August 2012




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Jul. 9th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #6: Know What You Have Learned

One addition I have here that I haven't seen: It is even more important to remain aware of what you have not learned or perhaps cannot learn. I'm talking about book knowledge, social experience, cultural knowledge, and religious mystery here.

Book knowledge can often be easy to uncover, though depending on the field of study one might find a limit to discovered material as well. Knowing what assumptions one has made or what gaps may exist in one's knowledge is core to moving forward in studies or in applying that knowledge.

Social experience is personal. One can never learn a lesson or teach a lesson to someone else. One can advise or offer suggestions, but there is a true and important limit to one's understanding of other people and other situations. When it comes to judging another's words, actions, or view point it is knowledge and compassion for this lack of knowledge that helps me communicate and understand another, not my actual knowledge on said subject.

Cultural experience is very closely related to social. I think it's important to acknowledge the two are separate but linked. Both obtaining cultural knowledge and knowing when one is out of one's known culture is more important than to me than knowing every cultural nuisance of one's home culture.

Religious mystery is something I think is core to talk about in the Pagan Umbrella. We aren't all mystery religions and we don't all believe in religious mystery, but enough of us do that we need to be familiar with it (at least as familiar as one can be with a secret). Speaking purely for myself, this idea of a mystery faith was almost impossible for me to grasp when I first started exploring paganism. I was raised Christian and the whole idea that there was something one could not or should not teach another about one’s faith or the universe was completely foreign. After all, Christianity isn’t just a revealed faith, but one who’s core tenant is to spread the good word far and wide. The concept that deity might want you to keep quiet or may choose how to disseminate information in a way that one cannot adequately share the knowledge, is beyond imagination.

I followed on in confusion and ignorance. I have to admit I often thought and felt unkind things toward people keeping religious secrets. It seemed to me like there was some kind of exclusive club I wasn’t being let into or some grand information that would make my world view fall into place if I only these people would give up the goods so to speak. Finally one person finally gave me an example of a religious mystery being experiential based and therefor impossible for them to relate to me as I had not had that experience and words couldn’t fully describe or explain the meaning of that experience. This idea was something that finally clicked for me in a way it just hadn't before. Suddenly the world of a mystery religion or a religious mystery made sense to me. It occurred to me, that I might already have a few of my own religious mysteries. I could tell people about the ritual and what I perceived as happening but no words would describe the fullness of my understanding or the way the information was imparted to me. It’s like trying to explain the feeling of white water rafting,. I can talk about the bumps and the sprays of water, the size and shape of the raft, the near misses with rocks, and moments where I was almost thrown out. The person I tell the story to can relate to a certain degree with what I’m telling them so long as I’m descriptive, but if they’ve never been white water rafting or they’ve seen a river or been on a boat, their understanding is naturally incomplete.

The point is that there is a ton I don't know and something the pagan community has given me is that now I'm certain I don't want to know it all and I don't have to know it all. That's a years in the making conclusion and one I have to come back to sometimes when I push too hard, but I'm certain it's not something I ever felt was ok before paganism. So know what you've learned, know what you have not learned, and know that you don't have to and should not learn it all.

Jun. 12th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #5: Be Overcome By Justice

How I read this: surrender to justice. This maximum to me is the first powerful and evocative one. I think of a tide surging over me and through me. It is capable drowning in it's depth, suddenness, and force but the water itself can also be the birthplace of life and beauty. I think of looking up into the night sky on a new moon with all of the cosmos around me and how that makes me humbled and awed. I am a small insignificant part of this beautiful vicious universe. Then I think of the idea of following justice to the fullest and it makes me feel like I'm part of this irrefutable truth—an undeniable common good that will exist beyond me and sustained merit. It's the awe of being larger and more lasting than the self as opposed to the awe of my tiny place. Both are true and divine.

My less poetic self knows that justice is a human concept and any “good” I do may be lasting but is limited to human and possibly godly perspective. The stars don't care. When I'm in a less self righteous state of mind, I'll also happily acknowledge that Truth with the capital T may not exist and something that is just for me might not be just for others. In attempting to give others justice, I may even be perpetuating the opposite.

Above all justice is hard to define in what it is, what it looks like, and in how best to create it in the world. How I can help champion justice or accept it in the case of wrong doing changes face and structure. That people deserve justice is irrefutable but what that looks like is a lot of wiggle room. I try to walk through my day with compassion and empathy. I like to think that if all of us stopped to consider or even to ask one another what we would think is fair and endeavored to provide it for one another, our world would look a great deal shinier. This seems to be against the grain of a lot of people, and I can't say I manage to be the change in the world I want to see every moment of every day, but I know what it looks like and I know I'm grateful when I receive it. Were justice a warrior and the world a battlefield, I'd surrender to justice in a heart beat and serve her in whatever manner she deems best.

Jun. 10th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #4: Respect Your Parents

I really struggled with what to write for this particular maximum. I have the benefit of following a lot of established and well written bloggers through these maximums and their answers have helped to prompt more insight than I use in my writing. I take whatever my gut gives me and write it out before I've processed all the complexities and subtleties the subject offers. Part of that is nice because it would be days before I had everything I think written down and part of it is frustrating because sometimes what should have been my main point is lost in a side tangent because it took me three pages to write the core of what I wanted to get out.

So far, everything I've written has a tone of denial or been conditional in a way that I know my mother would source as my inherent contrary nature. Any absolute offered or implied absolute, I feel required to challenge. Even thinking of what she would say to these responses, knowing she would never read them and knowing that she would never be able to get over the non-Christian nature of them to be truly critical, rankles me.

My relationship with my parents is troubled and our primary area of stress ties to my non-Christ based faith. This stress does strain our ability to adequately display love or respect for each other.

And I do love my parents quite a bit. I want to please them and make them proud of me. I want us to agree on our standards for living and morality. I just won't do any of this at the expense of my sense of self or what's right, a strength of character than I credit entirely to my mother.

I still go to them for advice and I consider their advice heavily. It tears at me when I have to go against it, if that's the case, but it doesn't stop me from following me first. This consideration for their words and contributions should show respect. True, it is a respect I would offer anyone who gives me advice or shares their life experience with me, which makes me wonder if there is a certain quantity of respect one needs to give and if I've given my parents their fair share. Would they be insulted to know how I weight their words vs others? Do they feel slighted every time I do my own thing and does that come down to a lack of thought or respect or is it truly just a different world view? How much is enough, am I right or are they or is there some object middle ground? It's heart breaking for me and I wonder how many others feel this way in a quite corner of the world where they don't voice it.

I do think most people world over want to respect their parents and elders. We argue over what that means. We all want to assert that we value this without thinking about it and we want to assert that we do respect our parents. I know I am hurt by the idea that I don't respect my parents adequately but in the same moment I am hurt by the concept that I must follow their path or there is no true respect or understanding between us.

Because my relationship is fraught with the same insecurities I've had since teen-dom, this maximum makes me think of being young and how I treated my parents then. It was not always with the respect they deserved, particularly where paganism was involved. I violently rejected Catholicism. Now, I wish I could have been kinder. There was fault on both sides, but I have a lot more sympathy for their thoughts and feelings on the subject now. I feel like I'll always be trying to make up for that mistake. Its not something I regret what I told them then is essentially true though I regret how harsh and intense I was about it. Who knows, maybe nothing but that kind of rejection would have ever made them understand, I know on some levels now, they don't get it still.

In some regards, though I listen and consider counsel from my parents, I don't feel I respect them now because I am always holding back and couching what I mean to be at the level I think they can handle. Is it disrespectful for me to hold back my truth feelings and understandings for the sake of another's comfort? Is it it inherently disrespectful to reject another's view point or to believe one knows better even when the other has or possibly has more experience than oneself in the subject?

I don't think that a person has earned respect just because they reach the age or fertility, had sex, and were able to birth another human being. I've never been one to agree with the idea that one should have to respect any other being just because. My parents have been good to me. They provided for me above and beyond the bare minimum required. They have stood beside me in battle for what they think is part of my rights or part of what I've earned. They look out for me and my interests as best as they can. This sort of person whether a friend, family member or partner, should be cherish, valued and respected. It's always hard when their standards and yours don't line up though, particularly if the person in question was a care taker for you is all.

May. 30th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #3: Worship the Gods

My only response to this seems simply to be “yes”. I've gone through a lot of phases of divinity. I've spent large amounts of time considering different ways to worship, what worship means, and what form of worship is best for each god or divine presence. I've never been without praise, awe, humility, and reverence. I understand these concepts are tricky to grasp and mean different things to different people. That's a whole other series of essays I don't want to cover right this moment.

Huge swathes of my life, my time, and my plans are all part of doing and being in the name of my gods or divine energy.

For me, this knowledge of divine is innate within me. I have first hand experience that drives me in my faith and makes me certain I am on the right path doing the right thing for me.

A couple things I want to point out here for clarity. Worship does not mean that I follow blindly, refuse to acknowledge imperfections or flaws, or that I feel compelled to impose my will or beliefs on others. Also, ritual that defines worship does not have to be complex or ornate. The structure of ritual does not have to be either rigid or brittle. Worship/ ritual can be deep, meaningful, impromptu, and unique each time. I know that what is or is not worship can be touchy to a lot of pagans as is the whole idea of whether worship is a good or appropriate thing. For me, worship is a needed part of my life and practice.

May. 28th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #2 Obey the Law

I'm an American and the laws in this country are mostly good rules that I agree with. Day to day life I generally strive to obey the laws in paper and spirit. Some laws like rules of the road are not moral issues but just a set of guide lines that we need to follow as a society to get along. I actually value these guide line laws more than the “moral” ones because day to day that's what makes day to day coexistence possible.

All that said there are laws I'm morally opposed to, anything that attempts to obstruct gay marriage or that may limit a gay/bi/trans person's ability to work in a chosen field or live in a certain area. I'm also against any laws that restricts women's reproductive rights or rights to health care of any variety. I'm against laws that enable corporations to care less about their workers or the community in which they do business. I'm against laws that allow banks and other money lending groups to give money out at rates or in amounts that the group knows an individual will never be able to repay.

There is a lot I can do to combat this within the scope of the law and I do that. I write to my representatives. I go to protests and marches. I raise money for awareness and to support my causes. I stay as well informed on these issues as I can and have learned how to politely but firmly discuss my view with others to help raise individual awareness. I support legal challenges to laws I find unconstitutional and I've had occasion to bring the threat of legal action down on those not following the letter of the law.

Often time legal means of change, in a country like the USA are better than illegal means. It distances one from “extremism” which has become a four letter word in our political discourse. To be extreme means to hate you opponent and to be willing to slaughter to get your way, pair this with 9/11 and your cause is rejected before you even have the chance to really present it.

Beyond that, we're a country that is as a whole willing to listen to different perspectives and views. Our lack of homogeneity makes it hard to get any one thought enacted or to standardize curriculum, but it also makes us used to the idea that there are other views and that these views have validity or something to teach us. I think one of the few good things about a 24hr news cycle is that it shows people have interest in what others have to say on a national and global level. The pundits our loud, annoying, and offensive, but that you can make a living shouting is something uniquely American.

This doesn't mean I'm opposed to illegal means of supporting my cause when I believe it will do more harm than good. I think Martin Luther King Jr proves that sometimes one needs to make extreme and illegal moves to get ones point across. When an establishment is so prejudiced and opposed to your view that they will not allow you to get permits for a march or an assembly, sometimes the best thing one can do is go ahead with the march or assembly anyway.

I would help plan and perform a gay marriage in any state regardless of legality. I would help a woman or group of women seek reproductive independence in a safe medically sound manner regardless of cost or legality. I would teach youth a full sex education class including abstinence and I would reject ever teaching a child intelligent design because anything less is an insult to knowledge and a mockery of what our schools systems are in place for.

Were there a draft right now, I would help contentious objectors avoid going to war. If there was a draft right now and women were not included in the lottery, I'd help anyone who wanted avoid the draft as no draft that effects half of a fit population can be fair or just.

There are forms of eco- “terrorism” that I can't help but admire.

Even as I tell others to respect the limits of public land and the rights to private property, I know I don't do so myself. When I see something interesting on my drive I do pull over to investigate and often photograph it. I have no idea of the land is public or private. I don't know if I'm trespassing and whether I've put myself it to true and deep danger. I know I'm a curious and impulsive person who felt called and responded. I'd accept jail or a fine for the crime. This one in particular I'd agree is petty and stupid, but not morally wrong. In some ways, I think attempting to bar access to land is the bigger moral imposition.

I don't respect what I don't value and I've never been good at obeying that which I don't respect. It's often prudent to work within the law and to at least give lip service to the ideas or intent behind the law. It's not a moral mandate. Heck, one of the Gods I follow is Colombia and even she doesn't make it a Godly mandate to follow the law. Liberty, justice, and truth first for her and the law will follow from there.

May. 24th, 2012

Delphic Maximum #1 Follow God

Star Foster started a blogging party on the Delphic Maximums. While I know very little about these, I thought it would be interesting to look at them and see how they fit my own defined ethic. I thought it might help me focus on what if anything I should write about for June's Pagan Blog Ethics deal. For more information on Delphic Maximums or to see a round up of who else is blogging on them I suggest musings of a kitchen witch's post.

And now may I present my actual writings on the subject:

My first and instinctive response to “Follow God” is a simple “no”. It doesn't last long, but part of me violently rejects the idea that I am a being meant to obey or follow above all else.

Coming to Gods, for me, was a long and slow process. It's a state that is new and not at all natural. My Gods and I negotiate a lot. We both need to be fluid and respectful of each other in the process to get anywhere. The word follow is too forceful: full of surrender and action not necessarily in line with my will. Objectively, I realize follow has none of these implications, but emotionally, it's a word I reject.

There are all sorts of way to follow. Before I had Gods, there was still something sacred, worthy of respect, and bigger than me in the world. I took time to acknowledge, admire and learn from this nameless experience based thing. Often this feeling came from the natural world for from random acts of kindness others demonstrated. It was something I valued as transcendent and core to my own life. These were moments in time that I needed to honor and that I would cherish and carry with me. I think this qualifies as following God so long as the idea of God in general is not required to have too many human characteristics or human like will.

Separate from these moments of epiphany, or only loosely connected, was my magic and energy work. There is what I consider divine energy, but it also lacks a will as humans define will. It isn't a commanding human-esque entity to be followed so much as a power to be ridden, on a good day, and borne on a bad. It taught me, showed me, pushed me, and occasionally used me as a vessel which I managed with varying amounts of grace, but it never commanded as such or provided a road map.

The point here is that for me Following God means almost nothing. It's on par with telling me to live my life. There are very few moments in my life at this point where I am not aware of energy and deity. If following God means to acknowledge and honor God then most moments of most days I'm the model of this maximum.

On the other hand, I don't do commands well particularly if I don't understand why I'm being commanded or if I believe the harm out weights the good. If following God is something that's done without question, without discussion, and without hesitation then I really only have a 50/50 track record.

Furthermore: I don't think Gods know what is best for a human or for me in particular. I'm not certain one should follow every edict a god may choose to make.

Star Foster thinks there are two bits of criteria to judge one's ability to follow god. She asks us to consider:

1. Is what we are pursuing godly, sacred and of high virtue?

2.Are we following that instead of trying to drive the train ourselves?”

I have no qualms with her first meditative question assuming what's godly is paletable.

The second concern bothers me though. I'm all about driving my own train. Gods might be like life's GPS but I should be able to take a left when they want me to take a right: particularly if I don't like GPS' destination or if I just want to explore the farm stand over on the left. There are perfectly good benign reasons not to follow Gods. Indeed I wouldn't even necessarily call a farm stand stop directly disobeying Gods so much as leisurely following. While my interactions with a more human minded deity is very new, there has already been a time where I went left when deity said right and they just re-routed me to where they wanted me to be because in that instance it meant that much to them. If Gods can do this, I don't see what it matters how willingly or immediately I follow. When they want me to get there, I'll be there.

We all know what if best for ourselves or at least this is a core truth we should all strive to find with or without Gods. I think we need to follow the call that works best for oneself whether that involves Gods or not.