I Learn Therefore I Am….Connected

Druidry is a lot of things to me. It is a framework upon which my daily devotional practice works from. And a lot of people can grok the concept of the Spiritual practices held within one’s Druidry; however, there is more to Druidry than just this for me. There is a continually desire to educate myself – on topics I already know something about, as well as those I know next to nothing, aside from a name. The act of studying, assimilating knowledge, looking for new techniques to try – all of that is a part of my Druidry as well. There is also the ceremonial side of life as well, and I do not mean just rituals. There are certain routines I follow in my day – rituals in their own right, but not necessarily spiritual. All three are important to me, but study and the growth of knowledge are probably the most important to me.

The Druid Prayer has a statement that resonates deeply with me:

Grant, O Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
 the love of Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones/the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

Knowledge for me is a form of freedom. I can undertake any aspect of information that I desire, and dive as deeply as I wish into it. This only is the reason that my bookshelves are filled with works on World History and lexiconic tomes on a wide variety of programming languages. I am completely intrigued by how history has unfolded, and some of the variables surrounding various events that have shaped our wider society. As for the programming languages, I am lucky to be employed in a position that allows me to utilize my passion for logic puzzles with fashioning programming code to provide information that is utilized in critical decision-making within the college I work for. My desire to assist others plays a key factor in the support function that I am in.

In this manner, my everyday practice of key parts of my Druidry cross into my mundane life in ways I never thought it would. In fact, I used to compartmentalize my life — I had one side of me that was work-related. The other side of me was focused on my Spirituality. For the first three years that I worked on my Bardic Grade material, I lived this peculiar life, and I struggled mightily through all of it. I never realized that in order to get things to “gel” for me in my lessons, I needed to allow both sides of my life to intermingle and essentially “inform” one another.

The catalyst in getting to this point came at the first Gulf Coast Gathering, where the OBOD Tutor Coordinator attended. I lamented that I was four-plus years into my studies and struggling throughout it. She noted that you could set your studies into a small, mental box where the environment was essentially sterile and confined. However, it would be more helpful to embrace the studies and find ways to correlate what one was learning into your own life in other ways. In that way, the material had a better hope of coming to life. While I wrote this down, I never really considered it until nearly a year later when I happened across my notes in a spare notebook I was transcribing to parts of other journals and notebooks. I decided to give this a try since I had still been struggling with my studies.

The change did not happen over-night. It took a particularly difficult data study at work for me to realize how my Bardic studies could be helpful in looking for a creative way to work through the issue at hand. Once I opened that doorway, learning has become a different experience for me, and my work processes have become more “fun” like solving logic puzzles than trying to just get a data-set that might look “normal” to the requester.

So all of this really begs a larger question – what is like to be a Druid? And while I could answer the similar question of “What is it like to be  Pagan?“, at this time I don’t really have the adequate words to describe what it is like to be a Druid. I feel like I might be likely to just point and go “ugh” as a response, hoping someone can grok what I am getting at. However, I can say that my Druidry is about interconnectedness and the wider implications of inter-relations. I see similar points of cause and effect within World History. How an assassination of an Arch-Duke started a chain of events (through connected treaties of mutual defense) that eventually led to the event we call World War I. And how the surrender terms of World War I led to a near continuation of the same conflict as a part of World War II – though there are a lot more complicating factors to all of that. But the threads between the two are there; however faint one may perceive those threads to be (or not).

In my mundane job, I utilize SQL queries to connect databases together to pull related information into a singular data-set. That synthesis of information happens because I find a faint connection between the tables, and reinforce that within the code by joining the tables together. That inter-related aspect, for me, is a key part of my Druidry. Finding the threads that bring us all together, connect us with our environment – reminding us that our environment does not survive, exist, thrive or decline independent of us. Nor do we survive, exist, thrive or decline without some aspect of our environment being a part of that process. Sadly, it is difficult to get most modern Christians to understand this – since they see the world and our environment as a resource that was placed here for human kind’s use. And as this world is merely a temporary one according to their translated holy writ, there really is no need to be a good steward or custodian of a place that is just a weigh-station within their existence. After all, the true final place that matters is Heaven. But I digress. Sort of. There is interconnectedness in all of that and the state that our environment is in now.

I learn, therefore I am. Maybe. But I enjoy learning because I have a love for knowledge. I have an innate curiosity of how things are connected to one another. I learn and understand the world around me as I look through this lens. And for me, that is part of what it is like to be a Druid. But there is so much more of Druidry that I just cannot explain adequately in words. Bardic circles around the campfire. The people that you connect with – Druids, Pagans, and all the others I just do not have the time to describe here. Cause and Effect observations. The beauty of the landscapes. The rituals, both spiritual and mundane, that we have. Our innate differences. I do not really have the words to explain all of that because my experience is more in terms of emotions. And if only I could put the emotions behind the hugs I have gotten from all those experiences into words – I would be one very expressive author. For the time being, I will just manage a post like this one. However, I will keep trying to write those emotions into some set of words because there has to be some thread that will get me there. Challenge accepted. 🙂

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Comparisons Are Inevitable and Difficult to Overcome

One of the more difficult questions that came out of the discussions at Many Gods West was actually not a direct statement made anywhere in the discussions, at least not where I can recall. And to be honest, I was caught on this particular thought for a long while, just a few years back.

What happens when you compare where you are in your polytheistic practice with others that you know? Is it fair to do so??

Admittedly, this is a difficult topic, and difficult to put in terms that are not so personal to me. In fact, I don’t really know a better way to bracket this entire topic, other than to utilize myself as an example. So, yes – this particular blog entry is about me and my own experiences, along with a lot of thinking that I had to eventually get beyond in order to be more of what I have become.

Comparisons are inevitable. Particularly when you get too wound up in the idea of advancing towards being a better [x]. I hold three academic degrees:  a Bachelors of Science in Computer Sciences; a Masters of Information Systems Management; and a Masters of Business Administration. Any professional conference I have attended, conversations with strangers have always started with something close to:  “So, what are your degrees?” Almost akin to the “how big is your penis” conversations that men supposedly hold amongst one another on drunken nights. (I can vouch on my behalf that I have never had one of these conversations before) It’s a quick comparison of how this person may or may not match up to your intelligence level – like a degree seems to be some measure of intelligence. ::eye-roll:: But regardless the comparison is there. We do it in the Pagan community as well…

How many years have you been a Pagan? What degree do you hold in your tradition? What’s your lineage? Who initiated you? All questions I have heard asked of me or others within the Pagan communities that are out there. But it’s the internal measures that caught me. Where I found myself comparing my abilities and experiences as a Pagan against others that I knew.

I found myself comparing my experiences in everything. With the Gods, with Spirits of Place, with Spirits of Ancestors, how far I had managed to get in my Bardic studies in OBOD, whether my experiences with the Gods were as deep as this person….EVERYTHING. And I wound up being a complete wreck as a person, and what I felt was an even worse example of a Pagan. There were nights that I sat on my knees in my living room, silently crying because I felt I was a failure as a Pagan because I didn’t measure up to where I felt another person was on their Path.

This was not a very comfortable moment on my Path. I had found Coyote a short while before. I had just been led to Crow, and I was questioning a lot of what and how I was – as well as a lot that was being asked of me. I was pointed towards one person as an example of what to do, and how to be. And I was completely unsure I would ever be his equal in anything. In fact, I still doubt that I will be his equal in a lot of things. But whether he believes it or not, he has been a mentor of sorts to me – if just from a distance. I was provided this individual as an example. Not a cutout. Not a pattern to follow precisely. Not an image to become a carbon copy of. An example. Particularly, an example of how to be a Priest. I only hope I have become what Crow has intended me to be at this point on this Path – and that I continue to grow towards what He intends me to be in the future.

What happened was that I let my own internal fears get in the way. I started looking at who this person was, how he approached topics, how he handled his own calling to his Gods – and I tried to hold myself up to that precise level. I needed to learn to do ritual the same way. I needed to reach the levels that he has climbed to. I had to do things in [x] time because he had. And that small voice came to the back of my mind, one night on the living room floor.

Be you. I need you as my Priest. Not a copy of him. Aspire to those attributes, but mold those to who you are.

When I responded with the doubtful voice that I wasn’t sure that I could, I was told:

You can. There is no doubt of that.

After a long period of pulling myself back together, finally believing in my own ability to travel this Path on my time, ensuring that I learned what I needed through all my lessons – I started to remember key points of what I saw in this individual. He followed the rules, learned the knowledge, and then scored it appropriately so that it became his. His. I didn’t really need to compare myself to him. I needed to emulate some of his perspectives in order to start down certain parts of the Paths laid before me. But in the end, I needed to place my own feet into the appropriate places for my travels. Walking this Path is not about emulating someone. Rather, it is about walking down a well-worn Path where many others have come before us, and many others will come after….and making the experience of the travel my own. It wasn’t about being “as good as”…it was about being “right and appropriate” for me.

At Many Gods West, one panel was a massive discussion that wound all around the room. And for a few moments, I felt as intimidated in that room as I did on the floor of my living room on those mostly sleepless nights. Many of the people there described very personal experiences that they had had with their Gods with beautiful, evocative descriptions of some of their experiences. And it was really tough sledding for me. I began to question whether I had a “tight” relationship with Crow. I started to slip back into my own doubts of how “good” I was compared to the rest of these people. And after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I had spoken. I had said something.

And after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I had spoken. I had said something. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember exactly what I had said. Listening to the follow-on statements, I understood I had mentioned something about my relationship with Crow….how I managed to create a bargaining system between us over some of the tasks that had been set before me. Tasks I was uncomfortable with. And that what I had said was sparking a thread with others at the table that was delving deeper into all of our relationships with our Gods and Goddesses and Spirits. There was that small voice at the back of my head:

See stupid? There was never any doubt.

Building Relationships With Our Gods in a Ten-Second Society

Ok…the title is a bit misleading. But it is derived from a conversation point in a panel from Many Gods West 2017 this year. And it does bend back to something I have heard quite a bit from people trying to work their way into a relationship with a God, Goddess, Spirit of Place, Spirit of Ancestor, etc etc. The typical question boils down to a similar cry from many of them…

How do I get a [insert God or Spirit of choice here] to work with me or talk to me? How do I connect with Them??

That’s not an easy question to answer, and at times, I have felt a bit awkward trying to provide an answer that might make sense or at least be bit coherent. Creating a relationship with one or more of the Gods (I am going to use this as a generic catch-all from this point on out – so please don’t get hung on terminology) is not a simple thing. In my opinion, it takes time; it takes effort; it takes personal sacrifice; it takes patience; it takes determination; it takes research; and it takes love. And to some degree, I would urge a little touch of caution in trying to create a relationship or connection. You never know precisely what you are going to wind up with – even after all the research and effort.

If you have read the blog, you know that I am a Priest of Crow. I am dedicated to Crow, and it took a long time for me to get to this point. Prior to Crow, there was Coyote. Coyote spent about two years putting me through a few tasks, all designed to force me to not take myself so seriously. Eventually, Coyote led me to Crow. From the beginning, my relationship with Crow has been a very slow, deliberate build between the two of us. First, we learned how to communicate between the two of us. Then, we worked on building trust for us both – a process that continues to this day. That was back in 2005-2006….I am unsure of the exact date. It took even longer before I decided to become a Priest for Crow. And there’s a long conversation about my aversion to the title of “Priest” that figures into all of that as well. But the point here is that it’s a long, complicated process. Coyote and Crow didn’t just appear in my Life and an immediate bond between us was formed. I am sure that others may have a different experience with their own Gods and the relationships that they have. But that is just not my case.

Currently, our modern-day society is fast-paced. News, information, and other things are available at near instant speeds to any individual. Through the magic of the internet, combined with the delivery platform of a digital phone, tablet, and/or computer – everything happens quickly. We can pay for our coffee and other food items from our phones, while en-route to the location we are purchasing those items from. The expectation is that our items will be ready for pickup when we get there, and we can skip the long lines to just waltz in and waltz right back out. Need information on something? Just type a descriptive word or phrase into our devices, and the information arrives at our fingertips at break-neck speed.

If all that can happen, why can I not create a relationship with one of the Gods through a simple five-minute meditation? I have already spent five minutes doing this, that should be enough, right? Well, my experience has been that it is just not that simple. In fact, in a manner of speaking, it is a lot like dating. Sure, the flirtation feels great – there is a promise of something more, but you need to come back, again and again, to continue to build on that interest. But building a relationship is about more than just making out and the hope of an eventual tryst for the night. There’s trust, bonding, building on so many other aspects of mutual interest, exploring differences and the avenues that this may open up. The same holds true for a relationship with the Gods. Spending time getting to know about your potential relationship partner will require some research. Reading Their myths, reading what other bloggers and writers may have to say, and even visiting sites that may be sacred to

The same holds true for a relationship with the Gods. Spending time getting to know about your potential relationship partner will require some research. Reading Their myths; reading what other bloggers and writers may have to say; even visiting sites that may be sacred to Them; invoking Them in your daily rituals and offerings; and even performing rituals that are sacred to Them. All of this requires research, study, gathering required materials, and practice, practice, practice. And even when it is all said and done – you might not even get a second glance. Much like trying to court favor with that attractive individual that you would like to have a relationship with; you can find all your effort was for naught. Because the Gods, just as we human beings do, have the choice of saying “no way.”

Fret not, you can still go through the same processes of devotion, adoration, and just essentially praising the Gods as you see fit. The only difference is that you may not receive reciprocation in your efforts. Sort of the same way that I adore Lzzy Hale, but she likely has no clue that I am alive.  😉

Probably the most key thing, in my opinion, is not whether you manage to create the relationship between you and your specific choice among the Gods. If you’re a hard polytheist – believing that all the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits are distinct, unique beings – the fact that you believe is what makes your relationship with the Gods a beautiful thing. And this even goes for the monotheists that are out there. You may not have the direct-line that you were so wanting, but you do have belief. Whatever that is anchored upon is important, and a wonderful thing. No one should be able to wrestle that away from you. And who knows?? It just might be the start of something beautiful and special between you and the Gods. And it might even be a God, Goddess or Spirit you never considered.

Relationships with the Gods are Unique…and Complicated

I attended Many Gods West 2017 a very short while back. Most of that came from pushing by Crow, as well as my own desire to try a Pagan-oriented conference that was geared around a specific area of topical interest, rather than the massive general interest that a much larger conference such as Pantheacon generates. I came away from MGW with nearly two dozen writing prompts, much of which came as questions that came to mind during various presentations.

For me, each one of the prompts that I gathered are direct confrontations to how I am practicing my own polytheism with my triad of Deities:  Coyote, Crow and Flidais. Each of these Three present differing approaches to daily Life for me, and at the same time – together They are a part of my connection to all that is around me. My relationship with each of Them is unique, and singular. I say prayers to Them, as well as other Gods and Goddesses that I have no specific ties to, seeking guidance in what is becoming a more troubled and difficult world.

In what turned out to be a more physical presentation than I thought, “Embodied Practice and Devotion” had all of us in guided focus over feeling aspects of our own physical bodies. Controlled breathing, singular awareness of parts of the body, general awareness concerning various specified inputs and perspectives – none of which was terribly new to me. However, toward the end of the presentation, discussion was opened to the participants and part of that turned towards the idea of devotional surrender, a concept I have never really entertained prior to that moment.

From my notebook:

  • Devotional surrender versus Personal Sovereignty

    • Should we surrender completely to our Gods?

    • Should we bargain limitations with our Gods?

      • Does this limit who They are in our lives?

      • By not pushing our boundaries, are we limiting who we are as individuals?

A lot of this was difficult to work directly with at that particular moment. However, now back at home – in territory that is far more familiar to me, where I can let down my emotional shields that I carry publicly as an introvert – I am now starting with this particular writing point to start looking at my direct relationship with my little Triad.

So, probably the best place to start is to try and define these concepts, starting with devotional surrender and personal sovereignty. To be particular honest, I am not at all interested in the common definitions of the two terms, but rather in how these definitions work out for me. This means that you – the person who has decided to click on this blog post and read it – may define these terms radically different than I do. Frankly, that’s great. What it means is that you will probably come to far different conclusions than I do. And that’s great too. I am not looking for a fight or argument over the difference in our definitions or in our approaches. I don’t mind a discussion over all of that, because it helps me to see some of the cloudier areas in all of this. But I am not interested in a “my way or the highway” approach to discussing differences either. And with that out of the way, let’s dive into how I approach these two points.

The easier of the two, for me, is personal sovereignty. What this boils down to is that I am in control of things where I am concerned. My approaches to the Gods are mine. What Crow, Coyote or Flidais may ask of me, I have the ability to say “no” or “that’s a line too far for me.” The same goes for anything that is asked of me or told to me by any individual. I am in control of me – to the best of my ability. Yeah, its a simplistic definition, but it works for me in terms of this blog post.

Devotional surrender, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic for me. Mostly because I have never entertained this concept before. As I understood the concept from the panel, this can go from terms of following the commands and wishes of one’s Gods without question and follow all the way through something akin to being possessed physically by one’s Gods. For me, that’s an exceptionally wide area, but all of that does seem to fit into the entire concept. Plus, as I ponder over this, I feel that I may already work within some aspects of this already.

During a different panel, I related my bond to Crow. I am a Priest of Crow. Crow has already provided various tasks for me. But as I noted during the panel, I am free to question, and I am free to say “no”. If I am drawing the limitations on what is asked of me by Crow, am I limiting my relationship with Him? I do believe John Beckett once noted in a blog post of his own, that while we can say “no” to the Gods – that may be a moment where They choose to take far less interest in us as individuals. Certainly a risk that comes with that.

Prior to Crow, I worked exclusively with Coyote. Coyote was fond of giving my tasks to complete where I wound up looking like a fool when I finished each one. I knew I was working with a Trickster, so I tried to be patient through it all. After about nineteen or twenty of these tasks designed to make me look foolish, I went into a meditation looking for a confrontation. Frankly, I was pissed off at being made a fool. During my interaction, I asked why I was being made a fool. “You make yourself the fool,” was the response. If I am being made the fool, then why in the Nine Hells would you want to work with me? After the laughter subsided, Coyote noted that I was the fool for not asking questions. “I actually wanted to see if you possessed a spine” was the final response.

With Crow, I utilized some of this in my interactions with Him. Like Coyote, questioning was implied, but on a far shorter leash. I have had a few interactions where I have made the statement that I will have to think about whether I would do as asked. “Let me think about that” usually receives a terse reply of “do not take too long.” So, I do bargain with Crow. And sometimes I do try to bargain a limitation. But I have never entertained the idea that I might be limiting my relationship with Crow by doing so. Perhaps, by setting my own boundaries of what I can or am willing to do, I am changing the relationship that I have with Crow. But perhaps not too much.

I do see the Gods as beings that are far beyond my own personal comprehension. But I also see my relationship with the Gods to be somewhat similar to relationships that I have with other human beings. There are people that I would literally do anything for. Some of them know this, some of them don’t. There are others where I am willing to things for, but only up to a certain point. My relationship with them is not nearly as strong. My relationship with Crow is stronger than the one I have with Coyote. There are far more things I would do in service to Crow than I would in service to Coyote. That’s because the relationships are different. And my relationship with Flidais is far weaker than with the other Two. Our relationship is just barely over two years in age. In many ways, we are start in the flirtation stage.

I do not think that I have really changed too much of my opinion on whether boundaries, limitations or bargaining lessen a relationship with my Gods. Perhaps, if I had a more demanding God or Goddess, it would be a bit of a hinderance or even a point where my relationship with one of Them may cease. As for devotional surrender, I believe it really depends on which end of that spectrum may be in play, as to whether I would agree that it was a good idea or not. Allowing personal possession has an uncomfortable feeling to it, and crosses a lot of line with me in my own concept of personal sovereignty. Regardless, I still believe that my relationship with the Gods and Goddesses, particularly my Three, is a unique to me – and there may come a time when I will have to explore this aspect of devotional surrender to an ultimate extreme at some other time. Because relationships are unique…and complicated.

Examining a Life in Motion

Patterns. Relationships. Connectivity. These three words comprise a large part of what my Druidry studies are to me. Learning about how things relate to one another, their connectivity to everything else, and the patterns that can evolve from all of that. For instance, we build new housing areas here in the United States, expanding the reach of our cities further and further. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, I can still recall when there vast empty fields between both major cities and Arlington, which sits between them on Interstate 30. Nowadays, I cannot even discern where Dallas or Fort Worth ends, and Arlington begins. It is a giant, enmeshed urban environment. At one time, wildlife lived in those wild areas between the cities. Now, that same wildlife lives within the urban environment, displaced from the growth between the two cities. The animals caught between have developed new ways of foraging for food, such as dumpster diving the local Taco Bell. Wow, I just realized how much of a different bend the term “dumpster diving” has taken since my days of piecing together shredded documents with long distance codes printed on them, which I “obtained” from the dumpster in the back of the local phone company building. Yeah, the times are definitely a-changing.

I have talked about these connections, these relationships before. I wrote at length on this back in July of 2014 when I was still teaching. “Aware and Awake in a Binary World” still gets the occasional hit from someone finding it on a search engine. In the post, I talk about the relationship of data within our overly connected world. When I was teaching my class, I tried to get students to be aware of how much information was floating in the nether-reaches of the internet on them. How companies would utilize social media against them during hiring processes. After all, an ultra-conservative-Christian company such as Interstate Tire and Battery would definitely have a problem hiring an individual who took a picture of themselves holding a large bottle of whiskey with a near orgasmic look on their face. You don’t bring that picture to an interview, nor would you attach it to a resume or application. But companies would search the online media to locate you – and scrutinize who you are by what is presented there. Nine Hells, I am search a company like ITB would have a very difficult time hiring an openly Pagan individual such as myself. And as a private company, they would have every right to refuse to hire me. But the point here is not the hiring process of a single company; the point is how connected our online world is, and how little we seem to understand the same concept of connectivity in our physical world.

“Everything is connected. One action creates a similar, equal reaction”, or so the two sayings go. But everything I have seen certainly seems to corroborate this. Every conscious and unconscious choice we make impacts everything around us. Trash thrown on the side of the road can cause problems for animals. Plastic six-pack rings can entangle birds in the same manner that a trap would, and leaves them more vulnerable to being caught by predators or starving to death because they cannot fly off to locate food. Half eaten food in the fast food bags that are thrown out may feed local animals, but it also makes them dependent on human beings for food, causing them to not fend for themselves properly in the food chain. Worse, it encourages wild animals to be unafraid of human beings, seeing people as food ATMs (essentially), and running stronger risk of face-to-face encounters that can end badly for both humans and animals. We humans don’t always see how our actions such as polluting or tossing out garbage on the side of the road as being destructive. It is unsightly, but no one is getting hurt, right?

That’s only a small aspect of the consequences we have on our planet, on our surroundings and on others. We are aware that the photos that we put online can be seen by a vast multitude of people, because we are made acutely aware of our digital footprint and the potential consequences from it. That’s always in the news. Right in front of your face. But your own footprint in the physical world is something that many people seem to be blind to.

When I talk of being aware of connections, relationships, and being aware of patterns, there is more to it than just a concept of Psychology. It is a conscious look at how everything is affected by everything else. It is a slow, conscious, thoughtful examination of everything. I do this nearly every day, as I sit on my back porch and view my backyard. And every day, I learn something, I see something I had not noticed before. Will I ever understand it all?  Doubtful. But once I understand the relationship and the pattern associated with it, I can see whether I am being harmful in my interactions – even on an unconscious level, and adjust my interactions accordingly. Every day is a moment to learn, a moment to examine, a moment to comprehend, and a moment to adjust – if necessary.

For me, the process is a purposeful examination of my life in motion. For others, it may seem like a futile proceeding. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I certainly understand. Hopefully, a few others may attempt the process as well, but that is up to them.

 

The Web of Relationships…

Connections. Inter-related points that seem to draw a conclusion that one might not be normally aware of. Relationship.

As I continue in my Bardic studies with the OBOD Gwers, and in reading several different Pagan authors, I am becoming increasingly aware of those strands of information and observation that make up a nearly invisible web with all of us.

For instance, I am currently compiling a list of major-league and minor-league baseball players who have been within the Cincinnati Reds’ major-league and minor-league teams. The database I am working on will eventually be fleshed out a bit deeper with hitting, pitching and fielding statistics for each level — but that’s on the far, far horizon. And yes, I am a database nerd. I have databases for a lot of other things as well. But there’s something I started to notice, as I have compiled the last ten years of Reds’ history. The staggering number of players that have come through those teams (nearly 900 total players).

That’s a literally sea of players that didn’t really make much of an impact on the team. There’s a forty-man roster that the Reds keep each year, and maybe a handful of players who have been on that roster on a continually basis over that ten years. That’s a lot of players who have only a short time with the team – for whatever reason. No, don’t get bored and think I am just talking baseball here. Hold tight.

That’s a lot of players that get left in the wake of the team’s yearly journey. Some move on to other organizations, others drop out of baseball completely. But these make up the flotsam and jetsam of the seasons, and are a part of the team’s story that rarely gets discussed. But this can be applied elsewhere too. Take, as an example, my own life.

Here at fifty, I have a handful of people that I call “friend”. Some, I only see from time to time, when our orbits can mesh – such as East Coast Gathering, Gulf Coast Gathering, Pagan pride Days, etc etc. However, my social circle of friends is very, very small. But looking back through the years, there are so many people that have passed through my life, and no longer are within those spheres of interaction. In a manner of speaking, they have become the flotsam and jetsam within my life. Many, have played an integral part of the shaping of who I am today.

And what about other aspects of Life? The coworkers I have had over the years play parts within the shaping of me as well. My coworkers at the Real Estate Services company I worked with — the folks at jobs.com who all managed to survive the dissolution of the company during the dot-com bubble’s burst — those folks who I worked with when I was the only member of my department that wasn’t in Austin — all the late hours I put in with people who were afraid of me because of my religious beliefs, and those that accepted me for who I was without question. Many of those people, I have not talked to in a decade of time (or more in some cases). My friends when I was in high school, many of whom have changed as much as I have — to the point, that we all find very little in common anymore. Some, I continue to maintain a friendship with – albeit under a very different paradigm — and others who have turned their back on me simply because I did not openly support their idea of “correct” politics. Those connections are still there – still active, still alive — even if the strength of that connection may be greatly diminished from what it was.

And to be quite frank, this is the easier aspect of connectivity to consider. Dig a little deeper, and you find other aspects that become connected. Your interactions with complete strangers in public, what you purchase (who from, etc etc), the manner in which a company does its behind-the-scenes business, and many, many other things. The connectivity is there, its just a matter of finding the strand, and following it to its source.

There’s also the manner in which we cultivate, strengthen, and maintain the connections we have. As a singular instance, I maintain a relationship/connectivity with Crow and Coyote through meditations, little rituals I observe at regular intervals, and allowing Them to both guide my hand at being curious. I know quite a few other people that maintain their connections with Gods, Goddesses, Spirits of Place, and Ancestors through a wide variety of other means. They cultivate, grow, and maintain their connections in the manner that assists them best.

Yes, a lot of understanding some of this comes from such mundane things as compiling a database that is for your own amusement. And while that revelation can be quite surprising at the moment – I have come to find that parsing something that may seem unrelated to issues on a Spiritual level shows how every action one takes in a day can be considered as “scared” when there is purpose providing the background. Even something mundane, and as silly as wanting to know who was a part of your favorite professional baseball team.

 

“Look! Over There!” — Experiencing the World Around Me…

How do you view the world around you?

What are some of the things you look for each day?

Where is the Sacred for you, and how can you define it?

I don’t often spend time reflecting on questions posed to me – particularly those in a face-to-face manner. A short time back, I was asked the above by a stranger who had puzzled out who I am in my online environment. As a podcaster (or podcatser as my mis-spelled business card states), I tend to field all kinds of questions from people wondering how I do this or do that in relation to my spiritual life. And to be completely honest, these are the hardest questions to field. I can handle questions about how and why I came to be on this Pagan Path, where I had been before, and the correlation between the two. But when folks start asking about techniques, spell-work, aspects of ritual — the answers don’t come nearly as quick or easily.

Much of what I do and practice as a Pagan is done impromptu. I have referred to my form of practice as “free-style Jazz Paganism” in the past, and its probably the most on-target descriptive of who I am. At work, I have stepped outside to the little gazebo by the duck-pond more than once — just to sit and watch the ducks, and to quietly speak my moments of reverence to Crow. I have also been known to mutter to myself in the hallways, but that’s just me puzzling out a way to get to data. Its a manner of three dimensional thinking – and a topic for another time.

The World Around Me – As Viewed From My Own Porthole

ArgumentI see my environment as a living, breathing entity: where everything is inter-connected to create this unique moment in time and space. A moment that I cherish as unique, beautiful, and very fleeting. Each entity – animal, human, tree, rock – is its own creation, capable of thought and life on levels that I am likely to never comprehend fully. And as such, each entity deserves respect and honor for who they are. I have a bird bath in my backyard that provides a constant source of entertainment for my cats. For me, the cool water I place in the bird bath, along with the seeds and bread I scatter around it on the ground, is a way of giving to my feathered and furry companions (the neighborhood squirrels) that live around me. I watch their interactions and actions – amazed at the communication skills that they manage between one another.

I do the same thing at the local mall (when I go), sans the bird bath and the scattered food. I watch the verbal and non-verbal communication that people manage with one another. The lack of eye contact with people considered to be total strangers, the determined eye contact and ease of touch between friends and companions. The differences between the intimacy of two people versus the measured distance between those who know one another but do not seem to have that same level of intimacy. Those tiny threads of connection that most of us take for granted, until something happens to reinforce or completely sever them.

Its the manner in which we treat one another that I believe is at the core of the problems we face as the collective human race. Its a lack of understanding or even noticing these threads of connection that keep us from treating one another the same. We focus on skin pigmentation, hair color, height, weight, eye color, ideology — thing that truly do not matter when considering a fellow human being. And as we focus on these particular factors in determining who is a “stranger” and who is “close” to us, we lose sight of who we are:  human beings. Yes, there are some human beings who care not about their fellow human beings – focusing on power, the collection of things, the collection of money – and then use those focal points to determine the value and worth of their fellow human beings. Not enough of these particular things – places you in one category. Having large quantities of these things, places you in another. Or we focus on how people differ from ourselves based on their religious beliefs, who we choose to love, or how many. And we condemn people based on these differences, when in the end we are all merely the same people. Or as Poximo states in the movie Gladiator:  “We mortals are but shadows and dust. Shadows and dust, Maximus!”

Throughout the Day – I Spy With My Little Eye….

Crow in Trinidad, CO
Crow in Trinidad, CO
As strange as this sounds, I see black birds of a variety of types. Over the last six years, no matter where I go – I find black birds flocking near me. There are two Crows at work that sit on the light stanchions at the edge of the parking lot and wait for me. Whenever I get out of my Forester in the morning, they caw at me. I have asked other folks at work if they have noticed the Crows, and they have stated that they do not. “Perhaps, its because they don’t caw?” I usually reply to them with a “good morning” as I walk to my building from the parking lot. And yes, I say that out loud – regardless of who is around. I am quite sure they believe me to be slightly tetched in the head, but I honestly don’t care. Grackles are the noisier of the black birds I tend to see — and usually when they come around in large numbers, I know that I am not following something I should be doing for Crow. Then its time to get back into meditation and figure out what I missed.

But the black birds are not the only thing I see throughout the day. As I mentioned before, I view the connections, the relationships that make things go. I watch how others treat one another. I will typically go through my day trying to seek out the one person that needs a word of encouragement, a smile, a touch of the shoulder — anything to remind them that there are people in the world that are kind, and do care. And to let them know that I have walked a mile or more in those moccasins too.

I sometimes really believe that our modern-day society needs to yank the plug on our computers, tablets, laptops, and phones — and just observe the world around them in silence. I’ll let this video scene from Babylon 5 explain why that is necessary, in my opinion.

The Sacred is All Around

I have had this particular question asked of me before. Where do I find the Sacred, how can I define that? There is simplicity in this answer, cloaked by complexity. The Sacred is all around us, all within us. The Universe is Sacred. Wherever we look, we can find the Scared. But defining it…. I only have one question for that in return:  why would we want to define it?  Once we place it into a little box, bounded by a strict definition, I have to wonder if what is being defined as Sacred can no longer adhere to that definition. To aid my final response, I again turn to J. Michael Stryzinski’s masterful Science Fiction TV show “Babylon 5” and the warrior/mystic G’kar for support.

Honestly, I have no “truth” for anyone else. I have my desire to explore the environment around me. This includes finding connections between myself and the Gods. I hold no animosity towards the Christian, Muslim, or Judaic faiths. In fact, when the followers of these faiths disagree with me, I accept the disagreement for what it is – a difference in perceiving the world around us, and realize that it comes from each of us being a unique individual that occupies a specific position in time and space. We are who we are, and we perceive and experience phenomenon differently. In turn, we interpret each experience differently as well. Its when we choose to impose our own understanding and experiences on to others – through “conversion”, “unwanted witnessing”, and just sheer force of violence – that’s when we break the trust we all hold in communication. Its when we create the walls of division – and find reasons to treat those who are different as “unworthy” or “incorrect” in experiences that are so uniquely individual. And its at this point, where we cease to treat one another with kindness. For me, this is the crucible where our social problems of today is born.

–Tommy /|\