Working with the Gods Does Not Always Have to be Epic in Scale and Scope

The past few days it has been really cold up here on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Cold enough that the pipes to my pool and hot tub froze up and burst. Its nothing major, and provides the opportunity to replace the old heating system that is currently in place. But it was an unexpected moment. And a little reminder of why two Trickster Gods have been such an influence on who I am today.

When I heard people say that they were “working with the Gods”, I always fell into a pattern of thinking that they were doing something similar to Hercules – achieving stuff for the Gods that was just some massive undertaking. But in working with the trio of Gods that work within my life, I have found that this is not always the case. Sometimes, the tasks are a bit more internal – and in reflection, typically even more epic in size and scope within an individual’s life – rather than epic in the measure of our entire Pagan community or scopes even larger than that. And sometimes, the individual scope is enough to effect change elsewhere.

Ten years ago, I would be cursing and angry about what happened with the burst pipes for the pool. I would be proclaiming my bad luck, and how Life is being unfair to me. In short, I would be pitching a Titanic hissy fit. My disposition throughout my earlier life has always been one of being knocked off balance by events that happened along the way. When shit happened, I hit major meltdowns of epic proportions.

But two Trickster Gods intervened in all of this six years ago. My life was turned upside down in every imaginable way. I quit my job after working the worst employer I have ever had. I found myself caught up in one of the biggest downturns in economic history within the United States. I was unemployed for ninety-eight weeks. One week shy of the maximum amount that could be pulled during unemployment. I was hired in as an adjunct professor at the college I am currently working for. A position that I felt uniquely unqualified for at that time. And through all of that, every step of the way, there was a voice in the back of my mind.

Keep calm. It is only a stretch of rocks in the road. You will get past all of this, and find yourself among the trees again. I promise.

That was Coyote, whom I had just started finding in my meditations. I was learning the lesson of seeing the bigger picture. Opening up to the perspective of seeing wider and further than just me, I soon realized that while I was unemployed, and that full-time work, along with the medical benefits that I needed for working with my diabetes, was a difficult stretch of road – it could be far worse. I saw that on the news constantly. People losing their homes because they had lost their jobs. Unable to provide for their families. People leaving the keys on the kitchen counters as they abandoned their homes. Their pets left behind in those same homes because they could no longer afford to feed the furry members of their family. Yes, my road was difficult. But it could definitely have been worse.

I was learning another lesson as well – that of transformation. My time working as a desktop support technician were over. My skillset was similar to that of a high school student entering the workforce. There was no way a forty-something man was going to be able to compete in that industry with workers who would do the same thing at a cheaper price. I had two Masters degrees and a Bachelor degree. My time working in hardware was over, and I needed to realize that. It took a while. Hardware was what I knew. Hardware was how I made a living. But slowly I was nudged into the classroom, where I taught basic hardware concepts. I was able to show students how data on them was utilized by their own government. How data flowed between government entities – and how it did not in other cases.

And through those two lessons – amid the howls and laughter that Coyote had throughout all of it, I learned to control my emotions a lot more, and figure out how humility would work for me. Not only was I transforming my skillsets and moving into other areas of Information Technology, I was growing as an individual in ways that I desperately needed.And I was growing towards being what I needed to be: a Priest.

I have resisted that title for so long, that I still feel odd in accepting that aspect of my Path. Its only been fairly recent that I have turned towards that and decided that I would define what the term “Priest” meant to me – rather than accepting some definition that mainstream society attached to it. I am not going to hear confession. I am not going to transform anything into the body of anything else – no matter what the ritual. And honestly, I am not likely to lead any ritual anywhere except in my own backyard. And even then, only when I am the only one there. For me, Priest is something a little different, which I have talked about before.

For me, one of the tasks given to me by my trio of Gods was to grow. Coyote required me to grow up, and learn to be more in control of myself. Crow showed me how to find the silver lining in situations. Yes, the pipes froze and burst. That’s a bad thing. But it certainly provides the opportunity to replace the aging heater as well as repair the pipes. Fliodhas is showing me to find beauty in all aspects of Life. To look at the beauty of things beyond the external appearances. To look deeper at the relationships, how things interconnect, and where the intersection of all of that has a deeper meaning than can initially be realized.

Certainly, there is a lot going in the world all around us. A contentious Presidential election. Seemingly endless terror attacks on our over-arching society. Many, many people using political tides as excuses for behavior that is completely unacceptable. I am reminded that each time these moments occur, we – as a collective society – need to stand up against that. But in doing so, we need to make sure that we don’t let our emotions go overboard and boil over – that we don’t become something we never meant to be in the first place. Certainly, such issues need to be responded to, but we also need to remember having restraint in those moments as well. That’s what makes us different than those people. For me, Coyote, Crow, and Fliodhas have provided enough insight for me to recognize this need within myself.

 

Let’s Get “Serious”

I see that, once again, we are coming into the extremely stale argument of what is “serious Paganism” within areas of the Pagan Blog-o-sphere. I am not going to rehash arguments or statements by either side in the “argument*”. Rather, I will add my personal perspective, which can get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks – provided you carry enough cash to buy that order. In other words, my perspective carries only the weight that I – myself – give it.

Denigration of other religious paths has been something that has occurred throughout the wider Pagan community. For whatever reason(s). Looking at the path of other folks’ and determining that it is “silly” or “not serious” is a near constant throughout religion and philosophy. I have heard Christians denigrate other Christians because the others do/don’t speak in tongues. And that’s just a single example. Whatever the statement of disagreement may be – while important, is really more a symptom of other things.

From where I stand, it really does not matter what you believe or how you worship or the way you hold your rituals or how you venerate the Gods. In the end, that will be between you and the Gods. Its not my place to step between any of that. Nor is it my place to label or describe someone else’s manner of belief or veneration (or lack thereof) as being “silly” or “not serious”. The highest label I can place on anything is “not the way that I do it.”

Rev. Cal Lippitt of the podcast “The Secrets in Plain Sight” has a particularly saying that covers a ton of this: “Religion is like underwear. What is comfortable and appropriate for me, might not be such for you.” And to me that’s true. Mocking another’s beliefs, in my opinion, is a potential sign of insecurity in your beliefs, ritual patterns, veneration of your Gods and Goddesses or what have you. Claiming that someone is “not serious” about their beliefs – especially when the only thing you know of them is through news articles found online – comes across as a “holier than thou” attitude. Being honest here, I walked away from Christianity over issues like this, along with a perspective that monotheistic, Abrahamic belief systems just didn’t fit in with the way I see the world.

With its wider umbrella, and openly stated adherence to the acceptance of all Paths being valid for those that walk them – little arguments* like this tend to have me wondering if that stated acceptance is merely lip service. It certainly leaves me wondering. However, arguments* such as this certainly smack of the completely fabricated “War on Christmas” garbage that lip-service Christians come up with every year.

* I refuse to call any aspect of this a debate, particularly when name-calling and insults have been a regular aspect of the discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are We to Each Other?

Last night, I was adding some data to a baseball stats database that I am creating. I had the internet radio player on and was listening to something called “The Moth Radio hour” which I happened to stumble across while looking for some kind of background noise. Krista Tippett, the creator and voice of the podcast “On Being” happened to be on. She was talking about her late grandfather and how her experiences with his “preacher” occupation had led her to ask some of the questions that she does. During that, she was stating some of the questions that she regularly goes through in her head, and she stated one that really intrigued me. I even stopped entering data to sit and contemplate the depth in relation to some of my own communities – the Pagan community and the Polytheist community.

What are we to each other?

A lot of what I do, particularly in my journal writings is a lot of navel gazing. Or if you prefer, a much narrower focus than a question like this. I have my own approach to the two Gods and the single Goddess that hold interest in me. Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas all particular interests within my life. Each have provided – and continue to do so – lessons that I have needed to learn. But there are other teachers that hold places in my understanding of the world around me.

I podcast occasionally. I write blog posts where I get the chance to set out my perspective on daily life and many other topics. I read posts by many Polytheists where they detail their perspectives on approaching the Gods, the Goddesses, the Spirits of Place, and the Spirits of Ancestor. There are, literally, connections and interconnectivity that is made everywhere.

I have had the chance to meet so many people whose works, music, and talks have inspired me in so many ways. And I have had the chance to meet people who say that I have inspired them to search within themselves in a direction that they had never thought of. And there are those that I have never met, and yet have made a connection with them. Stepping back to Tippett’s question, who are these people to me? And the unanswerable side of that question – what am I to them?

For some, to some degree, I am a consumer of their goods, their output from their talents. I get free pdf copies of books, but I still go out and buy the books from the authors. Many of the musicians have provided their music to me for free. I still go out and purchase their music. Many of the folks who have provided me with copies of their talks, I have added myself as a “patron” of their materials through websites such as Patreon. I do this, so that these folks get compensated and can continue to share their talents with world around them. For them, I am a believer in what they are doing. I want to see them become successful at this, so that they can continue to produce such lovely and inspiring works for everyone.

Some of them, I have been lucky enough to cultivate a friendship with them. I have found them to be wonderful, giving, and caring friends. Some have only shared small parts of their lives with me, while others have welcome me into their lives as a family member would. To whatever depth that may be, I treasure each and every one of these people. I am fiercely protective of them, as I consider them all to be a part of my wider family, no matter the degree or depth of our shared bond.

But all of this showcases the depth of the connectivity that I have achieved with some folks in the Pagan community. What about others? The people I meet at Festivals, Gatherings, Rituals, and Conventions that I can only nod to in passing? Who are these people to me? Who are these people to you?

Being only one person in a communities as wide and diverse as Polytheism and Paganism, I cannot (and would not) attempt to answer for anyone else. For me, these folks that I walk past in Conventions, meet only once at a Ritual, etc etc — these people are family to me as well. But far more distant. Being that they are somewhat unknown to me, I am slightly more wary of them. But they are Pagans, as I am. Or maybe not. They could be sympathetic monotheists attending a Ritual or Convention out of curiosity or a desire to broaden their knowledge. But to me, they are no different than I am. They are people, struggling to make their way through life in the ways that they understand, comprehend, and find as a capable method for themselves.

In the end, I have to fall back to the concept that was derived for the most part from the Hippy movement – Be kind to another. As an individual of an alternative lifestyle, I know that acceptance of what and who I am is somewhat minimal by many within the so-called “mainstream” society. But none of that changes how I approach the rest of the world. I accept that people will follow concepts and teachings that seem most comfortable to them. So long as they do no harm to others, I am perfectly fine with it.

Who are these people? These fellow travelers on similar Paths to my own? Who are they to me? Well, they are people that think somewhat similar to me. Some of them approach the Gods and Goddesses in a similar vein as I do. Many of them are finding, experiencing, and defining the connectivity in their own worlds, just as I am. Regardless of similarity or disagreement in who we approach things in our lives – they are just as I am, and I should treat them with dignity and respect, even when they do not do the same for me. And all of this runs deeper than human beings. Animals, plants, rocks, soil, the planet, the stars, the Gods, the Goddesses, the Spirits of Place, the Spirits of Ancestor — all creation deserves that same dignity and respect. I might still be puzzling out some aspects of who all of this is to me, but regardless of that connection – there has to be dignity and respect at its core. Even if nots given in reciprocity.

One Step at a Time, One Issue at a Time.

I still remember the mantra.

One step at a time. One issue at a time. Take things in the order you need to. Solve each issue, so that you can solve the next issue.

Back in Air Force Basic Military Training, this was the mantra that one of our drill instructors taught us. TSgt Moody was a very strict disciplinarian. Her point to all of us – fifty-two young men – was that we could beat the Confidence Course (an Obstacle Course that we had to finish in under a specified time), if we tackled each obstacle one at a time. If we were focused on the Tower (the obstacle I hated because of its sixty-three foot height), we might make mistakes on other obstacles ahead of it.

In the end, I finished the course with two and a half minutes to spare. I did so by following her mantra. Each obstacle had to be overcome, beaten, conquered before I could think of the next one. When I finished the course, I felt that I had accomplished something with a tool set I had never realized I had before:  my own sheer will.

Not even a year later, I found myself applying the same mantra to doing something that completely terrified me. My first duty assignment was at Carswell Air Force Base, and my first job was working in the base telephone switchboard until my clearance would be granted. Aside from answering and placing telephone calls, as well as providing phone numbers for folks that asked for various base locations, I also had to conference commanders together for radio and secure conference calls. These were people with ranks like Colonel and General, extremely high-placed individuals on the base. Trying to insure that they were pleased with my performance was stressed by both my duty section supervisor and the civilian workers who had been in this position for years. My first attempt at making a conference using both secured telephone connections and over-the-air hand-held radios was a sheer disaster. I was literally terrified of these upper-level commanders yelling at me. Shortly afterwards, it dawned on me, this was just another obstacle to overcome. I studied the steps needed to make the conference calls. I learned each motion. And when the second call came in, I connected all the commanders in what was considered record time. One step at a time. One issue at a time. Until resolution. That methodology has allowed me to remain calm in the face of most issues. Some people think I’m frenetic, but the reality is that I am calm inside. I solve one step at a time, and move on to the next one. I try to resolve the issue at hand.

On the morning of November 9th of this year, I woke up and checked the news. What I had realized the previous night had turned out to be true:  Donnie and Mikey had been elected to the positions of President and Vice President of my country. It was an election I had somewhat feared, but had braced myself for, nonetheless. I was in a state of shock for about three days. To this day, I still refuse to acknowledge the Republican nominee as being my President. Sure, some can see that as childish, but its no different than what was done when President Obama was elected to both of his terms. Its now the end of the month of November.

Many of the people I know are scared and upset over the election of this turd as President. And with good reason. He made statements during the election about changing laws regarding the equal treatment of people. He made demeaning statements against people of color, people in non-traditional lifestyles. Since he has been elected, he has made statements about changing laws regarding free speech rights. In short, he has turned the concept of human rights in this country back to what is nearly the 1950s. But that’s just his statements. There’s still the changing of the laws.

Remember the mantra?  One step at a time. Sure, Donnie can make the statements that he wants to. That’s free speech. Changing the laws?  That’s a different step. And that’s where I, as a veteran and a taxpayer of this country, draw the line. He can make all the statements that he wants, but when he starts to change the laws – that’s where stuff gets real.

Right now, I am grounding myself into my own daily practices. I venerate my Gods and Goddess daily. I continue to draw experience and strength from the connections with my local area. In short, I have gotten back to doing the things that make me the Pagan, the Druid, and the person I am. I wear a safety pin to signify that I am safe for those needing me. I will also not stand by when someone is berated or even physically attacked by others. I will step in. I will let the blows rain on me rather than them. I will fight back to keep us both safe. That’s my first steps. Where the next steps come from, I’m not sure yet – but I am ready to take those that are necessary. I won’t speculate how far that might be – I’ll worry about that when the situation comes about. In the meantime, I focus on the now.

One step at a time folks. That means assessing where you are now, and what needs to be done now. Once that is completed, what is the next step to take? Or is the issue resolved? If there is nothing there to take action on, reaffirm who you are. Be the person that you are. If you are a Polytheist, connect back with your Gods and Goddesses. Reaffirm those things that make you the Polytheist that you are.

Some of you are stronger into politics and stuff like that than I am. Be sure of what steps you need to take in that world as well, if that’s where you are. For me, its time to start scouting through all the people out there to find a political candidate I can believe in. Someone who stands with me on the issues that are the ideological pillars of what I believe. And once I locate someone who is close to that, I will begin trying to see how to get this individual to the forefront of the Presidential run in 2020. The race for 2020, as far as I am concerned started on November 9th. Time to handle the first step — find a candidate to support.

Remember….one step at a time. I cannot change who is President. But I can resist to the best of my ability. I can be a protector for those that need it. And above all, I can continue to strive to be the Pagan, Druid, and Priest that I am meant to be, which will keep me grounded in the right direction for everything else. Because THAT is what I am. No apologies. No explanations.

Do You Hear Me, Do You Care? What Are Words For?

About a year and a half ago, I started journaling what I actually do throughout an entire day. Every day, somewhere near my bedtime, I have spent a few minutes noting what I managed to do throughout the day. Two days ago, I realized that I was getting close to the completion of my Bardic Grade studies, and thought it would be interesting to take a short step back and see where things have gone – not just in my studies, but within me. Naturally, I stepped over to this little journal of “things done” and started reading.

I spend a lot of time at my computer keyboard. From just a short reflection, I would say a rough calculation is a little more than two-thirds of my average day. Of course, a lot of that has to do with my job as an Assessment Analyst. I spend time pulling data, analyzing trends, starting studies, and looking at the trends developed from those studies. Seemingly, I am prized for my analytical abilities. But there are certainly times I wonder.

Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
I think I’ll dye my hair blue

Two of my three degrees are within the field of Information Systems. Back when I started my Bachelor’s degree (2000), the field was growing and expanding its base of ability. The knowledge sets were already in place, though several other aspects would eventually grow from all of that. Data mining, once feared in the mid 1990s by the general public, had taken hold in the background of the daily processes that people brought their daily world around. The Information Age had truly started. Big Data at that time was a slippery, somewhat unknown concept. Of course, that has changed, and Big Data is now a firmly entrenched aspect of everyone’s daily lives, even if they are not aware of it.

The explosive growth of social media was the final piece of the Big Data puzzle. People wanted to declare themselves online. Facebook profiles gather all kinds of information that is willingly supplied by its users. But that’s something for another conversation. The more insidious aspect of social media is what people post. Quite a few years ago – and still in some aspect of “vogue” – was the process of taking pictures of the meals that individuals were about to eat. I never really understood all of that, but those posts are data-mining gold. It shows trends of what people eat, their tastes, and the timing of their dining out experiences. And that’s ust a small example.

But there’s another aspect of it as well. While our social media habits provide all kinds of data points to corporations on what we – the general public – are willing to consume, where, and when; we also talk about topics with our social media friends. We post our opinions on our Facebook walls about all kinds of topics. Sometimes, conversations ensue in the reply threads. Sometimes, arguments erupt. But the frequency of that is not always that great in comparison to the number of posts that are made.

But what becomes of those conversations, debates, and arguments? Are opinions changed? The probability of that is extremely low. More often than not, we seek people who agree with our perspectives. Those that disagree, tend to be shouted down, rather than listened to. Or even worse, they get removed from the Friend’s List and are blocked from being able to see what we post. In essence, we turn Facebook into a social media echo chamber that we calibrate accordingly through the culling of the herd through unfriending and blocking.

And given the wide use and acceptance of social media as a way to stay connected with the majority of our friends, we are starting to lose the concept of critical thinking. We do not want to hear dissenting opinions. We want to hear the people that agree with us. There’s no thought or credence given to the other side of an argument.

When I taught in the classroom, I did my very best to provide space and time for the opposite point of view. I cannot say with certainty that I did a great job at it, but I know that I tried. After all, I am just as human as anyone else. I do have my biases. And I am just as guilty of creating a Facebook echo chamber on my own wall. I am not claiming to be a saint in all of this, whatsoever.

We are currently in the heyday of the Information Age. You can turn anywhere and get stories about this point of view or that one. Information flies past us on every neews site, news aggregation site, podcast, streaming radio station, instagram post, and what else might be out there. This past election cycle is an example of all of that. The problem is not the amount of information, but rather the veracity of that information. There are news parody sites that are held up as factual information. There are many people out there that distort the facts to provide backing for their own opinions. Many of these people make a living off this disinformation. The result of all of this is a growing degree of cynicism concerning the information that is available to the general public.

I might as well go up and talk to a wall
’cause all the words are having no effect at all
It’s a funny thing am I all alone
Something has to happen to change the direction

What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
It’s a sorry state I say to myself
What are words for when no one listens anymore

I am not sure that there is any way to change this imbalance to the information world. At least not in a way that keeps the freedom of the information we have. Certainly laws can be created to staunch the flow of disinformation, but who gets to decide what is disinformation and propaganda and what is not? Recently, I posted a story about a Water Protector who may lose her arm after being hit with a concussion grenade. I was told by an acquaintance that it was merely propaganda. That she was actually part of a group of these “violent protests” that were creating bombs with propane tanks. Now, I am not going to get into the veracity of what I am pointing to here. The point of the example is this – the storyline as I received and disseminated it came from within the camp of the protestors. The storyline that my acquaintance was using to refute my point came from the Morton County Sheriff’s department – the opposite side of the protest. There was no neutral party covering this to report one side or the other. Why?  Because the mainstream news media has ignored the Dakota Access Pipeline protests since the protests started. With no news coverage, there is no third-party neutrality to accurately report the news. Thus, both sides of the story are susceptible to inaccuracy and exaggeration. Which is more accurate? When the veracity of something cannot be determined, the cynical attitude of what is or isn’t news begins to creep into the equation.

Media overload bombarding you with action
It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
What are words for when no one listens anymore

My mundane job falls into the world of Information Sciences. The vast tornadic whirlwind of information, disinformation, accurate facts, propaganda, and the deafening sounds of the world-wide echo chamber came about from my realm of study. We scream into the digital winds from our keyboards, comfortable within our homes, and the ergonomic chairs of our office environments. Others take the streets, attacking the basis of the economic world, determined to bring down what they have come to perceive as the deadly corporate beast that threatens to destroy and enslave us all. We are all affected by words. Words that come straight from the Tornado of Information. Accurate or not, this spinning vortex informs our worlds – immediate and distant. And it is this beast of Information that I fear. More than a Trump presidency. More than fascist tendencies from people, governments, and mobs. And while others may disagree, this Tornado of Information is a product of the Storm. And, in my opinion, it is the immediate effect of where we are right now. And while I would like to offer a way to destroy or tame it….I have no idea how that can be done. Because this Tornado of Information is derived from a human trait that has always been difficult to tame and destroy – gossip.

My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you’re in a daze

It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize you don’t know what you just read
What are words for when no one listens anymore

What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin’ at all

(*) Quoted material comes from the song “Words” by Missing Persons.

Thankful for Hope

Here in the States, we have reached the time for Thanksgiving. Traditionally, it is a time for being thankful for what we have in our lives, until the following day when we all head out to the retail stores to beat the crap out of each other for cheap(er) prices on various items that we did not really need in the first place. Or at least that’s the theory.

Thanksgiving is also a time that lends itself to levels of gluttony where food consumption is concerned. For me, no thanks. I am fat enough already. I could be mistaken for the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey at my current weight.

This is also the time frame where families get together, to remember that we are all related to one another, and that we should be nice to each other. That is, until the inevitable talk of politics kicks in, and the dining room table breaks into a war zone where Trump supporters form to one side, the lone Hillary supporter to the other, and the Sanders’ supporters block the way to the kitchen. By the time the stuffing has slid down the wallpaper, someone is packing to leave early. And thus, the traditional family fight begins the holiday season.

In all those aspects, I guess I am lucky. The physical, geographic distance between myself and my DNA relations is great enough that I am just considered the “odd family member that lives too far away.” My extended family tend to live on other continents from me, so that travel is generally out. So it is really just a stay-cation for the holidays. Sure, there is a copious amount of food that still gets made, but it is not for a single meal. The design is to be enough to last through the entire weekend. So there is no need to gorge. And Black Friday shopping is typically limited to a handful of stores (if at all), along with a trip to the barber for my twice yearly haircut. So, Thanksgiving is a typically quiet affair for me.

But there are things to be thankful for. I still have my health – as it seems to be for the moment. I still have a paying job – as it seems to be for the moment. And while I hold them at arm’s length, I do still have DNA family. I have the right to follow the religious beliefs of my own – for the time being. And I have the company of Crow, Coyote, and Fliadhas. I am thankful to be able to be who I am, what I am, and continue to become what I am meant to be. And for me, that is more than enough in life. I do not need to drive my enemies before me, nor do I need to hear the lamentations of their women. That works for Conan the Barbarian, but not for me.

This election cycle has certainly drawn some long, deep, and difficult divides between folks. It has emboldened some to showcase their hatred and disdain for others. It has driven many to places of hiding, seeking shelter, and being wary of so many around them. The election of Donnie and Mikey has struck the tower bell and started sounding the alarm that things are changing. The coming times have the hallmark of being truly perilous times. Times that will test many of us in ways that we never thought possible; ways that we thought were better thought of in a generation or two in the past.

I can understand the trepidation. I can understand the fear. I can understand the inability to see or focus beyond what seems to be bad. But deep down, deep within, there is always a reason to be thankful. Even if the thanks are for some of the smallest things. As Jyn Erso has been heard to utter on the commercials for Star Wars: Rogue One — “Rebellions are built on hope.” And in my own estimation, one of the best ways to stick it to the incoming administration is to just continue to be yourself. Do not let any of this change who you are. Be you. That is my two pence into the pot. If you happen to be the lucky winner, do not spend it all in one place.