On Mirth

As I have referenced before, these are challenging days.

Much  is at stake, and fools are at the wheel. For someone prone to depression like me, it can be hard to keep may chin up and headed forward.

This is why Atheopagan Principle 5 is so very important. Because it reminds us that the world of humans is not only tragic: it is absurd. And absurdity is hilarious.

I’ve never heard any—perhaps they do not survive—but I guarantee that German Jews in the mid-1930s had Nazi jokes: not only because Jewish culture is generally lively withh humor, but because this is what humans do. We make the unbearable bearable, we knock our problems down to size, even if only for a moment, by making fun of them.

And for the freest and happiest of us, this includes mockery of the greatest “problem” each of us confronts: ourselves. By willingly being silly, making jokes at our own expense, we embrace our delightful, flawed humanity, warts and all.

There is a time for dignity, don’t get me wrong. There are times when seriousness is and should be the order of the day. But honestly, those are few when compared with the number of occasions when tension-easing humor is both appropriate and welcome.

Humor brings humanity and perspective into moments that we would suffer through without it. It reestablishes the relative importance of things. It is not frivolous or trivial. It’s important.

April Fools’ Day is coming up (April 1, for those of you in other countries—I’m not sure how widespread the tradition is), and I encourage you to be as big a fool as you can get away with: to dress outrageously, make silly jokes and go for the guffaw.

This world is serious enough. Even if our humor is of the gallows variety, I’d rather go having inspired a grin and a chuckle.

Wouldn’t you?

images

Embracing Joy in Dark Days

Where I live, we are right at the fractal edge of spring: winter is stuttering, and between rains come bright, fresh days in the 70s, rich with the scent of flowering trees and lush grass. There is no doubt: the Wheel has turned. Winter has run its course.

It’s days like these when the urge to be outside is almost irresistible: to breathe that scent, stretch out my limbs and welcome the warmth of the long-gone sun. To walk in shirtsleeves and feel that sensuous, liquid air flowing around me.

It’s heady stuff, and it conjures forth optimism and energy. Things are looking up!

Then I see a headline. And the pit of my stomach sinks. Until I catch myself, and let myself enjoy again.

I have spent a long time in the political world, and have experienced personally how it can eat your brain. Tracking what is going on in the news and responding to it both emotionally and politically can become an obsession. And for those whose path demands of them not only reverence, but activism, it is easy to feel it is our duty to remain ever-focused on the harm that is being done in our society, to be unswerving in our attention, effort and comprehension of that harm.

Well, let me go on the record here to say that is nonsense.

Living in times when terrible things are happening is not the occasion for wearing a hair shirt. We need not feel guilty for enjoying the sensual pleasures that are in our lives. In fact, they are what will help to sustain us as we fight the fight we must fight. There is no reason to feel badly about having a wonderful day, despite the latest abominations of the Trumpenfuhrer. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you’re just riding along in your privilege and being a “good German”.

It means you’re living your life. Even as you apply your caring and effort to changing the direction our society is going.

Both are necessary. Both are valid.

I don’t in any way advocate losing sight of the plight of those who are exposed to harm by this reckless and ignorant administration of dunces. Including our beloved planet itself.

But I have seen what happens to activists when all they can think about is the ain’t-it-awfulism of the daily news. They lose sight of the point of living a human life, which is not only to be of integrity and service, but to be happy. They become bitter and greyfaced, and seem to draw a grim satisfaction from terrible developments in the news, as if they feel personally validated by tragedy instead of motivated by their opposition to it.

Don’t be one of those. Throw your arms wide and welcome the pleasures of the world. And then do the work we all must to make it a better place.

It’s spring, fer cryin’ out loud!

 

Real Magic

Reality. It’s filled with marvels!

It is not, however, filled with every marvel we can imagine. There are no dragons, nor unicorns. There are no pixies or fairies. And there is no “magic” in the sense of spellcasting, “charging” items with “power” or “energy”, hexes, curses, or otherwise affecting the course of events without material cause.

Just as there are no gods, there is no magic. If we soberly consider the evidence, the conclusion is inevitable.

Except…well, wait a minute.

When a ritual adds to your confidence and performance in a job interview, is that magic? When a ceremony breaks open longheld rage and transmutes it to grief and healing? What about when a wedding binds two people to one another before their communities and loved ones?

Are not these things “magical”, in the sense that they surprise and delight us with effects psychological and meaningful?

Well, certainly they are.

Atheopagans can do magic just as effectively as anyone else…which is to say, not at all effectively. Except insofar as our “spellwork” is intended to change our own attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

But for those purposes, ritual is powerful technology for transforming the mind.

Be warned: don’t expect your supernaturalist friends to get this. For whatever reasons, they subscribe to belief in phenomena for which there is little to no scientific evidence. There’s no point in arguing, so don’t.

Ritual “spellcasting” in Atheopaganism can include many of the elements that come to mind when you think of such things:  the use of ritual tools, candle “magic”, sacred/”magical” symbols and sigils, etc. I find that my rituals of intention, which is what I call them, bring me into a powerfully Present trance state of calm, intent focus and concentration on the goal.

But these goals are very specifically about the changes in me that I am working to bring about. I don’t “do a spell to get a job”—that’s useless. I will do a ritual to align myself in all ways with an effective and successful job search. This means that the ritual begins the work of getting a job, rather than ending it. It means I am tasked to act by the ritual itself.

Atheopaganism is a path of effort and clarity. We don’t pretend that our religion will give us an afterlife, nor  powerful Entities with whom to ally, nor magical powers. Ours is life in this world, with its constraints, its challenges, its injustices…and its magnificence, its opportunity and its joy.

It is enough. The real kind of “magic” we can make is magical enough. The real powers and forces of the world are enough. The glorious stars, the deep-rooted trees, the shining faces of our community are more than enough.