Paganism and the Hacker Ethic: A Personal Perspective

If you have read the blog for any considerable amount of time, you know that my job is primarily focused on pulling data from a database – and getting the results ready for usage by various end users. I do this using SQL or Structured Query Language. It is a programming language, and to some measure, it is not. What it is, is a series of commands, set in motion against a framework that allows a database to retrieve requested data sets against a series of criteria – thus making it more of a toolset. My mind, from what I have been told by instructors and fellow Information Technology peers, is built for programming concepts. Loops, logical statements, retrieval arguments, correlating programming language syntax into something closer to Plain Language concepts…all things that come to me rapidly when using or learning a programming language. The terminology typically utilized as having a “programmer’s brain.”

And yes, that mentality gets applied to all kinds of things in real life. Grocery shopping, relationships, watching movies and tv shows, writing papers, taking vacations – everything follows a construct of variables, populating those constructs with data, and then utilizing that data. I have half-jokingly referred to cooking as “food programming”. So it is not much of a stretch for me to come to the world of hacking with a sense of awe and near reverence. But it is not the hacking you think it is.

Most people hear the word “hacking” and they think of the criminal world of the internet’s seedy underbelly. People doing programming tricks to skim half-pennies off of the interest from bank accounts (a popular ply utilized in the movies) or the illegal and unethical area of personal espionage, where people steal identities of others in order to get extended credit lines for nefarious means. There is definitely wizardry and skill utilized in these methodologies, but that’s not hacking. That is “cracking” which breaks the system and allows it to be exploited for unethical reasons. No, hacking is a different area altogether. In hacking, people try to figure out why something works and then seek to improve upon it. And if a security flaw is discovered, a hacker will try and fix the security flaw and report it to the owner of the program. Hacking is about taking something that has already been created, improving upon it, or using it as the basis for creating something new.

From Techopedia:

Hacker ethic primarily states and defines the ethical responsibility of a hacker, within their like-minded community. It was first coined by an American journalist, Steven Levy in his book Hackers: Heroes of the Revolution. Although this belief is highly appreciable within the hackers/hacktivism, it has no moral or ethical values in the general society. Typically, hacker ethics includes that whatever software, program or code a hacker develops must be open source, all the information is decentralized and is freely accessible and the overall knowledge must be shared and passed to other hackers.  (https://www.techopedia.com/definition/19706/hacker-ethic)

This, as a concept related to Information Technology, is something I highly believe in. As a concept related to my own daily life, I try and handle myself as closely as I can to this concept. This includes the way I handle my own daily practice within Paganism and as a Polytheist. I am not a reconstructionist, I am not trying to recreate something from the past. I am also not trying to build something new and full of rules. Thus, the decentralized part of the way I approach my understanding of Paganism. And while my daily approach is mine, and mine alone, I do not believe that I am adding huge amounts to the overall body of knowledge. Merely, the way I approach what I do know of Paganism and Polytheism.

Now, notice, I have not said anything about my Druidry. This is where my desire to live my life as close to the Hacker Ethic gets bumped and bruised – particularly the decentralized authority, freely accessible, and sharing of information. Mystery belief systems will always clash with these aspects of the Hacker Ethic.

Within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – the order I freely chose to work within the constructs and precepts of, there are closed aspects of the information that one learns that should not be shared. Initiatory experiences are meant to be experienced when encountered for the first time. Sharing the knowledge of the initiation with individuals who have not had this experience will lessen the power of walking into the unknown. I have done the initiations for both the Bardic and Ovate Grades. Sharing the knowledge of these initiatory experiences would rob others of those exhilarating moments. Just as I am sure that sharing the format, structure, and moments within any other initiatory experience would lessen the experiences of the initiate in other traditions. Also, within OBOD, the lessons for each grade should never be shared outside of the grades either. And for much the same reason. The Path that is walked in each of the grades is for the individual to experience and work with. Sharing those lessons, those experiences will do nothing for the individual traversing through that particular lesson. In a manner of speaking, it is similar to cheating on a classwork test.

Furthermore, the Hacker Ethic recognizes no concept of authoritative leadership. Within many aspects of Paganism, there is recognized aspects of leadership. A High Priest and High Priestess have their positions of leadership. It is not an issue of military command structure, but that leadership does have a degree of deference attached to it. Under the Hacker Ethic, I would have to choose not to recognize that authority within OBOD. And honestly, I cannot do that. I have too much respect for many of these people as individuals, as well as deference to their ability, talent, and tenure on their chosen Path within OBOD.

Give that the Hacker Ethic is a major part of who and what I am, how can I reconcile some of these differences with what I practice within my own Spirituality? Well, to quote Captain Barbossa from the first “Pirates of the Carribean” movie:

And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

And that’s true of the Hacker Ethic as well. At least for me. Violation of any aspect of the Hacker Ethic means that I made a judgment call when I ran across a difference between what I thought to be “right” and what is on display within the Ethic. The idea behind the Hacker Ethic is a set of guidelines meant to advance knowledge around the TX-O and PDP-1 mainframes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The sharing of information, in this case, programming code instructions, was meant to make the best applications possible for use on those two mainframe systems. The aspects of the Ethic were carried forward into nearly every aspect of life by those who practiced it. The only morality applied to the Ethic is the one embraced by the individual practicing it. And honestly, the morality of an individual writing code in the early 1960s is a far cry from the mercenary and larcenous hearts that were created from the greed and corporate mentality brought about by the rampant consumerism of the 1980s and 1990s.

I am a product of the decadent 1980s; I would never deny that. it definitely took a while for me to shake off the consumerism mentality of my time, and to adopt a different way of seeing the world around me. Paganism, Polytheism, and Druidry have taught me a lot about how to view the world differently, and how to change the concept of what “valuable” really means. Going back to the older ideals of what a hacker really was, as well as stripping away the bombastic image that Hollywood provided for the big and small screen, I came across the concept of the Hacker Ethic. This leads me to the evolving concept of Open Source, which is an off-shoot from the Hacker Ethic – and honestly, a little more evolved conversation within Information Technology. A decided left-turn off the round-about of where this blog sits.

Rest assured, my idea of Paganism is not reconstructive. My concept of Polytheism is one of sharing, discussing, and helping others to try and experience the Gods for themselves. A complete hands-on approach is very deeply held within the Hacker Ethic when it comes to learning and expanding knowledge. My Druidry, on the other hand, does not fit well into this paradigm…and there is no contradiction to that. Guidelines, not rules.

–T /|\

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Where Could This World Be

I remember when I was much, much younger – growing up as a military dependent in Germany was an amazing time for me. I would go Volksmarching with my parents and my sister, and in the 10km we walked, I would get to see a lot of the country-side each weekend. Sometimes, the trails wound through town, sometimes through the local farmer’s fields along the paths used for the tractors and other farm equipment. However, whenever the paths wound through the forests, I would be especially happy. The forests provided me with the best opportunities to leave the trail, and walk within the woods – parallel to the walking trail, of course. Those forests spurred my thoughts and allowed me to see other worlds. Worlds full of Elves, full of imaginary battle scenes, and even dinosaurs hiding behind every large trunked tree. Yes, I was particularly fond of dinosaurs growing up. What kid wasn’t?  🙂

It was so easy to believe in magick, and the Fey, and even the Gods. But as I grew older, I was told that such things were not appropriate for a young man. Seeing Fey folks peering back from deep in the woods was just a fanciful imagination running wild. It was “ok” to believe that such things existed, but not as I got older. Things like that were “child’s stuff” and I needed to set that aside, in order to “grow up.” I was to push all that out of my mind and dismiss any such thinking as unhealthy and unproductive towards becoming a “normal” member of “grown-up” society.

As a young adult, I spent a lot of time pushing thoughts about the Gods out of my mind. Dismissing all of it as a product of my over-active imagination. But it was certainly acceptable to believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit…though I had no feeling towards the existence of that. And when I asked for proof, I was given a book and told the answers could be found on those pages. Because it was “socially acceptable” to believe such.

Do not get me wrong here – there is nothing wrong with the belief in the Christian God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. That is something that works and calls to those that feel that within themselves. Just as the calling of the Gods and Goddesses and Spirits of Place and Spirits of Ancestor work for me – and many other Pagans. And just as there are those who claim to have the calling of the Christian Trinity in their lives, but have no real connection – in other words, paying lip service….there are certainly those within the Pagan communities as well. But this is not about either of those sets of folks.

We believe readily in magick, the Other World, and so many other things when we are young. Not only do we embrace them, we tend to feel them as well. And then, we are told to set those aside – to embrace something that might not call to us, to dismiss our feelings as being unreal, inappropriate. And suddenly, we find that we are suppressing who we are, what we feel…. And going into the future, we might utilize this as a coping mechanism for the world around us. We bottle in who we are, what we feel, what we know to be right….and all of that starts to eat away at who we are.

Back in 1995, I felt the United States military and came back into the civilian world. In the military, it was easy to be a Pagan, easy to embrace my knowledge and feeling of the existence of the Gods. In the military, my beliefs were protected by regulations and rules dictating that to others. Sure, I had some discriminatory moments from others. There was the one time I was physically accosted at the Sembach Post Office at 3am when I was checking mail after shift. But the civilian world is a little different. Physical altercations can be more frequent and far more violent. People around you are a lot more anonymous than when they are on a military base.

It would have been far easier for me to just not be a Pagan. Or to stay in the “closet” – so to speak. it would have been easier, but it would also have been going back to denying who I was and what I felt within me. I carry enough scars from trying to hide things to appease others. I am not about to compromise on who I am or what I believe. Granted, as I have gotten older, I have learned to not wear my Paganism completely on my sleeve. But when directly confronted, I do not hide who or what I am. Not anymore.

I do wonder; however, just how many people out there lost touch with their feeling and understanding of magick – just because they were told to not have an over-active imagination at their age? That believing in the Fey was not something real – that it could be misconstrued as a sign of mental illness? How many others went through similar actions of internal repression because they were told they should not like the same gender as themselves? How many were told that they could not succeed at various desired jobs because of their gender or skin color or their parents’ income status?

I wonder how different this world could be if we would just make an honest attempt towards being who we want to be, to believe in what we know to be real….where could this world be today? I do indeed wonder….

Individually Not Blog Posts – Together They are Blog Stew

Welcome to the little pieces of topics that I just cannot get a complete blog post around. So I shove them all together here and make a blog stew out of them. Not sure about the taste, but at least the ingredients get used, eh?

Let us talk blog posts, shall we? What an odd topic for a blog post – blog posts. In the past, I have tried a bit of scheduling and I have also tried posting whenever I feel like it. The odd post timing just does not work. Plus, I spend a lot of hours at the keyboard of the Mac in the evenings on the weekends. Instead of playing Zen pinball all the time, how about I start writing blog posts instead? And better yet, how about we do not let me get away with being lazy about it too? So, I will start scheduling blog posts here on Life With Trickster Gods – and how about we make it Mondays and Thursdays for blog posts, right?? And I can always get away with an unscheduled one from time-to-time on the weekends. Works for you?  Works for me. But that lead me over to another point about blogs…..

I am now writing blog posts for Moon Books. I am actually really chuffed about this. I have many of the Moon Books titles on my bookshelves and on my kindle. Most of my posts there will be related directly to a topic pulled from one of those titles. My very first topic-related post was on ritual and was inspired by Rachel Patterson‘s amazing book The Art of Ritual. Over there, I have decided to post twice weekly as well, using Sundays and Wednesdays as the days I will post. Stuff is a touch trickier there, but I will look into the ability to schedule posts there as well. Hopefully, I can do that, but if not – I will need to login there to make my posts. I am super excited to be posting there with so many of the authors that I admire greatly, and many, many thanks to Trevor Greenfield for providing me with this chance.  🙂

With the Major League Baseball season firmly in the books (Yah Astros!!), I am hard-pressed to find another sport to watch. I am not a fan of American football whatsoever, so that sport is out the window for me. With real football (soccer here in America) only available on the weekends (Bundesliga!!), I am giving hockey another try. I started out trying to root for the Winnipeg Jets, but I just cannot find anything I enjoy watching on this team. So, I settled on the Toronto Maple Leafs. I enjoy watching their style of play (they pass a lot more than other teams seem to), and….well…if I am going to root for a hockey team, its got to be in Canada. And no, I am not a Dallas Stars fan – even when they were good.

My calendar for the coming year will have me down near Mountain Home, Texas with the ADF Imbolc retreat – an event I have started to refer to as my “second home”. The people that attend this are some of the kindest, most loving people I have come to know. Whether they realize it or not, they have become family for me. After that, I have a professional conference for my job to head to in Corpus Christi – like IMMEDIATELY after. I will be there until Wednesday and then travel back to the Texas/Oklahoma border. I get one day off, and then it is on to Pantheacon that following weekend. Shenanigans are likely to take place, though I am wondering if I will be able to peel my eyelids back. We shall definitely see…..

And last, but certainly not least – the podcast will be back. Upon a Pagan Path has been on the back burner for most of the year. Mostly because I just have not had the time to mess with it due to a lot of changing aspects of life. But sometime around December 15 to the 20th – a new episode will be out. There will be more of the interviews. More poetry read. More Pagan musical artists featured. And maybe even a short story from time to time. What there will be less of is me. I need to take a major backseat to the rest of the podcast. So there will be a lot less of me rambling on about life…..and don’t try to fake that sigh of relief. ;)~

Anyways, that is all that I have. Hoping that you are enjoying what you read here. If you have anything you want me to write about in here – shoot me an Email:  elfster@gmail.com.  I promise I won’t bite.  Unless you want me to.    –T /|\

What Paganism and Polytheism Do For Me

One of my atheist friends asked me a question a few months back:

What do Paganism and Polytheism do for you? Why do you need more than one imaginary friend in the sky?

Yeah, it is a snarky comment and the kind that I have come to expect from this individual. Ninety-nine times out of one-hundred, I ignore these and just move along. I have learned a few things about trying to debate this person on any theological or spiritual issue – there is no debate. Nothing except pure argument coupled with snarky and snotty commentary meant to demean you as an individual. After all, a belief in superstition is several steps below the basic intelligence of any “logical” human being. Yeah. I have definitely heard all of that. And far be it from me to try and dissuade anyone from their own belief and understanding of the world around me. In fact, I would not even tread into the arena of demeaning someone over holding such a perspective. Beating me over the head with it, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. But that is a post for another time and topic…maybe.

In a manner of speaking, the direction of the two questions does come around to a “what have you done for me lately” concept. So, what has Paganism done for me lately? What about polytheism? Same question. For me, my spiritual beliefs drive my every day. My mornings tend to find me either standing outside at the rising of the Sun, greeting my old friend at the start of another period of daylight. My evenings are spent in the same fashion at sunset, saying goodnight to the Sun, as the twilight is quickly consumed by the darkness of its absence. My late nights may find me at the stone circle in my backyard offering a shot of whiskey to Crow, Coyote, Flidais, or any other God or Goddess from Whom I may seek some type of favor. And that is just a type of the devotional aspect of my Daily Path. What does all of this do for me?

Well, in the simplest sense, it provides a focal point in the direction I take in my life. In service to Crow, I try to remember that communications are a prime part of what I do. I write blog posts to inform, or in a far more crude form, to hold a one-way conversation. My devotional aspect of my Daily Path is meant to remind me, refocus my effort, and place Crow’s intentions above my own. That is, after all, one of the aspects of being a Priest to Crow – to carry out His intentions over my own.

Perhaps deeper than my connection to the Gods and Goddesses and the Spirits of Place and Ancestor is my own practice of Druidry. I would love to remove Druidry from the entire equation, but I cannot. I am a Druid, this is my Path, it is who I am. Part of that is connecting and protecting my environment. Another aspect of that is service to my community, which I consider my blogging and podcasting (yes, it will be coming back online in the very near future) efforts to be. In so many ways, these are severely intertwined with my Paganism and Polytheism, enough so that I cannot tell much difference where each ends and begins within me.

What does all of this do for me today? Well, in today’s rough and tumble environment where politics and butt-hurt snowflakes seem to reign supreme, all of this reminds me that there is something further past all of that. Past the rampant consumerism, the chase for money, fame, and riches, the desire to get power over others….there is something more to what Life is about. Helping one another when a need arises. Communing with others and connecting on levels far deeper than what we do or do not own. Much like the planet is a living organism, the human race is one living organism – as a collective whole – as well. An organism that works with itself to heal, to war, to learn, to shun, to love, to hate – a lumbering, stumbling pile of connection and contradiction. I am dismayed and frustrated at the level of discord that we all manage to achieve in the echo chamber of the online environments. I am heartened and relieved when we listen, communicate and find solutions in face-to-face communications. As hard as it is to explain, my Druidry, my Paganism, my Polytheism, my Spirituality all explain this to me. All of this, which encompasses who I am as a Priest, as a Pagan, as a Polytheist, as a Druid, as a human being, helps me to comprehend why the world is not something to be cynical about. “That,” as Samwise Gamgee remarks in the Lord of the Rings films, “there is some good in this world, and that is worth fighting for.”

So what has my Paganism done for me? I find comfort from it that this world can be saved – even from the hand of those that should have the intelligence, and compassion to be caretakers and not abusers. My Polytheism reminds me that there is more beyond our simple comprehension and that I am comforted to find a manner in which I may commune with Them. My atheist friends can turn up their noses at me and tell me that I am dealing with things that are just in my head. To turn another phrase from a movie, As Headmaster Dumbledore tells Harry Potter in the last film of that franchise: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” I am thrilled that they find meaning in their own perspective, but I will happily keep my own because….well, it is what Paganism and Polytheism and Druidry have done for me. And that is why it is important and a relevant part of my life – it IS a definite part of me.

PS:  I have a new place that I am blogging…over at Moon Books. Most of what I will be blogging about there are things that I find within the many Moon Books titles that I have. Join me over there. I will be blogging on a Wednesday/Sunday time frame.  You can find it here:  http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/author/tommyvh/   See you there, too!!  –T /|\

It is Not About the Gods, it is About the Power….

I love to walk with crow brethren. In real life, it happens from time to time when I walk around the college campus I work on. Most of the time, they want food, which I am happy to supply from the last portions of my lunch. But in my dreams, the time spent with them is more of conversation. This dream-world is where I get a lot of the ideas which populate my dream journal, as well as my personal journal.

A few nights ago, one of the typical “conversations” eventually led to a question from me concerning leadership. Why do leaders seemingly reach a point where they abuse others. I was aware of the origin of the question – both then and now. Recently, there have been a large number of people who have been charged with abuse of others – Judge Moore in Alabama, Senator Franken from Minnesota – just name two. Why would the God(s) allow this to happen? Surely, particularly in the cases of individuals in positions of leadership in religious communities, the God(s) would intervene and not allow such abuses to take place in Their name(s). One of the crows supplied an answer, which I wrote down when I woke up in the morning….

It is not about the Gods…it is about Power. It does not matter what one practices or believes…tyranny is about what power they hold over others…not about what beliefs they practice.

Now, I have been in positions of leadership to one degree or another throughout my life. I understand the seduction of power, of playing favorites amongst people who look to you for direction and (shudder) answers. And power is an extremely seductive force. To have people do things when you tell them or to be able to utterly ruin a person’s public reputation with a few well-placed words. To have people hang on your every word. For your every intonation to be treated as the sacred word of the Gods. Who would not want such command??

Well, me, for one. And perhaps I am just the odd duck when it comes to something like this. In my job, I am considered to be a subject expert when it comes to writing programming code. If only I saw myself in that same vein. I am a good programmer. I understand all the manners in which to make most programming dance to my fingertips. But I am by no means an “expert” at my trade. I am merely the best in the environment in which I am in. I know my limitations as a programmer and have little doubt that I have a long, long way to go before I can even be considered “very good”. But in a world of neophytes, even the individual of average knowledge seems to be an all-knowing God. I have no desire to become an all-knowing God…and I am always ready to improve on what I know – ready to adapt to change.

When I was a supervisor in the Air Force, I had subordinates who literally hung on my every word. I had been in the Air Force for over five years at that point. Each of the airmen under my supervision had been in the Air Force for a little under a year. I was their authority figure. Not because I had earned it, but because my rank dictated that I had. For them, I was mother AND father. What I said was law before I uttered it. And I grew up very fast in trying to live up to that responsibility. I realized that responsibility was easily shared. And while authority from above came in the form of rank, it was easier to split that up into equal pieces amongst all of us. Together, we shared the responsibility for getting tasks assigned to us completed. We learned how to work towards resolving issues quickly, not pointing fingers of blame first, and when the task was completed – trying to find out what went wrong at that time. After a time, we learned our strengths, our weaknesses, our incomplete knowledge areas – individually, and collectively. There was no need to dictate what needed to be done. We assessed together, resolved based on our strengths and weaknesses, and treated each other as equals regardless of rank (a concept that runs counter to military organizations).

I see similar aspects in some Pagan communities, whose power dynamics I admire greatly. Responsibilities and leadership are shared commodities with individuals stepping into positions of ownership with what they have been tasked to do. Leadership roles are rotated, along with other aspects, regardless of knowledge or experience. Each individual gets a chance to do, to plan, to organize, to execute tasks, to resolve issues….and each individual grows and learns. And that growth and learning and experience make a more rounded individual. As a group, these well-rounded individuals have their own strengths and weaknesses. Taken together, each member of the group feels empowered to be a part of the solution. Each member of the group has an ownership in the group. And that empowerment and ownership are paramount towards the continued growth of the group.

But we are talking about people here. People are seduced by the power of being the place where answers come from. People are seduced by the concept that they have all the answers where others don’t. One’s Experience becomes a bludgeoning tool with which to keep others away from becoming that Oracle of Knowledge. And soon enough, the power leads to being abusive. Using that power of dominance and leadership to reach for aspects that normally would not be available. We have all heard it before within the Pagan community – the charismatic group leader that uses his/her position of authority as a means to be sexual with someone else. Oddly enough, what the Pagan community has gone through before (largely, to my knowledge, in the 1990s), the evangelical Christian community is getting a taste of here lately. Judge Moore does indeed come from an evangelical Christian background. And I do find it interesting that the evangelical Christian community is rallying around the accused rather the accusers, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly pointed against Judge Moore.

The Dream Crows are right though. What Judge Moore is accused of is not an indictment of Christianity. Nor is it an indictment of the evangelical community. It is a harbinger of something that needs to be looked at far deeper. But its definitely not about the Gods or even the Christian God. It is about the abuse of power. A power that is provided to the individual by the community. The Gods can direct us to do Their will throughout the world. But even They are aware of the frailty of human beings. Even They are aware of what the seduction of power can do to a human being. This is not about Their will, but rather the lack of ours…ours being the “collective we”….

 

I Program Therefore I Compile – Trail-Blazing Paths Traveled

Over the past month and a half, my job has slowly evolved into what it has now become – something closer to a programmer than a researcher. granted, its mostly work in SQL, which many hardcore programmers do not consider to be a programming language, but I do not consider the difference between SQL and say – C++ to be all that different. The scope of what each language sets out to do is the true difference. Lately, part of my job has been pulling me into the world of R – another light-weight programming language that gets poo’d on by most hardcore programmers. The syntax for it is odd, different, and quite foreign to my brain…and so I feel challenged to make it do things. This is probably the best way to make me want to learn something – make it difficult for my brain. I always enjoy a challenge. Back when I was in high school, I learned to program pixels on the screen of my television with my Commodore 64. I would sit for hours in front of my C64 keyboard, programming the vector for each pixel – and even once got out graph paper and drew an intricate design. I then mapped the graph to the locations I wanted on the screen, and again sat for hours writing each line of code. I believe the entire program took somewhere close to eight-hundred lines of code. I never thought of optimizing code to do the same thing in the fewest lines of code or what is commonly referred to as “code optimization.”

A few months ago, I was asked to design a retention study for a particular collegiate program. The query I wrote called for thirteen years of data to be pulled to the screen from the database. First the population of a semester, then a group of students that were in both this semester, and the following one, and then the next semester’s population. For thirteen years of data, I wrote the entire query with hard-coded values, and the result was nearly five hundred lines long, with fifty-three coded variables. Amending the query to run for a different time frame or a different program was nearly impossible. Most of the singular changes would take nearly an hour to do. So I rewrote the query using a virtual table (not writing to the database but to RAM) and utilized a loop to handle the tedious recall of the same six lines of code. The result was a query that was 69 lines long with five variables. It was easily amended to utilize different time frames and could be recorded to another collegiate program with a change of one three-character variable (provided you knew the three character variable you needed to change it to).

Why did I do it?  Well, two-fold. One, I wanted a query that could be amended easily by anyone who was not me – with a small instruction set that explained what needed to be changed by the end user. That explanation was five sentences long. I was the trail-blazer here – as was stated in the movie “Moneyball”….

I know you are taking it in the teeth, but the first guy through the wall… he always gets bloody… always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.

Now, some of you might not be completely following along. I know, computer programming can be some of the most boring, inane stuff to some people. Not everyone is wired for this. But here is the point – being a trail-blazer is not for the weak of heart, or for those lacking the faith in what they are trying to do.

I am on a path of Druidry. I am NOT a trail-blazer here. It may be new, fertile ground for me, but someone else has walked here before me. I may not have a journal of their adventures or experiments or experiences to reference. So my experiences will seem like trail-blazing for me, but its most likely not. Except….that it is trail-blazing. It is FOR ME. And those initial steps are exciting. That new pattern of knowledge and logic falls into place, lighting up a whole new pattern of syntax. My world expands a bit more. I see things in a manner I have never seen them before. And I may not have a grinning mentor standing at my side, knowing what I am experiencing – allowing them to remember what it was like when their world was opened for them.

Thinking back, when I was that proselytizing newbie Pagan…when I had devoured “Drawing Down the Moon” over a single weekend, “The Spiral Dance” in a single evening…I remember how much those two books opened my eyes to what was possible. I had smelt the petrichor of the rains from Paganism for so long, knowing that there was so much more than what Christianity had to offer. Only I could not see on to that rich, inviting plateau until the wall between “cultured” religion and “uncivilized” belief was set aside. And my world was opened to a wider perspective. In a way, I had the same experience that Luke Skywalker did, when he first opened his mind to the concept of the Force. I was so excited by my “discovery” that I felt that everyone needed to see it too. That if they could perceive what I did, they would see the beauty of what I was encountering, and find joy in it as well.

Yeah.  Not so much. Just like the moment that the hero of Rush’s “2112” experiences his deflated moment when the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx shoot down his “discovery” as a ‘waste of time’ – the evangelical Christians I worked with at Carswell Air Force Base made sure to remind me that I was in Satan’s clutches. And in that same vein, being the only true programmer in my department, it is hard to share the excitement of learning more evolved manners of writing the same code in nearly 425 fewer lines to achieve the same result.

I am certain that many other Pagans have gone through similar moments in their Spiritual lives. As I noted before, many others have walked the same Path that I have. These corridors were fresh to others before me. These same corridors will be fresh to others that come after as well. They will be trail-blazing their ways to their own “new” knowledge, adding subtle changes or nuances going into the future. Just as programming will change as well, as new ways of addressing bits and bytes will be found – fundamentally changing the structure and syntax of a language. Each individual will have to compile the program on their own to see how it addresses who they are…while others have walked here before, we still have to walk those same Paths individually, for ourselves.

 

Doing What You Love Keeps You True to Who You Are – My Experience

I feel quite lucky. I have a love for all things computer-related, but more for programming than any other aspect. I have worked in various parts of the Information Technology world. I cut my eye-teeth in my thirty-four (and counting) year career by working on mainframe systems that were fifteen years old when I was born in 1965. I have worked in hardware maintenance, software support, desktop support, server management, information security, disaster recovery and digital storage. Now, I work as a data retrieval specialist, and a data systems research. Probably the closest technical concept to what I do is that of a Data Sciences specialist.

The primary focus of my job is to write retrieval statements in Transact-SQL (Structured Query Language) to pull data related to the students, faculty, and classes at my college. From that data, other people will seek out trends, and other pieces of information that will help them determine what decisions to make related to some task or support a decision that they are already pushing towards getting into motion. In a manner of speaking, my job is to be of service to others within my collegiate institution – a concept that plays very close to my personal understanding of my own path of Druidry, and my understanding of a role as a priest.

Stating that I love doing what I do is a deeply understated position. I get paid to “talk” to a database system in its own language. I am asked to resolve pieces of a wider puzzle. And over time, I can see the results of what I do emanating throughout the campuses and buildings and corridors of the college. Some days I come home frustrated over something that happened at work. But before I find my well-worn location in the bed for some much-needed sleep, I remind myself that what I do is assist others. The results of my tasks help those people do their jobs better. And when they do their jobs better, they can better assist the students of the college, who are the primary reason that the college exists. I do love my job.

The fact that I find my job challenging, and is something that I enjoy doing, makes each work day more pleasurable than frustrating. I have said it before – I am a Pagan. A polytheist. A Priest of Crow. A Druid. And while any part of that formula can sometimes make my daily Spiritual life a little confusing – I love who I am. I am comfortable with most of those terms. Yes, I still struggle with the idea of describing myself as a Priest. My devotionals to Crow, which happen every evening for me, have great depth and meaning. My connections with Crow, Coyote, Flidais are each unique, personal, and extraordinary in ways I cannot adequately describe. Nothing I have done in honoring any of Them has felt like a chore. Rather, every motion made, every word intoned have felt more like an embrace somewhere between that of an intimate lover and a cherished family member.

When I first left high school – an all-boys Catholic school – I stepped towards the area of the Southern Baptists. It was an easy place to find. In Shreveport, Louisiana, you cannot go more than three blocks without encountering some concept of such a place. The people were enthusiastic and friendly to a new face amongst their congregation. But the Sunday services had an antiseptic feel to it. Very clean, very polished, very rote. Every motion made by any individual in a leading role of the service seemed overly practiced – nearly robotic. After attending services every Sunday for four months, it was painfully obvious that it was. The hymns may have been different, but the singing had no emotion or joyous intonation behind it. The sermons, preached at high decibel levels for certain phrasings and passages, were meant to sound frightful – warning people of what would happen if “wickedness” were not tossed to the side in favor of “righteousness”. Aside from those phrases, the rest of the sermons were wooden in tone. And rarely was there a mention of the people in the congregation being in good faith with their own spirituality. For me, 120+ days were more than enough for me to reach the conclusion that this was not for me. There was no life in any of this – plus much of it was taught to the congregation in a manner that removed the beauty and individual life in the “world beyond” as I had come to term the perception of the Gods. It took a little longer before I realized that what I had been feeling was my perception of Polytheism.

Why do I bring up this moment of Christianity in my post? After all, I claim (and still do) to have no “beef” with Christians at all. And here I am slamming them for what they believe. Except that I am not. Their belief system, the delivery method that had been used within this church (and quite a few others I experienced afterward) had a lack of life for me. Perhaps it had life and meaning for those that were practicing it – I cannot say for certain because I am not them. I do not know what was deep in their hearts. Only they can answer that with factual perception. And it is not for me to ask. However, if I had stayed within that belief system, I would have found no joy. I would not have found any true bearing of love. In essence, my own Spiritual life would have slowly died and withered.

There was nothing wrong with me trying that particular belief system out when I was searching for my corner in the world. Just as there is nothing wrong with people trying out whatever aspect of Paganism, Polytheism, or what have you. We have all jokingly referred to these Seekers before. These white-lighters, seeking a place of “peace, love, and white light” above all else. These rainbow-hugging, granola-eating hippy-wanna-be folks – seeking a place of easy physical sex, and individual bonding – seeking their own communes whatever that may be. Some of these folks stay, learn, grow, and become the Priests and Priestesses that help lead and grow our widening Pagan community. They stay because they find something that they embrace whole-heartedly. Something that calls within them. They stay because it is something that they love. Love about the rituals, the spellwork, the spirituality, and the people they have encountered. Because they have found their Spiritual home.

I work at the college because I believe in the mission that it upholds in educating people, preparing them for better jobs, more knowledge, personal growth…and because what I do allows me to be of service to these students, and to my fellow coworkers. I am good at my job because I enjoy what I do. I am becoming a better Priest, a better devotee to my odd triad of Gods and Goddess, and continuing to learn what means to be a Druid because I love who I am and what I am becoming. And I am completely grateful for it all. For without any of it, I would not be who I am. And I love who I am becoming, who I have been, and who I am now. Warts and all.