Month: February 2010

The limits? of imagination

Color exerciseColor exercise
When I was a really little kid, no older than kindergarten, I would lie in bed for a little while before my mother came to get us up, staring at these colorful curtains with blocks of different patterns and colors. As I did, I would challenge myself to imagine things: “Think of a purple giraffe!” or, “What would the neighbor boy look like with a clown nose?” It wasn’t conscious, the exercise of imagination, but it still happened on a regular basis.

Then one day I challenged myself to think of a color I’d never seen.

And I couldn’t do it.

I always get a little sad, thinking about that day.

More than thirty years later, every so often, I try to imagine a color I’ve never seen.  Sometimes I feel like I’m almost getting there. But then I stop. And it makes me a little sad, like I’ve discovered some limit to what used to be a limitless mind. But then I try again, and I can feel my third eye buzzing, and it’s like I can almost see it, this little mystery of the universe – the color I’ve never seen.

From Handparting and Wicca: the youngers and the elders

In Wicca the young are served the least and the worst. While honoring our elders is much needed, the dismissive or exploitative way people under 35  (or under 30) are often treated by more “traditional” Wiccans sets us up for a troubled future – some of which we are already experiencing. There is a very real generation gap, and some of the ideals that were adopted by Wicca in the 1960s and 70s are still there among the youth but are moderated by a reality of very different demands than what has been experienced by our elders. The elders must learn to respect and listen to the experience of the youngers; without this considered exchange the wisdom of age is rendered irrelevant because wisdom that helps no one is not wisdom.

I’m going to expand on this at some point ((readers may have to remind me)), particularly in light of Starhawk’s statement last year that pagans need to reach out to younger women via their own platforms (Facebook, Myspace, etc.) While this overlooks young men, I agree with the general spirit of the sentiment.

I’m seeing some success in that direction in the Twin Cities community, and I’m delighted to say I was wrong about how effective they would be.  The reaching-out is working because those managing it are managing it exactly correctly. The trouble, frequently, has been one of relevance. There’s a lot of “pagany” stuff that I don’t like or don’t want, and I’m not alone – but I’m also one of the few unafraid to say it out loud. Hell is likely to freeze over before I’d go on a “pagan campout.” I don’t do festivals. I like the great outdoors, and I am grateful that nature allowed humanity to evolve the sense to move into caves.

However, I’m impressed to see a job/business networking program and some integration with “geek culture” ((although I can’t say I’ve cared for the way it’s been done in the past)) without confusing religion and fandom.

What really needs to happen first though is that the elders who want to reach out to the youngers must stop and really examine their attitudes and assumptions. Maybe do that exercise where you deliberately call up stereotypes about different groups and where those stereotypes come from. The youth will benefit from doing the same exercise. Before the groups can connect you have to look at these attitudes, as they really are dividing us all right now.

Attention, attention!

Or really, attention-whoring. Or not.

This isn’t just a weird female psychology-dichotomy thing. And in some ways, it might go better on the Artist’s Way blog, but I’m going to write about it here.

Sometimes I just feel ignored.

A lot of the time, actually. It’s not that I am ignored. You’re reading this. So I have your attention. I know that.

But still.

Maybe it’s not so much ignored as…overlooked. And I know that’s not something I can resolve within myself in one blog post.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

It’s stuff like writing fanfic for years that’s actually pretty innovative, only to get regular recognition after the show goes off the air. ((I would not call what fanfic I do nowadays remotely innovative. And the stuff that got attention was not. )) It’s the way Fat Chic gets passed over in some circles. Yes, I’m actually jealous of some other bloggers, and this is a new experience for me. I get frustrated by being overlooked but me being jealous of someone else? It’s new. But now that I’ve experienced it, I know for sure that acting out and hurting someone you’re jealous of due to jealousy is utterly inexcusable. You know your bad feelings aren’t their fault. It is to some extent my writing career – this is the other block that’s revealed itself.

What if I sort of make it, and then no one cares? The only real way to succeed in the writing biz is to get and keep attention, and if I can barely get a comment on a photograph being picked up, what hope do I have for a book?

I realize this is why we’re to build a support group. You have to have a cheering section. Without their attention, you’ve really got nothing.

I’m posting this here now to acknowledge that it’s one of the areas I’m struggling with. It’s that little well of despair that sometimes pools out on the skin of my consciousness. It’s not so much that I need an ego boost, it’s just that I need to bookmark this particular well so I know it’s there when I’m dealing with the thoughts and feelings standing between myself and finishing a work.

Also, jealousy is really itchy. For me it is kind a new experience, and I don’t like it. But I’m not mad at the people I’m jealous of – but it makes me really mad at the people that are jealous of me and who act on it. Really, you suck.

Shitlist phrase of the month: “A true Wiccan or Pagan…”

Mr. Demartino reacts much as I do to these things (Daria)

I’ve seen it on PaganSpace and other places, and it damn near makes my head spin.

“A true Wiccan or pagan…” usually followed by “doesn’t”

Aren’t we chest-poundingly pious? Ugh. The new testament of the Bible had this whole thing about not praying in public because even God cum Yahweh or Jehovah thinks it makes you come off like an asshole. While I wish more Christians would read it and consider it, it’s also a lesson that Wiccans can borrow from.

Here’s the reality:
A true Wiccan or Pagan is a carbon based life form. If you think you know what a “true” one is beyond that, your head is so far up your ass a crowbar probably won’t help you.

Let’s break it down, hopefully with less swear words on my part.
“Pagan” while heavily debated what this means, you can be assured it in no way means “one thing.” There is no code of “Pagan” behavior. That’s because “Pagan” is a shorthand for a whole lot of religion with sometimes wildly different moral codes behind them.

“Wiccan” is a shorthand for one religion that could easily be a bunch of different religions. We call it one because it’s easier than doing yet more sorting. Those who contend what a “true” Wiccan is are either contending that everyone follow the Rede ((which in itself is not the hard and fast many think it is – it’s only actually been around since the 1970s and no one actually agreed to it, it just sort of got adopted and now has multiple varients)) in the way that that person happens to interpret the Rede ((usually extreme pacifism to the point of being physically useless)) or the person is an old-school Gardnerian ((some of them are really hung up on the difference between “first” and “legitimate.)) and just being a jackass ((not all Gardnerians are jackasses. Mostly just the American ones. Do not take this to mean I’m well disposed towards Britain.)) .

So don’t say “a true” whatever. If you insist on it, go back to your church, because you’re really not prepared to put on your big boy pants and deal with a little diversity.

Hey! A photo of mine is in Metblogs!

Yes, that very photo is on my flickr stream. Yes, I did give them permission to use it – and they actually did! This comes right when I needed a little bit of a morale boost. I had some mildly frustrating feedback from yesterday’s Doctor Who meetup. ((If you don’t join us on our side of the bar after showing up an hour after the roll begins, we can’t really know you’re there for the meetup, and explain that yes, you can share tables with others at the meetup.))

I have no idea whether Minneapolis Metblogs has a huge following or not, but this kind of made my day.

Pagan tech: Apps on my Droid

At some point I can already tell I’m going to rant that the so-called “medieval witches of yore” were technopagans. Brooms? Knives? Those were modern inventions in 1250, yo. So they were totally using the tech they had, just like I am when I use an LED candle or put up an energy radiating mandala on my desktop background. Today, I speak of the latest of such brooms and besoms: my phone, R2D2.

I have recently come into possession of a Droid phone. I’ve named it R2D2. I am sad that it makes my friends jealous, because I would prefer them to respond with, “Hey, that’s helpful! I can’t wait until these are affordable to all!” This, alas, is not the general reaction. Even when we use the GPS. ((I do not have an Iphone because AT&T coverage sucks in the Cities. I got stuck with it for four years. I also never finished an entire phone conversation in that four years.))

But for now, in answer to a discussion I had ((I’m a very loose forum visitor because I have a hard time finding forums that merit repeat visits)) about Droids on some forum somewhere, I’m going to point out a few apps that are useful to neopagan mystical types. Someone had bemoaned there being “no pagan apps.” While nothing comes up when I search for Wicca and Pagan, I’m not bothered by the fact that it’s not labeled as such. English-speaking Droid users and app commenters tend to be very by the book – either atheist, Muslim or Christian – and the sheer amount of vitriol that gets spewed on magical thinkers makes it a bad idea to express openly that you take some of the divination tools, etc. seriously. Especially when you download them off Droid marketplace.

There are a lot of decent features already built into the phone: you can add some programs from your computer directly, and there’s already an mp3 player, camera (video and still) and speakerphone built in. It also has GPS and bluetooth capability; the bluetooth you have to order ((and I’m scared to use much because I watch a lot of Doctor Who.)) The other thing that makes this phone interesting is how Amiga -like it is in its upgrades. Yes, you can install all sorts of updates with programs on your computer until the OS changes, but the Droid has something so far beyond it that the camera itself – formerly a mechanical only invention – can be upgraded by a remote update. It’s fascinating.

So, having figured out how to make maximum use of my Droid before I started downloading new toys, I’ve found the following apps downloaded most useful when you’re a mystical type:

Ambient Fireplace
All this does is show a fire roaring away. While it seemingly has only novelty value, I’ve found that just having the visual set out in the middle of a table helps people get relaxed and chatty.

This surfs flickr for select background images. I’ve gotten very into art and its effect on consciousness in the past few years, and I do believe that images you look at repeatedly have a profound psychological impact, much more than typically considered. So if you see someone looking sad or violent you begin to associate a default mood/position of sad or violent. If you choose images that you look at that are positive/zen, you gradually create a zen outlook. Since I have to handle my droid a lot when I go out, I’d rather program my brain frequently with happy/zen things. The energy is the image, the image is the energy. It’s an intriguing experience.

FlipSilent and Mute
If you’re at a ritual but you need the phone to use as a flashlight (there’s an app for that) you still don’t want the sound to go off. You can turn out down manually, but that manual bar makes a persistent and awkward beeping sound. So these apps are very useful when you still need to access your phone but don’t want the priestess at the ritual to smack you around with her staff.

This is my current favorite “mystic friendly” application and possibly the one the most people find confusing. Essentially it’s a white noise generator that allows you to pick a scene (that barely shows up on your screen) and add layers of noise: crickets, rain, bells, lightning. From within the program you can set an alarm – it’s meant to work as a sleep aid, but I’ve found it great for meditation. My only complaint is that I have to go through default ring tones on the Droid for the end meditation alarm; I’d really like to add a gentle chime like you get on a Zen Alarm.

Magic 8-Ball
Surprisingly accurate and you can add custom responses. Also, unlike real 8 balls that have crossed my path the fluid never leaks and the dice never breaks. You still have to shake it, though.

Moon Phase
Gives a simple graphic of the moon and a count down to the next new or full moon. I would like to see some improvements, like what sign the moon is in and more specific moon rise moon set times, but it’s useful in a scheduling pinch.

A sort of horoscope for your moon sign. Sadly, the free is only a demo.

Intended to sort out health issues affecting sleep. It’s very usable – walks you through a few basic queries daily, has you record the time you went to bed and the time you got up, and after you’ve gathered enough data it generates a little chart that may point out patterns to you. This combined with a dream journal/general journal can be very handy.

Great for drawing and releasing sigils.

Slightly more informative than MoonPhase. This gives sunrise and moonrise times, but does not predict exact dates and times of full moon, void of course, etc.

I’m probably going to use this is someone really bugs me for a reading at a gathering where I don’t want to be bothered. It’s a very pretty deck used, though I’m not sure what it is. It only does one and three card readings, but the interpretations if you use them are pretty accessible.

Useful for self-guided meditations and trancework, or when you need to catch details you might not process all at once.

I still fish around in the Marketplace once a week or so; I may update every time I find a particularly interesting application. Right now I’d really like a comprehensible astrology app, because the ones I’m finding are either too fluffy or literally in mathematical code.

Maybe we’ve gone a little too far on that academics bent

Loring Park Pedestrian BridgeI am, once again, slogging my way through a thick academic book for the sake of a review. I used to slog through these books of my own accord, all the time. I’ve actually earned myself a reputation as the “academic reviewer” though I’m easily left in the dust by the staff of the Pomegranate, et. al. I never did finish my graduate degree, and it was a fluffy-old MFA I was working on anyway. ((Frankly, I don’t think I could get the letters of recommendation I need to go back and finish, and I’d want to switch to sociology if I did go back.))

After hundreds of thorough readings, long bouts of concern for my brain-organ as I retained nothing from those readings, and all too often trying to hide that I was bored to tears while one or another such expert set out to prove how smart he or she is I’ve finally achieved the confidence to say this out loud.

A lot of academic writing is just bad.

It’s the fallacy that if it’s fun/easy to read, it’s somehow not as smart. You can be perfectly intelligent and coherent. You can even express an idea or ten of your own around all those quotes demonstrating where your formative ideas came from. I daresay that once you’ve gotten past the hoops of higher education and the disapproving expressions of certain tenured (read: stagnant) professors that you might even have a little fun with your subject.

That’s right, I said it. Academic writing should still be fun.

But I tend to be a heretic in every crowd I run with, so if you’re going to use flamethrowers, be prepared to be met with asbestos lingerie.

I realize that much of the call for this in pagandom is a response to the pure drek churned out between the 70s up to now. Bad history and poor fact checking is what it is, but even so, I think it’s possible to write in an entertaining, informative way while preserving factual accuracy. Right now it seems like you’re either red state or blue state: you can write about personal experience, mistakes and how-tos or you can be Taken Very Seriously and write only about what other scholars have to say about the subject; if you’re lucky you might even throw in a page or two about something you dug out of the mud. ((I’m referring to archaeological digs, not celebrity gossip.))

My interest in the academic was fear and a need for approval much of my life seems to be about overcoming. Once upon a time I wanted to be Taken Very Seriously. But I’m starting to not care. After seeing the sheer crazy of some Very Serious people up close and personal, I’m backing away and trying to write more from my heart because therein truth and sanity lie. Maybe it’s my training in creative nonfiction – I think it’s more important that what I write be read than that it be important.

I finished the Vein of Gold

And it was revelatory, and of course unexpected, though at this point it’s a small letdown. I don’t magically have any work complete. I do, on the other hand, have a lot of work started, notably three to five starts for actual prose fiction, most in the fantasy genre. I had some serious situations that count for a production slowdown last year – death and a wedding – so I’m optimistic that this year is the year to at least raise my hands at my keyboard while shouting “I finished!” I realize that I’m in some ways ahead of others on this path – I have actually completed these 12 week courses. And the morning pages are really helping me work out my inner unhappy, and get band-aids on the internal booboos.

I’m concentrating the next few weeks on getting my book reviews done (two of five are in draft and waiting for final revisions) and figuring out my next step. I know I need to start doing the whole networking thing, and getting my work out there – one is necessary to the other. While I feel like I’m once again missing out by not just being at PantheoCon, the effect such festivals have on me are both motivating and decelerating. Lots of great, high ideas – most of which drag me off my path as I’m to help someone else achieve his/her goals in the name of “community.” Even when doing my own thing would also enhance said community.

I’m still going to work through the rest of Cameron’s Artist’s Way books. I do feel I am materially different as a result of the work, and I want to see where the whole journey takes me. I’m also hoping it ends in a completed manuscript somewhere down the line.

Urban psychotropics…chocolate

My husband brought me Chocolat Celeste for Valentine’s Day. These are not chocolates you consume willy nilly. You drop them, like acid. I’ve even had a few chemical-head rush visions already, just from that much dark chocolate being located that close to my brain. Dear god, they’re amazing.

I’ve limited my work with psychotropics because it’s just not that relevant to my path, and the drugs are a sidereal tool for a bigger objective anyway. But when I can see visions just from biting into rich chocolate, it makes me wonder… what such altering tools and gifts are we ignoring just because they’re so commonplace?