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Saturday, April 30, 2011

...and now for something completely different.

The A to Z challenge is complete, and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has followed along and listened to me ramble. It's been a lot of fun, and I', grateful for all the readers, and all the other bloggers who played too. Reading your blogs has been entertaining and informative.

...but now what?

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a creature of habit and a sucker for structure. When I have a path laid out before me to follow, I'm pretty good at following it. When I'm left in a big sandbox with a couple of toys and no projects... I tend to get very little done.

So I need your help. I need a new project.

You've all had a chance to see my style, and see how I approach things. What I need is a new thread to follow, a new castle to build, and I'd love to hear what you guys and gals have to say.

Any subjects you want to see me vent my spleen on? Any ideas for new topics, from the utterly goofy to the deadly serious? Any ideas that an A to Z blog (mine or another's) put in your head that you'd like to see my take on? Some other totally unrelated idea that you think I could make an entertaining mess out of?

I want to keep blogging (and I'd love it if you all kept reading), but I feel like I need some inspiration. Anyone who gives me an idea will get credited in whatever I write (if they wish- they can be anonymous, too, if they prefer that).

I look forward to seeing what you lot think. Enjoy the nascent spring and summer!

Much love to you all.

Z is for Zamboni

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I'm a pretty big hockey fan.

Hockey, in my mind, has a lot to recommend it. It's fast paced, it's violent and intense, the action can shift gears, change directions, and momentum can swing wildly at the drop of a hat (or of a puck, or of the gloves, if you prefer). While there are strategies and playing styles that the varying teams use, by it's very nature, it's anything but formulaic (I loathe baseball for this reason- it's orderly and heirarchical, and it's rarely possible for one team to seize control of the game definatively from the other).

Another fun and appealing thing about hockey is the Zamboni.

For those who don't know, the Zamboni is a machine that's use to resurface the ice between periods of play. Imagine, 12 pairs of razor sharp skates, thundering back and forth across the ice at high speeds, sheering to a stop, grinding around corners, for 20 minutes at a time. It leaves the ice badly chewed up, with ruts and divots everywhere.

Then the Zamboni comes out, and in about 10 minutes, you have a smooth, clean sheet of ice (mostly) again... and the razor-footed warriors come out for 20 more minutes of thunder.

There's a metaphor, here, a level of symbolism that I doubt gets a lot of attention.

Think about the last time you had a ROTTEN day. EVERYTHING went to hell, NOTHING went right- one mistake after another, one roadblock after another, one annoying jackass after another- we've all had that day (some more often than others, admittedly, but the point remains...).

What did you do? Go to bed angry (possibly angry and hungry, or angry and wet, or angry and cold, or... you get the idea)? Or did you find a way to calm (...and feed or dry or warm or...) yourself?

In short, did you find and employ your Zamboni?

Like a hockey game, life can be unpredictable, intense, and violent, and can leave your "rink" in pretty bad shape. It is, in fact, a foregone conclusion that there will always be things that do not go as planned, as intended, as desired. If I may be permitted a minor crudity, "Shit Happens."

Our "success" as people is not defined by the shallowness or depth of the brown stuff that populates our days; it's defined by our ability to adapt, adjust, and rise above situations that slide sideways or outright crash on us... and one of the best and easiest ways to do so is to relax, be still, be quiet. Let things be what they are, and understand that "failing," stumbling, falling once in a while doesn't make you a bad or inept person; it makes you human, and these "shortfalls" are nothing less than chances to grow.

In those moments when Hoyle has left the building and things deviate from his rules, you need a Zamboni. You need some mechanism, some device, some method by which you settle and smooth the torn-up ice, the choppy waters, the uneven ground of whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

Is it a glass of wine and a trashy romance novel? Is it a dish of M&M's and a stupid comedy? A bubble bath? The embrace of someone you care deeply for? A purring cat? A violent video game? Your choices are endless, really: anything that lets you "step away" and breathe, for a bit, anything that lets you relax, let go, and stop taking the world personally can be your Zamboni.

The National Hockey League playoffs are into their second round, and I would be remiss as a hockey fan if I didn't take this moment to say GO PREDS! GO BOLTS!

If you're having a tough day... or week... or month... or year... or if life just keeps kicking you everytime you think you're back on your feet... don't run from your challenges; that accomplishes nothing... but there's no harm in taking a Zamboni ride and getting your breath back.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for You

Today, you get to be witness to a minor miracle: I'm going to limit myself to just a few words.

When we make the transition from the open-eyed, open-minded wonder of childhood to the resigned acceptance of adulthood, what we really do is go from Inside to Outside. Other people have the answer. Other people have the solutions. Other people make the plans... and we just... follow.

Today, it's time to turn back Inside. Today is about You.

So put some whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Watch cartoons in your pj's. Pretend you're an astronaut, or a rock star. Be grateful for the Miracle that is You.

I sure am.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for X Chromosome

Author's Note: the subject that follows is one that has sparked intense, and sometimes hostile disagreements between myself and others- even others whom I otherwise got along well with, liked, and respected. It is a subject upon which my thoughts and opinions are in the overwhelming minority. All of that said, it is not now and has never been my desire or intent to offend or provoke; these are nothing more (or less) than my thoughts on a rather touchy subject.

The primary and most fundamental external difference between human beings is gender. I don't think anyone will dispute that fact. Obviously, some ethnic groups have characteristics which set them apart, such as skin color, eye shape, and hair texture, but there is no difference more profound or more evident than gender.

Anyone who knows me even a little will know that I consider the previous paragraph to be complete and utter crap.

What is the difference between a human male and a human female? At a genetic level, it's nothing more complicated than the pairing of a pair of chromosomes, labled by early geneticists as X and Y. Human females have double X chromosomes; human males have XY chromosomes. For those who are interested, more information can be found here.

I'm not going to make any friends saying so, but the differences begin and end there.

I can hear the arguments to the contrary piling up, and since, A, I lack the science to actually argue the point scientifically, and B, the points I want to make here are spiritual and cultural, I won't bother lining them up; rather, I'll just proceed along and make my points.

Much ado has been made in the national and, indeed, global press in recent years about gay marriage. (I'll make it relevant, I promise.) Those against it make arguments ranging from quoting Bible passages to flatly (and erroneously) declaring homosexuality "unnatural." Those for it cite things like overpopulation, and want it explained to them why it is that any given pair of people who love one another are different in any significant way from any other.

In the very same vein, I submit that the same questions can be asked of those who believe that men and women are so wildly different. I recognize the fact that there are certain structural differences between the two, but they are, in my view, cosmetic, and little else. The idea that there are significant functional differences between men and women are the result of centuries of social conditioning. People in power wanted things a certain way, so they schemed to make it so, and they had the power and resources to reinforce their ideas, generation after generation. There are thousands of examples of this kind of conditioning, all over our world, right now, today- every single person reading this right now has been conditioned in some way to believe something that may not even be true. The individuals who are aware of this enough to even question their conditioning are rare indeed.

Why, then, are people so ready to accept that men and women are so wildly different?

Is there anyone among you who would deliberately treat an African-American person differently than a Caucasian person because of their race? Anyone among you who would think less of someone for being Asian? Or Hispanic? I hope not. Why then is it that so many otherwise open minded people (of which I know a heartbreaking number) who will cheerfully make a mockery of one group or another based on their gender? People who wouldn't dream of saying the word "Nigger" have no problem at all saying that "men are pigs." People who would be horrified by terms like "Chink" or "Kike" wouldn't flinch away at all from saying that "women are bitches."

WHY?!


It's conditioning. We were trained, as a species, a very long time ago, to perceive a difference. So we do.

We've overcome the idea that certain ethnic groups are equal, rather than lesser, because we made an effort to do so. We saw an error, say even a lie, in our thinking, and we corrected it. (Note Well: I am not so naive as to believe that racism is no longer an issue; allow me my hyberbole, here, to make a point.) Why, then, do we live in a world where there are still places where women are treated like cattle (or worse) and have less rights than a house cat?

Why do we live in a world where the package that someone is born in has even a small effect on the consideration they receive from other people, good or bad?

It is my earnest, heartfelt belief that People are People, and the only differences that exist are the ones we create. I'm not laying out some tired, trite "eveyone is an individual" schlock. I'm saying that to take any one characteristic of another person (or group of people), and using it to define them... well, there's no polite way to say it: it's fucking stupid. It's no way to think, no way to live, and no way to get along. If the way someone lives or acts gets up your nose... try to remember it's them that's bothering you, not everyone who is the same color, the same shape, or the same Whatever. It's one person.

Remember, too: All is One. So that Lady that's bitching at you? That Man who's being a "pig"? They're part of the same Whole that you are.

Allow them their hyperbole, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Wildlands

In his book Escaping Destiny (the first book in the Tapestry trilogy), author Jeffrey Pierce describes a hard to find slice of reality where humans and the Fae live together in harmony, called the Wildlands. Protean and more than a little chaotic to the untrained outside eye, the Wildlands are a place where Nature is the final arbiter of reality... but only because the beings that live there, human, Fae, and mixed alike, all recognize the value of Balance.

Since reading Escaping Destiny, I've become deeply enamored with the idea of the Wildlands, both in a metaphorical sense and a literal one.

Do I believe that there is an actual place, just across some arcane boundary, where humans and Faeries cavort together in an endless forest bounded by an equally endless sea? Maybe not in so many words... but I do believe that there are places, many of them, in this world that human beings are just too narrow minded to ever find or visit. These are the places that I think of as the Wildlands.

There's a twist, though, from where I stand.

The Wildlands can be made, too. They can be created, right where you are.

When you start with yourself, and begin, in your heart, to seek after balance... when you finally, truly, open your eyes, and begin to look for ways to be a part, rather than apart... when you seek (and find) your Tribe... the first fragile seeds of the Wildlands are sown.

I live in a world, even now, where minor flashes of the miraculous occur every day, often several times a day. I say "minor," not because they're unimportant, but because they happen on a small, local, personal level. They're not Empire-leveling, Earth-saving events... or are they?

If everyone, everyday, embraced the miraculous... if everyone thought Tribe-first and Earth-first... how greatly might these little miracles add up? What awesome healing power might be wrought... if everyone embraced the Wildlands?

My brain isn't ready for Awesome of that scope... which is a (small) part of why I am excited about the little Amazingnesses that happen in my world all the time.

Magick is like a pair of shoes: the more often you wear them, the more easily they can be put on, and the more comfortable they become. (Unlike shoes, magick never wears out, but allow me my metaphor, won'tcha?) The more often you pause, become quiet and still, dig in, and give of yourself... the more readily the fountain of energy that burns in your heart refills itself, and the more you have to give. When you factor Tribe into this equation, and you have a number of like-minded people all focused on balance and mutual wellness... well, there, my friends, open the gates to the Wildlands.

The best, and (in my mind) most amazing part of all this is that it doesn't require an enormous investment of personal energy or time to get your feet onto this road. Not everyone is ready or instantly capable of the massive kind of metamorphosis that this process eventually turns into. Deep breaths and baby steps work just as well... and since all times are now anyway... it doesn't matter in the slightest how long it takes you to get there.

This world is in deep trouble; I don't think there's a sensible soul out there who would disagree with that. We need all the Wildlanders we can get.

We'll keep the hearth warm for you.

Wildlands, HO!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vicissitude

Anyone you ask can readily describe for you a time when something happened that they were less than thrilled about. It's a part of life. It happens. Right?

Funny thing... people have to work a lot harder, mostly, to recall something that really went their way, and left them totally pleased with the evolution of a situation.

Why is that, d'ya suppose?

Filters and walls have a great deal to do with it- we expect things to be a certain way, and our memory slowly gels to conform with that expectation after the fact. That's another funny thing about people: ask any handful of people who experienced the same situation to describe it... and you'll get as many versions as you have people.

Everyone has their own point of view, their own "take." Reality is flexible, that way. My Very Wise Friend calls it Fluid Reality, a state when your level of balance, quiet, and stillness allow you to sort of recall an event differently than it occurred... before it occurs in the first place.

(Incidently, this concept is one of the very few reasons I can come up with that allow divination and scrying to make even the slightest bit of sense. Just sayin'.)

Our language has numerous tools in place for describing the erratic nature of reality. "You win some, you lose some." "Shit happens." We talk about "ups and downs."

It's vicissitude.

There are lots of ways to talk about it- ripples on water, the attraction of opposites, the laws of action and reaction... the influence of free will.

Yep, that's the one- free will.

The world, in and of itself, seeks balance. It tries to balance animal populations (including ours), weather patterns, land and sea levels, everything.

We, though, cannot seem to leave well enough alone. We have to cut, and dig, and build, and burn. We make a mess. We imbalance things...

...so the world struggles continuously to rebalance them.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wild, unexpected events of weather- they're all part of the natural efforts of the global organism to keep itself in fighting shape. The more we "mess it up," the harder the backlash becomes.

If that idea doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies, you haven't been paying attention. It's gotten so bad that our "educated people" have been messing with the most basic elements of life itself- genetics- and doing some very, very ill-advised things. An example (which hits damn close to home, to me): I read an article a number of years ago about a group of genetics researchers who succeeded in splicing genetic material from a spider into a goat.

Sorry, WTF?

Said goat produced raw silk through it's teats instead of milk. I couldn't make this stuff up.

The article said they were looking into ways to process the raw silk, and looking at applications for the processed silk as well.

Those two ideas said a lot more that wasn't actually in the article. For instance... if they're spending time and money to find a way to make the raw silk useable... chances are, they plan to make more such... spider goats. *twitch* Second, they don't even have a way to process the raw silk... but they're already thinking of ways to use it? Wow.

DID YOU PEOPLE NOT READ JURASSIC PARK?!

I watched the paper for months after that, hoping to see an article that said that they'd discovered the hard way that the spider goat was venomous, too... No such luck.

Vicissitude.

How might the world try to rebalance itself from the effects of us making new animals? Never mind pollution and overpopulation... we're talking about some pretty serious, fundamental changes to a system that doesn't really need them.

Ups and Downs indeed. I hope you have a helmet and a seatbelt, because from the look of things, we're going for a ride... and it's not going to be smooth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Ultimatum

There are several concepts I've beaten about to death in this series of blogs... and I'm not going to alter that pattern today.

Sorry.

(Ok, I'm not sorry, not in the slightest. You'll get over it.)

Today's rehash centers on the dualistic nature of this world, as it relates to my last, entry, T is for Tribe.

Ultimatums...and Tribe? What the...?

Our language is riddled with idioms, metaphors, and so on, phrases that we bandy about in an effort to say what we want, what we'd rather avoid, what we won't do, what we INSIST on doing... you get the idea.

The phrase I want to examine today is "put your foot down."

Let's take a good look at how ridiculous that expression really is.

We say "I'm putting my foot down" as a way to say "This is how I want things to be, and I will accept no other alternative." We'll get to how silly THAT usually is in a second, but I want to indulge my penchant for literalism first. There I am, arguing... like a stork, on one leg? I mean, if I'm going to make my point by "putting my foot down"... then my foot had to be... up... in the first place, right?

No one is going to take me seriously if I'm standing on one leg while I argue. Just another scintillating example of how plain stupid our language can be, at times.

Humor aside, though, let's look at the intent behind this idea: I want what I want, without regard for what YOU want. That's what this expression says. A lot of the time, I would say even most of the time, this is a pretty crappy place to live. Mine. Gimme. That's what it boils down to.

Greed.

Greed divides.

What if you said, "Ok, I hear what you're saying, and while it doesn't mesh well with how I see things, I'm sure if we work through it reasonably, we can find a place where we can both be ok with the outcome."?

Reality gets very complicated when you have multiple differently-minded people trying to use the same resources. The fact is, there are only a few approaches that can be taken. There are many variations on each, certainly, but they all simmer back down the same handful of basic paths. You can take the Greedy Path (you know, and put your foot down...), you can take the passive (passive aggressive?) path, and say, "Ok, fine, you win, I quit," or you can take the Tribe Path (not Mine and Yours, but Ours).

Aren't there times, though, when you kinda HAVE TO "put your foot down"? When you don't have a choice, really, but to draw a line in the sand and say "No further"? I believe there are, yes... but those circumstances are, in my mind, all directly and intimately connected to the idea of Tribe First.

The funny thing about Tribe First is that it's... not. It's not Tribe first.

(You confused, yet?)

See, when you live in the Tribe mentality, the fundamental premise is that you see to your own needs first, and you share any surplus you have. Generousity is good, even necessary, but when you're giving away the things you need to survive, it creates a terrible imbalance, which forces other parts of the Tribe to either watch you suffer, struggle, maybe even die, or give more than THEY can afford to spare... see where that goes?

If everyone looks to their own needs (and I do mean NEEDS) first, and then shares whatever extra they have... well, Sharing Multiplies.

So you have to set a boundry for yourself, you have to be aware, first and foremost, of whether you are meeting your own needs. Once those needs are met, you can begin to share what you have left with others.

This is where Ultimatums come in. If someone is trying to take more than they need... if someone is trying to harm the Tribe... if someone is refusing to share what they have... those are places where a certain inflexibility is almost necessary.

I'd like very much to believe that among Pathworkers, such circumstances are rare.

The rest of the time... well, like I said, Greed Divides, and issuing Ultimatums is just another way of being greedy, demanding that things be done YOUR way, without regard for the needs of others.

Remember that, the next time you feel like playing Stork.