Common Space versus the Bubble

Teo Bishop just called us out. Pagans live in a bubble.

What does this mean “living in a bubble?” The idea brings such negative connotations to mind that I become claustrophobic just thinking about it.  Excuse me while I step outside to get some fresh air. Pop!

Now that I’m back, I will bravely engage in this conversation. So, what is this bubble?  For me, “living inside a bubble” has always meant confinement and limitation.  The bubble is a constraint created by the self or by others. I have no love for shackles of any kind – even in a pretty bubble form.

Soap_bubbles-jurvetson

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” 

In my mind, the bubble creates a homogeneous lifestyle with no challenges or excitement. Each day is the same. There is a cap on what you can do and where you can go. I’m getting a rash just thinking about the very idea. Continue reading

The Importance of Small Gestures

Red stylized fist

Often we talk about our human duty to give through political activism, campaigning for the environment, donating to charity, championing one cause or another with blood, sweat and tears. No doubt, most of these projects are worthy.

However, it is easy to get lost in the sheer magnitude of most global ventures. I sometime ask, “Is my money really helping?”  ”Did my time actually affect any type of change?” I would guess that I’m not alone. Often charity goals are so big that they are out of sight or can’t be realized in one lifetime. Activists often burn-out when there are no signs of progress.  Donors stop giving and move on, putting their funds in new projects.

I believe that humans do want to help. However, there must be a return on investment; some emotional pay-off.  That sounds awful but its true.  We want to know that we are helping.  We want that warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you “do good.” That’s a psychological return on the investment. It feeds hope, lightens the spirit and gives us the incentive to continue the volunteer work.  If the payoff never happens, the hope for change can die and most people will move on.

While I was in Target, an older man, in his seventies, was preparing for his work shift. He saw me waiting at the Starbucks counter. He stopped stacking boxes to ask if I needed assistance. When I told him that I was just waiting on the barista, he went to find her. At the end of my shopping trip, I saw this man again. He was smiling and pushing buggies around. When he saw that I had a lot of bags, he came over and took my buggy. Because of his small gesture, I didn’t have to walk clear across the store to my car with loads of heavy bags.

After telling him “Thank You,” I began to think about small gestures. This stranger made my life easier. He had a positive impact on my life. Was his act of charity any less impactful than my donation to the Red Cross; than my writing of press releases to defend religious freedom?

Helping Hand

Small gestures can mean a whole lot in someone’s life. They can lead to big change; if not in a global way, in a personal way – both for the giver and the recipient.  When you perform a small gesture, whether it be a hug or hand, you have the immediate gratification of knowing that your spirit touched another.  You make an immediate difference in a life.  And, who knows?  Maybe a compliment can give someone the courage to apply for new job, embark on a trip or just make it through a really tough day.  That’s impactful on both ends.

The result of small gesture can be as big or bigger than any act of charity. Last Thanksgiving, I participated in a Church-funded food bank. We passed out hot meals, in truck loads, to depressed communities in South Carolina. The overall operation was quite big. But the gesture of handing a tray of piping-hot food was small.  As I handed the food trays out and said “Happy Thanksgiving,” I could feel positive energy weaving through space. This small gesture was big for each family; affecting just that day or maybe their lives.

Small gestures provide the warm fuzzy feeling that only comes when you know that your work and your human spirit of love has really touched another; has really made a difference.  Big time activism is good but not always feasible or long-lasting. We can lose the hope and miss the fuzzy feeling.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize the small gestures, the daily acts of kindness.  Do one, two or three everyday. It will feed your soul and ground your energy.  Plus, if we all did that as part of practice, we might raise the positive vibrational level of the entire planet – and that’s really big.

 

Photo Credit:
Deviant Art User: dRixlr8t

PantheaCon Blues

Electric_guitar   I’m stuck in the East. It’s out in the west, Gotta mess with with TSA and you know the rest. Only have the dime to make this rhyme. Can’t get out to the Conference this time.

I’ve got the PantheaCon blues! OH… I’ve got the PantheaCon Blues. There’s no use breaking rules when you’ve got the PantheaCon Blues.

There’ll be lectures. And points to argue. And there’ll be parties. And probably booze. But I’m stuck here, staring at this screen. Only digital Dell love for me, you know what I mean.

I’ve got the PantheaCon blues! OH Yea! I’ve got the PantheaCon Blues. There’s no use breaking rules when you’ve got the PantheaCon Blues.

Now, they’re all there, starting to schmooze. I’m left tending hearth and singing the blues. No use a-crying, Yea. C’est la vie! But, by my word, I’ll see ya next year in Cali.

I’ve got the PantheaCon blues! OH Yea! I’ve got the PantheaCon Blues. There’s no use breaking rules when you’ve got the PantheaCon Blues.

  (Above Photo by Feliciano Guimarães)

Cultural Labels: Imperfect But Important

Once upon a time, I was told that I was not a real Jew. I had never been so angry or offended. My friend wasn’t trying to be hurtful.  In his mind, he was making a simple observation. I didn’t attend temple therefore I was not a real Jew. Unfortunately, his painful declaration felt like a demon reaching inside to steal a part of me, something that I had proudly weaved into my identity. Instantly, I was being denied access to my Jewish friends, my family, my heritage and a part of myself.

Jewish Star

However, I have learned a lot since that moment. I’ve learned that labels are imperfect, dangerous and tricky; but they also are quite necessary.

At the time that I was denied my Jewish identity, there were plenty of other Jews that would have claimed me. To paraphrase my aunt, if Hitler came today, I’d be sent to the camps. Isn’t that a nice thought? Yet, twenty years later, it rings true. After dedicating myself to Pagan path, I am still considered a Jew by many.

Does it matter? Not really. I am not a label or a title. None of us are. Socially-derived labels are imperfect.

(Note: I’m not discussing biologically-derived labels that refer to fixed physical states or conditions; although, cultural bias does lay its dirty hands on these as well. But that’s a different story.)

I have never fit completely and comfortably into any label – social, political, religious etc. In fact, when I traveled through Europe, I was always misidentified as being Canadian or British. I can’t even be a model American.

Most people don’t fit neatly into any one label. Our existence is like a Venn diagram in which our true self rests somewhere in the confluence of multiple generalities.

Venn Diagram

But, unfortunately, labels are necessary. In order to function, we, as humans, need to order our chaotic and complex reality. Culturally-derived labels are information packets, derived from social constructs, that enable humans to understand the world and function day-to-day.

Not only do we base our own identity around cultural labels, we also base our expectations on them. For example, If I were tell you that my neighbor is a Southern Baptist, you would generate a mental “picture” of my neighbor without me having to say another word. You now have expectations.

Ultimately we are tied to these labels. They are everywhere. Some we give to ourselves. Some are given to us by others. Some labels we try on and, then, toss out. Some we hold on to with all our might. Some labels are positive and others…well, not so much.

But no matter what, we must always remember that these culturally-derived labels are fluid constructions, imperfect impressions created by subjective minds.  When we start inflicting statutes and limitations on labels, we become inert in our ability to progress spiritually, expand past our own experiences, or form meaningful relationships. Yes, it is true that labels are necessary for daily operation but they can also be detrimental if we don’t allow for flexibility.

You know, that Baptist neighbor happens to know that I’m Pagan and has never once tried to convert me.

question mark

Am I Pagan? Yes, without question. Am I Jew?  My heritage and cultural upbringing makes that so. And, if Hitler came today…well, let’s just hope he doesn’t.  Am I Wiccan? I have my credentials, having been formally initiated by a High Priestess. With that said, I don’t necessarily fit into the expected cultural mold. Am I a Witch?  I don’t weigh the same as a duck.  So maybe I’m not.

Am I me?  Absolutely 100%, all the time. No label needed.

Duck

 

 

(Photo credits: Star of David by Alex Proimos of fotopedia.com;Duck by Loggawiggler of Pixabay.com; Question Sign by Colin_K of Flickr.com)

Pagans & the Media: October Effect

I call October “Witch Month.”  The Media are driven to anything “witchy.”  Tis’ the season.

Pumpkin

On the one hand, this provides a wonderful educational opportunity to share the positive and peaceful aspects of Pagan life.  The over-exuberant Media is littered with reporters wanting to interview “real witches.”  On the other hand, October’s witch-fest can be detrimental to our cultural reputation because these same reporters latch on to any story with an Occult angle.

Consider the two cases that I presented in my last post, Progress in Small Rays of Light.  If those two stories, the pentacle carving or the church burning, had happened in October, the media response would have been drastically different.

In December, within the glory of decked-halls and pine-scented air, the Media virtually ignored the Occult ties of both cases. They focused on the sheer lunacy of the actual acts. Even when witchcraft was mentioned, the stories didn’t make it past a few local news agencies.

If these two crimes had happened in October, the Media (and audience), having been primed by the Halloween atmosphere, would have focused almost obsessively on the Occult aspects. In fact, the two events, having happened only one week apart, may have caused an avalanche of articles pondering a growing interest in the Occult.

Timing is everything in PR. Everything!  Sometimes you can plan it perfectly, using seasonal whimsy and cultural priming to your advantage. Sometimes you can’t. Shit just happens and you have to dance your way around the problems with the help of sparkles, sequins and smiles.

And, then other times, you just have to stop, drop, and thank the Great Goddess, that it wasn’t October!