Move. Between justice and mercy, between nakedness and warfare, between all that you would not do and all you have done, unknowing...
It has happened again. In fact, it is still happening, even now. If not here, then somewhere, in this country, in this world. There is almost no end to it. There is almost no space between one moment and the next, between the pain and the noise it makes. What do we do now?
About two minutes in to exploring Steampunk as a counterculture movement, it dawned on me — this isn't historical re-enactment. It isn't about the past. It's about now, and the kind of society we want to live in, and the ways in which we want the world to work. It's playful, with room for both the burlesque and the gentile. Anyone who wants a title, can have a title. Anyone more drawn to the 'punk' aspect can play it that way. It turns out that there's room for anyone who wants in, and you don’t even need a pair of goggles. The surface of Steampunk offers a burgeoning fiction genre, an aesthetic that seems to be catching on all over the place, a music scene — sepiacore and chap hop, and no doubt more to come. There's a growing arts and crafts movement within the community, and there are going to be inventors, I have no doubt. There probably are already. Steampunk is about innovation in every area of human endeavour, and it's about doing good stuff, with a social conscience and a sense of humour.
As we enter the colder winter months, the days grow darker and time seems to slow down, thickening like sleepy sap in the bare-limbed trees. Yet for many of us watching the protests of the #OccupyWallStreet movement unfold over the last two months, the country seems poised on the brink of something revolutionary. A tension hangs in the air — the trembling stillness of hope and excitement, but also trepidation and anxiety. This pervasive mood has me thinking a lot recently about the Eastern spiritual philosophy of Taoism, and the lessons of stillness, receptivity and harmony with nature taught by its founders, Laozi and Zhuangzi. How might the insights of Taoism help us to understand the potency and influence of the #Occupy movement? And what can it tell us about where the movement might be heading in the future?
There's just too much in the news these days to keep up with here. Every morning I sit down to Twitter and my RSS reader right after breakfast and catch up on the latest updates coming out of the #Occupy movement. Some days, the news fills me with anger and frustration and grief; other days, with hope and gratitude and joy. More often, hope and anger mingle and turn in an intricate dance. It's hardly possible to separate them. There is something like tragic, sorrowing relief when the violence of an oppressive system finally surfaces, like that moment in a dream when the monster only you could see finally lets its cover slip. There is a kind of horror to that hope, and hope even within the horror. I think maybe this is what it will always be like to be a human animal. Still, I sit mostly on the sidelines. I have lots of excuses for not getting more deeply involved, and most of them sound pretty lame even to me. I've done my best to support the movement by making donations and helping to spread the word — I'd like to think that counts for something. I want to believe that for a movement so profoundly shaped by social media, communication and education have their place alongside direct action. That these acts are themselves a kind of protest.
As someone who's never even managed to win at Bingo, I'm pretty much over the moon to be able to announce that one of my photographs recently won third prize in the 1000Kalema photography contest! 1000Kalema is a project sponsored by Think Peace and NaYa of the United Religions Initiative, an organization that coordinates grassroots groups all over the world "to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings." The 1000Kalema photography project brings together word and image to tell stories of overcoming violence, fostering social justice, and cultivating sacred relationships with people from religions and cultures all over the world.
Last night I had a dream. I was enrolled in a class that taught self-defense. The instructor was a thin, over-eager man. He split the class in half and gave half of the students bats. To the other half, he said, "They're going to come at you with bats. So you need to practice how to defend yourself." I kept waiting for some advice, some insight into how you fend off a person with a bat. But that was all he said. And they came at us with bats. Swinging for the head, the shoulders. I raised my arms over my head to protect myself, and they swung their bats until my arms were bruised and shattered in a pulpy mess of pain. The instructor called out, "Swing harder! You need to learn how to defend yourselves against an enemy that will show no mercy. This is a serious threat, and you need to take it seriously." And it dawned on me that those of us without the bats were not the only ones being taught. The students with bats saw themselves as warriors, defenders learning to wield their weapons for the right cause, in the name of justice. Their eyes burned with pride and power.
We have a rare chance to shape the future of Pagan/polytheist culture with an awareness of the mistakes made in the past. We have seen how seemingly innocuous influences in the early stages of the development and evolution of a New Religious Movement can quickly grow to become entrenched prejudices and twisted justifications for violence against those who are different. We have the chance to recognize those same potentials in ourselves, and to do our best to avoid them. Instead, I worry that we are too eager to make those same mistakes again, to invite a mythology of victimization and perpetuate a story that subscribes to the same tired "us versus them" duality that many of us were trying to escape when we left Christianity behind.
Last month, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the inaugural Wild Goose Festival down in central North Carolina, a gathering of progressive and emergent Christians interested in engaging with questions of social justice, peace, community, art and spirituality in a postmodern, multicultural world. I admit, as a Druid and a Pagan, I had my trepidations about attending a Christian festival — worries about what kinds of assumptions others would have about my own religious affiliation, anxieties about potential misunderstandings or miscommunications that could arise (although growing up Catholic and holding a degree in comparative religious studies, I'm reasonably well-versed in the unique ways Christians sometimes use language or make off-hand Biblical references) — but I resolved to set aside both my fears and my cynicism and attend the festival with as open a mind and as soft a heart as I could.
In my latest post over at Pagan+Politics, I explore the real origins and context of the quote, "Only the dead have seen the end of war" (commonly but falsely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato), and grapple with some of the deeper ironies surrounding the celebration of Memorial Day: "I know little about death and what our ancestors, the beloved dead, would say or do if they were alive today. I find it hard to believe that Plato would be anything less than horrified by the mechanisms of global warfare and violence that we have invented in the last century; I imagine that he, like Santayana and so many other philosophers of our time, would struggle to reconcile such sweeping violence with a belief that there is reason and structure within the chaos... Read more...