Fearing the Nightmare Scenario of My Youth

I try my best not to speak about politics. The tendency is for people to either agree with what I have said, or to try and start a debate or argument. None of that is what I am trying to accomplish. I’m not looking for validation of what I think, nor am I looking to play a war of words with someone. However, I do have to speak a bit about something that has taken place over the last few weeks that has brought the world closer to a nightmare that my generation was completely obsessed with – nuclear weapons exchange.

Growing up, nuclear war – well let’s call it nuclear holocaust (a term that was bandied about an awful lot back in the 1980s, but one I don’t particularly care for because of the implications that get tagged on with the word “holocaust”). Or, if you prefer an even more charged term, nuclear genocide. Whatever terminology you want to use, the exchange of nuclear weapons on the battlefield, even with smaller “tactical” nukes, was a much discussed and feared scenario. Just a few decades before I made it to my high school years, school children practiced the “stop, drop, and cover” exercise, in the hopes of protecting themselves from what would be a terrible moment. When I was in high school, the exercise had been given up, simply because it was a useless one. As the world became much more knowledgeable about the terrible nature of these weapons, the realization that there was very little that could be done for protection (aside from getting indoors and sealing your home as much as possible) quickly brought this stuff to an end.

The fear of nuclear weapons was rampant in the 1950s and 1960s, where families built bomb shelters in their backyards as a means of protection. By the time the 1980s rolled around, many folks were in a position of essentially saying “fuck it” and moving on with their lives with the knowledge that “something” could happen. And eventually the fear of nuclear weapons began to dissipate to a degree.

Until now. In North Korea, we have an unpredictable leadership that is capable of utilizing a weapon that could bring untold devastation to certain parts of the region, as well as a desire to develop a delivery system that could reach the western edges of the continental United States. Here in the United States, we have an equally unstable and unreliable leadership that would see such an attack as a reason to loose untold devastation on North Korea and the immediate region, which would include allies such as South Korea and Japan. A nuclear explosion does more than just destruction to an immediate area – there’s a radius of fallout that doesn’t discriminate between your intended foes and the people you claim to protect. Its an indiscriminate weapon that wreaks destruction in a wide swath that goes beyond a local region. The devastating effects will be felt world-wide. And a nuclear exchange between just two countries has the potential to change the entire world that we inhabit. With that untold power, we have two national leadership groups that are just aching to show how big and powerful they are to one another, and either would unleash literally Hell-on-Earth in retaliation to other, with little care for how their exchange would effect other countries and populaces. All to assuage the egos of two extremely petty individuals.

Agree with me or not about the personalities of these two; there is no denying the destructive capabilities of these weapons. Even utilized in “tactical” capacities, where the yield is much smaller, and thus the devastation would be far less – the damage would still be felt world-wide. Like it nor not, we work in a world-wide economy. Any issues that would effect the economic capacity of a single country will have a ripple effect for all other countries. That’s the nature of rampant capitalism. Once everything is connected in a global economy, things that effect the economic capacity of one country will have effects on all others. And none of this even brings into account the effect that radioactive fallout will have on areas in the fallout zones – including the oceans, and farming fields, which would make the precarious balance of food even more contentious throughout the world.

There is no doubt that this “game” of whose nuclear penis is larger could quickly spiral out of control, and the nightmare scenarios that played out in movies and TV shows back in the 1980s could come to fruition. This, folks, is the reason that picking leadership for a country is important, and should never be made on the basis of not wanting “her” to be President because she’s a “Democrat”. Or voting for “him” because he “tells it like it is” without varnish or polish. Because what you wind up with is an individual that gives discretion to military leaders to determine responses to actions taken by other countries. There’s a reason that a civilian is placed in full charge of the United States military. Its meant as a check-and-balance against the single-minded nature of the military. And that’s not a slap-in-the-face to the military. The military is very efficient at what it needs to do. But choosing the response options cannot, and should not be left to military commanders to determine. Short-term options fall to a civilian, the President of the United States. Long-term options fall to a civilian body, the Congress of the United States.

Am I fearful of the nightmare scenarios of nuclear exchange happening between the United States and North Korea coming true? Certainly. I only wish that this country had elected an individual with a little thicker skin.

#TwoPence

 

Continued Contemplations on Stories, Myths, and Storytelling

One thing that tends to bind much of the Pagan community together is a love of the myths. There is all sorts of disagreement on what the Gods and Goddesses are and are not, And from my own personal perspective and opinion – none of that matters. What the Gods and Goddesses are and are not is such a personal, intimate thing – I would never want to create a steadfast rule of what that means. Real, archetype, imagination – the Gods and Goddesses are what They are to each individual. I happen to believe that They are real, separate and distinct entities. But that’s for another post.

Attend nearly any Pagan gathering where there is a central fire that is being tended to, and you will find folks gathered, singing and telling stories and tales. From my perspective, it is in our DNA. Not as Pagans, but as people. Growing up, I was a member of the Boy Scouts program. And even with other members who were decidedly not Pagans, there were stories and songs prevalent throughout the night. It is almost as if the act of building a fire where everyone could gather in the night brings a requirement of song and stories.

Stories are a wonderful part of who we are as people. We tell stories every single day. When we sit on the bus or the train, we might strike up a conversation with someone nearby. And the stories do not need to be complex, morality plays like the myths can be. It can be as simple as observations on the weather, or how crowded the bus seems to always be at this time of day or even just asking how someone’s day is going. We set our experiences in the form of stories, because it paints a vivid mental mural for those we are communicating with.

As I have noted before, I work as a Data Analyst. My job requires me to provide a representation of the data that I comb through on a daily basis. I work up a story – or as it is called in this case, an analysis – of the data. Sometimes, I utilize written communication to present the story, and sometimes graphs or pie charts. Sometimes, I even provide a spoken representation of the data as well, or even a combination of any three of these methodologies. Boiled down to its base element, I am a storyteller within my position. In my mind, its only natural for me to gravitate to these Pagan gathering fires, and hear the stories and songs represented by many others in my community.

As I found at the not-so-distant OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, being at the fire does not mean that I just hear the stories. I also need to tell my own stories. And some of the folks there claimed that I have a natural gift for doing so. I do not see that, but then I am my own worst critic as well. But it certainly takes a little bit of courage to do so. (Another post for another time)

Since I have started to embrace the idea of being a storyteller, I see so many areas where storytelling is an integral part of what is being done. But the one that catches my breath the most, is remembering my three years in the classroom as an adjunct professor. I taught for the college I work for now, but I also taught at other colleges as well. I enjoyed being in the classroom, and relating some of the crazy things that happened to me during thirty-plus years of working in Information Technology. As I have told students before, if there is a way to do something wrong in an Information Technology position – I have likely done it. If there is a law to be broken in getting a task done, I have likely done that too – as my shift did back during my time working in a Command and Control facility in Germany.

To fix a fifteen foot section of telecommunications lines within a sectional wire harness that ran along the ceiling, we utilized a short patch by rerouting over a section of cable utilized by the Bundespost (German telecommunications group run by the government). We cut and spliced the section that we needed and waited for the Bundespost maintenance folks to contact us. We knew we had less than two hours to complete our repair, and remove the patch before the Bundespost folks arrived. Like clockwork, they called fifteen minutes after the patch had been started, and our time clock began. It is against the law to damage Bundespost lines, but we needed that patch to keep our telecommunications going for the Operational groups down the hall in the bunker. There were issues that happened along the way, including a momentary argument over the color of wire that was being spliced in. All of that is part of the story. And while it may not be of ultimate interest to many, I have told that story to a few networking students to showcase the need to repair critical components at any cost.

Stories do not have to have a teaching element to them. Sometimes, they are just for entertainment, such as my story of the Screen-Door Boar, an event that actually happened at the 2016 Gulf Coast Gathering. This was the story I told at this year’s Gulf Coast Gathering, which I mentioned before. Having never stood up at a Pagan gathering fire and intentionally told a story – it was a sweat-inducing moment, and not because the fire was hot. I really applaud people who have the courage to get up and tell stories and tales in front of a crowd.

Take a look around. See where the stories are, and appreciate the beauty of each one. There are TV shows that we watch – such as Game of Thrones – that we hang on every episode so that we can see where and how our favorite, intrepid characters deal with adversity, or even awkward moments. There are baseball games that we watch on TV, where every at-bat can be a story of its own merit. Each pitch becomes a sword-slash, a spear-thrust, or the loosing of an arrow in a battle between pitcher and hitter. There is the daily news. Remove the idiotic “as-it-happens” news cycle, and you have real life tales of how people deal with daily issues. And epic, historical moments that play out moment by moment, thanks to the never-ending aspect of the news cycle. There are facets of story all around us, playing out with each moment – and our vision, our hearing, our experience puts us in the position of recording all of that every day. A solitary walk in the woods provides you with a story that no other person may experience at that moment. The literal moment of “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it – does it make a sound?” Except that we can change that slightly to “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody that sees it has an iPhone to record the moment – did it really happen?”

Indeed.

 

Bending Intent…Just Not Like Beckham

The past few weeks, I have heard from a few people that my attitude is a little different. Of course it is. And its not that difficult to imagine why. Every single day begins the start of a new adventure for me. In the words of Jerry Doyle, better known as Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5, “As long as you’ve got today, and you’ve got a choice…why would you choose to make it a bad day?”

Don’t get me wrong. I have bad moments in my days. Sometimes, I get chewed on for no reason at all by other folks. Sometimes, things happen that I didn’t expect, or don’t feel too great about. But those moments will pass. And then there will be the rest of the day: waiting to be colored in by my mind’s crayons and color pencils. Ho I fill in the rest of those colors, is up to me.

I do not work magick that often, but as I think about this process of going through my day – maybe I do, and I just don’t call it magick. Typically, its defined under the Crowley perspective of “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” So far the sake of discussion, let’s utilize this definition.

My typical day starts with greeting the Sun as we both rise. Me, from my slumber. The Sun, from just around the eastern horizon, as the Earth spins. The point, for me, in greeting the Sun is to provide a basis for the rest of the day. Clear skies, cloudy, overcast, rainy – the Sun will rise. Using that moment of tranquil beauty, with a coffee cup in one hand, and sometimes birdseed in the other, my greeting is a reminder that each day is a new start. No sunrise is exactly like the other. No start to my daily adventure is exactly like another. There are similarities, but no exact duplication.

From that moment, my day unfolds step-by-step. From getting ready for work (on work days) to driving to the college campus I work on, each day unfolds differently. Sometimes, the pastures on either side of the Farm-to-Market road are packed with cows. Sometimes, the only life I see is the occasional hawk circling above the fields. Each work day provides a new data puzzle to solve, a new story that the data gets to tell, and new conversations with people that I work with, and students who attend classes there. Each new experience builds on the ones from the day before. Sometimes, the towers of experience come crashing down because of a bad moment during that day. And here, I have that choice. The choice to color my day by this one experience, or to set it to the side and resolve it in the future, while continuing to experience the better parts of the adventure.

I don’t always choose the better part of the adventure. Sometimes the bad experience does wind up coloring my day. That’s where sunset comes in. Sunset is where the day comes to a close. Where the Sun dips beyond the horizon, promising to return the next day with a new adventure. This is also where I put to rest whatever bad experience has been coloring my day. Because tomorrow is the start of a new day, which brings a new adventure. And I certainly don’t want to have a shitty one.

In essence, I am taking moments of my day, and allowing the change that I want according to my Will. I would prefer a nice cheerful workday, where I get tasks done, but manage to find the fun side of the adventure as well. I am bending the day to meet what I am wanting to get from it. But like magick, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the results are not quite what I wanted. Sometimes, its a disaster. I chalk that up to experience and try again the next morning. In between, I rest. I relax. I meditate. I calm myself. I ground and center. I let go of the experience that wasn’t so great. I prepare myself to try again, knowing that circumstances for the next day can vary a little or perhaps even greatly in comparison to the previous day.

I keep working at it, Altering small parts here and there to see if small changes will work better. hich I have done quite a bit. And I now have a routine that I vary only slightly from on a daily basis. Through continual hard work, I managed to puzzle out what works for me. The same can be said of working magick. When the results turn out not to be what you were expecting, do the hard work and research what you did versus what the magickal working called for. Find the differences. Look for small things you can change without changing the intent of what you were doing. Let’s say that the working called for the use of salt – and you used iodized Morton’s salt. In preparing for another try, perhaps using sea salt might be better. Be prepared to do the hard work. And yes, be prepared to follow the instructions, the framework, the wording….at least the first time. Try not to alter things without trying the original methodology first.

Like I said earlier….I am not a huge worker of magick. For me, magick is the last alternative to reach for. For me, the first methodology is typically the most mundane one. Elbow grease. Words. Communication. Actions. For me, this is where the first steps of any intentional act, magickal or not, starts. Just a thought (or five)….

–T /|\

Missing Home

Being away from home can be fun, an adventure, and it can suck the life right out of you. Since late December, I have been on the road at one point or another. A trip to Ireland. South central Texas. San Jose, California. Houston, Texas. Mandeville, Louisiana. Now….Tulsa, Oklahoma. And while each trip has had positives and negatives for it, I really just want to go home.

You never really know how much you will miss the place you call home, until you are away for extended periods of time. For me, the reasons are many, and diverse. There is, of course, my three cats. Shadow, Gizmo, and Kaylee are my daily joys – when I am home. Sure, there’s cat crap to clean up, cat vomit to wipe off the wooden floors, the constant barrage of “pet me, pet me” that each cat can utilize as a guilt trip for my extended periods of abenstia; but all of that matters not when I lay in bed with kitties all snuggled against me.

Nearly every morning starts with a similar note: stepping outside with a bag of birdseed to scatter for the local feathered friends, stepping over to the stone circle to face East and thank the Sun for soaring once more into the sky to grace us with light and warmth. Then its back inside to make a cup of coffee and check Email before I get a shower and get dressed. Sometimes I change up the order that all that happens, just to shake up the start of the day. If its a weekday or a holiday, a quick check of the news takes place, and then its off to get chores finished and on to writing tasks. Otherwise, its getting dressed for work, gathering up everything that I need and driving the eleven miles down a farm road between two cow pastures to get to work.

My short drive to and from work provides me a daily peak at the changing of the seasons. Spring and early Fall herald the arrival of little calves, who romp tirelessly through the pasture in the mornings. In the evenings, they sit in the middle of the pasture, zonked out for the evening, with momma cows clustered near the fence line to provide a front-line defense against my pickup truck and other vehicles that drive down the road. The bushes at the side of the road, and the various trees along the way call out for the arrival of Spring as their leaves turn a bright green. In late Summer, those same leaves will turn a slightly brown color as the hot Texas summer has created a nearly desert-like environment. Later, at the end of Fall, those same leaves will fall from the trees to trumpet the start of Winter, against which the skeletal frames of those trees will attempt to survive.

Home is a comfortable place, where I cherish each and every one of these moments. And when I am away for long periods of time, I fear that I miss some spectacular moment that gets played out on this intense, local stage. I may miss the budding of a string of leaves along a branch, or the soft caws of the Crows that populate the fields between my work place and home. Or I may miss a spectacular running jump and leap of the newborn calves learning to grow into their springy, youthful cow legs. And for me, each event is an important part of who I am, and my connection to my local environment.

And truthfully, I want to go home….

Stories Are the Fabric of Who We Are

Everywhere you look, there’s a story. On TV, its a story of fictional characters, or a story about historical individuals or events. Even on the shows where they fix cars…there’s the story of the car before it made it into the shop, the story of it being rebuilt, and the story of what happens with the car when it leaves the shop. Books are easy, we’ve grown up with stories out of that. People are walking stories as well. What they’ve done since the last time you saw them, what happened in their lives before they met you, and whatever will happen to them after you part at the end of the day. Here at the college, there are plenty of stories as well. How students’ live, what brought them here to the college for these specific studies, and what dreams they have of utilizing those studies to further their careers and (hopefully) better their lives.

I deal in data for a living. I dish out number after number after number. And that data tells a story as well. It can relate how the number of graduates getting degrees is climbing steadily over the past five years. Or how overall enrollment at the college has been dipping over the past few semesters. It can provide a cost-benefit analysis of how money is (or is not) being spent. But the real measure is that each of the data points that show enrollment – the 9,000+ students that are taking classes here at the college – each of those data point represents an individual, unique story on its own. Taken collectively, there is one story to be told. Taken individually, there are 9,000+ individual stories to be told alongside the one collective perspective.

We tell stories to relate experiences, to parse knowledge between one another, to entertain, to inform, and sometimes to justify our actions. A few weeks back, I told the saga of the Screen Door Boar and the Bardic Initiates around the Saturday night campfire. I wanted to entertain everyone at the fire, and I wanted to engage them in the experience of that night. To do that, I utilized descriptive language and even body movements to convey not only my perspective, but also the humor of the moment. Apparently, I did a good enough job that I was complimented several times on the telling of the tale. But that’s just it, the telling of the tale has to happen, so that it may live.

As I noted, I deal in statistics and data. My job is to take a very high-level look at everything and relay to upper management what I can glean from all of that. The individual stories of the students’ is not nearly as important as my ability to explain ups and downs in the pattern of data. Why is enrollment down from a year ago? Because employment is up. Students snap up jobs which take away from their free time to be able to study. To add relevance to that perspective, I would show the employment rate for the county in question over the past few years to demonstrate that a rise in employment would provide a corresponding downward trend in enrollment. For my intended audience of upper management, this would be useful. For an intended audience of prospective students, it could potentially be a faceless way to present data.

Stories also hold meaning that only unlocks for us when we understand the relevance of a moment when held underneath the bright light of a simple turn of a phrase. Take the “Matrix” movies, for example. I have seen these films dozens upon dozens of times. Every single time I watch these movies, I find a new appreciation for a moment in one of the films or a different way of understanding the meaning of a set of dialogue. When we play out aspects of mythological stories against the backdrop of our everyday lives, we can find new meaning and relation to what is being presented. One of my favorite ways of viewing my job is against the backdrop of Theseus winding his way through the maze. When I spend time digging through our cube of data to locate things like student grades in English classes in a particular semester, and correlate that against ACT, SAT, and STAR test scores, I find myself keeping track of how each table in the cube relates to one another. And if I am unlucky, I may find myself arcing a pattern of connectivity between two tables using five tables between those to interlace and correlate the data. Taking the perspective of Theseus winding out the ball of yarn to find his way back out of the maze is my way of strengthening my understanding of why I am writing down the pattern of connected key columns in my query writing.

Not every story we hear, read, and experience has to have a level of hidden meaning behind it. Sometimes, a good story is there to entertain. And sometimes, that story that is just entertaining you at that moment, was providing deep meaning to you previously. Stories can interact and engage you on many different levels. You can find stories in nearly every moment of your life, provided you open your mind to the idea of what makes a story, a story. The real idea is to open yourself up to the idea that every story can not only entertain, but also provide deeper meaning.

So, I continue to step deeper into the embrace of not only hearing and telling the story, but also experiencing it. Maybe, I will see you around a campfire in the future. I sure would enjoy telling a story for you.

Time to Stop Running

Is hard work something we all seem to be allergic to? It certainly seems to be that way. There’s always the hunt for the “easy way” through an issue. Or looking for the “shortcut” to get from Point A to Point D without touching base at Points B or C. And to be completely upfront, this seems to be a product of the hectic hustle and bustle of modern western society. We always seem to be in a hurry to get things done. We’re in a rush to get from place to place. And for what? So we can feel that we accomplished something at the end of the day, as we pull on our pajamas and our slippers? And in order to compress more stuff into our day, we seek shortcuts in getting things done, all in the name of “saving time.”

Here’s a confession: I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. In fact, I’ll drop an even bigger confession: during my first five years working my way through the Bardic grade – I was constantly seeking shortcuts. In the end, I stopped, took stock of what I was trying to do, and the manner in which I was trying to accomplish it. And it was fairly easy to see that in trying to round out the corners, and find faster ways to get from Point A to Point D – the only thing I was cutting short was myself. Once I started taking my time with the lessons, and started doing what was being asked of me instead of looking for shortcuts, everything started to fall into place for me to understand. Rather than trying to “rush” through everything, it was more of a time-saver for me to complete each lesson completely rather than looking for time-saving changes to things.

Let me put it another way. If you were to build a house, you would want every aspect of it to be built correctly, right? You would want the company doing the actual construction to do things right, and not cut any corners on your home. After all, you want the house to stand for decades as you live in it. You don’t want the eastern wall to fall over in three years, simply because the construction company cut corners by not extending the foundation in that part of the home. Right?

So why do we seem to do the same thing where construction of rituals or spell work is concerned? We want to skip over some steps because we want to get to the end result as fast as possible. And when those skipped steps can be costly in terms of the effectiveness of your ritual or spell, would you not want to go back and do it the right way? If it takes three days to work out the construction aspects of your ritual, wouldn’t you want to start doing that four or even five days ahead of time, so that its ready when you need it?? Or would you like to fit three days of work into less then five hours?? And in terms of ritual, who are you shorting on that? Yourself? The people who attend your ritual? Your Gods? All of the aforementioned??

Being prepared is one thing. Understanding the need to follow directions and get the timing right is another, though related, concept. But why are we hustling through these things? Especially when it comes to something like acquiring knowledge. Everyone learns at a different pace or a different methodology. And, by the way, learning things and expanding your knowledge and understanding is not a fecking race. So why are we constantly setting ourselves into positions where it seems to be just that??

In my case, its something I have been coming to grips with lately. I have a tendency to over-schedule myself. I want to do this or that, but I just don’t have the time to handle such things. I have a hard time saying “no” to people. And to be honest, I don’t like to disappoint anyone. And what happens is that I disappoint everyone else, and I disappoint myself when “I can’t do this because of that.”

Life is not a race. Expanding your knowledge and training within your own Tradition is not a race. Proper preparation, proper concentration, proper attention shows respect for what you are trying to do – whether that be ritual, spell work, grocery shopping, your job, or listening to your significant other or kids. We don’t need to rush from spot to spot in our lives. We wind up missing out on the details, we wind up trying to find shortcuts. And in the end, we wind up coming up short on things that really do matter.  #TwoPence

 

Freedom is Choice – Choose to Decide

Freedom. The concept comes in so many forms. The freedom of a nation to determine its own course. The freedom of an individual to determine their own choices in living life. And so many other ways to think about the concept. But for me, it comes down to one thing: choice. Choice is what provides me with my path into Paganism. I grew up raised as a Catholic by parents who were not church goers. In essence, they forced their own concept of personal spirituality on to me. When I became an adult, I searched through various aspects of religious perspective and spirituality thought before finding Paganism, Polytheism, and eventually Druidry as fame works for my own personal Spirituality.

And I love having the ability to choose things for myself. Its one of the things I cherish about the American format of Life. I can choose the vehicle I want to drive. I can choose the house that I wish to live in; granted, that’s s long as I can afford the payments on it. I can choose, to some capacity, the type of professional career that I want. I can also choose to make a sudden change in that career path if I so desire. I can choose where to shop for groceries; again, that is complicated to some degree by what I can afford. And I can choose the individual that I love – regardless of gender, race, eye color, hair color, maturity level….or at least that’s until the government decides to outlaw same-sex relationships.

So, what would happen if the government did start taking away choice? In other words, what would happen if the government started curtailing my freedoms? Well, its happened to some degree with things such as the so-called Patriot Act, and in some states with the bathroom/gender laws. And for the most part, we in America tend to allow it to happen. I can live with the thought of taking off my shoes at the airport because its a measure to keep us safe. If the government takes away same-sex marriage, it doesn’t bother me – I’m a straight male. But its really an illusion. As some choices get taken from us in the name of security or the “sanctity of marriage” – how long before the next set of choices gets taken? In a society that is driven by definitions and laws created by straight white males, how far can the removal of choices be made before we start to push back??

In my mind, freedoms and choices are for all, not for a chosen few. When a society starts creating a division of haves and have-nots, the concept of democratic principles that apply to all melts away. But how to stop changes like this from happening? That’s actually easy, provided the laws don’t change before you can do something about it. You need to vote.

And you don’t need to just vote, you need to be up to speed on what’s happening before you head to the polling location. Know about your candidates. Know their stances on issues that matter to you. Know the issues for your local area and state that are being put before you. Know what those changes can mean to you, and others.

Now, I am sure that I am preaching to the choir – so to speak – with some of you. But voter apathy is a real thing. People complain about their vote not meaning anything. Well, your vote means even less if you don’t cast the damn thing. We talk about personal sovereignty, we talk about having freedoms….as I said, all that boils down to one thing:  choice. As is stated in the Rush song “Freewill”:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.