Do Not Ever Let

I am here to shout against the rising dark.

To say to you—yes, you, individually, yourself reading this—that I know how hard it has become. To believe in a future. To aspire.

Do not let them do this to you.

Do not allow the ways of the world, this bitter storm turn you away from its rage. Grimace in the teeth of it, and breathe the cold, alive despite it.

You have a future. And in it is love and warmth, skies and seas and trees and all the wonders they reveal. No matter how small the men who grind the world become, you will have your days, your skies, your sunsets, your kisses.

And tides will turn. Soon or late, but turn they will. Fight for that moment. Lift your voice. Resist.

But as importantly, live. These are days which will either grind us down or break us open into a joy none can take from us. The joy that floats like a reflection on a calm pool of equanamity, impossible to remove; which returns, obdurate, even after a disturbance momentarily plunges the image into a dance of colors.

Hold your loved ones close. Drink the wine and eat the delicious peach. Walk in the wood and see the dappled light, the rainbow-spangled Moon among the stars.

It is only if they break our spirits that those who seek to trample us can win.

Do not let them. Do not ever.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

On Freedom

In the United States, we lionize “freedom”. We make much of how “free” we are, boast of it. Our national narrative is filled with reinforcing stories about liberty and the struggle for freedom.

But what is it?

If freedom means anything, it must be the freedom not just to believe as one wishes, to think as one will, but also to act as one will. To be treated as an equal. And that freedom is in danger in this country at this time.

We are, in reality, one of the most authoritarian states of the developed world. We have a higher rate of incarceration even than China or Saudi Arabia or Russia. Offenses that might warrant a police warning in other nations routinely result in prosecution of Americans; particularly, Americans of color. Police here are militarized. And as we have seen, they get away with murder.

A lot.

Currently, freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion are all under attack by the right wing in this country. Radical conservatives want us to be a nation where we are “free” only to express what they believe, what they want others to think. The abominable person currently occupying the White House does his best to freeze out legitimate journalism, castigating it as “fake news”. And so-called “Christian” conservatives press calls for “religious freedom” measures to authorize discrimination against religious minorities and LGBTQ people under color of law, and to oppress women through control of their medical choices.

We have a very long way to go before this nation is “the land of the free” by comparison with other developed nations. And we appear to be moving in the opposite direction at the moment.

Let’s not even get started on the checkered history of this country’s support for tyrants elsewhere, nor its military belligerence.

Here, on “Independence Day”, we have a bloody flag to contemplate, and a country becoming more rigorously repressive by the day.

Still, there are bright spots. Throughout the country, for example, decriminalization of marijuana—bans on which have been used particularly to oppress people of color and the poor for nearly a century—is becoming widespread. And the culture is changing such that within a generation, LGBTQ people are going to be widely accepted no matter what the “Christian” right has to say about it.

Finally, our judiciary appears—for the moment—to be defending principles that the neofascists of the American right hope to destroy.

The right would have us believe that “freedom” is a flag-waving, chest-beating boast, and a license to be as cruel and terrible to others as one wishes. The right does not believe in the common good so much as the individual whim.

We, I hope, Atheopagans, are a countervailing voice to those for whom bigotry, oppression and destruction of the common good at the behest of personal greed constitute “freedom”.

Ours is a vision of an expansive world, where difference is celebrated. Where the Great Commons—the Sacred Earth itself—is treasured and stewarded as the birthright, progenitor and carekeeper of our species, now and into the future.

Where “freedom” means the freedom to be individual, to believe and practice as we like without the structures of government telling us otherwise, and a general principle of kindness to one another as we each explore our individual paths.

Freedom is something we hold in our hearts, regardless of what happens out in the world. It colors our behavior, and is a beacon we aspire to in our personal struggles: to be free of the internal oppression of our wounds, as well as to be free of the external constraints of injustice.

We are Atheopagans. We will not be what those who boast and brag about “freedom” while they try to take it away from others want us to be. We believe what we do, we practice as we do. We sing and ritualize and observe our Sabbaths and strike a new path into the future without fear. And we stand for the freedoms of those who are oppressed.

We are free.

Happy Independence Day.