Part of my identity as someone with a Celtic spirituality is the inescapable fact of exile. I am not only a person with Irish heritage living in the multicultural milieu of modern America, but I am also a polytheist and Pagan trying to connect with my ancestors across millennia of lost traditions from my place in a monotheistic, Abrahamic mainstream culture. It is within that diaspora — that exile — that I will have to discover, or forge, an authentic spiritual life.
As a writer and creative type who thrives in the online world, issues of copyright protection and piracy can be very real problems for me. Of course I want legal protections for my work. As an avid reader and web-surfer who loves lolcats and Dinosaur Comics as much as the next person, I want the artists, writers and creative types out there who produce content for my favorite sites to have those same protections — even, no, especially if those creative types are just some college students messing around on YouTube and not Hollywood stars making millions off the latest blockbuster. But that's not what SOPA/PIPA is really about. The SOPA and PIPA bills are like the ring of power forged in the fires of Mount Doom: one law to rule them all, one law to find them, one law to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Sponsored by a bloated entertainment industry that overcharges for pretty much everything, these bills would put in place the kind of invasive oversight infrastructure that would not only allow large corporations to sue technology start-ups and independent artists out of existence based on little to no evidence of piracy or copyright infringement, but would require on-going surveillance of user-produced content that makes Facebook's privacy problems look like child's play. Any website perceived as a potential threat to the Powers That Be would be vulnerable to lawsuits, while individuals would be subject to censorship and data-mining as a matter of course, creating a hostile and uncertain online environment in which conformity becomes the order of the day.
From "Postmodernism is dead," in Prospect Magazine: For a while, as communism began to collapse, the supremacy of western capitalism seemed best challenged by deploying the ironic tactics of postmodernism. Over time, though, a new difficulty was created: because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in… Continue reading This Is What “Ex-Postmodernism” Looks Like
At the heart of my spiritual life rests the deep knowing that ritual is a way of listening to the Song of the World as it moves through the earth and the land, and engaging with that Song as something holy, wholly challenging and transformative. Shared ritual is when we accept the burden and blessing of being embodied beings of this dense, physical world that gives us life, and when allow ourselves to respond in kind, to speak back to the natural world with its energies and currents and wild mysteries. Ritual is not for our sake alone, but for the sake of the whole world. It is for the sake of the solitude and silence that surrounds us, that frightening shadow of void and absence that makes us who we are, makes us whole.
More to the point for me is this question: why is the ancient "wheel" better than the modern one? For me, there are obvious flaws in the modern "wheel," the approach that most contemporary religions take in answering the basic questions about life, the universe and everything. The most important and obvious flaw being their denigration of the earth and the natural world, or in many cases the mere fact that they haven't much to say on the matter. They feel like "square wheels," so to speak, that at best make for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride, and at worst get us stuck in ruts, our hard edges jammed firmly into the yielding earth and unable to move. And so I turn to ancient religions to learn how to soften those edges, refining the square into a smoother circle ...
We consent to our own destruction, with the passing of time, with the changing seasons, with the restless intensity of living and breathing. Above the cold concrete and glass of the city skyline, sharp-wedged forms of birds wheel and tip in the dark, blustering sky. I find myself thinking again that it takes an awful lot of courage to live in this world sometimes, knowing that winter is coming, the dark is coming, and death, too, will eventually arrive to claim us. It takes courage to release ourselves, to enter willingly into the wild dance that whirls in this liminal space between life and death, creation and destruction. In my mind, the image of birds crashing through wind currents and swift-driven clouds commingles with the image of the warrior, poised in grace on the edge of chaos.
Our first morning, I walked down to the beach and sat for an hour watching the dark clouds, heavy with unspent thunder and rain, wash out to sea and the thin horizon. Sun spilled through here and there, shivering in bright rippling pools on the surface of the rough, green water. Waves overturned unbroken seashells at my feet. Seabirds wheeled and cackled, and I had no words appropriate for prayer, no songs that came to mind but the sappy love themes of old movies — which I sang beneath my breath, sighing only a little when stars may collide slipped into the breeze as a pelican threw itself into the breaking waves with a splash and all of it seemed to me, for a moment, to be celestial and stardust, Spirit pouring Spirit into Spirit, and surfacing from Spirit with Spirit in its beak.
If future anthropologists are one day sorting through ancient literature trying to find some insight into today's modern Western culture, they would do well to read this book. Not because it's all that good, but because to understand a culture it's often very useful to look at its worst fears. In this sense, The Road is a perfect artifact, a precise and unself-conscious portrayal of consumer culture's unique nightmare: the end of consumer culture.