to think of it, I am living a goal as well. Just not theirs.

Speaking of which, its nearly time to strap on some tennis shoes, and take my walk through the neighborhood. Another of those purpose-driven moments in my life…and one that enriches me in so many ways.

–Tommy /|\

 

Consumer-Driven News…an Opinion….

I tend to avoid the news for a large part of my time. Mostly because its not really news – its just Entertainment sprinkled with bits of Information. All the major news players are guilty of it – Fox, MSNBC, CNN…and the sad part, is that once you leave the tv behind – its not much better on the internet. In fact, you have to be thousands of times more careful about what you read – since there is so much overly-slanted, and outright lies that are set out as “real” news. That’s one of the reasons I am glad there are sites like “The Wild Hunt” out there – which bring some (not all) of the news in a factual manner.

It was through TWH that I found out about the issues surrounding Kenny Klein. It was also through TWH that I found out about the reported ties between the recent Kansas City shooter and aspects of neo-Paganism. Unlike CNN, which seems to have originally reported the ties, TWH presented the story without a major slanted bias. And this is a sad thing. A major news outlet essentially could not see a way to report information as just that:  information.

I teach a class on Business Information Systems at my local college. I spend a lot of class time trying to show students that information presented on its own is just information. However, when a human being gets a hold of it – a bias automatically creeps into the reporting. In essence, when human beings get involved, information takes on the biased slant of the individual compiling the information into an analyzed report. That analysis is a report of the patterns that the data represented to the Analyst looking over the data. Reporting the news is no different. Information is presented to a reporter, that individual then takes the information and presents it in a way that he/she thinks the news outlet’s readers/viewers will understand the reported information. In a manner of speaking, the reporter spins the news report in a way that becomes palatable to the audience. An example would be to look at the different ways that Fox and MSNBC attempt to report any news related to President Obama. Fox spins the story to represent the President in a very unfavorable light. MSNBC will represent the same story in a way that sets the President in a positive light. The reality of the story is somewhere in between the two.

Earlier, I had set aside a point of caution towards trying to identify predators within our Pagan community. When we point fingers based on rumors or hearsay, we run the chance of accusing someone of something that they had no part in whatsoever. The accusation can be withdrawn, but the individual reputation that has been sullied cannot be repaired to its former status. Now, I am not saying that this is the case with the KC shooter. Its fairly obvious that the individual is the one that committed these acts of murder – and further, its obvious that he has a very sick, perverted, and twisted idea of what truth and justice are. An individual consumed by hatred and rage over an individual’s skin color, nationality, religion, creed, eye color, hair color, or what have you – is not dealing with the rational side of the world. It may be that he has some cursory tie to the Heathen community. But there has also been a lot of perversion of Heathen principles and ideals by individuals seeking something to substantiate their twisted hate. By grabbing a few strands of what the Heathen community uses in its principles and concepts, and combining that with perspectives of racial purity from the Nazi principle of Aryan dominance over the world – and braiding in some aspects of radical Christianity…folks like this have created their own sick and twisted idea of how the world should be.

Let’s be realistic here. There will always be radicals within any system of community or belief. There will always be individuals that take the ideals and twist to further or substantiate a socially unacceptable concept or perspective that they hold. History is replete with such examples. Instead of immediately jumping up and painting an entire community or belief system based on the actions of a few individuals – we should be careful not to twist the two together. I remember that many people here in America equated the actions of nineteen cowards with an entire belief system – and then stretched it further by visiting their naked anger and aggression on people who lived in the same town as they did – and sometimes just down the street. Jumping to conclusions based on a few cursory facts does nothing to further the concept of justice…nor does it bring about any sense of equality.

Our media does not help in this matter either. Sensationalized headlines may sell papers, and drive hits to the news outlet’s website – but it also helps feed the fires of irrational fears and actions as well. It also does a disservice to the entire concept of reporting the news. In this world of “Gotcha!” politics – and the desire to be the first to report the “story” – along with the increased readership and reputation that goes with that…we (the general “we” here) have become a society that is fascinated with the every move of certain individuals. How did they cut their hair, what cuss word did they utter to the reporter on the street, did they run over the reporter’s foot when trying to drive away (let’s not mention the fact that the reporter is right up against the vehicle – standing IN THE STREET). There’s no news in that. But it certainly is entertaining to many – otherwise the news outlets would not report such stuff.

Is the shooter in Kansas City news?  Yes. Is the shooter’s beliefs news? Yes. Therefore, since both items are news, we can assume that everyone else that follows that same belief is a psychotic killer in trainer like this shooter? And this is what I mean folks, this is how the news is given its bias. The reporter writes the story, presents some of the facts, and then draws a hard-line correlation between those facts and another point of view.

Can we recover our news outlets?  Can we get back to reporting the facts and letting the reader/viewer make up their own mind? I don’t know. I would certainly try to be optimistic and say its possible. But our consumer driven society places a high premium on “Gotcha!” politics and Infotainment stories. I am at a completely loss to figure out how to change that…

Reaching My Bardic Crossroads…

My Poetry Journal
My Poetry Journal

Writing has never been a big part of my life. I remember having so many problems trying to get thoughts out of my head and onto paper for class after class. In high school, and in college – I have had paper after paper returned to me with remarks such as “needs revision!” and “poorly written!” scrawled in red ink across that first page, along with a grade well below the grade I had wanted.

I can literally relive many of the times where I spent hour upon hour researching a topic for a paper, writing outlines, and rough draft after rough draft. Trying to find ways to shoe-horn quotes from “proper” sources to back up what I am trying to say in my papers. The techniques I developed, I try and pass on to my own students – knowing full well, that they will typically either ignore me, or develop their own methods for doing such writing. Yes, writing has never been my forte’.

Then again, I have events in my life that happen – that remind me that I am full of shit when I make that statement. This past week, just such an event occurred in my Life. Earlier in the year, after some cajoling from those that actually know I write poems, I entered my poem “Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow” in a Creative Writing Contest for my college. Early in March, I received a phone call telling me that I had won an award for it and confirming that I could make the awards ceremony. I had figured that I had won an Honorable Mention in the category. When the category was announced, my name was the last one called – First Place. I was literally shocked over it. But that was not the end of it. There is also a prize for Literary Excellence in Poetry as well – sort of a “best in show” award, that is given by the English department of my college. It is the very last award of the ceremony. My name was called for that too. That was Friday. It is now Sunday, and I am still in a state of shock.

But that state of shock has forced me to sit back and think about my writing. I remember writing a short story for my English teacher in my junior year of high school. The assignment called for a typed assignment, with a specific font, a specific margin, a specific minimum word count. I did none of that. I wrote the story the night before class – on notebook paper, handwritten, single-spaced, and on both sides of the paper. The story was about a young man named Timothy Pulthorne, who is listening to Black Sabbath’s song “Black Sabbath” on his walkman (yes, that’s how dated the story is – I wrote this in winter of 1982). While listening to the song, he contemplates the lyrics and how the writer has consigned his soul to Satan. At the end of the story, he opens his eyes to find Satan standing at the foot of his bed, smiling with a contract in one hand, and a pen in the other. Despite not turning in the assignment in the correct format, I received the highest grade in the class for my “creativity”. I remind you, I went to an all-boys Catholic school – so the topic was a bit risque’.

So, I am forced to reevaluate my perspective on my writing. Somewhere, deep inside me, is someone that can write – someone that can write material that touches and reaches people. Yes, deep inside me – there’s some kind of Bard. And I have been denying my abilities with the written word for quite a bit of my life. Its time I stepped up and faced the facts where that is concerned. I have ideas of where to take all of this…I just need the time to sort out what is my naivety of the entire process, and what is currently possible. Somehow, I have reached a crossroads I have never realized I was headed towards – but its a crossroads I would inevitably reach. Time to have a sit…drink a cup of tea, and wrestle with where to go from here. Besides, its always fun to sit at the crossroads – there’s a lot of interesting people to see and meet….