When the World Feels Icky

It’s particularly bad where I am right now.

We are experiencing a heat wave that will drive temps up over 110° F today, and even higher tomorrow. In addition, smoke from the wildfires in the northern part of the state has been blown down here, casting a pall over everything and bringing a sharp, unpleasant taste to the air. The sunlight itself is a nauseous yellow, pounding down heat in a creepily still, hotbox environment of smoke.

We even had a little earthquake yesterday morning.

All in all, it feels like disaster is everywhere.

Of course, that’s kind of how it’s been ever since November 8, 2016, when the worst and most unsuited person ever to rise to the American Presidency seized office through a combination of voter ignorance, vote suppression and foreign interference. The daily news is ugly. We have Nazis in our streets, and white “supremacy” is now actually under debate. Decades of progress are under siege. And while the corrupt and incompetent appointees of the demogogue-in-chief deny global warming, catastrophic weather continues to hammer humanity across the globe.

Yep. The world feels icky right now. Step outside, or turn on the news: yuck.

What do we do, in times like these? When it’s bad, and it just looks like it’s going to get worse, at least for awhile? As Atheopagans, how do we negotiate a landscape that appears so hostile?

First, I would say, we have to take care of ourselves. Need a news diet? Ratchet down that political-junkie flow of information. Take a break from Facebook if it depresses you, as it often does me (is there anything else in the world but Twitler and street Nazis? You wouldn’t think so from looking at my feed!) Eat well. Take a walk (when it doesn’t threaten heat stroke or an asthma attack). Get out into nature, especially near some running or tidal water. Go to a museum. Read a book. Watch a guilty-pleasure movie. Cry when you have to, but find opportunities to laugh.

Secondly, express. Don’t just bottle up the horror and exasperation and fear and sorrow that are so easily found these days. Talk with friends, or write in a journal, or write a song, or a poem, or paint a canvas. Get your creativity going. Creation is a powerfully self-supporting activity which can make a real difference when traversing hostile waters.

Next, get some perspective. The Fascist rise of the 1930s was followed by steadily growing progressivism that brought much-needed change to the world. This phase, too, shall pass. And while global warming does, indeed, threaten much of humanity and the biosphere, Life is tenacious as hell. Mother Earth isn’t done yet, by a long shot. And there will be plenty of time for new biodiversity to rise after humans are long gone, whether that is in 500 years or a million. Because all things pass, and that includes us.

But we are living here, now, and that means the fourth step:  pick your battles, and get active. When everything is on fire, it’s hard to narrow your focus enough to be effective, but narrow it we must. If your issue is LGBTQ rights, do that. Speak out on it. Educate others. Help to build the cultural shift that is inevitably coming as the Boomers and their predecessors die off. If it’s climate change, find out how you can reduce/offset your carbon footprint. Enlist your friends to join you. Advocate for alternative energy and voice your support for those states and municipalities that are defying the Twitler administration to persist in their pursuit of carbon reduction goals.

Finally, don’t forget to do your religion. Our Atheopagan practices and rituals and Sabbaths can sustain and replenish us, help us connect more deeply with friends. Talking and thinking about it isn’t enough. Explore the symbols of those Tarot cards. Dust off that Focus and get started again with an actively maintained practice. Harvest is coming up: plan a feast with friends and neighbors, and don’t forget to start with a food blessing and expressions of gratitude. Enjoy the taste of the Harvest, of the sips of wine. Remember that you are alive, and this is a great gift.

Planet Earth keeps turning, folks. We have to get through this, and together, we will. Know that I deeply value each and every one of you who reads this blog, comments on the Facebook group and considers the thoughts and ideas we bandy about here.

YOU MATTER. You matter to me and you matter to the world. So be very good to yourself, and find your niche for helping history along to a better place.

Stay strong. You are loved.

Live.

 

 

 

 

 

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Miracles of Reality: Reflections on the Impending Solar Eclipse

It’s spectacular.

Seriously. When I was a little kid, my parents took me to North Carolina to view a total eclipse of the Sun. I couldn’t have been more than six, but I remember those 2-1/2 minutes of totality vividly, right down to the taste of the chives growing in the field where my father set up his camera tripod.

A total eclipse of the sun is one of the great astronomical experiences. Like viewing a comet, except that it only lasts for a couple of minutes.

When totality comes, an eerie darkness falls on the land. Animals are disturbed; I heard dogs howling throughout the total eclipse period. That flaming ring of light in the sky presides over a landscape suddenly alien: not night, not day, but something else.

Yes, it is spectacular.

But when you think about it, phenomena of the Universe that we see every day are just as spectacular…they’re just not as rare. An eclipse is fantastic because we almost never see them.

Is it as marvelous as a truly great sunset? As a slow cascade of fog pouring over a mountain ridge, or the dance of trees in a high wind, or the ripples on a lake as a first sprinkle of rain begins? The scent of fresh rain, or the sound of wind rushing through a forest, or the taste of a wild raspberry, or the feeling of submerging in a natural hot spring?

It’s debatable.

My point is that the miracles of Nature are omnipresent. It is only our busy lives and their commonplace nature that lets us gloss over them, ignore them as too unimportant to give the attention they deserve.

So let’s try a little harder, shall we? The glories of the world and the Cosmos are with us every day.

By all means, revel in the marvels of tomorrow’s solar eclipse. If you’re fortunate enough to see it in totality, you’ll treasure that memory forever. If not, still get out there and use a pinhole projector to see the shadow of the eclipsed moon, or observe directly with appropriate eye protection. I like to use a colander: it casts dozens of little images of the eclipsed sun on the ground or a sheet of paper (and besides, it’s Sacred to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!)

But see if you can take some time, going forward, to notice the many gifts of beauty and strangeness that the world serves up for us all the time. We don’t have to wait for a solar eclipse to roll around to know that we are blessed to live surrounded by miracles, by a Universe characterized by magnificence.

Once Upon a Time in the Eighties

A memory, for May Day/Beltane…

It wasn’t really a fabled time. There was a lot wrong with it.

That said, there were things about it that were golden.

It was a moment in Northern California, in the Pagan community. It mostly took place in wild places, in woods and deep forests.

We danced naked under the full moon. We celebrated our rituals around a blazing fire. We made love in meadows. We took drugs: psilocybin mushrooms, San Pedro cactus. MDMA.

And in that golden, loving space, alive with the joy of living, the world singing around us, we grew. We evolved. We healed.

Again, to be fair: there were those among us who were unbalanced, and remain so.

But then, there were the rest of us.

We got better.  We became healthier, more alive, more connected to the deep truth of ourselves.

The moment passed. Paganism in NorCal became more urban, less pastoral.

And let us be honest: we got older. More sedentary. Less apt to show our now-pasty bodies Continue reading