There is Just Life

“There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ life. There is just ‘life’.”

This quote is in a favorite movie of mine, as well as one of my favorite TV shows of all-time. The movie is “Tombstone” with a dying Doc Holliday reminding his friend Wyatt Earp that life is something you grab by the lapels. The TV show is Babylon 5, where Michael Garibaldi is lamenting to his wife that he merely wants a “normal” life, and this quote is her retort that she throws back in his face. Both are continually reminders about how life should be lived, as I see it.

Turn on the television, flip to a news channel, pick one, and all you will get is a steady stream of bad this or bad that. Because misery and fear sell. Ask any network security specialist and they will give you the basic 411. To sell a product, you don’t need to sell what it precisely does. Rather you need to sell the fear of what MIGHT happen if you do not have their product or services. Once you have the customer fearful, you have them ready to buy into what you are trying to get them to throw their money at.

Why do the networks continue to pander to the bad things that are happening? Mostly because it really what is happening. Granted, there are good things that happen throughout the world. However, the continually harping on the bad stuff locks in viewers. They want the fear. They want to hear about the bad. And in our current environment, they want to get into that anger, that despair, that disillusionment. Let’s face it, negative emotions are extremely powerful and very easy to access.

There are lots of Polytheists that have felt and heard the clarion call of the Gods concerning the rising Storm. I have been there too. Both Coyote and Crow have made a small focus on being there for others, and being steadfast and true in my daily Path. But the focus is not a giant spotlight. My role is not for the front line of all the issues that are there. My role is more of a support function, trying to help others not focus on the negative at all times. And yet, I continually hear that lament for that elusive “normal” life.

Yes, the Storm is here. Watch the news. You’ll see. If you are perceptive to magickal energies, you will likely feel the unease that permeates the environment around us. I can, and I am not particularly perceptive in that fashion. Just because all that negativity is so readily available does not mean that we have to bathe in it in every moment. I would submit that we need to find those positive moments in our daily lives, seize those energies, and try to focus that into our own lives. Truly, not an easy task, to be sure.

So, how to go about helping yourself to reach that positive side? First things first, turn off the damned news. Pick a particular time, say about an hour or so, on one or two days of the week, and watch the news then. Trust me, its all going to be there when you turn on the device. None of it is going to go away. Second, and probably far more important, grounding and centering should be a primary practice in your life. I am not one for providing be-all, end-all mandates in other folks’ spiritual lives, but on this, I come pretty close.

I have heard and practiced many ways of grounding and centering. I have a few techniques that I use, but my favorite is an OBOD Tree Meditation that I ran across on YouTube. For me, it is simple, easy to utilize, easy to visualize (even if you have no trees nearby), and super effective. You can find the video located here.

My job can become a hot mess very, very quickly. Lots of competing demands and changing priorities can knock me off my balance quite easily. When I lose that balance, I know that I need to find some time to center and ground myself. The tree meditation that I have linked above can be easily done at my desk. I don’t need to move my arms in the manner that the video depicts, nor do I need to stand. I merely need to visualize things in my mind until I find that balance I am seeking to achieve. When things are particularly difficult, and I cannot find that balance easily, I can take a quick break and head outside of the building to any location where benches are located. Most of these locations have trees there, and I find it quite relaxing to just sit for a few minutes and focus on the sound of the breeze filtering through the leaves.

Meditations do not need to be difficult things. You are not going to become an ultra-yogi-guru-shaman-type overnight. In fact, you might never reach that level ever in this lifetime. And that’s really “ok”. You just need to be what you need at that moment. Seriously, if you are undertaking your own Spiritual Path so that you could become exactly like some other person, you might be on your Path for the wrong reasons. Just be you. It really can be just that simple.

I have seen the meme that says that “normal” is a setting on the dryer. I cannot agree more. “Normal” is such an ambiguous term. The meaning of what is “normal” is usually different from one person to another. Even a single person can have different aspects of “normal” depending on settings, situations, and other not readily observable variables. So why do we always wish for a “normal” life when the life we have is exactly what it is? I do not need my life to be like anyone else’s. I need my life to be mine. Lived in a fashion that works for me, adheres to my own morals and principles, and is not projected as a default for anyone else. Times are rough enough as it is without me trying to shape my life into some cookie cutter image of perfection that I do not readily believe in, in the first place. There is no such thing as a normal life.

If You Want to Predict the Future, Live it With Your Eyes Wide Open

Tommy at the Beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

I read a lot. Probably more than I should. And rarely is it just stuff on Paganism or Druidry. usually, it is about History, particularly the history of computing. One of my favorite books is What the Dormouse Said” by John Markof which goes into lengthy detail about how the world of experimental drug use helped some of the visionaries of the computer dream up some of the stuff that we take for granted. One of the people chronicled in the book is Alan Kay, to whom the quote that stirred this post is attributed to. There is some debate as to whether he really stated such, but it eventually became the working maxim of Xerox PARC, where much of the computing world’s innovations grew from.

If you want to predict the future, invent it.

Which is quite literally, what they did at Xerox PARC. So, what does this have to do with a blog on Paganism and Druidry? Well, if you have read this for any length of time, you know that I take long looks into my own personal past. I have never claimed to be a Saint or any type of visionary. I have helped out in a handful of causes within the United States military to help further religious equality. When I left the US military, others stepped up and took my place and continued pushing forward. My contributions, however small those may be, are a part of the legacy I leave behind.

Standing still and looking back is nice, but coming back to Kay’s point – what about tomorrow? I turn fifty-three later this year (much later this year), and I have no desire to shuffle off this mortal coil any time in the future. As a wider-arching community, we stand in a whirling dervish of confusion, anger, miscommunication, and pain. When I try to see forward, that miasma clouds what may happen, what might be, what can be – and that makes the footing uncertain. what can I do to help leave my Pagan community a better one than when I arrived in the middle of the Witch Wars of the late 1980s?

To be extremely explicit here, I am no savior. I won’t be the individual that solves all the problems of the world. In fact, I see myself as nothing more than an extremely minor character in the world around me. I blog. I write my thoughts out here for others to read. My readership is fairly small. What impact can I have? I have no desire to be a “famous-Amos” in the Pagan community. I truly just want to be me – a simple Priest of Crow, a Druid on a Path to honor the Gods, just me. I am not a shining beacon of hope. I am no paragon of virtue, no hero of true deeds. Every day, I ask what it is that I can do to help make my Pagan community better. And every day, I hear the same things in the back of my mind:

Get involved. Just be you. Your contribution is to be yourself. Your future is to walk your Path and to stumble and fall. And then to get back up, dust off your cloak, and continue your Path.

Is it really just that simple? Just get up in the mornings and greet the Sun? Get out in the backyard and pour my offerings to the Gods? To say the words, make the gestures, and pour my soul into what I believe? Surely, there is a quest that I can undertake? There is a fight that I can be a part of?

And then the response comes:

What about getting involved? Get off your ass and get back into your community. You are a solo Pagan. Being solo means you walk your Spiritual Path by yourself. That is who you are, but you do not walk your daily Path in life by yourself. You cannot and will not survive like that. There are no heroic quests to undergo. There is no ring to carry. No tremendous burden that needs to be placed on your shoulders. You want a quest? SHOW people what it means to be a Pagan. BE who you are, but no one can see that just through your words.

Yeah. Getting dressed down by your God is never an awesome thing. Nor is it a great thing to realize that you have been eating too much of the fantastic world of Fantasy novels, where the common character becomes an uncommon hero by having some heavy burden or quest placed upon them. Life is not a quest to throw the One Ring into the volcano. And real Life is not a constant struggle against the Orcs or the difficulties of traversing the mines of Moria.

So what does the future hold for me? I really cannot say for sure. As I noted, the way forward is cloudy. But then, the future is always an uncertain thing to predict. Sure, I can follow Key’s maxim and try to ‘invent’ my way through it. But then, isn’t the future always going to be a product of invention? We are never sure of the way forward and have to take the steps to see if the footing is firm and sure. Inventing is – for me – a rather poor word choice for this. Perhaps, a little editing and mending might be more appropriate.

If you want to predict the future, live it.

After all, finding out what the future holds means walking through the mists and discovering what lies beyond. And for me, that means shedding some of the illusions of being some form of hero in all of this. As has been noted before, the Storm is here. The dervish has pulled all of us into it to one degree or another. We have all experienced some of the chaotic winds that it provides. And for me, I have stumbled and fallen from my Path. Time to right myself, dust off my cloak, pick up my staff and continue doing what it is that I should be doing. There are some unpredictable aspects to all of this, including how to get back into my wider Pagan community, which means trying to see how and where I fit in. And being an individual that is not very good at public, social situations – that means pushing myself into areas where I am uncomfortable. I have no desire to predict the future, but to find out what the future holds – I have to live it. And I have to live it with my eyes wide open.

–T /|\

We Have Survived #Storms Before

The video I’ve added here is what might be called a protest song by John Mellencamp. For me, its a bit more than that. Its a reminder of what tough times look like. Tough times, where the American tier of governments were expected to help out, and couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. But definitely didn’t.

During this time, families lost their farms, their homes, and even their families. Some stuck to their way of life, and persist in this style of living to this day. Its not extremely lucrative, but its what they know. They are close to their land. And they battle large corporate efforts that pay pennies on the dollar to the farmers that have been forced into this way of living. Its a sad, and quiet fact of life in the “fly over country” of the United States. But there’s a lot of strong lessons here.

Many people have felt the ebb of the #Storm when it was coming. Many feel the effects of the leading edge today. Many more will feel the effects in the near- and far-reaching future. These farming families have felt the effects of their own #Storm for a generation-plus now. Their survival to this point has been nail-clawing tenuous. Some have slipped under from the pressures. Those maintaining have done so by seemingly sheer determination.

Much like the girl standing in the path of the charging bull on Wall Street, this determination is a sheer act of will power. A rebellious moment where an individual dares to stare down the machine. We saw that in Tiananmen Square. We have seen it throughout history. The desire to be free, to determine one’s own Path in Life, or as many other Pagan bloggers have expressed it: the desire to seize our own personal sovereignty. To be ourselves. To choose our own Path in Life.

Growing up, my mother had the same desire for me that many other mothers have – she wanted me to be a doctor. Both of my parents worked in the medical fields, and my mother say the wealthy aspect of the medical professions back in the 1980s. Given that my parents were all about chasing the almighty dollar, and through that consumerism so that we – as a family – had the same nice things that other families had, I completely understand her desire for me to be a doctor. Wealth = purchasing power = nice things = social stature. The problem was that none of that really mattered to me, at least not in the way that my mother thought.

I don’t have the healing touch of a physician. My strengths lay in the arena of finding connections between concepts, exploring those connections, and utilizing the resulting data to provide some explanation of what I find. In some quarters, its called “Social Sciences” and in others its “Data Sciences” or “Information Sciences”. For me, its just something I understand. I provide data to people who make decisions, try to show the connections that I see, and then get out of the way so that they can make decisions based off of it. I am not good at spinning data to create my own narrative. Rather, I look at the narrative that the data provides, and provide what is stated there. In some manner of speaking, its a lot like reading the entrails of sacrificed creatures to determine the future. Except there’s not as much blood and mess.

I know, it seems that I am flying off the point here, but really – I’m not. See, there’s a string that attaches today’s environment and issues to the times of trouble within the farming communities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We have been through #Storms before. Yes, people suffered. Yes, people today suffer as well. Back then, the independent farmers did things like banding together into social cooperatives, in order to survive. Today, we will need to follow that same lead. We will need to band together for our survival. That means we will need to set aside a lot of our differences, and grasp hands together.

Like any other community of people, we Pagans squabble amongst one another. This person doesn’t match up to what I think a Pagan should be. That person doesn’t do their rituals the way I think rituals should be done. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We can squabble about shit like that until the cows come home. None of that changes the fact that we need to band together, so that we can survive the onslaught against our civil liberties. Not just here in America, but everywhere throughout the world. Nationalism is on the rise. Racism follows closely on the heels of that. Everything that we have fought to achieve is up for grabs. Equality of any sort is being brought into question by lawmakers.

Soon, we will need to decide if we will stand against the tanks in the square. Some are already making those stands. Some are already paying the price for those stands. And others cannot make those stands. We don’t need to judge people over whether they can make the stand or not. Those that can make the stand need to be supported. Those that cannot need to be sheltered. Those that have made the stand and have paid a price, need to be comforted and protected as they heal. Sooner or later, we will need to decide if we will make the stand. However, right now, we need to quit our petty squabbling and find the common threads that connect us. And once the #Storm passes – and it will – we will need those common threads to weave our community-at-large back together.

We have survived #Storms in the past. And many, many times the cost was enormously high. The devastation wrought was difficult to experience, but we have made our way back from each time. We will do it again. And again. And again. The price will be unimaginable high, but the promise of the future is worth the cost – at least in my mind. And like “Fearless Girl”, like “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square, like the independent American farmers….I’m willing to stand. Who takes my place if I fall??

Resisting Against the #Storm

This is the time of year where my travels typically stack up like overseas flights coming in for a landing at the airport. I have a retreat in south-central Texas for ADF Imbolc, then Pantheacon the weekend after that, and a professional trip after the following weekend to Houston. And a couple of weeks later, on to Louisiana for the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. Last night, I firmed up the details to attend CalderaFest in October. And there’s my first trip to Washington State….ever…to attend Many Gods West. That’s a lot of time away from home. And a lot of time away from my Stone Circle.

I am thankful that I have a job that can provide enough monetary resources for me to make travel like this, as well as the vacation time to do so. And while I am frightened to near death to fly, I am still thankful that I have the ability to do this as well. But every so often, I wonder what in the Nine Hells I am doing? By nature, I am a full-fledged introvert. I can be social with the best of them, but I prefer doing so in a group of people that I know. Why am I travelling to music festivals and conferences where I will encounter far more strangers than I have ever seen in a place before? And with my distaste of large crowds, I am placing myself into the middle of a maelstrom of people. Have I lost my fucking mind??

Actually, I have not. And while I have a distaste of crowds, and tend to pull myself into my shell – there is a need that needs to be met. No. Not glory. Not to become some Big Name Pagan (a semi-humorous and semi-scornful descriptive that I find not only distasteful but disgusting). No. Its because of the #Storm. Its because we, people who find themselves staring down the spear-point of a potentially dictatorial government, held by a spiteful, hate-filled element of society that would keep those that are different from them out or under the soles of their jackboots pressed against our necks – we need to know we are not alone. And not just through words on a computer screen. We need to be able to touch one another. Hold hands. Speak directly to one another over a cup of coffee or tea. Because we make it through the #Storm together.

Its also for the old Gods. I have the interest of three. There are far many more. At the conferences, the gatherings, and even the music festivals – we gather together in fellowship with one another. We honor the old Gods. We give thanks to Them for being a part of our daily lives, even the Ones that we do not interact directly with. We gather to be the Pagans and Polytheists and what else have you – that we are. Together. We fellowship with one another. We talk, we discuss, we respectfully debate and disagree, and we learn. We get all of that from one another, and from our respectful honoring of the old Gods.

So why do I travel? Why do go to these crowded events? To be there for others. To listen. To sympathize. To lend a shoulder where it may be needed. To find others who can be there for me. For those that can listen to me and sympathize. To find shoulders that are being offered as support for me. Because we are in this together. Because in being who I am, and not letting the Pagan that I am, the Priest that I am, the Polytheist I am be buried under the onslaught of issues coming from the actions of my United State government under the control of Donnie.

I resist. In the words of Malcolm Reynolds, I aim to misbehave. Not just through protests, not just through petitions, but by being who I am. By living the way that I should, as a Pagan, as a Priest, as a Polytheist…without apology. Without flinching. I do what I know how to do, being the Pagan that I am, the Priest that I am, the Polytheist I am. I resist by not conforming to some cookie-cutter vision of what an American is. I resist by being who I am. I travel to fellowship with others who also resist – who also live as they are without apology. Without flinching.

Together, we will make it through the #Storm. At times it will not be easy. It will seem hopeless at others. But we work together. We band together. We resist together. We will survive the #Storm together. And we will honor our Gods as we do so, by continuing to be who we are. In the manner that we can. By living our lives without apologies and without flinching. By being what we are. By being who we are.