The Loss of Beauty

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It’s so easy to lose your beauty. I’m not talking about that which time steals. I mean the part deep inside that knows magick is real and stares in wonder at the bumblebee landing on the dandelion.

We have it as children but it fades with each “grow up” we hear or every bit of ugliness we see. We become adults who pretend to see beauty but it’s a faded replica of what we knew as children.

Why is it better to know that Santa’s not real and the Tooth Fairy is really your parents? When did believing in fantastical reality become a sin? We laugh at the dad playing tea party with his daughter or the mom throwing a baseball with her son. When did bouquets of dandelions fall out of fashion?

A short time ago I decided to try to find my beauty. Like Frodo, I’m on a wondrous adventure. Sometimes my journey is fill with amazing friends while other times I’m achingly alone. I’m off to conquer Mordor, the burden of a gold ring known as Reason weighs down my steps. I hear “you can’t” or “that’s not reasonable” or “be mature” like arrows tipped with dots of poison.

Each day I scan the skies for the dragons I know are there. I search the honeysuckle tree for my fae friends. The dragonfly whispers its message to me.

“Beauty is there,” he says. “Just look and see.”

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A New Day

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I’ve made a decision. I’m starting a new religion because I’m tired of people waving their religions around like a mace and bashing people in the head with it. That shit belongs on the set of Game of Thrones not real life and certainly not in politics. So, I’m making a new religion. One that, hopefully, will let people live and worship in peace. Like any religion, though, it has to have rules so here goes;

  1. Worship as you will. It doesn’t matter what building or park or house or pool or bar you go to commune with your god. It doesn’t matter if you wear a scarf, a colander, a yarmulke or even a stuffed ferret on your head. It doesn’t matter if you kneel, dance, do a jig or wave knives in the air. What matters is your relationship with your god. If that relationship is comfortable (it should feel like two old friends going out for a beer type of comfortable) then you’re doing it right. However, just because you have that level of comfort with your god doesn’t mean you get to force others to believe what you do. Don’t get all pissy because others want to worship their own gods.
  2. Ask questions and seek answers. Your god gave you a brain to use. Stop turning it off and do what you’re supposed to do. Question everything. Keep seeking answers. For the love of all that’s living, keep learning. Respect scientists for it’s their job to ask questions and seek answers. Protect them. Listen to them. Remember that teachers come in all forms and not all of them may be human. It is your job to hear what they’re teaching you.
  3. Reaffirm your connection to the world and the universe. You are a part of a species called humans. Reconnect with your species. ALL OF THEM. You are a part of this world. Examine your world and understand your place in it. Know that you are not the pinnacle of anything simply because you’re bipedal or have opposable thumbs.
  4. Live a balanced life. The Universe loves balance in all forms. Light/dark, good/evil, hot/cold… everything comes in balance. Live your life accordingly. Remember that true balance is not stagnation. True balance is motion and growth. The tree is balanced between its roots in the earth and its branches that stretch to the sky and it is always growing. When you find your balance, and it is unique to you, then you can become a truly aware being and true growth can happen.
  5. Respect your world. Respect the Earth. This is the only one you have. Care for it. Love it. Heal it. For you are a child of the Earth and it is your duty to respect and care for it.
  6. Use the tools given to you. Mankind has created such wonders as science, medicine, technology. Don’t turn your back on them simply because you believe they’re “not natural” or anti-spiritual. The very act of creating is a spiritual act of itself. Respect that. There are many, many tools available in the world. Some come from the Earth itself, others come from humans. Respect them all and use them wisely.
  7. Love. Love yourself and others. Every creature on this Earth has a life and a right to live that life. If you find that you cannot love someone then move on and cause no harm to them. Know that when you love yourself deeply, you will realize what a wondrous and miraculous creature you are. Magick lives within you if you only want to see it.
  8. Live fully. You were given the gift of life. Use that gift to its full advantage. Experience all that life has to give you and let it guide you. Do not waste this life thinking there’s another waiting for you if you only perform the right rituals. This life is here and now. Don’t waste it by worrying about what the future may or may not have.
  9. Be fierce in your protection. Not all in the world is pure and good. Evil exists. Not in some mystical, magical way but in a very real, very immediate sense. It is your duty to protect your world, your loved ones and yourself by speaking out, by making a difference, by doing. Do not assume others will do it for you. Even a small voice can be heard in the silence.

This is my religion. I invite you to follow with me.

Evolution

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2016 has been a horrific year. Between mass murders, deaths, racial tensions and Donald Trump; I keep hoping the gods will jump out and say, “just kidding!!” However, that will never happen. No powerful being is going to pull us out of this one no matter how many prayers you throw at the dead and dying. It’s up to us to change the direction of our destiny.

We have an opportunity here to do something amazing. To be more than we are and we can do it one person at a time but it won’t be easy. Evolving is painful and difficult but if humanity is to survive, we have to do it. Each person can have a hand in it and know they helped humanity to move forward. To evolve.

First I ask you to set aside your religious beliefs for a moment. I’m not saying give them up but, rather, just put them in a box to the side for a bit. Be human before you put on the mantle of your Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism or Wicca or whatever. Put all that to the side and just be human without the help of gods or written words or holy men. Just, for a second, be human in all its frailties and foibles. Be human in all its glory and wonder. Just be human.

Second, put aside your things. Oh, I know, they’re important things. Houses and cars and clothes and boats and bikes and… things. Just put them aside for a moment. They’ll still be there when you return. I promise. Just put them on the shelf for a second so you can remember your humanity without the burden of things.

Third, the next time you come across a living creature, take a look at it. It might be a person, it might be a butterfly or a dog or a monkey. Just look at them without the tint of religion or the white noise of things. See them. Know that they are struggling to live just like you. Understand that they have as much right to be on this earth as you.

Now look at the world around you. See it for the first time without the noise of society and religion and things. Understand that you’re an intricate part of that whole. That your place in that whole matters. It matters without the religion and the words and the things and society. You matter. You’re important.

The last part that I ask you to do is the hardest. Take up your religion and your things. Now see them as you have the rest of the world. Some will hold up to your scrutiny and some won’t. You have to decide what to do with them.

One thing I will tell you is that once you see the things and the religions without the white noise of what “should” be, they will start to look very different than you once assumed them to be. It’s not that they’re unimportant or wrong but that they may not have the shape and size they once had in your life and that’s ok. It’s when this happens that the truly important things can enter your life. Things like a love of life, an acceptance of that which is different from yourself, respect and love for yourself and others. True love and respect, not the mouthings we voice daily.

I challenge everyone to try this. 2016 should teach us something important; that we matter, that we are part of a whole. Unless man evolves beyond his infantile ways and temper tantrums, we will not survive.

Sunflowers

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I planted some sunflower seeds just off my patio recently. Sunflowers are the perpetually happy flower. Those and dandelions. I don’t know what it is about them but they remind me of smiles and sunshine. When I look at them I can’t help but be happy for the moment.

Which is a good thing because I seem to need it more right now. Events in the world have me confused, scared and sad. It’s hard enough for my brain to wrap itself around normal human behavior but recently my brain has given up completely trying to understand.

When I first heard about Brock Turner from a letter the victim wrote I was outraged. Then I saw postings on social media and I became confused. Why was everyone upset about this when this exact same scenario had been recurring for decades before Turner was even born? This event was nothing new and when the fury dies down from it, it will occur again and again. Why, then, the anger now? Where is the anger for all the other women who have suffered the same situation?

Then I heard about a mass killing in an Orlando gay nightclub and my heart sank. For years the gay community has been trying its best to become mainstream and accepted even as politicians try to legalize hate. The LGBTQ community continues to live in fear and no one seemed to care.

Worse than that, many have cried out for stricter gun laws in the United States for years and the NRA scream that rights are being violated. Guess what? People are dying. That’s more important than your need to play John Wayne. Murder trumps all.

Among all this chaos is Donald Trump spewing hate and inciting his followers to violence. Didn’t we see all this in Nazi Germany? Didn’t we hear the same rhetoric from Stalin? There are others like him, you know but no one wants to see.

I have to believe there’s hope in all this, though. I look outside and see my little sunflowers struggling to survive and dandilions stretching up to catch the sun. It’s then I think about those little bits of happiness that Mother Nature has given me. Maybe there’s a path through all this. I have to believe there is.

Open Letter to Therapists

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Dear Therapists:

I’m here begging you to listen to me. Not just hear my words but really absorb their meaning and intention. I’m tired of getting lip service from you on this score so, for a moment, put away your degrees and books and really understand what I’m telling you.

Please stop.

So many times those of us with mental illness are subjected to the lasted fad in psychology designed to make us all better. You’ve read all the papers and the books and you have the degrees. You’ve published in some of the best papers and been peer reviewed. You’re at the top of your game and we should feel lucky you’re our therapist.

Please understand I’m saying this with the best of intentions. When we walk into your office, can you please put away the books and papers? Can you please not look at us like we’re something to experiment on as you try out the latest fad or new idea? We have something to say and we want to be heard.

You’re our therapist and we need to trust you but that’s a two-way street. You can’t reasonably expect us to walk into your office, tell you our fears and thoughts while you hold yourself apart from us. If you don’t trust us, how can we trust you? If you don’t listen to us and what’s going on in our brains, how can we listen to you?

I know that it’s part of your medical training to stand apart and aloof from your patients. Don’t get involved is the battle cry of the doctor but I’m telling you that hiding behind your education and books prevents you from hearing what we’re really saying. So many times I’ve had symptoms dismissed because it didn’t fit in with a preconceived notion of what the doctor or therapist felt was wrong. I know hoof beats are usually horses but sometimes it really is a zebra.

So when we walk into your office, please give us the same courtesies you expect from us. Beyond the polite conversation, please offer us your trust and confidence. We’ll give you the same in return. Please hear us deeply and don’t twist what we’re saying to fit what you think they should be. It’s hard enough for us to come to you without feeling like we’re tossing ourselves against a wall.

This is our therapy, not your opportunity for career advancement or to indulge in your new fad. Sometimes, we want to talk. Sometimes we want help in getting over a hurdle. Most of all, we want to trust that you have our best interests at heart.

So, I’m begging you. Just please stop.

Sincerely,
A Client

Life Without Parole

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When Orange is the New Black (OITNB) first came to Netflix, I was unimpressed and didn’t bother to watch it. I’m not one to jump on the television bandwagon and, so far, wasn’t wowed by what I saw on the sound bites I caught.

Then a friend urged me to watch it. It was hilarious with some real life lessons to think about. So, being me, I binged on season 1 and found that I did like it. Like so many others, I got caught up with the story and empathized with these poor women who found themselves in a bad place. Like so many others, I glossed over the fact that they were criminals found guilty in a court of law. These were noble and valiant women trying to do their best to live their lives in through the prison system.

Then December 18th happened.

See, on December 18th, back in 1986 (that’s the date burned into my brain. Though, I admit I may be off a year on the date) a young girl named Charlotte Hazel Bass was found dead in a house fire. She never woke up and was overcome by the smoke in her sleep. She never had a chance. She was 18 years old. The fire was arson and the murder has never been caught.

Char (as she was known to me) was a friend. She was tough but kind. There was a core of steel in her that I admired but she was always sensitive to the needs and emotions of those around her. She was intelligent and beautiful.

December 18th is a day I’ll always remember.

Before I go further, I’d like to explain for those who’ve been living under a rock what OITNB is. See, one day, a woman named Piper Kerman went to jail. I’m not sure for what because I don’t remember the actual charge. I’m not sure if it was glossed over in the book or if my memory fails me at the moment. Likely a bit of both.

Anyways, this lovely young woman did a bad thing. So she went to prison like all the other women who did bad things. This white, middle class, straight laced woman was shocked to find herself in a bad place with other women who did bad things. When she came out of the bad place she decided to write a book about her experiences in the bad place. She also wrote about all the noble women trying to live their lives in the bad place with some respect and dignity.

Can you see where I start to have a problem here?

I remembered Char and how I’d never get to see her again. Piper got to return to her family. Char’s family split up. Piper got to return to her fiancé. Char will never have a fiancé. Piper got to have a great career as an advocate for prisoners. Char will never have a career. Piper will get to have kids. Char never will.

I saw Piper standing up for prisoner’s rights and, at first, stood with her. How awful things were in prison

(Char will never get to see the new Star Wars)

and how hard it was for prisoners to keep connected with their families.

(Char has a younger sister she never got to meet)

I felt bad for them. Criminals were humans, too. They deserved some dignity and respect.

(How much dignity is there in the ground?)

So I asked Piper some questions on Twitter. She never answered me. Instead, David Menschel took it upon himself to answer me. Why I never understood. I wanted to hear what Piper had to say. I wasn’t angry or confrontational, just confused. Didn’t my friend matter?

The issue of life without the possibility of parole came up and I asked what about the victims. Didn’t they matter? In one of many responses I got where he adamantly opposed the idea of life without parole, he had this to say;

Note: I think society listens to victims too much. I reject idea they should have more voice than others about crime policy.

I’m sorry? My friend got life without parole but it’s too much to ask that the person who did it to her should get the same? Her family, ripped apart by her death and given no justice, is heard too much? What about other victims? That addict who is doing life, whether he cleans up or not, doesn’t get a say? That abuse victim who will always live with her scars has too much of a voice?

In our law system, the victims have ALWAYS had the opportunity to give voice to the damage that the crime did to them. There is a reason that the victim’s words have the weight they do. The criminal is not going to willingly stand up and take responsibility for their actions. They never do no matter how many times they do it. So, there has to be a voice that can speak out and talk about the long term effects of their crime.

So that’s my problem with OITNB. There’s a lot of fun and exciting women but you rarely hear about the impact of their crimes on the victims. Read Piper’s book. There’s a small part where she talks about having some clue about the impact of what she did. Otherwise, there’s nothing. Not once does any of the characters in either the book or the show take responsibility for what they’ve done. Not once is there even an apology.

That means it’s up to Char and her family to take responsibility for the crime. It’s on their shoulders to carry the impact of what’s been done to them. Char is not unique. There are many, many others who will never see justice for what’s been done to them. Yet, Piper argues to remove life without parole.

Instead, they’d rather see Char’s family do life without parole. Yeah. Seems fair to me.

Spiritual Adulthood

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We all want to have some explanation for the things that happen in our lives. When something good happens, we attribute it to being rewarded for our good deeds. When something bad happens, we seek out reasons such as being punished by deities or evil rampant in the world.

What we don’t want to face is the idea that there are no reasons. No excuses. No rewards. No karma. No gods punishing or rewarding us. If we continue to look for order in a chaotic world, we can pretend we fit in. That there’s a reason for our existence and the things that happen to us.

That’s all a lie.

I know that sounds harsh and probably it is. However, I firmly believe that humans as a species cannot evolve until we get rid of the fairy tale that things happen for a reason.

I remember reading the Conan graphic comics as a youth. I was disturbed by Conan’s god, Crom. A cold and heartless god, he refused to help the people who worshiped him. Yet, they remained loyal to him. Why?

Crom kept their loyalty because he kept them strong. He didn’t swoop down and rescue them every time they got into trouble. He expected his people to rescue themselves with the gifts he’d given them. Sometimes they survived, sometimes they didn’t. Whatever the outcome, though, it was up to the humans to get through not some god to bail them out.

We humans have been given all the tools we need to survive and thrive. Brains, bodies, the ability to plan, socialization… the list goes on. When we stop attributing things to gods or luck, we learn to rely on those tools we’ve been given through thousands of years of existence.

I’m not saying dump your spirituality by the wayside. Believe in your gods. Love your gods. Talk to your gods as you wish. However, I am saying that when you expect your gods to bail you out of every situation you remain a spiritual infant. It is now time to grow up and stop expecting that prayers and spells are going to be the answers to our troubles.

Sometimes bad things happen and we cry or scream or rage. Sometimes good things happen and we cheer or celebrate or laugh. To sit idly by and mumble to deities to fix things for us does us a disservice. Spells and prayers are meant to be a communion with your god. Not a free delivery service to make your life perfect.

If good things are happening to you, then share them with the world. Enjoy them and remember them. Count the blessings you have every day. Look at your loved ones and tell them they’re loved and cherished.

If bad things are happening to you, share them with the world. Let those who love you be your strength. Rely on science and medicine to help you through. Cloak yourself in your blessings so they can be an armor against the battle you face.

Whatever the situation is, don’t simply rely on your god to get you through. You have tools and abilities and resources at hand. Use them. Do something. By doing so, you grow into a spiritual adult.

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