Thinking About: The Storm – Just One Opinion

Remember back in 2019, when we were looking at the coming year of 2020 as a better day? That things were going to be a little easier? I do. Somewhat. I don’t really look to a period of time in the future to being better than the one I am currently standing on. That’s because I don’t know whether it will or won’t be. My personal philosophy is take each day one step at a time. Take each week one day at a time. Take each month one day at a time. Each year one day at a time. Each decade one day at a….what? Oh, you get the point. 🙂

I do hear a lot of people openly hoping for that better day coming. Or even those that keep hoping that the future will look like the past. Both sets of folks are going to be disappointed, in my opinion. The only thing I can be one-thousand percent confident about is what has already happened in the past. What’s happening today? Right now? That’s as much a surprise for me as it is for you. What’s happening in the future? I have no idea. I’m no fortuneteller nor do I claim to have any stranglehold on any corner of what is to come. As such, I can only take one day at a time.

But, here’s what I know. And it comes from a set of lyrics from the band Styx. The song if “These are the Times”….

If the flickering light of your campfire dims
The world grows smaller, it’s closing in
I’m standin’ here, and I want you to live

(I know) These are the times we find out who we really are
This will be when a true friend stands at your side
Someone like me who wants to believe
In the days of high times and innocence
Drawing the lines and shouting back to the night
Someone like me who wants you to live

–Styx, “These are the Times”

Just about every Pagan I know is talking about the phenomenon known as “The Storm”. Some have been talking about it for several years. Others are just coming around to the concept. When you arrive at the idea doesn’t really matter. The Storm is The Storm. Many folks pin it to the concept of the crumbling American Empire. Not me. I see it differently (of course I do – I have to be different – or so some folks would say). This isn’t about the decay of an Empire. Nor is it the orgasmic demise of Capitalism within society. Certainly that idea is better than Viagra for Bernie Sanders, but I just don’t buy into it being the core of The Storm. At best, those concepts are symptom of what is taking place.

For me, from what I have been able to glean and tease from my understanding of what is taking place, this is about a societal change in the way we regard others. The old guard – mostly people of my generation, the Baby Boomers – have held the aspects of wealth and material accumulation above everything else. This is basically a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of the Hippy generation prior to them, where people could do what they needed to so long as they didn’t harm others or the environment. In my understanding, this is an ideal perspective (I have always claimed I was born a generation late), but it does not reach far enough. The future generations see the decaying planetary environment that is currently in place. They see all the people who do not have enough to survive appropriately, and the way that society looks down upon these people because they do not help themselves out of the lower levels of society. No acknowledgement is given to un-level playing fields or the extremely difficult obstacles that have been placed in the way of most of these folks. The Storm is born from what is being done to re-balance things to be able to provide capability and capacity to those that want it.

No, I am not saying that people trying to achieve these balances are at fault for The Storm. I am saying the friction of their desired aims against the current established perspective of the so-called “haves” is causing much of what we currently have going on over our heads. That friction is causing the backlash (perceived or not) from those in positions of so-called power. I believe that this is what allowed the current US President to be elected, since most of the folks that are catching that backlash have been taught that their vote doesn’t mean anything. But that’s only a symptom of everything. The cause continues to be the struggle between two different perspectives over the value of life. Don’t think so? Recently, Governor Abbott noted in a conference call with other legislators in the state of Texas that re-opening the state would certainly result in more deaths attributed to COVID-19. Who is mostly at-risk in that situation? The wage workers in the retail stores that just opened. The lower ends of the workforce, who have been badly impacted by the lack of income from a shutdown. Those with monetary means are certainly taking a hit, but not as devastating as those wage workers who typically live from paycheck to paycheck. So, how do we know its ok to completely re-open the state and claim “victory” over a virus? Well, you need lab rats…and in chess the pawns go first. Pawns are expendable. On the chess board, these are the wage workers.

The Storm is a form of class warfare, in my opinion. And its not. Many of the people that need a leveled playing field are those wage workers. And before you accuse me of propping up in favor of my own status, I haven’t been a wage worker since 2000. However, I do know all too well what it is like to be living from paycheck to paycheck. Where tomato soup and ramen become the primary staples three to five days before the paycheck hits the account. Where a single automobile part failure can send a family budget spiraling out of control for weeks to months before recovering to where things were prior to that moment. But The Storm is a form of class warfare, and at the same time it is not. It is about finding empathic solidarity with your fellow human beings, and changing the rules from where things are set by the current societal perspectives.

Back in 1985, less than a year out of high school, I was taking a Sociology class at LSU-Shreveport. In order to demonstrate the differences in society, the class was divided into three groups – upper, middle, and lower classes. The goal of the upper class was to insure that all members stayed in that class. The goal of the middle class was to propel members upward into the upper class while insuring that no members fell into the lower class. The lower class was to propel members into the middle class. Each member of each class would draw a card that gave them a certain number of points each round. If members of the middle class and lower class had points higher than a member of the group above them, they would exchange places. In other words, if a member of the middle class had more points than the lowest member of the upper class, the two would change places in their respective groups. Predictably, when the points for each round were passed out, the upper class distributed their points among their group to insure that the lowest point members were as close to the overall group as possible. The members of the lower class would pool all their points for the round and give these to the individual with the highest number of points to move them into the middle class. The middle class group never shared their points with any of the other members – or if they did, it was an extremely rare occurrence. After about five rounds, I was in the middle class group. I set my cards down and announced that ALL of my points would be evenly distributed among the other members of my group. The professor asked me what I was doing. I stated that I realized that this was class warfare, and I had no desire to participate in such a mechanism. I was allowed to sit on the outside and declared to be “an anomaly” – essentially a random segment that exists but should be ignored as being insignificant. I have often wondered what the professor would have said if the rest of my classmates had enough spinal material to have done the same.

In a manner of speaking, my stepping out of the classroom exercise was similar to what we are experiencing with The Storm. In that classroom exercise, I received a zero, even though I had initially participated prior to my declarative moment. That was the backlash moment, my “Storm” within the classroom. We have always had those that wanted to have others treated equally within society. For the most part, their voices were small and considered insignificant. Today, “The Storm” is the equivalent of what might have happened in that classroom if my fellow students had joined me in semi-exile from the exercise. Many elements of today’s Storm are from the consequences of our collective actions as a society to keep things “status quo” when more and more people are realizing that the “status quo” is no longer truly working. Because they are willing to stand up and shout that a change is needed, you see the consequences of those actions.

Please realize, I am not stating that this is a bad thing. In fact, I am a firm believer that we need to go through this to achieve what is necessary. Balancing the equation and leveling the playing field are some of the necessary elements that need to be created to allow our society to evolve beyond where we are. Certainly, I can see the elements of a “crumbling Empire” and the “death of Capitalism” encompassed within that, even though I see it more as the pains of an “evolving Empire” and a “re-thinking of Capitalist theories.” I am certainly not looking for a dystopian societal paradise. Right now, my focus is making it through the Storm with as many of you as I can. As the song says, I’m standing here, and I want you to live. Even if you are on the other side of what I see and believe. Because its not just the human thing to do. Its the right thing to do.

–T /|\

Difficult Times Do Not Demand Radical Change in Your Spirituality

So, made it to Tuesday….first blog of the week. And no topic has really come to mind. So I do what I normally do – I read. This time around, instead of pulling books off the shelf, flipping to some arbitrary point to see if a topic to write about hows up, I spent some time reading blog posts from folks I haven’t read for a while. Over on Night Owl Meditations on Patheos, Jessica Ripley had a blog post asking if your Spiritual Practice was really serving you. Its quite an interesting post, but a particular section actually caught my eye:

We worry about what a new normal means. We forget that we have a hand in creating it. We so easily give up the power we have to shape our lives with this all or nothing way of thinking. A chaotic time is the most important time to remember what you do control. There’s a time for railing against the loss, and there’s a time for acceptance and empowerment. If we don’t get to the place of acceptance and empowerment, then we are willfully giving up too much. Life will continue to happen, and not one of us is immune to difficulties and loss no matter how much magick we practice or how spiritual we think we are. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use what’s at our disposal to make things better, though.

Jessica Ripley, 4/18/2020, “Is Your Spiritual Practice Serving You?”

Yeah, this Covid-19 issue has definitely come along and disrupted what everyone seemed to understand as “the normal.” We have found ourselves isolated to our homes, finding new (old) ways of communicating with another, and finding plenty of time to do our own navel gazing. But what if this is what the new normal becomes? What if we have to look suspiciously at the person in the grocery store that isn’t wearing a mask or suddenly coughs? And what about the practices that normally make up our Spirituality? Currently, large ritual gatherings are not really a good idea. Travel from point-to-point is spotty at best. Are virtual rituals going to become the new aspect of our Spiritual lives?

Well, as Ripley points out, we truly are the ones in control. What happens to us, our reaction to it, and our ability to adapt – all of that is in our own control. The virtual rituals, concerts, and gatherings that have been happening are innovative ways of filling that social gap that we feel is so empty. For those of us in more rural areas, sometimes these virtual gatherings are not entirely possible. I moved from up on the north central area of Texas to nearly smack in the center of the state. From one rural area to an area that is a touch more rural. Streaming anything is a definite challenge. But, I am also an individual practitioner, so much of these online gatherings are not really that necessary for me. The online rituals that are designed to showcase how to practice celebratory rites as a single individual are all good, but not necessary for someone who spends that large majority of his Spiritual focus alone. That’s just my own perspective, because I do know a lot of people are getting a lot out of those streaming moments.

Now, I am a type-II diabetic. I have asthmatic reactions to colder weather that was brought on by a serious bout with pneumonia very recently. I was already treating people with some degree of suspicion when it came to potential illnesses and the such. My lousy immune system already sets me at risk for easily catching the common cold and influenza. All of that only makes me a higher risk factor towards catching Covid-19 from an individual that already has it. My reaction could easily be one of anger, particularly when encountering individuals without masks, and those who do not practice social distancing in public. Anger will provide nothing in this case, except maybe to let me feel a touch satisfied at venting my frustration. I could also spend my time interacting with my Gods asking “Why? Why now?” Instead, I have decided to utilize my energy towards preventative measures when I am out in public, minimizing my contact with other people as much as possible, and staying in my current place of residence as much as I can. Now, to be clear, I cannot tell anyone else how they can or cannot react to all of this – everyone processes information differently. Rest assured, how you feel is how you feel. That is true…for you. I’m not about to deny that in anyone else.

So, with all this change happening to “normal” – how do I handle this in daily Spiritual life? To be honest, not much has changed. I still greet the sun whenever I wake up…before or after sunrise. I still do my daily devotionals to Coyote, Crow and Abnoba. I still follow the celebrations of the Wheel, even though my typical celebrations with others have turned into singular ones. Just because the times out in the mundane world have changed, doesn’t mean those in my Spiritual walk will radically change too. I have come to a better understand of the nature of The Storm. It has zero to do with a “crumbling Empire” and more to do with a position of difficult times that can have dangerous consequences for anyone.

Is all this the wrath of the Gods? Is it Nature or the Earth biting back at human kind in order to put us in our place? Is it a karmic retribution for not taking the issues of climate change seriously? I honestly have no idea. All I really understand is that this is happening right now. And that we, as a species, are learning to change and adapt to it. We will struggle with this for some time to come. I am not looking to my Gods for answers though. I am looking to my Gods for strength and resolve. Just like anyone else out there, I have the desire to live through this. I have a desire to see everything go back to “normal” – whatever the Nine Hells that might look like. Unless, this is now what normal is. And we will adapt. Its what we humans do quite well. Two Quid.

–T /|\

Doing the COVID19 Ramble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, its not really doing the math and solving the problems, right? Or is it? I know that my immune system can provide a path for this virus to enter my body and fuck me up good. I stay away from people. I calculated the odds of staying away from people versus interacting with every schmoe I met on the street. I choose the method with the safer odds. I stay in the house instead of running all over town. Why? Because I calculated the odds that it is safer for me to be in the house. I wear a mask? Why? I wear them because it lessens the odds of me catching the virus when I do have to be out in public. I am doing the math. I am solving the problems. And hopefully when all of this final settles down and the virus can be held at bay for a huge majority of the planet’s populace – I get to live. Because I do want to live.

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

–T /|\

Just Because I Said It Doesn’t Mean You Have To Listen to Me or Do It

Within a lot of the more openly activist circles that I am in, I tend to get blasted for the perception that I am not “on-board” with a lot of the activities that tend to occur. I don’t attend the marches or protests. I don’t blast meme after meme after article after article denouncing the President and conservatives all over the country. I’m told that I am the problem with what is wrong.

I have no desire to sit here and refute each of those particular perspectives or justify how I am “with” what the protests are aiming to achieve. Why? Because I think its nonsense to have to justify who I am and what I do and what I believe. I can; however, tell you what I believe, and demonstrate that on a daily basis by continuing to be who I am. Without apology. Honestly, if that is not enough for some folks, so be it. I don’t live my life or walk my beliefs daily for others. Who I am and what I do is not some reality television show that needs to be placed on display to prove something to others. Nor should yours be, in my opinion. I cannot do you. You have to do you.

One of my favorite graphic images is currently making the rounds as a Facebook meme. tankgirlIts an image of Tank Girl pulling on her boots, the cherry on her cigarette beaming brightly as she makes her statement that things cannot be this way, that we can be wonderful. We can be magnificent. We can turn this shit around. And that statement is so very true. We can turn things around. We can be magnificent. We are wonderful. We just happen to be going through a difficult moment in our collective history. One that we have visited before, and forgotten. We have seen a lot of the issues that are currently taking place. Terrible treatment of others based on the pigmentation of their skin. Hatred and resentment of others because of who they love, or how many they choose to love. Codification of minimizing people who are different than those who happen to be in charge. Human history is littered with examples of this from every corner of the planet. And no matter how much you show these examples to those choosing to be on the inhumane side of things, it will not change their minds. They will find “holy” writings to utilize religious beliefs to justify their actions. They will flat out ignore those examples, utilizing the “we’re in charge because we were elected” mantra. They will point to laws as justification for what they are doing – its legal to do so, the law says we must. They will utilize invented morality to state their correctness. “Those people are sick in the head.” “I don’t want to see them in my everyday life.” “I don’t want my children to be like them.” Their children. Irrational hatred of those different than yourself is a learned behavior. Done through observation. The observation of their parents. Gods be damned, I certainly do not want my actions or behaviors to be the catalyst to having children hating others.

So why am I not out in the streets trying to combat all of this? Why am I not picking up stones and hurling them at police? Why am I not following politicians in their daily lives and shouting at them? Well, for me it is a simple thing – I am not willing to discard my humanity. Because when things are brought to an end, I would prefer to be an example of how we – that collective we thing – should act towards one another. I would rather be the force of calm and reason even when standing in the jaws of the maelstrom. And if that makes e into someone that is the “problem” then I will gladly wear that mantle.

I have sympathy and compassion for those that are being mistreated because of their differences in society. And I will gladly and willingly step between those swinging the riot batons at them. I will take the blows for them. I will not return those blows. I will struggle to defend myself and others. I will not take the offensive. I believe that once I have taken those steps, to visit chaos on others simply because they are conservatives or part of the current governmental administration – I will have lost the very ground I seek to defend.

Tank Girl’s point is a good one. We, again the collective we, can turn this shit around. We can be magnificent. We can be wonderful. Yes, we can fight the battles. We can achieve the legal equalities that we seek. We can win those battles. What happens after that? When fascists and conservatives are defeated and beaten. What happens then? Those same fascists and conservatives will continue to be a part of society. That collective We were screaming hatred, anger, and attempting violence (in some cases) against those very same people.

Once the collective We win, once the collective We are in charge – I guess it will be back to tea and crumpets at the Red Hen, eh? Collective history suggests that this is not usually the case. All of this is far closer to a civil war than a country v. country war. We will all live within this collective society together. Even when capitulation happens, the battle will likely continue in our immediate environment. Perhaps not openly, but it will be there.

We can turn this shit around. We can be magnificent. We can be wonderful. But I would submit that the collective We need to be a little more careful with the how it is accomplished. Lest we come back to do this again in another forty to fifty years. And maybe then, reason may no longer be available to curb some of the more despicable and disgusting methods of forcing one aspect of society to come to heel under the boot of another. We’ve done that chapter of history a few times before. And right now, we are only a few steps away from it happening again.

Nearly a year back, folks asked what #TheStorm would look like. Well, the edges of it have already passed. We are staring straight down its gullet now. Except that the description of a storm might not be an appropriate metaphor to use. Because this is a more like a Dragon. And it is the same Dragon that has visited our village before. Last time, before the Dragon left to slumber in his lair, our village was a smoking ruin. And now, as the battle rages around us, we squabble amongst ourselves over the choice of weapons that others bring to the battle or the manner in which they swing their swords. And yes, I am aware of how this statement relates on to what I am stating here – the cyclical aspect of it pointing directly back at my own words.

I am not a commander of troops in any of this battle. I manage me. I realize that my approach is open to criticism, ridicule, and disdain from others. Anything that anyone does in life is open to such. But as I noted before I know how to do me. You know how to do you. Far be it from me to tell you that you are doing it wrong. But I might comment that I certainly wouldn’t do it that way. Just because I said it, doesn’t mean you have to listen or change what you do. All it means is that I said it.

 

 

Finding Roles, Setting Agendas and Goals for the Storm

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once. Make us believe it again. –Lucilla, ‘Gladiator’

I have had a few folks comment that I am an unlikely individual – as the Pagan, Polytheist, and Priest that I am – to be involved in military service. My enlistment oath binds me to the protection of the Constitution of the United States. Even now, nearly twenty years since I left military service in 1994. But protection of the US Constitution is only one part of what my eight years in the United States Air Force were about. It was also about being in service to others. Protecting their freedoms, not just here in the United States, but throughout the world. I am in no position – or shape – to be a member of the fighting forces of any nation or group. But there are plenty of other ways to continue serving.

img_9678Lucilla’s statement, shortly after Maximus’ death is meant to be a reminder to the people of Rome that were witnessing the “event” that there is a cost to be paid for every action. As a military member who swore the oath of enlistment, which binds me to the protection of the Constitution, I am aware of the payment that ultimately may be asked for. During Desert Shield/Storm, I knew the fear and the knife edge that one’s senses are constantly in. The world of military combat is not a playground, as the movies seem to make light of. Even those that try to give a realistic depiction, such as “Black Hawk Down”, do not provide a complete understanding of the experience.

The United States military taught me how to fight. Not to win some encounter. Nor did they allow me to hit “reset” when the battle was going wrong for me. I was taught to fight to survive. To use whatever means were necessary to live. That includes using anything as a weapon. It is one reason that I am extremely careful about what physical encounter I will wind up in, those techniques and concepts are hard-wired into me – thanks to the military’s training techniques. It’s not something you just turn off like a water faucet.
Because of all of that, I avoid protests and marches. Not that I am unwilling to defend myself or someone else. But that I am always worried about the potential of crossing the line of being in control of my sense and awareness, and lashing out in techniques and concepts that I might not be completely aware of. As has been said before, it’s a matter of learning to pick your battles, as well as knowing your limits.

For a short while, I thought the Morrighan was looking to add me to Her team. I was worried about this for a lot of reasons – the biggest one being that I was unsure of what would be asked of me and didn’t want to find myself in a place where instinct overcomes rational thinking. Aside from that, the Morrighan scares the shit out of me…so I was relieved when I figured out that it was merely a group of Valkyrie that had come to deliver a message to me: get into better shape. But the point was crystal clear, I need to be in a better position (read: physical shape) to continue in my role as a Protector. So off to the doctor I go for checkups. And I find out about an issue with my heart. It’s not a big thing, but it certainly needs to be watched. Plus, the doctor noted that if I had to go into open-heart surgery to replace my bad valve – it would be touch-and-go as to whether I would survive. Second wake-up call.

I am a Protector. That is a role that I understand quite well. I am not an activist. Direct confrontation with the expectation of potential violent repercussions is not where I want to find myself, as I have noted. Yes, activism is definitely a role that is required of some, which I will not deny. Everyone has their own roles to play during these periods of heightened confrontation, and potential rights removal. Some call it #TheStorm, others call it “Tower time” – whatever you call it, and it’s here. There’s debate as to the intensity of everything that has been underway. But I am reminded that what one person might call a “hurricane” could be construed as a “steady downpour” by another. But that’s for other folks to determine for themselves. A long, steady downpour has dangers, just as a hurricane does. The interpretation is up to the individual, and their own perception.

The question that Lucilla asks is still just as valid: “Is our world worth the life of one good person?” What is our individual honor worth in all of this? What do we want to achieve at the end of all of this? Can we stop arguing with one another long enough to actually achieve something? We’ve made massive strides towards equality across the board over the decades. We are more aware of how issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and age (among others) affect the daily lives of people all around us. If the desire is to find true equality, let me tell you that we may not see that happen for many more generations. That is long, arduous battle that will continue long after we have passed beyond the veil.

So does the length of the battle mean we need to slow down, and take it easy? Hardly. We need to continue to find ways to achieve the many small victories that will come about. Those small victories will provide the pathway to what we are seeking to achieve. If we move the ball no further down the field than we already have, is it the end of everything? Again, hardly. But we do need to acknowledge that everything has gotten better. If we only see the obstacles and the failures, we fail to see the achievements that show how much has been possible to this point.

We also need to realize our roles in all of this, and acknowledge where we are, individually. Some folks are made to be activists and on the front lines fighting every step of the way. That’s not my role. My methodology for “winning” battles would provide a negative perspective that could be used against what is trying to be accomplished. My role is in defense. Defense of those who cannot defend themselves adequately. And for that, my methodology may seem crude and unreasonable…but for those being defended, it may be the difference between their survival and something worse. Everyone has their own role.

Finally, I am not trying to be overly dramatic here. Just trying to push a particular point forward – if we are struggling for equality of all, we need to (a) realize our roles, and (b) come together to reach those goals. That means setting aside petty differences over word usage, individual roles, and whatever other nonsense we can dream up. Believe it or not, there are people whose lives literally hang in the balance. Imagine if Matthew Shepard had someone there to stand in his corner during his ordeal. Imagine if someone in the apartment complex where Trayvon Martin was killed had stepped outside and intervened? Imagine if more protectors took up their roles in the world around us, and refused to sit back and wait until one of their “own” were attacked or persecuted? It’s not quite a war zone out there…I know the difference. I’ve been there. But it certainly has the feeling that a lot more folks need to be dedicated enough to step in wherever they see injustice, persecution, and bullying happening around them.

Is Rome worth one good man’s life? Is standing up for those that need defending worth one person’s life? My answer is simple. If it comes to that, the answer is yes.

 

The Forecast is for Change – not the End

The Storm is here. A lot of folks have talked about this, including me. And occasionally, I get someone that Emails me asking just what exactly is the Storm. Sometimes these Emails are tinged with worry, like the world is about to end or that Pagans are about to be lined up and sent to detention camps (aka WW2 Nazi Germany). Other times, the individual is trying to make sense out of what is meant by this – the world looks “normal” to them, so what is the big deal?

Well, for me, the Storm is not an end-of-the-world or impending Armeggedon thing. I have heard many folks mention that the Storm is an intense “Tower times” moment – more now than in previous individual memory. By “Tower times”, this is usually a reference to the tarot card “The Tower” which is typically associated with danger, crisis, destruction, liberation, or change. Now, I am not a huge Tarot individual. In fact, before this year, I owned zero Tarot decks. As a divinatory form, it is just not something that draws me to it. In fact, most divinatory forms have little call or interest to me. But that is a different deer trod for another adventure in the woods.

I realize its easy to interpret the tidal changes that we see in our real world around us with a cataclysmic ending of the world. And who knows? Perhaps, we will see such an ending to human society going far forward into our future. Certainly, we have done a smashing job of finding ways to alter our environment’s capacity to sustain our existence going into the future, perhaps even irreparably at this point. Certainly, there should be no standing by during this particular phase where the environment is concerned. From my perspective, violence and anger won’t solve the problem, but I also realize I am a single voice being drowned out by the overly vocal others from every side. It is certainly noticeable that our prevailing media continues to showcase sensational endings to our world via asteroids, comets, super-villains, nuclear exchange, pollution, genocide, zombies, pestilence, and even via the hand of the Christian God in terms of the Book of Revelations.

The news does not hold any better signs of the world around us. The 365x24x7 news cycle continues to be dominated by school shootings, undeclared (and even declared) war footage, threats of nuclear annihilation, and the legal machinations of splitting society by race and gender by our respective legislatures. Everywhere you turn, the entire world seems to be screaming that this is the precursor of the end of human kind’s existence.

Yeah. I grok that. All of that creates a narrative that is easily understood. A lot of it evokes our combined worst fears – racial violence, the systematic genocide of the “have-nots”, the thrusting of the entire world society backward through a nuclear holocaust, or a world engulfed in constant warfare and violence. There is not a single question in my mind, I shudder at the thought of any of this becoming reality. And I can certainly see where others might find it to be time to call for the falling of the sky.

But this Tower time, as many others point out to me. A time of unexpected change, according to what I have read about the ultimate meaning of this Tarot card’s meaning. And unexpected change, from my perspective, yields unexpected results. Certainly, the outcomes I mentioned previously are on the table. But so are other outcomes that are not talked about often enough. A world that does not see racial differences as a context to divide us as a human race, but rather describe the differences between us. Differences that can be embraced, learned from and upheld in the beauty that each has. Perhaps, a threat of nuclear annihilation will be the watershed moment in which these horrible, indiscriminate weapons are eradicated from the stockpiles of the world’s military forces?

Sure, I hear you. A lot of that is blowing sunshine up people’s asses. The world does not operate that way. We have indoctrinated the idea to fear and hate those that are different from us. Subjugate them before they subjugate or destroy us. I can understand that skeptical and cynical approach to being in the world. And to be frankly honest, it is a far easier shift to getting to the terrible side of these scenarios than it is to the side I would really prefer things to be. Because hate is a far easier emotion to embrace.

As a young boy, I was taught by my parents to hide my affectionate side. It was considered to be a showing of weakness because you openly showed tenderness and caring for others. I played sports – soccer, baseball, and even some American football. I was taught to “hate” the other side. To “destroy” them on the field of play. That aggressive perspective was not be shunned, but to embraced – to be held on to tightly – to be utilized in a “win at all costs” mentality. Fair play? What was that? There are only winners and losers. And then the momentum shifted in the other direction. Everyone got a trophy for participating. An emphasis on “fair” play was made. Everyone was provided the perspective of being equal, regardless of whether they won or not. And some of that has been brought forward by this up and coming generation.

For me, that is where my hope is placed. I do not understand this younger generation, but I am warmed by their embrace of all as equals. Their protest methodologies make me cringe at times, but their goals are admirable in my opinion. And as they try, they sometimes fail. And from those failures, they learn, they adapt, and they grow. And perhaps, it is their efforts that have brought about Tower time. They are pushing at the base of the Tower and have started to make it sway. They are aiming to make changes. They WANT to make changes. Perhaps, it is their efforts to shake the foundations that have brought out the racists in our society into the open. After all, the shape of our current, modern society does have racist aspects to certain legal points. Definitely food for thought, don’t you think?

The Storm is here, that is for certain. Is it a hurricane gale slamming the coastline of our society? Not likely, from where I sit. But it certainly is a bad thunderstorm, where flooding will be prevalent. Our neighbors will need our help getting through all of this. We will need to help pull them from the swollen creeks, and help shelter them during their time of need. End of the world? Not really. Our world will be changing from all the turmoil we are seeing. However, unexpected change can bring unexpected results, so the shape of things yet to come remains hidden behind the curtains of heavy rain. And while I am hopeful of what the outcome may be – I still carry my staff and my sword – hoping I never need to unsheath the one, and only need to use the other to reach further into the rushing waters to help others.   –T /|\

What Happens After the #Storm?

If you take a peek back through my posts, you will find a lot of musings on the coming #Storm. I have heard it whispered about in my dreams, in my meditations, and even on quiet walks in the woods in various places around the country. And every single time, there’s no one around whispering it into my ear. But the whispers are always there, warning of danger; extolling the need of others to find protection from the elements of the coming #Storm.

There were warnings that it was to arm, and prepare to defend. And then the familiar stench of racism and nationalism could be discerned on the political winds of the country. People who did not fit a stereo-typical paradigm of white, straight conservatives wound up feeling the leading edges of the #Storm – vulnerable, afraid, alone. The election of Donald Trump provided the momentary courage for the attacks on others. Legislation that protected our environment was removed with the stroke of a pen. The #Storm has arrived.

Let’s be clear, the #Storm is not Donald Trump. His appearance on the world stage is merely a symptom. Nationalism, the marginalization of minority groups in race, religion, gender – these are the elements of the #Storm that are more galvanizing. An extreme shift away from inclusive concepts such as globalism has occurred and continues to gather strength. And in some manners, there’s not much of a chance for change. Entering into the #Storm certainly presents a bleak future. As a matter of discourse, I offer the following speech by Hugh Laurie’s character – Governor Nix – from the movie “Tomorrowland”:

Let’s imagine… if you glimpsed the future, you were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? You would go to… the politicians, captains of industry? And how would you convince them? Data? Facts? Good luck! The only facts they won’t challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in. But what if… what if there was a way of skipping the middleman and putting the critical news directly into everyone’s head? The probability of widespread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn’t be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they’ve ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse. But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you. You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint! In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because *that* future does not ask anything of you today. So yes, we saw the iceberg and warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink! You gave up!  –Governor Nix, Tomorrowland

A lot of what is said here makes certain, crystal-clear sense. Well, except for the fictional Monitor sending messages to the world about the destruction of the planet. Though, as an answer to what is really going on in the world around us, it is a tempting concept. And it would certainly draw up a line of what is definitely right and wrong with the world. Except that its not the answer.

But it does provide a momentary pause. What does a world after the #Storm look like? Or is the #Storm never ending? A miasma that cannot be Febreeze’d out of the carpet and furniture? We dwell on how the #Storm affects us at this moment in time. And as the speech denotes, its a rather easy moment to handle. Nothing is asked of us, aside from huddling for shelter or providing protection. Have we given up on a better future, and therefore cannot find a moment of hope of what *might* be?

How can we combat concepts such as Nationalism, Racism, Gender Bias, prejudice?? These attitudes are deeply ingrained into people’s psyches and makeup. We fear and shun those that are different than we are. And when fearing and shunning doesn’t work, we actively work to demean those that are different. After all, if we can dehumanize people that are different, we might be able to rationalize our inappropriate behaviors towards them. History is replete with examples of this. The Nazi regime’s treatment of those that didn’t fit the uber-mensch concept. The American government’s treatment of First Nations peoples – both then and now – to rationalize the theft and degradation visited upon those First Nations peoples. And that’s only two examples off the top of my head. How do we change mindsets that believe that way?

To be honest, I am not completely sure how. But there has to be a response. Not one of violence, at least not initially. Reasoning and logic are the first weapons of choice. And violence should only be used if violence is utilized against us first. Changing mind’s doesn’t come through bashing skulls, it comes through conversations, discussions, and yes – even debates. The second step should be made through conversation, providing facts to dispel myths and propaganda. Common ground needs to not only be found, and explored – but also cultivated.

Oh?  The first step?  Exactly what we are doing now. Protecting, sheltering, standing up where others cannot. What happened on the train in Portland, Oregon is a prime example of this. Three men stood up to an individual who was threatening two women over their “muslim” clothing. Two of them died at the attacker’s hand for doing this. They did not die in vain. Nor should their actions be diminished. They stood between those two women and the #Storm. As they should have. As any of us that can protect others would have.

What happens when the #Storm passes?  And it will pass. Any #Storm passes. What will the world be like? What might we be able to re-accomplish when the air clears? I really wonder how many folks have thought about what happens when the #Storm passes. Or are we all focused on the now, because it asks nothing of us at this moment?? I know the future I would like to see when the #Storm moves on. What about you??

 

Debate, Argument, Bickering – Do We Really Have Time For This??

That one isn’t Pagan enough to be Pagan. That one isn’t liberal enough to be a Liberal. She’s not woman enough to be a woman. They’re not enough of this to be that. He’s too much of this to be that. ::big sigh:: And on and on it goes.

Online debates, particularly within Facebook, are some of the most inane things I have ever seen. One side gathers up the “evidence” to determine if the other side is enough of this to be that. And when the other side is “proven” to not be enough of this to be that, what started is a difference of opinion on what a definition meant becomes a curtain of insults that mirror the coverage of arrows fired from the archers of the XIX Legio when battling the tribes of Germania. And a discussion turns from debate to fractious battles of one group against another. A veritable contest to see who can piss further up the hill – neither aware that the ammunition will eventually run down the slope to envelope their toes and ankles.

Perhaps its symptomatic of a need to find shelter during the time of the #Storm. We push others out of the way so that we find cover from the lightning and the wind – not worrying about whether that individual makes it out of the #Storm as well. Survival instinct is a well known concept. And some people are known to practice self-survival over all else. But then, how can an online discussion of a topic become something akin to a need for survival? For me, this makes no sense.

A need to be right all the time? Thus achieving the medal for knowledge? I have known people like this too. I have even “debated” (if you could call any form of communication with this type of individual a “debate”) this type of individual, back in the asynchronous days of online communication on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and I know, my age – much like my slip – is showing). No matter how many times you showcased a different way of looking at a topic, the other side would find some manner of discrediting (at least in their eyes) that methodology or perspective.

I remember a particularly difficult exchange on The Church Mouse BBS, which was run out of Arlington, Texas back in the day. There were three protagonists on the system: myself (a Pagan), an Aetheist, and a Chassidic Jew. Against dozens of Christians, mostly Southern Baptist types. No matter the discussion, everything eventually wound down to a perspective that the three of us did not accept Jesus ben Joseph as Lord and Savior of this world. We could have discussed the results of the Super Bowl, and someone would eventually wind the discussion into the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. Being rather young – and a little too fervent – in my Pagan beliefs, I would argue with extreme zeal. My goal? Back then, I am not sure what in the Nine Hells I was trying to accomplish – except maybe to just be a spur in the side of some Christians. Maybe even to “win” an argument. Now, nearly thirty years later, I doubt I would even wade further than my initial statement that I am a Pagan, believe in many Gods and Goddesses, and am quite happy and content walking the Path that I am on. Past that point, I have no need or desire to defend who or what I am to anyone else but me. So I doubt I would have carried on in those conversations (ha!) for too long.

Of course, that is boring as all can be. There would be no interest in anything for that discussion. So what would be left? Back in those days, I would have booted up Aces! on my Amiga and flown World War I combat missions until I felt a need to do something else. These days? I would pick up one of many books I have on my “to-read” shelf, put some Jazz on the XM radio channel, and poured myself a nice glass of Bushmill’s whiskey with a couple of ice cubes. Or I would strap on my tennis shoes, grab my staff, and go for a walk. Or I would go outside to the stone circle, and spend some time communing with my Gods and Goddess (Crow, Coyote, Fliodhais). Or any number of other things I have on my task list of stuff to do.

And that is the rub, is it not? We spend our time arguing over who is enough this to be that. Or what those mean or not. We piss up the hill to see who has the better stream, unaware that when it comes back down the slope – we wind up smelling like piss. We argue about who should be allowed into our shelter from the #Storm, and who should have to face the wrath of the wind and rain – totally forgetting that we are all human, regardless of our beliefs, or how we individually approach the Gods.

Thinking back, I wonder what kind of Pagan those Christians thought I was? I met a few of them face-to-face over the years. They seem to be the same blood and water-filled meat-sacks that I am. They have the same fears about living in the world we are in. They have the same desire to interface to the best of their ability with their God as I do with mine. We all face the same #Storm. To survive it, we are going to have to find some kind of common ground and work together.

Or maybe not. Maybe we should fight among each another. After all, we divide and sub-divide ourselves quite well. We humans are good at that. And taken separately, one at a time, we are definitely easier to control and defeat.

Me? I will shelter anyone that needs to be sheltered from the #Storm. I only hope that others will do the same for me, if that need ever arises.

 

Sometimes a Path Is Not Well Marked

Thanks to Donnie, it has been an “interesting” few days since he has decided to remove the United States from the Paris Accords on Climate Change. I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of either Donnie’s actions or the Accords. For what little it is worth, I support the Accords, and would prefer that the United States had remained within that agreement. But that’s not the case. What has made this interesting – at least to me – is that some States’ Governors, and city mayors have decided that the areas under their control would continue to uphold the agreements within the Accords, even with the President pulling the nation out of the agreement. Any effort by a federal government to deter these individuals from doing so may call into question the “sacrament” of states’ rights into the matter. A particularly thorny issue, since it is upheld by many conservatives as being just as “holy” within the fabric of the United States’ existence as the Constitution. But all of that is stepping off the Path I am intending for this post.

Within this particular political moment, lays an interesting lesson, of sorts. Honestly, its a very simple concept, as well – providing your own leadership; stepping forward to grab hold of the reins. Yes, even when you do not feel particularly “qualified” or “experienced” to be the one doing so. And as Pagans, we should be more than understanding of this entire concept of going it alone, when necessity calls.

I have been there this more than once. Back when I was part of a group of Pagans – all of varying faiths and perspectives within Paganism – I found myself stepping up to a leadership role, not because I wanted it. As a group we needed leadership that took all aspects of the group into account, and didn’t feel the need to label all of us as “Wiccans” for the sake of argument and discussion to the outside world. As a solo Pagan, I have had to become my own leader – an odd concept for a group of one – but a leader nonetheless. And as a member of a worldwide Druidic Order, I find myself taking stances and positions on issues that sometimes seem counter to what might be the same one within the Order.

Sometimes, doing so can seem to be a bit rebellious or forcing one’s self to be separate from a group. And while true, my differences on a position with other members of my Order does not nullify the fact that I am a member of the Order. At the core of who I am, I am still an OBOD Druid. I may change up ritual frameworks to suit my own needs and/or desires, but the core of the framework is always there. These governors and mayors are changing the rules where they are concerned, but it doesn’t make them any more or any less Americans. They are doing what they feel is right, and shouldering the mantle of leadership within Climate Change because they feel that it is an important issue that should be addressed within governmental policies, and because they are stepping into that void of leadership that Donnie has chosen to create.

Sure. I hear the statements – “if you are going to be an OBOD Druid, why amend things like ritual framework? Why not just stop being an OBOD Druid and do it all your own way?” Or, from the political side, “If the President says that we should not be part of the Climate Accords, then that’s the end of it all.” Well, the answer to both have the same root. I choose to amend ritual frameworks so that it is something I am comfortable with. I am not abandoning the framework, just changing the wording to something that feels more comfortable and familiar to me. Part of ritual is to be comfortable and relaxed. If you are approaching your Gods like you have a stick in your ass, its likely that you will not be taken seriously or be properly reverent as you keep your cheeks clinched together to keep the stick from falling out. Thus the change to wording. Thus the change to whatever aspect that does not feel “right”. Now, if the whole thing did not feel “right” — then would be the time to think about checking out and finding something else. I did that with Wicca back in 1990. As for the governors and mayors, remember – Donnie didn’t declare the Accords to be illegal, merely that the United States would not enforce the measures. The Governors and Mayors are choosing to follow the measures outlined by the Accords. They are not violating laws. They are enhancing their own state and local ordinances to follow the Paris Climate Accords. No violation of the law. Sure, they are partly thumbing their noses at the President, but there’s no law against that either. At least not yet.

So, in this time of the #Storm, it certainly is interesting to see where leadership is coming from, and just who is stooping down to pick up the offending gauntlet. In my experience, leaders are not born. Leaders are made. And sometimes, those who are just trying to clear a path by removing the offending gauntlet from their line of footfalls…can instead find themselves in an unlikely position of being thrust to the front of the column. Trying times with unexpected obstacles tend to create a white-hot fire that forges an individual into a position of leadership, even when they do not want the title, the responsibilities, or the resultant outcomes. And somehow, they wind up being the most appropriate individual at the most inopportune moment.

Rest and Re-Evaluation – Part of my Self-Healing Process

Coming to the end of the Julian calendar, there’s a similar desire to look back as there is during Samhain. And this calendar year has been outright crazy – particularly towards the end of it. The beginning of the year was the strongest warnings that the Storm was coming. The middle of the year saw the Storm’s arrival. The end of the year has seen the start of its Rage begin. And the events seem to be endless….

The election of a complete moron as President. The formulation of #Brexit in England. The flip-flopping of Canada’s leadership on protecting the environment and seemingly to turn its back on the First Nations’ populations as well. The continuing dramatic issues at the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The criminal issues set forth by the state government of North Dakota against those same protesters. The lack of action or statement from the United States’ federal government. The naked aggression by white supremacists throughout the United States. And now, the notation that Russia may have altered the Presidential elections to some degree via international hacking, coupled with the inept response of the newly anointed President (who still remains #notMyPresident). If this were a boxing match, it would literally be one body blow after another, as we are too slow to put up any effective defense.

For me, all of this gets added onto mounting pressures at work (work-flow in my office begins to pick up from this point through the end of May), and my push to finish up my Bardic studies within the next month. With a trip to Ireland coming rapidly, and followed in quick succession with a trip to San Jose (Pantheacon), a trip to south central Texas (ADF Imbolc Retreat), and OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, my trip anxiety is starting to build as well. Anyone that knows me well enough, is aware that I am not the world’s best traveller. So the anxiety levels are only going to increase as the days for the trips grows closer. At some point, I knew there was going to be a moment that required me to ramp everything down, pile everything into a corner, and re-prioritize. I honestly did not think that was going to happen this soon.

Over the years, I have learned to recognize the signs of when I am getting overwhelmed. Many people at work think I am already overwhelmed, as I race from one issue to the next to the next. I figured after working with me for more than two years, they would understand that this is the way that I actually work. Were I not getting ANYTHING done, then they would be able to say I am overwhelmed. But, apparently, neither discernment nor connectivity is a strong point of any of these folks. Perhaps, that’s why I am there. Druidry taught me more about those two concepts than anything else in my life. And currently, I am overwhelmed. I am getting nothing finished, and have several projects open before me with no discernible progress being made anywhere. So it only seemed to be the right thing to do this morning…as I brought a stop to everything.

My first step in this process was to make a mental note last night when I went to bed, to start the entire process of checking things over. This meant that my first “awake” moment was to be before the sunrise occurred. Making a cup of coffee, slipping on some shoes, and heading outside to the stone circle constituted this first step. This is my typical first step with my morning ritual, but I have fallen out of the habit of doing this, simply because I have been trying to pack so much into a single day. This means I was staying up very, very late – working on various things. Unlike last night, I have been going to sleep later and later in the night, which culminates with my waking later and later as well.

So as I stood there by the circle, which is currently overgrown with tall grass since I have not had the chance to mow, I started realizing what had been happening. Staying up later, not mowing the yard as often as I normally do, missing out on the morning sun rise – I had been cutting out things I noted as being “routine” in my life. But none of that is routine. My backyard is my sanctuary from the rest of the world.  Caring for it is part of my connecting with it. I had gotten away from that. Greeting the sunrise is a part of my connection to the world around me. I had started missing out on this when I had been bringing data studies home with me to work on. My work days got longer. My time spent writing had taken a slight backseat to all of that, which pushed that to later in the evening. That found me going to sleep after midnight, which had me waking earlier. That had me groggy at work, which meant that I did not get as much completed as I had wanted to by the end of the day, and I took work home to complete…and that just helped continue a cycle I had increasingly accepted as “routine” – which it should never have been.

I am not going to beat myself up too much over it. After all, I am human – I make mistakes just like anyone else. But it showed that I was putting emphasis where it should not have belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I am committed to the students of the college. However, Assessment Analyst is my job, its not who I am. Its what I do to earn money to survive in the capitalist world around me. Whether I like to admit it or not, I am a Druid, a Pagan, a Priest – and that is what defines me for who I am. And as I stood there out by the overgrown stone circle, staring over the fence at the light fog of the morning; I could feel talons digging into my right shoulder, an arm encircling my waist from the opposite side, and a cold, wet nose nudging my right hand. My trio of Gods reminding me of just that.

There were no stern warnings. No harsh statements of how much of a failure I was. Only a reminder that I needed to get back onto the Path. That instead of examining the trees and flora around me; I needed to continue down the Path of being who I am. Particularly on the days and times I am not obligated to the paying job. I did not need to take up each and every moment of time away from work with studies, rituals, and meditation. I needed to do these things as I could, remembering to take the time to relax and restore myself back to who I am. That there were days where I needed to take for myself – to relax with coffee or a glass of iced tea and relax. To spend time reading, rather than ensconced in front of the computer. To spend time self healing, just as I have set in my schedule of workouts on the stationary bike. Muscles need a break from exercising too, so they can heal. I’m no different in that regard.

So a good part of this morning has been spent reallocating aspects of life into appropriate places and time frames. And reminding myself of the steps that need to be taken. This morning has also been a gentle reminder that every once in awhile, things need to come to a stop, and reflection and reorganization needs to happen. In Project Management, that is typically referred to as a “Post Mortem” or a “Re-Evaluation”, where a project is stopped, and each task gets checked on to see how the processes are being handled. Then, if necessary, a new formulation of the tasks and associated processes is made, and a new timeline published. Its this concept of Re-Evaluation that I am realizing needed to be done this morning. And while the results were not necessarily ideal, a better understanding of the overall scope, and what needs to be done can be seen far better now. And for me, the rest of the day is a time to rest, and relax. Knowing that the processes and forward progress begin anew tomorrow. One day at a time, one step at a time, one task at a time.

(Photo taken by, and thanks to, John Beckett at 2015 ADF Imbolc at UBarU Retreat near Mountain Home, Texas)

The Storm and Our Tribe

Each day, I read news events that continue to reinforce the arrival of the edges of the coming Storm. The individual attack in Nice, France. The attempted overthrow of the elected government in Turkey. And with the upcoming Republican convention in Cleveland – I have no doubt that there will be more to be heard. But that’s just a fact of our hyper-sensitive media coverage of events that happen around the world.

There’s no bone of contention from where I sit. The Storm has arrived. My Dream Crows continue to remind me that this is just the start, that there is more to come, and that it will be worse. How bad? I’m not completely sure. I don’t think anyone can be. Besides, trying to determine what is “bad” and the level of measuring that “bad” versus other “bad” depends greatly on individual perception.

But I have had dreams, which I hope do not come to any degree of fruition. In one, I found a Pagan family on my doorstep, running from the authorities who were going to prosecute them over not practicing a Christian faith in their particular state. The feel of the dream was very similar in feel to the over-arching story in the Gods-awful “Left Behind” books I read well over a decade ago. In the dream, I took the family in, and then stood my ground in my own front yard against these “authorities” with nothing more in my hand than my staff.

How true the reality of all that is, I am not sure. But it certainly brings to mind times such as the late 1930s and early 1940s, where families risked everything to hide their Jewish neighbors from the Nazi Gestapo in mainland Europe. It even brings to mind, the concepts of the Underground Railroad, where slaves were brought from the South into northern states during the period just before the American Civil War. And I began to wonder, how many Pagans would hide others from the claws of an oppressive regime that would utilize religion as a litmus test for “desired” or “undesired” status.

Think I am overblowing the situation? Consider this: late this past week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a statement on a television show about providing a litmus test against all Muslims here in the United States. If an individual professed adherence to Sharia Law, Gingrich suggested that the individual and their family should be expelled from the United States. Even if they were lawful, tax-paying citizens here. Mr. Gingrich is a very astute student of World History, and I respect his knowledge and interpretation of historical events greatly. However, I have difficulty finding respect for a statement like this, particularly when it smacks so closely to the pogroms that Adolf Hitler instituted against the Jews throughout Europe. Removing people from a “desirable” pool of citizens, simply because they adhere to the laws contained within their own belief systems is – dare I say – completely un-American in nature.

America is a land built upon the idea that each individual has inherent worth. America is built on the idea that you can think differently from others, and voice that difference publicly, without fear of being injured or killed. I will submit that Mr. Gingrich is certainly entitled to his opinion on what should be done about the potential threat of “sleeper-cells” of Muslims here in the United States, but that his call for actions can be limited under what is correct in our laws – particularly those that are built in within the Constitution of this country.

Would you take in a persecuted family – pick any faith or reason for their persecution – and protect them from the authorities? I know that I would. My Druidry teaches me that every individual has value in our environment. That the loss of one individual will affect the world around me in a way that is not replaceable. And that protecting those that need protection, and providing aid to those that need assistance is the right thing to do. Protecting their right to practice as they need to under their Spiritual beliefs is the ethical thing to do. Would you do that as well??

Before you answer, let me provide one more voice of thought. My friend, John Beckett, wrote a blog post concerning some of this a while back. I will quote him from that post:

Build your tribe. You aren’t going to survive this alone. And at the risk of sounding like a Libertarian, do not assume the government or government-run programs will take care of you. For centuries, families and communities took care of each other. Not nuclear families (a mid-20th century American perversion designed to make every man a king so he’d buy a “castle” in the suburbs), but extended families – several generations living in the same house, with other relatives living close enough to drop in on a moment’s notice.

The automobile and the rise of hyperindividualism killed the extended family. We aren’t going to undo that in our lifetimes, unless the curve of the Long Descent is a lot steeper than I expect. If you’re part of a good, well-functioning extended family, consider yourself fortunate… and don’t alienate them. For the rest of us, find the people who will be your family of choice and start developing those close ties now. That means you give your share toward the collective good. Ideally, everyone gives more than their share.

Include your spiritual allies: the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of your tradition, your family, and your location. This isn’t complicated: honor them on a regular basis, and when they speak (in dreams, in divination, in intuition, in synchronicities…) listen to them.

–John Beckett, “Something Bad Isn’t Coming, It’s Here

John is very, very right. My family is scattered far and wide throughout the United States, Europe and the Pacific Rim. Some of them, I can reach easily enough. Some of them, it would take a lot more effort to get there. But they are my family. They are my tribe. When they have need, I will be there as best as I can for them. Just as I would be there for a stranger that had a similar need. For me, the only way that I need to divide the world into an Us v. Them grouping, is if you wish to harm people solely based on whether they agree with what you believe or not.

Now, more than ever, we need to reach out and support our family – however you define it. If we are going to weather this Storm, we have to do it together, not individually.

–T /|\