August 2012




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Jul. 15th, 2011

Organic Food: Sorry, I'm just not that into you

Dear Organic Food and Your Many Loud Supporters,

You are delicious and noticeably superior to you altered counterpart. In some cases you've made me realize that I do like item X so long as it's natural. All praise aside, I do not think of you as a profoundly moral issue or a factor in education that people are just waiting to discover. It's well known you taste better and are probably better for me. It's flaunted in every ad campaign that has even the littlest claim to organic material let alone actual educational and news media sources. You are so much better for me, and if I want you, I'm expected to pay a premium for my better health.

Beyond your lack of moral bearing, I think it's classist when people bring you up as a profoundly moral subject. We don't all have equal access to you with your expensive price tag and your appearance in limited stores. I've been hungry and looked longingly at you while choosing to purchase your cheaper counter part. It's what I had budget for and certainly veges of any sort are better than more processed foods. I think of people choosing to either eat better or to have themselves and their families feel full, and I understand exactly why processed is picked over you.

I know your supporters claim anyone who respects their body and the food they put in it should always choose you, but Organic food you aren't like smoking. People don't just pick up the processed food without thinking and unaware. Most Americans antagonize over their food whether for weight reasons or for pricing or for some kind of cache that certain foods seem to have at certain times. And people need to eat where they don't need to smoke. That processed food might be a need for many. They choose to eat that rather than starve, and I think even you organic would be hard pressed to say that starving is better than processed food.

Like many pagans I think there is something mystical in food preparation and like many liberals I think that corporations are amoral entities that will do what they can get away with and therefor need to be eschewed. Both of these beliefs do lead to you, Organic Food, being superior to processed food particularly when local. However: I acknowledge these things as ideals not as something in stone for all people to follow. Like most moral statements there are situational circumstances that alter what should or should not be done. Should I buy organic food for myself and only me with my money or buy processed food for my family and I: my budget can only support one or the other. Should I buy the processed food and give the excess to a food bank or should I buy organic food for only myself? Am I a good enough gardener with the time and correct soil/location to grow my own vegetables or must I rely on what comes into the stores? There are so many relative questions and some of them truly seem to have no good solution or right answer. Why would I judge other's choices or give advice in a manner that sounds like there is only one definitive conclusion a sane rational person would come to?

Organics you have much of my love, time, and money. My loyalty to you was easily won. You can have lots of things from me, but moral high ground is not one of them.



Jul. 1st, 2011

Forgiveness: Ideas I Struggle With

My most basic problem with forgiveness is just that I don't really know what it means. It doesn't mean you forget what happened. It doesn't necessarily mean that the other person doesn't face justice. It doesn't mean that you aren't hurt or that there aren't consequences. It doesn't mean that the relationship with the other person can go back to the same relationship you've had prior. I don't understand what forgiving someone means is all.

Media on this subject is confusing too. Some of them claim forgiving is good for your health. You let go of grudges, you're lighter, you less likely to be stressed or depressed. Others claim that not forgiving is the right thing to do. After all there are somethings that can't be forgiven apparently? Likewise sometimes the stress of trying to let go of an offense is too much. Sometimes remembering why you struggle can motivate someone and move him or her forward. I don't really know because I can't really pin down what forgiveness means or what it does.

Religiously forgiveness is muddled to me. When I was Catholic, of course it was huge within that faith system. Apologizing and forgiving were huge. But it seemed to me that no one ever trusted forgiveness that was given. I wonder what they were looking for and whether they were granting tat something to the people they forgave. I wonder if the kind of offense made a difference in their ability or if like God all offenses are equally grave if you aren't really sorry.

As a kid I remember being forced to accept apologies. I must have been 12 before I realized I didn't have to accept apologies and thinking that perhaps I shouldn't if the other person wasn't sorry or if I wasn't ready to let the slight go. The first time I refused to grant forgiveness, my family took me to meet with our local priest. It was similar to the meeting we'd had prior when I refused to apologize because I didn't believe I'd done anything wrong.

The main difference was that instead of just trying to compel me to say I forgave this other person, my preacher congratulated me on my desire to be honest and knowing my own feelings. He then tried to work me through to the process of forgiveness. This wasn't going to happen. I don't even remember what the slight was now. I remember I was angry, that this was not the first time this person had done this to me and that regardless of whether it was intentional or thoughtless my relationship with this person was going to change. Things weren't going to be the same, I was angry and this person should feel bad, why should I release them of that if their apology only made me more angry? What would the words be for me but noise? My priest tried to tell me intentions count for something and regret should make everything all right. I asked him why should I allow myself to be hurt continually for someone else's thoughtlessness, and then have to accept apology for it. It seemed too close to the victim claiming responsibility and I wasn't about to do that.

Poor Father Connelly, he was completely unprepared for me. I had been stubborn and angry when we'd last talked (and the guy had private chats with me a lot when I was growing up too many theological and complex questions for my parents to deal with). The year in between had made me more articulate in a way he wasn't ready to deal with. Kids don't generally flatly reject a priest's statement or counter it with their own feelings and thoughts. I guess people don't tell priests often that they don't believe not forgiving does damage to their immortal soul, or that if damage is done it is no greater than the damage of issuing a forced false apology would be on their soul, perhaps it's less. People apparently also don't tell priest that they would rather preserve their own souls as best as possible than help someone else's soul through forgiving them. We never spoke to my parents about what specifically had been said between us, only that I would not choose forgiveness and hopefully I'd be in confession soon for this slight.

I was lucky though, my priest didn't scare me, and I was already rejecting the idea that an all loving all knowing God would give me free will and then not intent for me to do what I saw as right. So many of my conversations with the man over the years could have been very intimidating otherwise.

Now a days my Gods say very little, if anything about forgiveness. Divinity is all for letting go of wrongs but this doesn't require forgetting. It's about not letting something ruin me, instead of trying to help assuage guilt in someone else for something they did/caused. I get to say "what you did was wrong, it hurt me and others in these ways and it hurt yourself like this" and then I get to set the conditions of how we move forward and what that incident will mean. I look at bad things as times for teaching and personal growth. Sometimes that growth means I avoid situations or people or tell them off or any number of not helpless open armed turn the other cheek acceptance. I'm not good at accepting when that's the only option provided.

My local God cares nothing for forgiveness. Hir occupation is on change and movement. So long as I'm not stagnant, how I'm keep moving and changing is irrelevant.

And for all this, sometimes I look at people and situations and my Catholic upbringing comes to the front and all I can think is that "This person needs to be forgiven". I suppose it could translate to "this person has baggage that they don't need to carry which correlates to guilt they have to let go and they need someone else to help them with". For me, forgiveness doesn't seem a good venue. Reiki, reflection, conversation with the other that does not have to lead in forgiveness are all possibilities. I just wonder if forgiveness is supposed to be about relieving burdens of others and whether or not the term has implications that are not required to relieve guilt. If so do these implications actually stymy the guilt relief process because we are asking to be healed by the person we have hurt in a way that might further hurt that person.

May. 25th, 2011

Insidious and Hoe it's Lead me to Possession/Other plane Reflections


About two weeks ago my friend and I saw Insidious. We’re completely obsessed with exorcism/possession/devil involved horror movies. Good ones, bad ones, no worth mention: we want to see them all and we have long talks and thoughts about them afterward.

Insidious was one of the good ones. At first glance it looks like it’s going to be Paranormal Activity meets child possession, but the movie strays from that formula into something new and different that the previews didn’t give away before we got to the theater (and that’s saying something because we saw this movie very late in it’s theater life).

Early on, it’s clear there is not something right in the father’s childhood that he or his family has intentionally kept hidden from his wife and children. We were five minutes in and my friend and I we pondering what could be wrong. He’s not real/a ghost: no because too many people have interacted with him who are not family. He’s has a hereditary haunting: no because weird stuff really doesn’t happen around him personally. He’s secretly a physical manifestation of evil in physical form: no because that’s his bio mom and his bio kids and this evil take over probably would have started way earlier since timing hasn’t seemed to be important in the film so far.

Turns out Dad’s an astral projector into the world called “other plane” where apparently lost souls and malevolent spirits chill out together, son has inherited this talent and “gotten lost/trapped” spiritually. These others want control of his body because they envy the corporal apparently and the longer the kid is gone the easier he becomes to possess.

We just started laughing there. How could Grandma have not worried for her grandkids if she had gone through something similar with her own son? Even if she was too worried to mention it when they go married or had children, when the kid falls into a “not comma” that science can’t explain, don’t you pull mom aside and talk to her about some shadowed past? Do you wait three months for things to get desperate? Hell no, you protect yours any way needed!

Ok so child rearing and family loyalty thoughts aside, as a pagan this movie stirs a lot of questions for me I thought I’d just throw out because.

1. Why to “demons” and malevolent spirits always want to possess of physical body? What can we do here that they can’t do there? I know the line is that they envy the living, but why specifically? Why the focus on pain and chaos and how come they can’t achieve these goals as they are?

2. In horror movies do you always view what entities are doing as scary or malevolent? I mean it often escalates to that “evil” vibe, but often these beings seem to start out in ways that I’d consider them just attempting communication? Is there a way to talk to them or to appease them before things escalate?

3. Traditionally I think of our world as the most physical of the worlds, but is there is one that is more material based, would you want to find it and invade it or otherwise alter it? Why or why not.

4. Are our views on demonic possession a reflection of our vanity? That our world is best, most special and that we are somehow envied or chosen? Does this attitude carry over to paganism and your practice?

5. As pagans we often seek to astral project or to interact with other realms, states of consciousness or beings beyond the physical, what are your goals? What are your preparations/protections? Do you think these beings view or have you ever encountered beings that view our communication as scary and threatening as we view their reaching out?

6. Horror movies often ask the audience to accept that we are both helpless against the supernatural and more powerful than they are for example: in Insidious the family could not banish the spirits or pull their son back while in our world, but once the father entered the other plane he became more powerful than the spirits were there because he was alive, it’s an odd contrast between power and helplessness, especially considering the ending—where does your faith stand on this?

7. Almost all modern day possession movies take the Catholic stance that naming acknowledging evil gives the evil power. They are not to engage demons in conversation while attempting to exorcise it, they are not to ever name the demon by name, they are to ignore supernatural tantrums that happen while trying to force the being out and yet, ultimately they have to attack the being directly to force it out. Pagans generally try to start a conversation and acknowledge the being from the beginning, and proceed differently depending on how things develop. Which way do you lean and why?

8. It seems widely acknowledged that the living have more power than the dead in these movies and that trickery or the living person surrendering power to the dead is how spirits and evil triumph—what do you think? Is the physical more powerful than the immaterial? Is experience and wisdom that many ancestors have if they chose to use it so immaterial in a fight? Why wouldn’t a being that knew it’s realm be more effective than an interloper?

9. With Insidious specifically the “other plane” seemed very like a fairy realm, what additions, subtractions, or rule alteration would those who saw the movie have made to the rules of astral travel and that plane if any?

10. Who here wouldn’t love a movie portraying a person’s struggle through the fairy realm? I mean that movie would be the best and it could be sold as an action/horror/fantasy.

May. 5th, 2011

Poetics from May Day

Gods can be heavy.
Knowing, Experiencing, Seeing
A dividing force
A choice given,
A choice taken,
No informed consent,
No going back.

There is peace and power in these worlds
Beauty, ability, and strength enough to sustain.
Being in two worlds,
Makes presence twice transparent.

You can see You can know
You can't lift or carry
You can't give or take

An observer in Their House
And failing participant in your own.

We bear their loads
We hear their words
We hold the same vanity.
Certain we will not shatter.
We aren't shattered.

Our world is mostly unknown,
No map agrees.

We go forth.
With love and light,
Power and Peace.

May we be change
May we be ready
Because Gods can be heavy.

May. 4th, 2011

Beltane and Bin Laden

Life has been moving in fast and hard since I've moved to AL and in particular since I've been in contact with the local god here. Let me try to pull this together in something coherent because part of my recommitment is supposed to be about beauty art and love too. Sitting in my little room haven I'm particularly reminded of beauty and art. Of a crucial part of my life in high school and parts of college where creation was the beautiful prideful and humbling experience that hollowed me out and threw me in depressions and that also made me something so much more than what I'd felt I was before. It was devastating and it was as necessary to my existence as breathing. There were glimpses there of something big and meaningful in that work and I can remember feeling so much more and so much greater than just me.

Over the years I've chalked that feeling up to hormones and puberty. It is easier to not make time to create and to live without the crazy highs and lows that come with art. I feel safer and more stable connected to the world and wrapped in a protective layer of doubt and logic. But going through my keepsakes and my old books and writings has made it clear to me that not all of it was puberty and vanity on my part. Some of it (not most of it mind you) is really good and there are some bits of truth and craft that hurt to be reminded of. It threw me into an entirely different sort of depression to think that my time as a young idealist and artist were over. That I'd lost that kind of visionary flare.

Moving huge life changes are shaking that out of me in bits and pieces. There is a need for more balance and control in me now than there was then. I used to single mindedly chase whatever passion landed in my head. I'd track an idea for weeks and months or for days without sleeping and on several occasions without eating. That kind of work is too destructive and I have other duties and responsibilities. The protective shell of college and hight school I hated so much is gone and now I have to co-exist in the real world along with these whims and callings. I have to judge what will actually be something, what actually is something with all these ideas that hours of crafting and exploring will lead me to nothing. Then it was all art and truth now it has to be tempered, and I'm hoping that with that will be some of that old beauty along with less depression and less time where I hate myself.

So Beltane without power or any real privacy was interesting. I meditated in the morning and spent some time re-reading parts of Drawing Down the Moon. Really the newer addition should be required reading for monotheists who want to interact with polytheists. It explains a lot of the inherent mentality differences between one vs many. It also explains Gardner's influence on the pagan movement's revival in a neat way where one can explain that yes we know our history and we understand Gardner, Starhawk and many other's history is not right and it doesn't have to be for there to be power, truth and influence from them.

I wrote a poem I'm certain to post later when I'm done wondering where it came from.

Just as I was thinking "oh this is kind of nice" or "no power isn't awful" I got a call that power was on at the center of town and my boss needed me back in at work to get the computer systems running, schedule employees for the next week, and take inventory. All I could think is thank the gods, its a Beltane miracle! My gods know me too well, because the continued relief that there is work and something to do is incredible for me. That something more is really crucial to my psyche. Beyond that I got my first hot shower in four days and it was possibly the most amazing thing to happen to me this year. Going into town also gave me a chance to honor my new Huntsville oriented god in the location ze chose to make zer presence known. I left a few sweets (though not chocolate) and poured out a little white zinfandel. Completely unplanned and impromptu on my part but it felt right. It was the most perfect Beltane I've ever had.

So then pagan coming out day happens and ding dong Bin Laden is dead! Talk about more change to process than I can take at once! I just had always thought that Bin Laden would run out of insulin or dialysis or die of old age. We'd find him dead in a cave or more likely someone else would find him dead in a cave and let the US know. So I was completely flat footed for how to emotionally deal with his death. I think I'm relieved and happy that this has happened for Obama's re-elcetion effort. I don't think it's justice. I do think the mob celebrations we see on the news look a lot like the Middle East's celebration of 9/11. I know they aren't the same for many reasons, but part of me worries about the similarities more than the differences. I haven't heard anyone say anything disturbing yet, but I'm waiting (fearfully) for the remarks about how it's a shame we didn't kill everyone in the compound or how we should have bombed the place or how we should bomb Pakistan. There should be consequences for Pakistan, but bombing them isn't what I'm thinking is appropriate. Violence is occasionally a necessary and powerful tool, but I've noticed that people find it hard to put it down once they've started wielding it.

I'm disturbed by how able Obama is able to politically negotiate. I can't decide if I'm please, disappointed, or worried. Time will tell if this is good I guess.

Another thing: I don't think that anyone's emotions on Bin Laden's death is wrong. I might deride certain actions or public expressions of that emotion because to a certain degree one can control actions, but how one feels is how they feel. All this shaming and policing of our emotional response and the threats about spiritual damage as a result of how one feels is deeply warped. That others feel the need to control such a core part of the self is wrong, upsetting, and grotesque to me. These people quoting, Ghandi, MLK and quoting scriptures might not be a more malicious demon then Bin Laden but they certainly hit closer to home and their veil of "good intentions" makes them harder to hit. How dare you tell anyone how they feel is wrong!

I'm incredibly outraged by these "save you soul and love your enemy" posts. Feel free to speak of how you are dealing with Bin Laden's death or how it effects you. Don't you dare tell me or others how to feel and even worse, don't try to make me feel bad or to make me think that how you feel is the only right way. I'm paranoid yeah, but this whole thing has 1984 for on my mind and it's all these little social and cultural bits that are dangerous. We are not all the same group with the same experiences and the same tolerances and reactions. What is right for you to deal with this world event is probably not right for me because we are coming from two different unique places. Honor that instead of silencing it please.

Also, why can't I feel both? Who are you to tell me I can't celebrate the relief with my family at a gathering and then go home and have a few minutes silence and perhaps light a candle. Can't I be happy about the rise of revolutionaries in the Middle East who seem to be questing for a voice and for change that may be better for them and for us? Why shouldn't I be relieved over the death of the last public face of Al Qaeda who still overshadowed all the potential good of these revolutionaries because Americans were so hurt by his attacks? And why does feeling that joy and be mean I can't also be sorry that it cost so many lives (including Bin Laden's) and bad blood to achieve this? Feelings are not mutually exclusive my friends.

Any how, I'm thinking I need a full week to appropriately celebrate the change and mischief of Beltane this year because Bin Laden happened on May day too and it's going to take more than a day or so for myself and probably other Americans (and those overseas too) to sort out what this means and to shake out all the little and large changes this might mean.

I feel sort of bad that between the tornados here and the death of an enemy the wedding of the century has been eclipsed (at least for me personally), but it was also timed appropriately for pagan traditions. I hope that's a good omen for them and I hope they were relieved to have some measure of privacy for once instead of disappointed. Best wished to them in any rate, and I only have mediocre interest for weddings that aren't happening to family or friends any how so you missed very little of my attention anyhow.

May. 2nd, 2011

Why- Because I'm Pagan!

For International Pagan Coming Out Day, I thought I'd try to create a list of beliefs that are what they are because I'm an eclectic neo-pagan with other court wicca and reiki influences. We might not all have the same beliefs and edicts but we have them.

So Because I'm a Pagan:

-I'm a hard polytheistic monist and know that's not a contradiction of terms
-I believe that there is no one right way for all of people to believe, worship, or live
-I don't have to proselytize in fact I don't believe it's right to proselytize
- I have rejected to concept of an all powerful all knowing diety
-I'm politically active especially in the field of human rights
-I value poetry and myth as part of my religious faith but do not believe these works are literal fact
-Science and faith are not in conflict in my life
-I value nature and honor natural seasonal cycles
-Color in my home and on my person are part of my energetic and magical workings
-I have a set infrastructure and rules in my life like any main stream religion
-I value freedom and independence above structure or tradition and my Gods are in alignment
-My intuition and personal experiences drive my faith and practice
-I'm allowed to doubt and question my faith, acknowledging the potential psychological or coincidental nature of my faith doesn't make me a blasphemer.
-My faith is in action and in this realm.
-I have belief in after life, but it's an after thought, not a primary focus.
-All is divine
-I embrace technology as another tool in my arsenal

Sep. 2nd, 2008

Paganish Questions and Thoughts

First up, I'm moving and I'm traveling a long way to do it.  What discreet item or saying could I use for protection on my trip across?  I meditate at least once a day usually twice, is there visual maybe that others find effective to hold that would signify protection and safe travel. 

I have an incantation I repeat in my head or under my breathe already when I feel I need it for more protection, but I'm just wondering if there are other thoughts or ideas? 

Second, when I get to the apartment, what are some good ways to cleanse out old energies and protect my new space.  I was thinking about cleaning the house with regular cleaning supplies and then blessing it with mint and lavender to help clean out any old energy.  The connections with lavender and mint are more personal for me than a general herbal, but I think they line up with general herbalism too.  As far as protection work went I was thinking about filling a jar with personally significant symbols for protection a long with rocks from the surrounding area (assuming I can find some in Cheyenne, WY) to blend my desire for protection and safety of home with the local earth energies.  It's just a few off the cuff thoughts though, I would love to hear other opinions and ideas. 

Third, this is the first time I'm going to have my own space to practice without interference from other roommates or family.  Some of the kinds of decisions I'm trying to make involve how to celebrate holidays now that I have the ability to do more than a quiet brief little ceremony.  I'm not saying I'll be doing more, but I want some sources and thoughts on what I could do.  

I like to acknowledge the moon phases both full and new moon.  I also like acknowledging the change in seasons and the equinoxs.  My faith practice focuses on what's going on around me in the moment.  So when I can I prepare meals with seasonal foods.  I take time to look at the weather and where things are moving to.  I look at where I am with my own life and try to celebrate that.  When possible I line up the phase in nature with my life phase, or I work on bringing in the good aspects of the season into my own life.    I'm a very new agey eclectic neo-pagan type, if you couldn't guess.  Most of my practice is founded on personal journeys and thoughts rather than books too, but I do like to read that which is reccomended and strikes my interest and I love hearing others thoughts.  

Fourth I'm considering creating a walking labyrinth, and I want any visuals on different designs possible.  I want to create my own but it's always nice to see others takes. 

Thanks for any thoughts, references, and other scraps in advance.  I really do appreciate almost any comments or thoughts. 

Apr. 28th, 2007

Karma Essay

The misuse of the word karma in the western hemisphere bothers me. Sure many people know that karma originated from the Hindu religion in India, but it seems a precious few people realize that karma has no meaning without the context of the word dharma. Now dharma is a fancy way of saying one's life path. Webster's dictionary pegs it as “an individual's duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law “ or “ a : the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence : divine law b : conformity to one's duty and nature”. Now, a person's life path could be that of a good person or a bad person but dharma is a certain set of rules that apply to how that person interacts with the world. Watch out all you crazy peace loving hippies, because dharma isn't the same as being righteous or living a good life. For example the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, tells us the story of Arjuna. His dharma was the way of the warrior. He was preparing for a battle when it occurred to him that the fight is was about to start would be a long bloody one where the loss of life would not be worth the potential gains. However, he had the dharma of the warrior and to fulfill this life path he must go into the battle field and destroy the enemy or die trying. His reasons to not fight were pure and just; however, it was not his dharma to follow this. In the end to be a good Hindu and continue on his sacred path he had to fight and slaughter. Oh and get this, those people he slaughtered and brutalized, it was their dharmas to die in such a way. By being what most of us would consider a cruel heartless person, Arjuna not only fulfilled his own life path but is also fulfilled the life paths of those he killed.
Now dharma works particularly well in context of the Hindu religion thanks to the caste system, because people were born into a well mapped out life path with very specific rules. Since in America and other countries a person can grow up to be whatever they want, some people speculate that it is impossible to have dharma or karma. After all if a person isn't born into a dharma then how do they get one? Can a person create their own dharma and can a person's dharma change? I'm not sure how far I want to explore these options, but I do think that even people who aren't born into one specific life path can have some dharma. While in America there is no one life path that is clean cut on exactly how a person should act, we could find our own way. Perhaps there is still a Universal life purpose in store for the average American. Some parts of Arjuna's parable would no longer apply. We aren't forced to do something we don't want to do anymore, but that doesn't mean we don't have a dharma. It also doesn't mean that just because we can choose a job that there aren't parts of a job we don't like to do. There could still be a road we should follow. The lack of caste system would make it harder to appropriately identify it.
Karma is gathered based on one's adherence to one's dharma. It isn't energy. There isn't good karma or bad karma, it is all just karma. You can't stop yourself from gaining karma either...unless you die. I'm pretty sure that while dead a person gathers no karma. Long and short of it is that karma is just like a tally of your life compared to however your dharma said you should have lived your life.
Here's the part that most westerners mess up the worst. Karma doesn't take effect until after you are dead. Adhering to one's life path will have a person be reincarnated into a higher being that is closer to enlightenment while failing one's dharma gets a person reincarnated into a lesser being that will take them longer to achieve enlightenment. It is that simple. There are no cycles where karma is “catching up” to people in this life time or where you are always rewarded for doing good things. Sometimes for some people the good thing is the wrong thing to do in the karmic system.
Since karma can be a brutal as it is kind you can see why it would annoy me that people toss the word around. Karma and dharma don't fit into the same system as good and evil. The words are not meant in these contexts and it bothers me when people bastardize the word, particularly in a western setting.
I know what you are going to say, definitions change over time, why should this karma stuff be any different. I agree, definitions do change over time. Still, we aren't talking about a change in definition with the word karma, we are talking about one culture misunderstanding another's religious beliefs and then popularizing a mistranslation. If I mistranslated “perdo”, the Spanish word for dog, as penis and tried to excuse this mistranslation by telling everyone that the meaning of words change over time, it would be unacceptable. I don't see how the mistranslation of karma is any different. In fact, in some ways our insistence that karma means some sort of “do good things and good things comes to you” catch all is more insulting because in twisting this definition we have twisted and misrepresented the basic principles of the Hindu religion. The west doesn't really know much about Hinduism in general, but we sure don't need to go around spreading a distorted picture of Hinduism to add to the cunfusion.
I know change can be hard for the masses. Especially when shows like “The Life of Earl” preach about karma like it is an extension of the golden rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” it is “Do good to others and good things will come back at you, do bad and bad will come at you.” It might make an easy sitcom, but it makes for terrible philosophy. After all, how often does doing the “right thing” or the “good thing” put you personally out in the cold? Is the “right thing” really all about a reward or is the “right thing” the right thing to do regardless of the consequences? In my experience things that are in the moral right often take time, effort, and are rarely enjoyable. Where is my medal?
Plus how many of us know that saintly person with the worst luck? They are so good and so wonderful but tragedy after tragedy keeps happening to them. Are they not really doing good works after all or is the system just a stupid one? I mean, we could start rationalizing by putting ludicrous hindrances on the system. Saying things like “If you do good only to get good then you aren't really worthy.” But this only causes more problems. It makes people judge other's intentions. We tell a person that if they really meant their good works then they would benefit, but how can we judge who really means their actions? Likewise, if I commit genocide, as long as I don't mean it, do good things still happen to me or are there some things so terrible that it doesn't matter if you meant it?
Suddenly all these additions not only make karma not karma, but they also make karma something Christians and other followers of YHVH able to understand. We can say that the Hindus really do follow the same rules they do. It proves that God is universal because even though Hindus have many Gods and have a lot of different beliefs, karma is the same as the golden rule.
But karma isn't the same. Hinduism isn't the same as an Abrahamic faith. Even all the different followers of YHVH are vastly different. To mush it all together into a super religion or to try and force the shapes to be the same is insulting and belittling.
So now that we are in this mess where karma has come to signify a lot of mainly Christian influenced garble that is unrelated to karma's actual meaning how do we stop this? The easiest way is to continue to present the truths and facts about karma's true meaning when it comes up. Politely correct people and what not; however, there is a major problem with this. Often, when someone is discussing karma, there is an emotionally charged conversation going on. How can a person interrupt and correct a person without becoming an insensitive listener? I mean they are crying about their mother's death and how their miserable karma must have done it from that time they stole all those cookies. You're just trying to laugh at how ridiculous their pity fest is. Then imagine trying to look for a way good in to explain how even if that were true and you could “energetically” kill people you cared about by stealing cookies that would have nothing to do with karma.
See, writing a paper about karma, while fun, ends up being pointless. I know the meaning of the word. Everyone should, but most westerners don't. There is no doubt someone will be offended by my little lecture that just told some pompous “know it alls” everything they thought about karma is a lie. On the other hand, the majority of people probably find the speech boring. I can see you looking at it now being like “really who cares”? I care and others should too. I know when we talk about faith and I step in and correct people on the definitions they are using they think I'm being offensive. I'm right but I'm still a jerk for “telling them what to believe” or “daring to correct their faith”. After all there “is no one true way” and my “fundamentalist ways” have to go. People forget that we need to adhere to definitions or else words lose meaning. If words lost meaning, we wouldn't be able to communicate at all. It is possible that sometimes I am too stringent in my quest to correct other's words, but it is equally possible that these people just have no idea what they are talking about. No one should throw around words they don't understand. Maybe it's just my dharma to be a pretentious and correct people when they are misusing religious terminology. Maybe its just others' dharma to be emo and easily offended when religious beliefs are addressed. Perhaps like Ajruna through doing an ugly task and I'm totally gaining enlightenment.

Nature of Human Nature

My Opinion on the Nature of Man Based Off of Night by Elie Wiesel, an interview with Elie Wiesel , and The Nature of Man section from Can it Happen Again? Chronicles of the Holocaust Edited by Roselle K. Chartock and Jack Spenser

The question of human nature is asked and answered in many different contexts. The view that I can not help but take is a religious and spiritual one. I don't believe in either good or evil, and I believe that these words create false dichotomies in how people view the world. Before we come to earth as people, our souls get together with others who have agreed to incarnate with us and we agree to the major trials and experiences we plan on having on earth. We will not remember these conversations while we are alive, but it is important to know that whatever one is born into, whatever disabilities or abilities on has one chose those for a reason. Certainly a plan we can't even remember may be one we deviate from, but our souls did try to set up everything we needed to have our desired experience. What happens while we are here though, ultimately is for the highest and best intention for one's soul's knowledge, experience, and growth in wisdom.
Now, this kind of life concept is not easy to accept even when one has a relatively easy life. There are so many things that seem bad and wrong with the world, how could any of these things truly be beneficial or chosen by anyone? How does one tell a Holocaust survivor or any person that just because we can not understand how or why, the Holocaust has some purpose? How can one justify a concept that implies on some level that each soul tortured and harmed willingly chose or created that fate?
It is so much easier to take Hobbes' stance that humans are selfish creatures that only work on gaining pleasure and avoiding pain through any means possible unless reined in by the powers of the government. It is preferable to believe Rousseau's theory that humans in their natural state were solitary happy beings and the more art and culture we create the less happy we become and the more likely we are to fight over the materials we've designed. I would find Skinner's model more understandable, where humans are a product of their environment and the desperate environment of post World War I Germany was so desperate for change and a scape goat that the Holocaust became an end result. However, I can't look around the world today and any of these theories holding true. There are too much positive momentum in the world for me to accept a premise of man being born completely without drive fore the better. Too much beauty and good can be seen through art for it to be the root of our woes, and I can not accept the idea that man was ever anything other than a pack animal. Lastly, while environment is by far the most compelling argument, I can only go back to my own experiences where my sister, brother, and I were all raised by my parents in the same circumstances and we are all completely different people, with almost opposite world views. If environment shapes, it doesn't shape us uniformly like a cookie mold would.
While it is difficult to accept the idea that the holocaust could be anything but one massive gate of complete evil, and saying otherwise seems like one of the most traitorous acts one could commit. I still maintain though that souls are consciously aware of what they are incarnating into and choose their basic path. The interview with Elie Wiesel, was one of the first pieces of work involving the holocaust that I thought maybe helped me justify my feeling on one's origin with tragedies like the holocaust. Within the interview, Wiesel states that he doesn't know why the holocaust happened. He tells reader's in his book as well as viewers of the interview that he doesn't know why he survived, there is no reason to who survived and he was an unlikely candidate. Wiesel voices frustration that so many more “deserving” died while he lived. Within Night Wiesel is continually struck by those strong, proud, and of great faith fall while he continued to go on.
Wiesel lost saw unspeakable horrors. He lost his family, he lost his belief in God, but his faith in humanity remains strong. If someone who has seen so many terrors can still believe in people and their core struggle to move towards positive improvement, then who am I to question such. Weisel maintains that his torture makes him want that even less for others and not more. He still insists in forgiveness and releasing anger not for the Nazis sake but the for one's self sake. If people can come out of such a terrible horror with such positive convictions towards others and if they can come out and still want to find meaning and learn, then how can this not be the core element of people? How can anyone argue that positive or negative traits aside, people are looking to learn and understand life and find meaning in new ways?