"What would happen if the government collapsed?" My oldest stepdaughter asked after I'd spent fifteen minutes explaining exactly what a bond was and why I was filling out paperwork to report which ones had been lost so that the government knew how much money they owed me. Her siblings all sat quietly, listening intently to the more-grown-up-than-usual conversation, and her voice carried a weight of anxiety in the silence. "This is going to be one of those Princess Bride moments," I told her. "I'm going to let you know that the giant screeching eels don't eat you. I'm telling you now because you look nervous."
The Tao of #Occupy
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?
Sunday Surfing: #Occupy, #Occupy, #Occupy!
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.
#Occupy as a Work of Art
It's easy to think of the poet as the dreamer and visionary, protected from the noise of common society, fiercely guarding the sacred solitude in which she does her work. It's easy to imagine the peacemaker and political activist as the motivated mover and shaker, always busy, always at work on a plan to influence those in power and change the world. These ideals have often been at odds in my own heart as I've struggled to understand my place in society and how best I can live my life as a member of the world community. When the poet and peacemaker act together, not as opposites but as allies, the creative work that results can change the world in unexpected ways.
Saturday Surfing: Protest, Physics and Aesthetics, Oh My!
My gods, where did September go?! Oh that's right, I got married. Woot! Then we had a fantastic honeymoon. Double woot! (More pictures soon to come of both.) And now we're home again, our days laced with the scent of falling leaves and lengthening autumn nights. It's good to be home. As promised, I'm starting a new feature on the blog where I recap some of the most interesting links and articles I've come across during the course of the week, for your perusing pleasure. I'm going to call this "Saturday Surfing" because I am, as you know, a huge fan of alliteration. So check these out!
In the Wake of Controversy
Google Analytics is fascinating. For instance, this past week and a half, my readership shot up to more than 10 times the average of the previous week (thanks to my inadvertently controversial post, "I am a Conscientious Objector in the Spiritual War"), before dropping back down to pre-bump numbers. The majority of these referrals came from Facebook. Yet when I look at the statistics for time spent actually viewing pages on the website, a shocking 60% of those viewers spent 1 - 10 seconds on the site. Another 20% spent 11 - 180 seconds viewing the site. Which means that about 80% of readers from this past week spent less than three minutes actually reading the contents of the site before navigating away again.
I am a Conscientious Objector in the Spiritual War
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.
Why Aren’t I Happy He’s Dead?
When I look at my own response — even the immediate, uncensored emotional response I had when I first heard the news — there is not even a trace of relief or joy. Bewilderment, yes. But honestly, more than a little bit of cynicism and scorn, as well. There's a part of me that immediately began to wonder what the "game" was that the government was playing this time, how they would turn the event to their advantage, and to what extent the killing of bin Laden was carefully orchestrated for calculated purposes. The seeming rush to dispose of the body, the lack of evidence or corroborating story from any sources outside the U.S. government, and now the rapidity with which the "official story" seems to keep changing, sparked my inner Conspiracy Theorist.
body politic | A Sonnet
body politic noun : (1) human organ of many heads ; tongues swarming from them [ as in, unison of insects ] ; hands, tangled beds of nails on which to rest evenly so as to spread weight, pressure without injury : (2) threat posed by ground swellings ; manifestation of projected intent to harm [ as in, the body of our enemy is dead, but not his intention ] : (3) the myth of history (archaic) [ ‘twas his own love that killed this shepherd, not our need to kill, and we remain innocent ] ; public will ; institutionally anointed gore to ensure death passes over our door
Pagans and Nonprofits
I seem to be making a few gentle waves in that fine, dry wine I mentioned last week. My article, "Balancing Liberty and Law: Religious Nonprofits in America and Britain," published on Patheos.com last Thursday, was cited extensively today in an article in The Nonprofit Quarterly (and subsequently picked up by Jason Pitzl-Waters over at The Wild Hunt). NPQ reporter Rick Cohen writes: "Typically, debates about the tax treatment of faith-based organizations and of churches involve well-known and recognized religions - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. – and sometimes debates..."