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!


Godless Paganism declared “The Pagan Book of the Year!”

I was so proud to be a part of the creation of John Halstead’s Godless Paganism, and wanted to let all you Atheopagans know that Megan Manson of the Pagan Tama blog on Patheos has rated it the top Pagan book of the year!

If you still don’t have a copy, you can pick it up at http://www.lulu.com/shop/john-halstead/godless-paganism-voices-of-non-theistic-pagans/paperback/product-22646041.htmlOr save money and paper and buy the e-book at http://www.lulu.com/shop/john-halstead/godless-paganism-voices-of-non-theistic-pagans/ebook/product-22635653.html

Lulu has a 20% off sale going through the end of the year, so get yours now!

Yule: The Light in the Darkness

It’s a very dark one this year. And, as for our ancestors, it promises to become darker and colder still in January, after the celebrating is long over.

Our Sabbaths are rich with meaning. And sometimes that meaning persists beyond a season.

We are about to go through a very, very dark time. Some of our beloveds will not survive it. And though we must fight to defend every square inch of sacred ground that progress has attained, much we love will be lost.

It’s going to be Yule for a long time.

We must be the light in the darkness now. We much gather with those we love and find cause for laughter and love and joy despite the bitterness outside our walls. We must band together when the cold threatens our fellows, and provide them help and nourishment and shelter when they need it. And to toast the ones who don’t make it, and redouble our efforts in their names.

We must be the spirit of generosity when the weather is cruel and indifferent. We must live in hope, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

The spirit of the Yule season is in some ways one of blithe denial: we sing and celebrate as our food stores dwindle, as the light dims to an ember, as we contemplate yet colder days to come. There is a sort of happy madness to it. Even sad memory of what has passed into history is limned with a sort of rosy glow, a fondness.

We need some of that madness now. It may seem the height of folly to hold out hope and commitment to progressive values in the face of the coming storm, but hold them we must.

Yule says, It’s not over. Even at the very moment when it appears that it may be.

Let us carry the evergreen in our hearts as the coming years unfold. Let us keep the flame of the Yule log akindle within us.

Let us be the People of the Returning Light, knowing that however bad it gets, they cannot kill every seed that waits in the soil, every heart burning for justice.

They cannot defeat us unless we let ourselves be defeated. Here, at the moment on the Wheel when we draw near to those we love to stave off the grim reality of winter, let us take this season more deeply into us, as we will be needing Yule not only in December, but throughout the coming years.

Let us never doubt that the Light will return. Et in terra pax hominibus.