Cleaning My Daily Filter…

There’s so much going on in the news – the downing of an airline in the Ukraine, Israel going into ground-invasion mode on the terrorists in Gaza, and the border issues to the south of me along the Texas/Mexico border. I have my opinions on each of these pieces in the news, but that’s not why I am writing this. No, this is about something a little different. See, there’s more in the news than just this. There’s more localized news about shootings and robberies – there’s other news about police in Florida being fingered as members of the Ku Klux Klan. There’s news about companies laying off employees for this or that reason. And there’s always the under-belly of the internet’s rumor mill, where people cannot give up their favorite conspiracy theory. The President’s birth wasn’t in the United States. He’s trying to turn America into a Socialist country. This politician is doing this wrong thing. Etcetera, etcetera. And all of these stories have a common theme – they’re all negative in nature.

Seriously. You listen to the people who report these stories, read the stories in print and on the internet, listen to the digital denizens fight and argue amongst themselves over this or that point – its nearly to the point of shouting at the walls of your house: “ENOUGH ALREADY!” And to be perfectly serious – it is enough.

For the last three years, I have spent a large amount of time and energy trying to locate a news agency that just reports the news. My result? A lot of wasted time and energy. Every single news agency I came across not only spins the news they “report” in a manner that reflects their desired political perspective – they all lead with sensationalized news headlines. It seems that the old adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” is a time-honored and very true axiom of our news coverage. Since I could not find any news agency that did not spin and twist the news like a tired balloon animal – I finally locked down to the idea of limiting the amount of time I spend watching and reading the news. One of the prime catalysts for me was the story of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet. The coverage started to cycle on a 24/7 coverage of speculation, drama-filled coverage of grieving family and friends of the people on-board…and I had my fill. Every third or fourth day, I would click on a story on the coverage – just to be caught up on what had happened to that point. With the rest of the news, I spend less than thirty minutes of my day reading the news now – and have become very selective on what I will read during that time.

For me, the same held true for conversations, and the endless debates on this or that aspect. I do read and participate in debates and discussions on the internet, but when the tone becomes contentious or the points being made become circular – I bow out. The result is that I have found participating even less in many “conversations” I would normally have stepped into with both feet. And when I do make a statement, I think carefully over what I am about to submit, and look at whether I am adding anything to the conversation other than a “me too!”. A few friends have noticed this, and asked what was up – when I made note of this particular approach, I noticed that they started to do the same thing. Oh, I still participate in the fun-filled joking that I have always been a part of – its a part of my personality, and frankly if it brings a smile to the other person’s face – it certainly accomplished that momentary mission.

I am certainly not advocating everyone to start looking for ways to remove the negative influence in their lives so that they can start farting rainbows with every step. There’s always going to be bad moments, bad days, and bad news. Nothing is ever going to change that, but I can limit how much of all that stuff I let filter into my daily interactions with people. Or to quote from Styx:

Keeping my mind on a better life
Where happiness is only a heartbeat away
Paradise, can it be all I heard it was
I close my eyes and maybe I’m already there

What About the Gods?

I read a lot of stuff about Technology. In some form or fashion, over the past quarter century, I have been employed in some manner associated with the field of Technology. I am a blogger.  I am a podcaster.  I noodle around with musical instruments and mixing sounds on my iMac. In the classroom, I teach students how to look at this technology as a tool that will allow them to reach into the future for what they dream about. And oddly enough, I follow a Belief System that holds a high reverence for things “natural”. There are no Gods of Technology. There’s no Patron Deity for the CPU. I feel just as “at home” and “comfortable” in a mainframe environment, as I do when I am out walking in a deeply forested area or hiking in the mountains. What a delightfully odd dichotomy.

So, with a focus on technology – it only stands to reason that I read a lot of technology blogs, articles and books. I also have a handful of video bloggers that I watch and listen to. One of these is Nixie Pixel – an extremely intelligent Linux advocate. She runs a very interesting and compelling Video Blog which has a lot of discussion on how Linux newbies can get started down that road. However, she also poses very interesting questions – such as one that came a few days ago:

Looking back on your career, twenty or thirty years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished?

I read this, and brushed over the question as something mildly interesting. But, my little Elf that resides in the background of my brain kept pushing the topic back at me. Why did it have to just be my career? What about my life? Long after I pass on beyond the veil, what would I hope people say about me?

Now, I am not a person that likes headlines. I prefer to be somewhere slightly out of sight – able to work in the background and make a difference, but rarely known for what it is that I have done. I am a part of my local Pagan community – but a very small part of it. Most local folks would have difficulty picking me out of a lineup. The same holds true for the Pagan community in the online environment. Yet, I do run a podcast – and have been podcasting for quite some time. I write openly in this blog. So, occasionally I do place myself out in the sunlight for people to read and hear.

So, I attempted to figure out just what I hoped people would say about me thirty years from now. Or even ten years after I pass along the Path beyond the veil. And I am still at a loss for words. Perhaps, I would hope that people might say that listening to my podcasts and/or reading my blogs, that they found information that was helpful to them on their own Path. Perhaps there’s more than just a sliver of truth in that statement, but I honestly don’t see that as a driving force in my Life. So like anything else, I turn this over and over in my brain – trying to see it in a different light or perspective.

Last night, on Facebook, I saw a share of a link from John Beckett. He was sharing a link to a Patheos post from Niki Whiting entitled “Avoiding the Gods“. In prefacing his share of the link, he pointed towards a concept of “one’s Great Work”. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and read Whiting’s article. I wasn’t nearly as enthralled with the post as John was, but it certainly started me embracing the idea of looking at a different direction to try and answer Nixie’s question.

What if my focus on who would be talking about me in the future is the wrong point? I do write these blog posts to allow others to see where my thinking is – and hopefully be a signpost towards something to try or something to avoid for others. But perhaps that is not the focal point I should be asking myself. Again, I come back to one my troubleshooting skills that has served me quite well over the years — taking a problem and rotating it, trying to see it from a different perspective. And it suddenly came to me like a bolt in one of my dreams last night.

Yes, I do write about my dreams. I keep a pen and a notebook in the nightstand next to me, so I can write the moment I wake up. And if I find myself too groggy to do so – I grab my iPhone and make a voice memo to myself. And sometimes, the memory of what I dreamed about burns bright in my mind, long after I wake up. This is one of those particular moments.

Crow in Trinidad, CO

Crow in Trinidad, CO

The setting – which is my own internal Grove of the Heart, a place that I have created for myself to help facilitate meditations – was an extremely familiar location. Normally, this is where I encounter my Dream Crows – a flock of Crows that inhabit nearly every dream and meditation I have had. I have taken to affectionately calling them “the Squadron.” Normally, I encounter them here, but not in the dream last night. I found a shaggy looking man, with a close cropped goatee (I know – weird imagery) standing in the middle of my Grove of the Heart – waiting for me. he has a cloak made of bird feathers of all kinds, and is leaning on a very tall staff topped with the skull of some small animal. On his head is a helmet or cap of some sort with tall deer antlers. When he speaks its almost in a hoarse whisper. And after his singular statement, he turns and walks into the nearby woods, slowly disappearing from my sight.

What about the Gods?

Sitting here and typing this…I am still getting shivers from recalling this moment. Shortly after he disappeared, I woke up in a cold sweat, grabbed my iPhone and repeated the scenario I have just typed for you to read here.

Indeed.  What about the Gods? I realize that it really does not matter what anyone is going to say about me – five minutes from now, five years from now, thirty years from now. If my words inspire others to travel their own Paths, that’s great. But that’s not the point. The point is that I live my Life here in this environment to make some difference for those that can get something from my words, but also to be an extension of the Gods – Crow, Coyote, Lugh, and any others that wish to take a hand in my existence. I am here to be one of the many that help do Their works, in whatever manner they want.

In thirty years time…five minutes from now…ten years after I pass beyond the veil from this existence – it does not matter what people will say about me.  I hope that whatever it is, that the people are kind and loving about what they may say…but what truly matters is what I do for the Gods in my Life. Indeed, what about the Gods??

Rejecting the Past

Being a Pagan blogger and podcaster, I get a lot of contact with folks that are stepping onto their Pagan Paths for the first time, or have not been on the Path for a fairly long time. To be honest, it is refreshing to meet these folks. They are enthusiastic about their first steps, excited about connecting with their new found Spirituality, and it can be quite an intoxicating brew – even for someone like me who has been continually stepping along this path since the mid-1980s. However, one interesting side-effect that I have noticed is the manner in which their previous Path is shed. Sometimes in a very dramatic, and sudden ending.

Now, let me be clear here in the beginning: I am not saying that every single Pagan I encounter does this. Nor am I saying that this is necessarily “bad” or “good” — as with any experience, different people will have different needs and experiences. All of this is merely my own observations, which are definitely colored by my own experiences (obviously – since it is my opinion).

I have heard it before – this new Path [x] is far better than what I was experiencing when I was on [y] for reasons [a], [b], and [c]. Thus, I will completely reject Path [y] as being invalid from this day forth. While I understand this stance quite well, I sometimes find it mind-boggling. Perhaps, it might be better for me to relate my own personal experience here.

Growing up, my Spiritual upbringing was through a series of Catholic schools. My parents thought it would be better for me to get a private school education over a public school one. My parents were Methodists, but religion never played a key role in their lives, so their decision to bring me along this line of education had more to do with the more concentrated education side than it did with the Spiritual side. But Catholic schools do not allow you to move beyond the religious indoctrination one receives there, so I took classes on the Sacraments, Church History, Catholic Theology, and was required to attend Mass with the rest of my class once per month. I attended the classes, I listened, I even participated in a few of the Masses. It was not long that I knew this was not for me.

Once I graduated from high school, I immediately branched out to try and find another Path that was more suited to me. I attended and joined a Southern Baptist church. I enjoyed the fellowship of other folks, who were genuinely interested in who I was and what made me who I was. The social side of the church was an awesome thing. Singing with folks in the choir, bringing my version of toasted garlic bread to Spaghetti put-lucks, even sitting in the bed of a pickup truck in the freezing December cold, huddled under a mass of blankets with others so that we could sing Christmas carols – all of that was awesome. I even joined the softball team in a church league. The fellowship side was amazing. However, the hellfire and brimstone of the sermons was off-putting for me, as well as the theology of humans being doomed to an eternal punishment, simply because we are fallible, just never really resonated with me.

When I joined the Air Force, I decided to not attend any religious aspect. I felt that my Spirituality was something that I had to practice on my own – privately. I felt that there had to be more than just a singular God who was placed at the top of a Trinity, which was treated as a singular aspect. I felt the pull of Nature. I spent time outdoors, even in the hot Texas heat. I could not understand a doctrine that doomed the rest of the animals on the Earth to be nothing more than “stock” placed there for the usage of mankind by an angry, jealous God. Eventually, I stumbled into Paganism, and I found pieces – major pieces of the puzzle – that clicked.

In the first steps of my time on this Path – I completely rejected the Christian faith that I had been a part of. Not just the theology, but the entire aspect. It was wasted time in my eyes. And I will admit, I became very antagonistic towards people who mentioned that I had previously been Christian. What did they know? They needed to open their eyes and see the world for what it was. I lived that arrogant position for nearly a decade.

Eventually, as I was starting to explore the ideas of theology on my own, I started to see similarities between my older positions of faith, and my continual expansion and exploration on my Pagan Path. And the realization eventually was made – I never truly left those particular beliefs completely behind. Sure, I do not believe the divinity aspect of the Christian faith, I see more than one singular aspect of “God”. But that does not mean that all those people who follow that aspect are wrong. They are right for themselves. Its what works for them. But there are parts of their practices and faiths that I have continually held on to: helping others, fostering the sense of “community”, finding charity in my heart for others who are currently in the rocky stretches of their lives – even when its just a smile, and a hug.

That’s right. My understanding of compassion, humility, and my expressions of hope for the better parts of human beings comes from my steps on the Christian Path. And it took me the better part of fifteen years to understand that this never left me. No, embracing these ideals is not going to make me a Christian again. In fact, these same ideals can be found throughout our wider-ranging Pagan community. Here in DFW, one only has to look at the outpouring of our Pagan community through the Food Drive and the Blood Drive that happened during Pagan Pride Day in October of last year. Nor will embracing where these ideals initially took their root in my Life is not going to make me a Christian nor will it invalidate the Path that I am currently on.

Like any Path that we walk, its merely a collection of the steps that got us to where we currently are. Without my steps on the Christian Path, my feet would likely have not brought me to the Pagan Path where I currently am. Or maybe it would have at some point. I can’t say for sure. All I can do is acknowledge where I walked before, and where I am walking now.

Stopping Along the Path

Every so often, I feel the need to bring myself to a short stop – and take inventory of where I am, as well as where I have come from. Over the last two years, it certainly feels like I have been doing a lot more of this.

I stepped on to this Pagan Path back in 1986. The month was sometime in April or May – I’m not quite sure, but I do know that in a little under two years, I will have been following this Spiritual Path for thirty years. Later that same year, I will turn 51. That’s quite a long time – and most of my life, and the vast majority of my “adult” life.

A little while ago, I wrote a post titled “Yes, I am a Priest”, where I discussed for a bit how I am realizing that I do embody aspects of what the title of ‘Priest’ entails. While this particular notion is rather commonplace for other Pagans, this was a profound watershed moment for me. I have consistently avoided applying the title to myself, since I never considered what I was practicing within my own personal Spirituality to be that of ritual clergy. As I noted in that blog posting, I found that there was another way of seeing things, which made the application quite appropriate for me.

When I started on my Path, the only formal training I had received came in the form of two Rainbow Years with two different Wiccan traditions: Isian and American Tradition of the Goddess. I never truly understood why I never progressed beyond the Rainbow years in either – except that I knew that what I had learned was not “right” for me. The rest of my knowledge came from reading, and discussing material from these books with other Pagans. A few years back, I started the Bardic Grade for the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – a program I am still working through and plan to finish by the end of this calendar year. And most recently, I took up a year-long course with another Druid Path.

Oddly enough, it’s the culmination of these two different courses together that are really informing me of what I am, why Druidry is the correct Path to be on, and what it all undertreemeans to me personally. Some of the things that I have eschewed and avoided are being shown to me as being the missing pieces of the puzzle for me to understand the whys related to all of that. Aside from the silly diversion of avoiding the title of Priest in relation to what I am learning, there has been my precise avoidance of Magick, and my embrace of impromptu, spur-of-the-moment ritual over organized ritual.

Both Magick and organized Ritual are aspects that I am starting to embrace. Remember, I have been nearly thirty years on my personal Path – and most of it has been done while trying to avoid these aspects. In a manner of speaking, I can be considered something akin to a wilding – or as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term: “not domesticated or cultivated”. If you prefer, a better term might be ‘unstructured’.

So here I sit, noting that these pieces related to structure and titles are only recent finds. When I snap these into place in my Spiritual Puzzle, I can see the connection between these aspects and what I already know and practice, as well as connections to areas I had never quite understood. And all that is thanks to two programs of studies that I am currently in, as well as books such as Emma Restall Orr’s “The Wakeful World” which have all informed me of the importance of understanding these missing pieces, as well as the connection these have to my own current practices and understanding.

Nearly thirty years. And I only now understand this relatively novice-related concept at this point. Which makes this a bit of a personal checkpoint for me. Did I not learn this because I was being stubborn about doing things my own way? Was I full of meaningless personal pride over this? Or perhaps, I just was not ready to move forward on this until just now? This is something I really need to spend some time and re-evaluate of who I am and what I have been doing. And I seem to be at an appropriate place and time within my life to do so.

Still, it shows me that there is always something to learn on this Spiritual Path I walk…no matter how much time I have put in here. Life is a long and winding trail of experiences – and there’s always a new experience just waiting up around the bend. I only have to open my mind, my senses, and my heart to touch those experiences.

My Trip to Cape Canaveral

It occurred to me this afternoon, that I had not written about my trip to Florida yet. So, I will take some time out here to do so. Every Summer, I take a trip to somewhere…just to get out of Denton, Texas (a little north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess) for a short while. Tow summers ago, it was a trip to Colorado – right at the height of the wildfires there. That was a wild trip to say the least. Last year, was a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana – with a stop in South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. This year, the choice was Orlando, Florida – with an emphasis on four days in the many Disney Theme Parks there – with a two single-day side-trips to Cape Canaveral.

I was not overly thrilled with the Disney aspect of the trip. Large crowds of people make me nervous. The four days in the various theme parks certainly emphasized that for me. And while the Cinderella Castle was certainly a beautiful site to see — I found myself enjoying the very first park we went to more than the others – Animal Kingdom. First off, there was plenty of shade. There were trees everywhere – which made VERY happy. There was a strong emphasis on conservation of wild places, and many other excellent explanations on why it is important to de-emphasis mankind’s footprint on the environment. And all of it was geared to small children. Of course, all of this I discussed in an earlier post describing my time in Disney during the Summer Solstice. Its the side trip I wanted to focus on here. The trip to Cape Canaveral, and encountering the Shuttle Atlantis in its final resting place as a static display.

My very first sight of Space Shuttle Atlantis

My very first sight of Space Shuttle Atlantis

The various buildings that make up the displays at the Visitor’s Complex are all quite interesting.  Well, maybe all of them except the Angry Birds: Space exhibit. Then again, it wasn’t something geared to someone of my age. Standing outside the massive building that houses the Shuttle is a mock-up of the booster rockets that the Shuttle gets strapped to. To enter the building, you walk under this display and into the front doors, where you start your travel up a series of ramps to an entry room, where you watch a video about Atlantis. And then, the doors open dramatically, and you are staring right at the Shuttle’s nose. As someone who champions the ideals of NASA, it was a very emotional moment for me. I seriously wiped a few tears away as I snapped my first photos of a real Space Shuttle. Mounted all around the shuttle are a lot of other displays, such as mock-ups of the consoles onboard, and a couple of astronaut spacesuits depicting a space walk above your heads. The amount of information and stuff to see is seriously overwhelming.

In the other buildings are a few displays of various parts of the United States

Space Mirror Memorial

Space Mirror Memorial

Space Program, as well as a very well-stocked tourist shop. There was even an astronaut there signing copies of her book…I did not get a book to sign, but managed to insert myself into a conversation she had with another person there concerning B-52 bombers. Aside from the Shuttle, the next heart-rending display that was there is a huge outdoor mirror that is in a secluded part of the complex – away from everything else. Its called the Space Mirror Memorial, and you can read more about it at the link. Its a very sobering moment to have at the site.

These folks are getting the Launch Control Facility ready for use by Commercial companies

These folks are getting the Launch Control Facility ready for use by Commercial companies

I took two of the tours – one that showcased the launch control facility – which was being refitted for commercial use by the folks of Dragon-X and several other companies. The other tour was of the space-launch pads, and we were taken past a Crawler that was used to transport Shuttles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pads. It was quite an impressive sight.

Do I recommend the trip there?  Whole-heartedly I do. Disney was nice. Canaveral was amazing. If you are not a Space Geek like me, your experience may be completely different. I am still in awe of what determination, dedication, guts, and a huge chunk of Awen can do.


Standing and Sitting – Answering Questions Posed in ‘Exercising Your Will’

In his blog post “Exercising Your Will“, John Beckett has a very thought provoking response to another blogger’s post. However, its not John’s response that I am going to try and tackle here – nor is this a response to the other blogger’s post something I am trying to tackle here. Its the very last part of John’s blog that has got me thinking – and essentially, writing here.

But if our beliefs mean something, if our experiences of the Gods are more than a pleasant interaction of brain chemistry, then we have a calling to manifest the kind of world we say we value.
What kind of world do you value?
What do your beliefs tell you to do?
What will you do to strengthen your will?

This is where my brain has taken me today. As well as yesterday. And probably tomorrow. And the day after that. Trying to answer these three questions will likely take all of that and more. Because it is that BIG.

RainWhat kind of world do I value? Well, there’s bits and pieces of what I value – all around me in the world today. And there are things that I have no value for at all, which have become larger and larger as the years continue to move by me. While I am not a fan of the political aspect that my own country has been over-whelmed with since the latter part of the Clinton administration – its not really the politics I have an issue with. Its the extreme divisions that I encounter between the politically right and left.

Shortly after I graduated from high school – thirty years ago – my wide-eyed, naive self saw a world that was opened up for those willing to work. No one worried about whether you were a progressive in your politics or how you voted. If you were willing to put in the work – you had a chance to move within the company. You made progress according to your merit. That still holds true to some degree nowadays, except that the first chance is rarely given to those who perceived of as “one of those people”. If you dare to declare an opinion of one shape or another – you are automatically lumped into one group or another. I cannot count the number of times I have been sneered at with derision over my statements that President Obama was an “ok” President. The feeling of anger that propelled those statements along was palpable. Nor can I count the number of times that I found myself staring at the backsides of people I consider to be friends, when I tried to explain the simple business principles that large corporations utilized to make decisions that were unpopular. Suddenly, I was part of the “System” or “one with the Man” – all because I was trying to explain a simple business principle. I wasn’t trying to pick a side on the issue – merely trying to add factual information to the narrative.

John’s query is a simple one – what kind of a world do I value? How about a world where communication – simple, honest, and open communication is a primary part of everything? Where people actually listen, and try to understand the other side of the discussion before firing retorts back? A world where discussions can be held without either side resorting to personal insults…again, where communication – REAL communication – is not only desired, but sought out amongst the participants.

I know that all sounds like pie in the sky stuff…and I honestly believe it is too. But I can dream, can’t I? And while I am at it – how about a few more things? I understand the need for profit margins, but when profit margins are over 25% – its the consumer that suffers. Why not have prices where companies make a decent profit margin – 15% – and keep the prices low enough for many families to be able to purchase goods? How about goods that aren’t all artificially sweetened? Or cooked in oils that make it unhealthy to eat? Yes, I understand the addictive nature of fast food. Been there, trying to kick the habit.

And then there’s the new religion of Consumerism. Or, keeping up with the Jones, if you want to go back a little further in time for another version of that catch-phrase. Up until the mid-1980s, we saved money…we lived in a recession, and learned to get by. We learned to grow gardens. We learned to share garden produce with neighbors so we could add variety to our diets. My family did that when I was younger. I am already trying my own hand at backyard farming.

John’s question of what kind of world do I value? A world where we communicate, where we disagree without hurling personal insults…a world where we understand that every person in the community has a voice, and is allowed to raise it.

John’s second question – what do my beliefs tell me to do? My beliefs tell me to stand my ground. To lead by example. Truth be told, I am a lousy follower – I wander far and wide from the trail, because I am curious. I want to know what’s on the other side of the tree-line there. I want to see what’s on the other side of the meadow. I want to know. I write this blog – I do my podcast….not for any “glory and fame”. Shit, if I wanted that – I would advertise the existence of both a whole lot more than I currently do and more than I have in the past six-plus years. I do the podcast and write this blog, so that others can read how I approached a subject. I don’t expect anyone to do exactly the same thing that I do – but perhaps something here or something there – a word, a statement, a picture – will spark something in their own manner of thinking, and help them solve or resolve a problem or issue that they were working with. And hopeful that helps them step further along their Path and allow them to see the world anew. At least that’s my hope. My beliefs tell me that this type of action works. My cynical heart says that’s not completely true. I try very hard not to listen to my heart on such matters.

Which dovetails into John’s last question. What will I do strengthen my Will? Honestly, the answer to this question changes constantly. There are days that I feel like the world has truly beaten me down. That one more step forward is not possible. There are times that I feel very, very old. I’m only 48 (nearly 49). And yet there are days like I feel like I am 85 with a 100-ton block laying on top of me. And then there are days I come across folks looking for advice and help. Some are new to the Path – and I see the excitement in their eyes, read in the words that they write…and I remember when I was there. When I was taking my first steps. How excited I was to discover something that I could relate to on a Spiritual level. And I am reminded how learning never stops. When you are tired, you sit down and rest. Afterwards, you stand up and continue on your Path. And I continue my journey…

The same can be said for the world around me. I watch the angry retorts in online discussions. I hear it in the hallways of the college, as the students stretch their thoughts into political areas for discussion. And I remind myself – I don’t need to join in with that same anger, that same bitterness. I make my statement, repeat it a second time if necessary, and step away if there is no change in the pattern I am perceiving. Lead by example, even when there may be very few who hear or see that example. Because, as I said previously in this blog – you never know who will be watching. You never know who will receive the message from that example. How do I strengthen my Will? By living my life as I should. By honoring my ancestors who walked this Path before me – both blood-related, and those that are related by tradition, and/or place. By not adding fuel to the fires of anger, bitterness, and political retort. By standing up when I need to, and recognizing when I need to sit down and rest, as well.

The Fifth of July

So the Fourth of July has come and gone. I, for one, am glad to see it move along into the rear-view mirror. I hear a lot about how I lack for “patriotism” for my country. For the World Cup, I am rooting for Germany, and had been rooting New Zealand along. I barely paid attention to the US Men’s team. I do not fly an American flag in my yard, and I do not have a bumper sticker with an American flag on my car. Yet, I strapped on a United States Air Force uniform for eight years. I figure that counts for a lot more than waving a flag, sitting in a crowd near the lake while watching fireworks, or finding the nearest veteran to mouth the useless phrase “thank you for your service.” Yeah, I do hear about my “lack of patriotism” quite a bit – especially where in the ultra-conservative part of Texas.

Honestly, such criticism does not really bother me. Its nothing more than words – sometimes hateful and biting. I am an American citizen, and I do love the country I live in. Otherwise I would have moved elsewhere a long, long time ago. The fact that I do not adorn myself with the emblems and symbols of this country, nor partake in some of the gluttonous traditions that the majority of its citizenry do – well, that makes me no less an American than anyone else. I do not get into the rah-rah mode of cheering on this country in its endeavors. Considering the two “wars” that were fought in Iraq, and the veiled reasoning behind those wars…there are things that my country does that I do not agree with. Thankfully, I live in a country that allows me the freedom to dissension of such actions. But that’s merely politics, not the laws and freedoms that make this country great, in my eyes.

The world national flagsI am reminded, however, that its not the borders that make up a country that count nor the precise geographical location that I happen to be at, that matters. There are many, many other people on this planet that share in the larger ecosystem that I am a part of. Politically, geographically – I live in the United States, in the state of Texas, in Denton county, within the city limits of Corinth. But that does not make me greater than the street-sweeper that lives in a small village in a minor province in the western part of China. We both inhabit this ecosystem together. We are both citizens of this planet.

We are both governed by very different economic, social, and political systems. I am quite sure that his immediate ecosystem is far different from my own. Different vegetation, different animals, perhaps even very different soil and rocks – all native to where we both are – and yet as different as the two of us may be on a genetic scale. And yet, still all the same. All of us going through our daily rituals, varied as they may be, making our way through this world for survival.

Who knows? Perhaps, he and I are having very similar thoughts at the moment – about the manner in which we each connect to the immediate world around us; how our daily lives are small reflections of how we connect with the Gods (or don’t connect as the case may be). Or perhaps more likely, our thoughts are completely different. I am contemplating aspects of my own Personal Spirituality – he may be thinking something completely different. And yet we are the same. Each managing our separate lives through our varied daily routines. As Carl Sagan once noted – each made of the same “star stuff”.

I have blood relatives who take issue with the way I approach my “patriotism”. In many ways, I am an outcast in the family. I do not adhere to the hardcore, angry Christian values that most of my blood relatives hold to. Once, I was called a “disgrace to my uniform and service” by one particular cousin. He never served in the military in his career. My father, and two of his brothers did serve in the US military. In the next generation, only two of us have served. Myself, and my cousin’s sister. Its quite interesting that through this entire generation of the blood relatives, with the hardcore push of patriotism mixed deeply with angry Christian values – its the Pagan, and the Lesbian who bothered to put part of their lives on hold and serve in the military. I guarantee that there are no words of “thank you for your service” emanating from any part of the family for either of us. And yet, both of us are called out constantly concerning our “lack of patriotism”. Go figure.

No, I did not spend any part of the Fourth of July “celebrating” this country. Instead, I quietly continued on with my life, content in the knowledge that the freedoms that are a huge part of this country’s values, allows me to be the Pagan that I am – openly. And somewhat concerned that those same freedoms have allowed the citizenry of this country to fracture along political divides – calling one another names, speaking openly of how the current President is this or that, hurling insults and veiled threats across the wide, empty, binary expanse of the Internet. But honestly, you have to take the good with the bad…