Plain-Language Programming – Mean What You Write

Back in 1995, I took a class in Pascal programming – much of which I have forgotten at this point in time. But the instructor taught us a programming concept that he called “pseudo programming” which basically boiled down to regular sentence statements for what was going to be done. For instance, if we were going to write a loop, we would create pseudo code that looked like this:

Check variable [x] for [y] value
As long as [x] does not equal [y] do the following
(long string of functions to be performed on data and stored)

Later on in my professional career – which admittedly looks like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney – I learned that this process is sometimes referred to as “Plain Language Programming” which is just a fancy way of saying that you are talking about stuff in a manner that non-programmers (for your language) can understand what is taking place in the block of code that you are commenting upon. This is typically done so that some other meathead programmer can come along and comprehend what was going on in that garbled mess that I call a brain, without me being there. Or as I pointed out to my students when I taught – if I stepped off the curb in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, hit by a speeding city bus, and thus turned into a pile of mushed meat that could fit into a can of KalKan – someone else could pick up where I left off. Yeah, it got a few giggles and some startled looks, but it kept the students awake. But that’s a deer trod that we will ignore for this post.

Plain Language Programming is wonderful stuff. Its just easy, plain, to-the-point descriptives of what’s taking place. But its not as easy as you think. You have to be precise with what you state. Saying that a block of code “processes some stuff here, and spits out data in the magic format required” is not nearly as meaningful as “the process performs calculations on the data to determine a player’s batting average, on-base percent, and slugging percentage. Once completed, the output is put into a comma-separated value format as specified by the required upload format at”. Precision in the language matters, particularly where description is concerned.

All of this comes back to Starhawk’s presentation “Crossing Stony Ground” at Pantheacon this year. The point made was “Watch what you say or repeat…” Next to that, I wrote “PLP” for Plain-Language Programming. When we read or hear something – particularly in these overly sensitive times in our online environments, we can sometimes misread what is being said – totally missing the point of what is being said. I know I have that issue, just as anyone else does. Rather than reading through the entire message for context, we leap to our conclusions or answers based on a small amount of information. Sometimes, its because we are in a rush to provide a response or opinion. An appropriate example came this morning when I was playing Jeopardy on my Amazon Echo. The question was “What number is the last Constitutional Amendment…” (I had my answer here) “…to the Bill of Rights?” I fired back with “What is 27?” That would be right, except that there’s the extra added part of “the Bill of Rights” which makes the answer “10”. Instead of waiting for the rest of the question – I had the answer. And it was wrong. See, words have meaning…and not enough words gives you only a partial picture.

…and its interesting to watch all of this take place, particularly within the online in-fighting we see among the Pagan community. We bicker, we fight, we posture, we threaten, we defend….and most of the time, we haven’t even gotten into the “Bill of Rights” part of the statement, which allows for context. We find our conclusions, form our stances, build our defenses, populate the ramparts with archers – for a single rabbit on the path to the main gates. Granted it could be a killer rabbit…with fangs! So perhaps, we’ve done the right thing by sliding into DefCon one from DefCon five.

No, words have meaning. And when you work without the full context of those words, misunderstandings take place. And from those misunderstandings, we draw battle lines. And from those battle lines…..well, you get the picture. Much like plain-language programming needs to be as descriptive as possible without being overly complicated, we need to be careful about what we invest into what we read or hear, until we know the context of everything. Online communication, being rather binary in its nature, is easily misunderstood. There’s no depth or dimension that is carried by tonal inflection. No additional context added by physical aspects. No smiles. No hand gestures. No standing or sitting postures. No hint of laughter in a voice. No sternness portrayed by narrowed eyes, or surprise by widened ones. As such, we need to be careful with what we say, but also in what we repeat. We need to be sure to hear the latter part of the statement, so that we know that the last numbered amendment refers to only the Bill of Rights, not the entire stack of amendments. And really, the only way to accomplish this – is to learn to slow down and listen. Not an easy task in today’s lightning paced, online driven social environment.

My Odd Thoughts on Journals – Hand-written v. Keyboard

So, I write poetry. Back in the day, I wrote a LOT of poetry. Being in the military at that time, with a girlfriend back in Shreveport, Louisiana, I sent all of those poems to her. She would cut them out of the letters, and put them in an album. When we broke up, I never saw that album again. But then, I discovered BBSs, and wrote a lot of my poetry while logged in. I was rather prolific there as well. When Renaissance BBS closed down, I was provided with a printout of all the poems I had written there. Two moves – one to Germany, the other back to the States – provided a loss of those poems as well. Thinking back, I believe it may be somewhere close to 400 poems or more that I have lost over that time frame – probably to never be seen again.

These days, I tend to write poetry here on WordPress, and will sometimes back it up on EverNote. But the reality of that has been slim to non-existent, which is a bad habit I have fallen into. A few years back, I submitted one of my poems – Lone Wolf: Innocence in Snow – to a writing contest here at the college. I won first place in the poetry contest, and also received an award for best writing work for the entire writing showcase. I realized at that point, that I needed to start backing up my work, particularly since I wrote mostly in a digital environment.

As I noted, my backup efforts have been sporadic, at best. So, when I finished my Bardic Grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I realized that I needed a better manner to protect my writings – particularly my poetry. So, I bought three blank, lined journals – dedicated one to my own personal thoughts, the second to my upcoming Ovate Grade Gwers work, and the third to my poetry. Now, my efforts are towards writing out my poetry by hand into my journal. And in doing this, I discovered something rather strange.

As I started reading through my entries here on WordPress, I realized that I had written poetry that I couldn’t recall. There were a few that I remembered, but as I looked through those, I realized that these were poems I had hand-written back in the late 1990s. The other poems were ones that I had written in the last few years, via the computer. As I sat and pondered over this, it dawned on me that many of the appointments and event schedules that I write in Google calendar are easily forgotten a few days later. Furthermore, I found myself using Google calendar for a few days, and then no longer using it like I had previously. However, if I wrote things down – even as a scribbled note on the back of an envelope – I could easily recall what I had written three, four, and even eight months later.

Maybe its just a learning concept for me. If I write it, I remember it. I remember every single note I took at Pantheacon, earlier this year. I hand wrote all of those notes. A meeting with another department, I couldn’t recall a single note I took. That meeting was less than two weeks ago. I wrote those notes using a blue-tooth keyboard connected to my iPad.

There is a history of Alzheimer’s disease among the male members of my family on my father’s side. My grandfather, before he died, couldn’t even recall who his grandchildren were. My father had trouble with his short-term memory before he passed away a little more than two years ago. Perhaps, its just my genetic makeup?? If so, why should I be able to recall what I wrote at Pantheacon a few months ago with a slightly fuzzy clarity?? And why can I not recall poems I wrote a little over two years ago on a keyboard, and have vivid recollection of poems I wrote back in the early 2000s, and even back in the mid 1980s?? Its certainly a concept to study a bit deeper.

As an experiment of sorts, I have started moving all my writing – save for the blog – to pen and paper. I am also moving my calendar from Google to a daily planner. And I will be taking careful notes about how well I recall things using these methods for the next year-plus. Who knows? Perhaps my clarity of recall has something to do with rote memory of what I write physically with my hand because of the motion. Maybe its something to do with how I learned as a child. Maybe its none of that. Or even all of that. But this is the kind of stuff that puzzles me. And the kind of stuff I enjoy researching.

Connectivity, indeed…..

–T /|\

Life as a Long Hike

As I noted in a previous post, some of the minor themes in a talk given by Starhawk at Pantheacon this year have brought interesting conceptual thoughts to my mind. One of the more interesting ones was looking at one’s life-time journey as a hike. A really long hike.

Now, I enjoy walking. I get a chance to wander and accomplish what I call “walking meditation” where I can literally turn a single thought over and over in my mind as I walk. Lately I have not done a lot of these, and I really do need to change that. But that is a thought for another time. Using a hike as a metaphor for life was certainly an intriguing thought. There are all sorts of things that can be utilized in hiking that can be brought over to looking at one’s journey in life.

Pathway in Mesa VerdeFor instance, probably the easiest one to bring into focus is the ups and downs of life relayed into the hiking of hills and valleys on a path. I walked a rather long trail in Mesa Verde National Park. The start of the trail was up a steep hill to get closer to the cliff-side nearest to me. Once there, the trail hugged against the cliff-side, and narrowed considerably. The drop-off into the valley below was extremely steep and at times a sheer drop-off. At other times, the path passed through very narrow passageways between large boulders and the cliff wall. It was along this pathway and through one of these passages that I encountered Crow, which I can describe in no other way than an initiation of sorts. At one point, the trail scaled straight up a cliff wall, which – for me, as an individual with an acute fear of heights – was quite harrowing indeed. But thinking back along the lines of a hike as a metaphor for life….makes perfect sense.

The steep climb at the start of the hike, is quite similar to the initial steps one takes in life or even a Spiritual Path. We do not necessarily know exactly where things are or how definitions to certain terminologies or concepts can map into our own lives; so there’s a rather acute struggle. Or if you prefer, a climb of sorts. As we accumulate knowledge and understanding, we build on each concept and build and grow our application of that to our own lives.

But hills and valleys can have other meanings as well. The height of a hill can be a positive moment in our lives. Where we reach the pinnacle of some aspect. Everyday life seems to be in harmony with anything we do or try. We feel the awesome joy of accomplishment, able to look outwards at all that is our life, and survey the beauty of everything that is there. The valley, with its downward momentum, can have the feeling of riding in a vehicle without brakes. Gaining speed at every moment, careening dangerously along the path; a certain painful, and sudden stop that may certainly be in our very near future. Our demeanor reaches depths of sorrow and despair, as if our immediate world is being torn asunder. And we know that once we reach the bottom with our painful, injurious stop accomplished, that our future will require a slow, difficult climb to reach the heights. At times, we can feel like laying at our stopped location in the valley, staring up at the sky with despair that we will once again have to expend the energy to achieve what we once had. And we know that the top of the coming climb will provide a different vantage – similar to the previous one we had – but different all the same. Each individual person will have to determine whether they feel that such a climb is still within who they are.

And then, there is the narrow pathway that I found along my Mesa Verde walk. There were places where the path lead down a very steep, and short dirt path to the cliff edge. The drop off was certain life-threatening. A single misstep could potentially spell outright doom for me. Every step was carefully determined, each handhold was carefully tested to insure I had a strong grip, and that the handhold would hold enough to keep my pudgy ass from pulling me over the edge. Believe me, that the cliff edge was very much on my mind. We do much the same thing throughout our lives. We make plans for this or that; we make preparations for how we are going to accomplish these tasks. We make plans and preparations for our rituals. We decide where and what we are trying to accomplish. And sometimes, that narrow Path is the only way forward we have. Its not the yards-wide Path with smooth dirt or concrete or asphalt that we would prefer. Its rocky, uneven, and fraught with ways for us to trip and fall. We take our steps slowly, trying to keep our balance, and our footing. We navigate our way through some aspects of our lives in careful, measured steps. Where we have walked many times before, we might make quicker steps – faster decisions – sure of our footing or our position. And we might find an unknown root in our way, ensnaring the toe of our boots, and sending us sprawling face first into the Path. What else is there to do, then pick up our wounded pride, check for injuries, dust the dirt off our clothes, and move forward – looking more carefully?

So, there are certainly ways to see Life as a long, long hike. We get a little cocky on our walk, trip and fall in places where we seemed to be certain of our footing. In other areas, we are acutely aware of the drop-off at the cliff’s edge, and tread far more carefully. But the true measure of our hike is not how far we’ve managed to walk. That comes from looking around us. Seeing the environment within which we’ve walked. During my walk along the Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde, I was struck by how beautiful the views were from my side of the wide valley. The land rolled outwards from my vantage point, moving hundred of yards in distance until the other side of the valley rose sharply from the ground. Once I got far enough away from people, I could see deer – or they might have been antelope – down in the valley below me, searching for food and water in the brush far below. Crows cawed from the trees above me, and Hawks soared on the thermals in the skies above. There is so much to what happens around us in Life as well. People come and go in our lives. Some stay and walk the Path with us from time to time. Some stay longer than others. All of them touch our lives to some degree, even if just momentarily.

Life is a long hike. But its not the distance that matters most. Its what we experience along that distance that matters the most. Those experiences make us who we are. Steep climbs; long valleys; thin trails; deer trods that we can barely see; extremely wide, paved paths – all of it provides the trail. But what we encounter on the trail, and just off the trail adds to what makes our Life experiences. And from my own perspective, those experiences are the treasured aspects of who and what I am.


Change is Inevitable

Its always been done this way. It worked for Joe Schmo back in 1872, it should be just as relevant for us today, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Do we cast our circles with this certain element in that particular cardinal direction, or can we change things up? Is it set in stone that this is the way that ritual has to be done, or can we alter things without angering the Gods and Goddesses? Essentially, it comes down to tradition versus experimentation. Or if you prefer, structure versus free-form. And I sit somewhere in the middle of this entire conversation. Because, in the end, its not a debate. Its a matter of personal preference.

There are elements and appointments that are ascribed into the very stone of our ritual souls. Water goes here, Fire goes here, Air goes here, Earth goes here, Spirit goes here. Rarely is there an element of argument as to “why”, and even more rare is the question of “what if we change it up by putting Air over there instead?” And nearly every traditionalist I know is gasping for breathe. Well, possibly. But it does begin to beg the question of whether change can be a good thing or not.

Major League Baseball is going through some of this right now. Changes to the rules concerning how intentional walks are conducted, where a pitcher must throw four pitches outside of the strike zone. Now, the change decrees that a pitcher merely has to point at first base and the batter automatically goes there. No pitches thrown. All done to “speed up” the game. Instant replay has made it to baseball. Certain types of plays can be challenged by the manager. Previously, the manager could challenge the play all the way to the next pitch that was thrown. Now, managers have thirty seconds to make the same challenge. And there is an unlimited number of challenges that can be over the course of the game. Ironically, this one aspect has lengthened the time of the games, nullifying the no-pitch walk. Now, there is talk of removing the Wins/Losses statistic from a pitcher’s accumulated statistics. Its considered to be a poor metric of pitcher performance, given that a Win or Loss is determined more by team play than it is via pitcher performance.

Every single one of these changes, along with the proposed statistical change, have been met with skepticism and outrage from old-school baseball types, such as myself. It changes the game, and evolves it into something that is slightly different than it was before. But the essential rules of the game are still the same. There are nine-innings that have to be played. Each team’s chance in the inning happens until three outs are made. The bases are still 90-feet apart. It still takes three strikes to get a hitter out without a batted ball into the field of play. Four balls outside of the strike zone give the batter a free pass to first base. The scoring rules have not changed whatsoever. In essence its the same game it was.

The same holds true for ritual – to some degree. Change any of the elements, and it changes the formula for the ritual. But the intent of the ritual is still the same. And for me, the formula based aspect means far less than the intent behind the entire ritual.

Now, let me add a few notations of where I am coming from. I am a firm believer in free-form ritual. Outside of the framework that OBOD provides for ritual, I have never done the same ritual, intentional or not, in the same manner. I merely utilize whatever comes to mind at the moment. One short ritual I did down near the banks of the Red River went along these lines:  face each cardinal direction, say the word “Please” out loud, and then step right into main aspect of working – which at this time was merely making a quick space where I could meditate for a few moments. Rather than reaching through a long, somewhat wordy intonation, my single word request was enough to quickly build what was necessary for me. For me, its not the framework that really places the emphasis, but rather the mindset that I had at that moment that mattered most. In fact, I could call to the cardinal directions with a simple “Yo!”, so long as my mindset is in the right place.

There is; however, a matter of decorum and respect where the Gods and Goddesses that comes into play as well. Given that the Gods that I work directly with are Tricksters, irreverent perspectives are sometimes quite welcome. So, I would note that free-form aspects are not useful where Gods and Goddesses that require strict, proper form within rites, requests, and prayer.

Free-form ritual works for me. The simplicity of my rituals lends to the easiness of how being fluid with style, and framework is useful for me. Were I to do a more structured ritual, where certain things must be done at certain times, in certain manners, and stated in certain ways; I would follow the syntax as stated. Coloring outside the lines would likely not be useful or obtain the desired results. For certain aspects of celebratory rituals, I can see where bending the rules is a bit more appropriate. Or as Morpheus tells Neo in the movie The Matrix:  “Some rules can be bent, others can be broken.”

Because adaptation is the key to evolution. And yes, I do believe that Paganism is evolving. I do not believe that the rituals we present to our Gods are the same as the ones presented to Them back in the mid 1800s. Nor do I believe these rituals are the same as the ones that go back into the mists of Time. I also do not believe that our rituals of today will be the same rituals presented to our Gods in the 2100s or even beyond. Our rituals today are the rituals we have today. Some will change. Some will be altered to one degree or another. Some will never be utilized again. But these are our rituals today, in whatever form we give to them. Much like baseball has changed over the years, and will continue to change going into the future – so will Paganism. Because change is inevitable.

Its a Do or Die Situation…

There is so much going on in the world out there – its not only hard to keep up, but its also becoming more difficult to swipe the shit out of the way, so that you can see what really is important. Every day, it seems there is another story about Donnie doing one thing or another in his position as President of the United States. And seemingly, each story details an even more outrageous statement or action on his part. And the sewer pipes of the internet overflow, and back up beyond belief. But, let’s remember – this is a con-man, especially skilled at distraction. Pay attention to the left hand, held high and majestic for the world to see – fingers moving, wrist bending to create fantastical gestures. And while your eyes watch the left hand, the right hand is moving in slow patterns, the arm is kept as still as possible, so as not to draw attention to its actions. Its not the “art of the deal” folks, its the “art of the con”. The question that needs to be asked is not what is going to be done about this, that or the other; the appropriate question to ask is “what do you not want us to see?” Welcome to the howling winds, and the cold, stinging rain of #theStorm.

Do you hear the sound on the wind?
The beating wings of crows?
Do you hear that on the wind?
The whisper of Andraste and Segomo
Do you hear the spears and swords beating on shields?
Teutates! Teutates! Teutates!
For the protection of Land!
For the protection of Tribe!
For the protection of kindred Spirit!
Standing Rock is the battle line.
—Robyn Birchleaf, 9/7/16

I wrote this poem last year, at the height of the beginnings of what became the Standing Rock protests. That fight continues, even despite the executive orders that put the Black Snake back into motion. The mark is no longer the pipeline itself, but rather the companies and banks that are providing the monies to keep its growth going. Standing in front of bulldozers worked for a short period of time. Physically confronting the security forces worked for a short period of time. It will be the work of trying to cut of the “air” that the Black Snake needs to survive – the money – that has the hope of working. But the pattern of how we’ve gotten to this point showcases some of the problems we have. We’re not united. We’re working from an analog perspective. Or if you prefer, from a binary pattern of response.

Coordinated patterns of response is what has the best chance of success. That requires all of us to set aside differences and work towards succeeding. Together. No battle plan succeeds when units that will be working together are spending time tearing one another down. For instance, look at the differences between Patton and Montgomery, once the Allies came into Europe. They squabbled between one another for who would be the point of the spear going into Germany. Both wanted the prestige of being the Allied General that broke the backs of the forces of the Third Reich. Now, I’m no heavy duty Historian, but I do believe that the squabbling between Montgomery and Patton costs the Allies the chance for Operation Market Garden to succeed. While the lion’s share of resources went to Montgomery, Patton continued to advance his own units – in defiance of standing orders – and requesting resources to “save” forward elements that he had moved in defiance. The concept is called “rock soup” – and Patton’s diversion of some critical resources, potentially cost the succession of Operation Market Garden.

So, let’s come back from the diversion. There’s a lot wrong with Donnie’s presidency and his administration. And some of that is the symptom of #theStorm, but the more troubling aspects come from the advance of the white supremacy movement, particularly under the more publicly palatable organization of the “alt-Right” movement. If you were to ask me (and no one really did), this is where the primary problem has arisen. People who believe that skin pigmentation makes a difference in who is more intelligent, and who has the “right” to rule. Furthermore, they drive gender issues along their path as well – preaching concepts of dominionism of males over females, and the “perversion” of human beings by the LGBTQ community. Deep down under all of that, is a reliance on Christian concepts of world-wide rule, which provides the vehicle for forward movement. White Christians, typically within the bounds of southern Baptist and Charismatic perspectives, is set up to be the boot that grinds all others beneath it. Even those Christians that do not advocate for such a positioning of their faith. They will find the boot sole bearing down on their necks. This is the primary winds of potential change in the world around us.

And yet we continue to squabble. We fight about terminology. We fight over who is or isn’t this or that. We express our outrage by sharing memes on Facebook and Twitter. And we hide when it comes time for action. Sooner or later, all of us will need to make a stand for who and what we are – free people, with independent minds and thoughts, able to make our own choices when it comes to who we love, how we worship, and Who we worship. Some folks are already out there on the front lines, they choose the “sooner” option. Those who hold back, and wait for the “later” option, might find far fewer people will be standing at that point.

As expressed by Pat Benatar, in her song “Invincible”

This bloody road remains a mystery
This sudden darkness fills the air
What are we waiting for?
Won’t anybody help us?
What are we waiting for?

We can’t afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible


Circling Back to Pantheacon

So let us take a few steps back. Its not that far in time – just back to Pantheacon of this year. I do enjoy attending Pantheacon to meet people and see folks that I don’t always get the chance to. But I also get the opportunity to sit in on panels and listen to people talk about topics that I normally don’t twirl around in the pink mist. this year, there was a lot of talk about death, change and renewal – which only slightly touches the areas I would normally think of. Turns out, each one of those panels and talk were precursors for a lot of study that I am currently wading through. Yah for team Synchronicity! But there was a lot of talk about difficult times as well, and one panel in particular proved to be quite interesting:  Starhawk‘s “Crossing Stony Ground”.

Much of the panel was geared towards the current political upheaval that is going on across the United States. But I am not a terribly political animal, so much of that was material that did not quite call to me. However, pieces of these little mini discussions did have threads that I pulled away…and I am going to try something different here. Usually, I try to condense all this into a paragraph that talks about each point. Instead of that, I will recreate the bullet-point notes that I took.

  • “create a circle” – watch chaos
  • do not compartmentalize your Spirituality
  • band together – work together – build what we envision
  • take action for your environment
  • do not divide Spiritual and Political – use together for action
  • restrengthen Druidry connections with your environment
  • Add your passions to your daily life
  • Ups and downs in Life are like hiking trails
  • Practice your grounding daily
  • Put your devotionals at the forefront of your mind when doing those
  • Find your center and your calm during tumultuous moments
  • Feel your anger and your sorrow when they occur but do not dwell on them for too long
  • No “us” – No “them” – there is “We“. There is “All“. We rise together – we survive together – we fall separatedwe fall individually.
  • PLP – Plain Language Programming – watch what you say or repeat.
  • Empty your backpack! Carry only what you need. Do not anticipate issues – carry only for issues that you know. Improvise for unknown situations. “We travel lite – we hunt!”
  • The Storm is here. Be ready to help where you can. The Storm affects everyone.

Now, all of these are what I gleaned from the conversations. Very little of what is written here is what was directly stated. Much of it is parts of conversations that meant something to my mind when I heard it, and written as it pertained to me. Well, I guess I should explain a bit more of why I wrote these things this way.

This was the one panel that I had circled in my conference book let and had a single note written next to it: “Clear your mind, open your senses.” What I was reminding myself was to ground, center, and clear my thoughts prior to the start of the panel. I wanted to listen carefully to what Starhawk (and others) had to say. I also wanted to open my thoughts to allow what was said to form in my mind as I wrote notes. My intention was to take these notes and bring this into my daily routines, rituals and practice. What I wound up coming away with was some of that, but also a lot of reinforcement for what I was already doing. I wasn’t really prepared to hear all of that. I was expecting to get a list of “new”, “shiny”, “unknown” things that I had never thought of before.

Circles and Chaos

The first point that is written here comes from the very first moments of the panel. The chairs were all lined up on opposite sides of the room, and Starhawk asked all of us to move our chairs into a circle. After a few minutes of people moving chairs, trying to find appropriate spacing from others, and a few others attempting to direct the process, she called for everyone to have a seat. What we accomplished was much closer to the shape of a football than a circle. Her ensuing point was that vague directions – “make a circle” – will provide vague results. The panel’s concept of “crossing stony ground” was about moving with intention and purpose through chaotic times. Intention and purpose will never find results from vague instructions, weak wording, and open-ended definitions.

From this point, she pivoted into an area I have far too much practice at – compartmentalizing. For a long time in my life, I have had two sides of me – two compartments of who I am. On one side is who I am to the outside, public world. Just an average working schmoe. I live a generic life in the eyes of these people. I do my job, I go home at night and watch tv. On the weekends, I hang out with friends, and watch baseball or soccer on tv. When I am away from work, I get to be the Pagan that I am. I can openly embrace my beliefs around my friends, who are more like my extended family. There’s nothing to set off to the side. There’s no barrier there. But that double-life, the two “me”s are constantly in conflict with one another. Until I decided to start letting the two aspects merge into one. But only to a point. I don’t talk about the Druid I am at work. Many people would not understand, and there would be too many things to try and explain. So I still compartmentalize to a degree here. But I no longer hide the fact that I am a Druid, or the fact that I am a Pagan. I just choose not to advertise it openly. Its not a perfect merging, but its better than it was – and I have removed some of the stony ground that I walk upon.

Much of the rest of what I wrote is stuff that I already handle within my life to some degree or another. I’m not the greatest in the world at some of this stuff. But I certainly do try my best. However, three things really stuck out for me, and I will write more on these in the coming days:  Life as a Long Hike, No Us/Them, and Plain-Language Programming. Each one of these points has led me down some interesting deer trods in my mind. I’m looking forward to exploring these a little further with all of ya’ll here in the blog.

–T /|\

Being a Pagan: The “How” and “Why” of Unintentional Pagan Evangelism

Originally titled:  “Beacons of Light: Paganism and Evangelism, a Personal Revelation”

I wrote this particular post back in October of 2013. Coming back to it now, nearly three-plus years later, I have realized that it might be time to add a little more to all of this, and make it more in-depth. So here’s that attempt.

Three and a half years ago, a conversation with one of my students percolated around my online presence. I am fairly open with being a Pagan, both here at my job and out in the public world. Piecing the two together does not take a serious amount of effort. Nor does it concern me as much as it would have back in the late 1980s and early 1990s during my formative steps within the wider Pagan community. One intrepid student happened to do just this; and decided to be even more inquisitive with a face-to-face conversation following an afternoon class.

The differences between our two theological vantage points was apparent from even the early steps in the conversation. Hers, being that of a Southern Baptist Christian, were quite familiar to me – after all, I did spend time after my high school graduation exploring the aspects of beliefs couched in the Southern Baptist convention’s boundaries. My footing in the conversation, as a Polytheist, Pagan Druid were quite foreign territory for her, which lead to a lot of explanation of concepts that I believed to be rudimentary, elementary concepts. Honestly, there are times that I forget that every person I meet is not going to understand the concepts of Paganism, Polytheism, and Druidry that I personally accept as baselines for Pagan belief. But eventually, we came to a premise of mutual agreement on what all of that would mean in the course of the discussion, and she moved us into rockier territory as I noted in the original post.

One of the more interesting questions that was brought up circled around the concept of evangelism of one’s beliefs. During the conversation, we both realized that we were approaching the topic from different vantage points and quickly stopped the discussion. For a “proper” discussion to take place, we both knew we needed a similar area of understanding and footing where definitions were concerned. We settled on the premise that evangelism is the act of telling others about your religious faith whether that be openly (where you make the first move in the process) or somewhat veiled (where you do not volunteer the topic of belief until the interested party broaches the point). With a quick agreement on that, we continued along our conversational path.

I noted that hardcore, open evangelism by some of the Christian paths was a major factor for my seeking a different Path that would be a better “fit” in my life. I remarked that I did not get into the perspective of evangelizing my own beliefs, but that I was more than open to discussing such with others. And then she hit me with a combo-punch I never saw coming.

What about your podcast?  Your Blog?  Your social media presence?  You talk about your faith there – isn’t that open evangelizing?

Shit. Bulls-eye. You nailed me right between the eyes with that one, sister. Took it right on the chin. If I was not going to evangelize my faith and beliefs – there would be no “From the Edge of the Circle” podcast; there would be no “From Within the Circle” blog site.”

Now, both the aforementioned podcast and blog do not exist any longer. From the Edge of the Circle, I eventually shuttered, and started up “Upon a Pagan Path” a little later. From Within the Circle was the earlier version of Life With Trickster Gods, back when I had the blog on the Blogger platform. But, the excitement continues for a little more…

A little further along the conversation, as I felt my position slipping slightly over this revelation, she threw me an entire aircraft carrier to use as a life raft.

Its really the difference in how and why you evangelize that sets you apart from those folks.

As I clambered aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Saved My Ass, I could see the entire issue through her eyes. All of us in the Pagan Podcasting community, and those of us who write Pagan blogs, articles, and books – we are trying to tell the world how our faith helps us through these times. How our faith provides us comfort when the rest of the day was so shitty. We do that for those people who are searching for something that might provide them with that same comfort, that same sense of personal ease, that same feeling of “this is home, this is tribe.” In a way, its a similar notion of why the survivors at the end of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome leave fires burning in the night after they make it to Melbourne. Those fires are lighting the way for Max, showing him a beacon of hope in the darkness of that post-apocalyptic Australia. Others will see that beacon as well, and follow it to what has become a thriving and surviving community of survivors. We are not trying to shove our beliefs into anyone’s face – we are simply trying to be one of the many beacons of light for those seeking for that sense of hope, community, and tribe.

Three-plus years ago, I could never really understand how accurate and on-target my statement could ever have been. I have been approached by people online, face-to-face, in airplanes (that moment scared the shit out of me – seriously), in coffee houses, at conferences, and even at Pagan gatherings – and told that just by being out in the open about being a Pagan through the podcast and the blog, that they feel stronger in who they are as Pagans. Not only does that make me feel immensely happy about being that kind of an inspiration, I am also scared to death of it as well.

I have never had the desire to be THAT Pagan. You know, the one that everyone looks to and says – he’s the reason that I am on this Path. Because I sincerely hope I am not the reason that you are following a Pagan Path. I hope that you are on a Pagan Path to be the best individual that you possibly can, or you are following the calling of the wild and sacred in your heart. Or perhaps, you are following the whispers and calls of the Gods and Goddesses tugging at your heart. But not me. Gods, please no. I sincerely do not want that responsibility. Or as Tommy Shaw says in one of his solo efforts:

I don’t want to grow up to be a preacher
I don’t want your soul in my hands
Oh and I don’t want to sentence you to some Heaven or Hell
You’ll have to do that for yourself

Now, its taken me some time to get used to the idea that I would have some influence over how a person may or may not comport themselves. I am still greatly uncomfortable with the idea, but I get it. If one person has the courage to stand up and refuse to cave to a societal concept of who they should be; others will throw off that mantle of oppressive nonsense and be who they are too. And again, I have to realize, it is “how” I am a Pagan that matters for myself and others. The “why” of being a Pagan will arrive for those folks shortly afterwards. For me, the “why” will always be a never-ending, always-evolving process. Much like Life itself.