Archive for the ‘equilibrium’ Tag

“Equal”? How about “Unique”? “Valuable”?   2 comments

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“Growing where you’re not planted”

 

I’m feeling ornery. Walk with me a little?

Of course people aren’t “equal,” whether “created,” “evolved,” “born lucky,” “favored by the Fae” or anything else. We demonstrate this by almost every action we take, whatever we may say we believe. Whether it’s elections, classrooms, job reviews, dating, playing fields, friendships, family dynamics — the list goes on — one person’s clearly not equal to another. We have criteria, hopes and fears, standards, priorities, memories, expectations, goals, feelings, and values that we almost always take into account.

Even where we might expect equality to matter most, such as in matters of law, where we confuse equality with fairness or justice, we often argue our cases with claims of unique circumstances, histories, medical conditions and so on. We seek exceptions, work-arounds, concessions — because we feel fairness or justice requires it. The particulars and specifics of our lives and experience, talents and quirks and character, all those hallmarks of individual identity, really do matter.

But if we’re not “equal,” as I’m claiming here, what we all are is valuable, unique, and irreplaceable. Most versions of equality, far from helpfully “leveling the playing field,” begin by erasing the individual differences that define our unique value. Equality allows us to be lumped together in easily stereotyped groups. We become interchangeable, a homogenized mass. People start to generalize — “all ___ are ___ ” and when we do, we forget or ignore the value of individual identities. To consider just ethnic or racial terms, whether I’m “just another privileged white male” or “just another poor brown minority,” you can more easily write me off. I have no face, no personality, no distinct identity beyond my equality with everybody else in the category, the label pasted squarely on our foreheads. My unique birth, life and death don’t budge such pre-judgments, which is all that prejudice is, as long as they’re invisible.

[You know the story of the starfish? It’s made the rounds, but it still teaches. The version I’ve heard goes something like this: After a storm, one person encounters another on a beach. Driftwood and debris dot the sand, along with sea life stranded by the storm above the reach of the regular high tide. The second person is gently rescuing starfish and setting them back in the water. “Why bother?” asks the first person. “There are so many others that will die. You can’t save them all. How can it matter?” The other person pauses for a moment, with another wriggling starfish in hand, then sets it in the water. “It matters to this starfish.”]

So what does all this have to do with living on this green earth and loving it? Gardeners, for one, know firsthand:  one patch of earth ain’t equal to another. Every location enjoys unique qualities of sun, wind, exposure, soil health, moisture, shade, nearby vegetation, bacteria, earthworms, insects, birds, animals and humans. Likewise for the seedlings, saplings, plantings, harvests, compost heaps, helpful and harmful beasts, bugs and spirits — none are merely “equal.” Or listen to that world just next door; the Morrigan is not Cernunnos. Brighid isn’t Kali. Christianity and Druidry aren’t “equally valid” — a meaningless assertion because of “equal,” not because of “valid.” Each helps catalyze a different life experience of the world. Both are needed. That’s why they’re here. But what good would they do if they were somehow “equal”? And what would that even mean?

The cosmos sweeps along, manifesting both equilibrium, often through relatively stable groups, and change, which appears frequently through the impact of individuals. It’s true that whole swaths of seemingly identical beings get tossed on the scrap heap all the time. A wildfire incinerates a mature forest, a flood washes away topsoil or drowns a lowland habitat. Severe frost or enduring drought destroys a whole ecosystem. Molds, rusts, viruses, spores and plagues decimate or erase innumerable species. Many more seeds and fingerlings, tadpoles and nestlings die than manage to survive. But let a first sapling rise in a meadow, and birds perch there, dropping new seeds that will change everything in a few years. The slightly altered DNA or behavior or adaptation of one or two individuals grants them increased advantages in a changed environment, and over time their line flourishes when others flounder.

Nothing is “equal.” In a cosmos both in love with and wholly indifferent to individuals, that is how we live at all — the ongoing surprise of the individual. Our uniqueness is our glory — and so is everyone and everything else’s. How to serve both these truths — not “equally” but lovingly — that’s a challenge you and I imperfectly explore all our days.

Thirty Days of Druidry 19: What’s So Dark About Your Awen?   Leave a comment

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“Well, Druid, you need to work on manifesting your intention. Lots of missing posts in your ‘Thirty Days of Druidry.'”

“I know. I’m doing the best I can. Really. Remember what it is that ‘happens when you’re making other plans’? Got some of that going on. Hey, look at that bird over there!”

I’m finding that occasionally setting an intention publicly, however modest it is, is good training. In my universe, the secret to success is to keep failing until I don’t anymore. They’re inevitable, really, both the failure and the eventual not-failing. And I find that remarkably comforting. All I have to do is to ‘keep on keeping on.’ I can even ‘give up,’ until I weary of that, too, and I start again. Of course failure is always an option — I’ve come to know this intimately. Don’t we all? Otherwise, what would success even mean?

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One of the listeners who had joined us a short while ago around the fire now spoke up. A small silver brooch on her robe at the left shoulder caught the firelight and flashed briefly, transmuted to gold in the flickering orange glow.

“Morgrugyn,” she said, and now I knew the old woman’s Druid name, though not yet its meaning. “You said earlier this evening that the Dark, like the Light, seeks a particular consciousness to manifest through. But doesn’t the world around us manifest both light and dark all the time, already? Why the need for specific individuals — people, or spirits, gods, other beings? Why does there have to be a designated ‘Order’ at all for this to happen? Isn’t this just already a part of the weave of things?”

“Daughter, the dark and light halves spiral up through consciousness like two vines that curl and climb round a support. They flower most vividly and distinctly through consciousness. It’s true they often seek the easiest channel to flow through, and they pervade all things, as you said, working through all those many channels. But what is ‘easy’? A developed consciousness in a manifest being that is active on all the planes affords an unusually vital and, I will say, attractive channel.”

Morgrugyn paused for a sip from her water bottle, then continued. “A paradox — the Dark is as bright as the Bright is dark. For there is a kind of brightness in the Dark, focused through consciousness, that draws the awen in and gives it life. Charisma, to give another example, chooses its favourites from both halves. There is a ‘sinister appeal,’ as it’s been called, to certain persons and things. It’s the intention of a consciousness that makes the Dark or Bright so intense, so polarizing and forceful. Energy all around us still continuously gathers and diffuses, always dancing, here in a growing forest, there in an earthquake or volcano, one slower, the other faster. The Dance rises and subsides, subsides and rises again, which is why the tide, the moon, the seasons, the ritual Wheel of the Year, the give and take of bodies in lovemaking, the cycles of death and rebirth, are all such splendid teachers of this rhythm.”

“You seem to be arguing against your earlier point,” the younger woman said. “Doesn’t everything move toward equilibrium? And it’s been doing so for a really long time, long before humans appeared. Any Order, even a ‘dark’ one, is part of that equilibrium, isn’t it? Why do we suddenly need to worry?”

“Not suddenly. Everything does indeed ceaselessly seek out equilibrium. But when humans appeared, so did new opportunities for consciousness and manifestation of the equilibrium in new forms and patterns. Branching or diverging is one of things the universe ‘likes’ to do. And it makes sense to speak in such terms as ‘liking.’ We can see it in patterns as substances crystallize, we see it in snowflakes, in plants growing, in thoughts and ideas unfolding, in the outflung arms of spiral galaxies, in the whorls of seashells, in human groups and institutions which form and split and regroup and dissolve and are reborn. We see it in relationships, and we see it in new stars and planetary systems forming. The word, the idea of equilibrium, can mislead us, because people think ‘changeless.’ But equilibrium in this case is dynamic. It’s a living thing. The addition of consciousness to the local equilibrium — to this planet or solar system, which stretches the sense of ‘local,’ I admit — means that humans get to participate in the equilibrium in powerful ways. And they participate differently to how … how a rock does, for example.”

“So it’s our participation that makes the difference, then?”

“Yes,” said Morgrugyn, with a smile. “And an Order, as a potentially highly focused gathering of energy manifesting through human consciousness, can effect long-lasting changes in the equilibrium, for both ill and good together.”

“But those are human judgments, aren’t they?” asked Dragon, who had been frowning with concentration as he followed the thread of Morgrugyn’s argument. “What we consider good or bad may not be the same thing as what’s good or bad from a non-human standpoint.”

“The loss of branching or diversity, whatever else we think of it, means lives lost, animal and human, and a decline in equilibriating ability. With fewer options, an equilibrium deteriorates in stability. And increasingly violent shifts can shove an equilibrium to a new balance point that is far less conducive to the richness of lives we have known. Yes, that’s a judgment rendered largely from a human standpoint, but it does concern more than human lives. Some Orders and human groups may advocate from non-human standpoints, like those of a god-form. Yes, Lugh or Thor or Isis or Yemaya may perceive and cherish and pursue longer, deeper goals than most humans. However, they never cherish goals against life. But some few Orders work from standpoints that value some specific advantage or benefit at a cost most of us would refuse to pay, or even consider. From what I’ve seen of them, Urdd Awen Ddu is one of those latter Orders. And the nature of their “darkness”? It lies in this: the price they are planning for all of us to pay to achieve their goals — with neither our knowledge nor our consent.”

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Part 3 coming soon

 

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 18: Order of the Black Awen   Leave a comment

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“Now, my daughters and sons,” said the old woman, “because all things in this world dance with their opposites, and the Bright is the left hand of the Dark, it is meet that I, who am old and may not live to see the end of the next winter, should be the one who tells you of the Order of the Black Awen, Urdd Awen Ddu.”

She paused, and seeing her shiver I drew the blanket more closely around her. There was just a handful of us still gathered round the fire. Her words might have seemed overblown or contrived at any other time. But the fire and the evening and the mead had each done their work. We were ready to hear almost anything. The dew had descended a couple of hours ago, but the night chill only now was lapping at our skin. Dragon built up the fire again, and raked the coals together so the new logs would kindle sooner. The old woman smiled at us and continued.

“I give the Order its Welsh name, too, because it offers a valuable lesson. Taken apart from its meaning, the sound of it is lovely: oorth ah-wen thoo.* And so too its birth. All things carry in their breasts a spark of the Imperishable Flame at the heart of the world, the breath of the Formless. Anciently the Wise of the East knew this, and the Sage of the Way wrote in his book, ‘From the One comes Two; from the Two, Three; and from the Three the Ten Thousand Things.’ Without that balance, chaos follows. We might even welcome the appearance of the counterpart, the opposite, in a way, without doubting it will cost us dearly when we face it, as we eventually must. But it is the third of the Three that issue from the One which we will turn to for our way forward.”

She spoke now quite deliberately, not expecting questions as she had earlier, when a lot of good-natured banter enlivened the fire circle, and anyone who held forth and pontificated, never mind the subject, soon had to give it up and relearn if necessary the arts of true conversation, of actual give and take, rather than expecting a reverent silence from the rest of us. That earlier hour also saw the old woman depart for a nap after a brief appearance, so that she would be fresh for later. Which was now. And now we wanted her to hold forth, because she had something of considerable value to share with us, and because what she said was new to us. The singing and drinking carried us here, where we needed to listen. Night had shaped this place and space. So we were quite content mostly to listen and ponder her words.

Questions, however, bothered her not at all, and she sat at her ease when we occasionally asked them. Earlier she asked a good few of her own, though her hearing sometimes played tricks on her. Someone inquired where she had first encountered this Order, and this led to a sad but funny story that must keep for another time. Though she must have been in her late nineties and stooped, and the age-spotted skin of her hands slid loosely over her bones, her thought darted swift and sure, and her gaze out of eyes filmy with cataracts was nonetheless keen.

“Now this Order, dedicated as it is to things we must oppose who cherish the balance, comes into existence because we exist. Each thing calls forth its companion, its counterpart, and Dark is ever the companion and counterpart of Bright. It is a peculiar and perilous folly of these days to suppose we can all ‘just get along.’ We cannot. The world simmers always, and sometimes, as it must, it spills over into open conflict. When a Dark Order forms, the action of the Light has made some advance, yes, but it also stands in peril for that reason. The cause of the Light (or the Dark, for all that) is no mere cliche or child’s fantasy, and such a challenge from the Dark, one that claims and divides the awen, is one that we must answer.”

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*the th of this respelling of the sound dd in Welsh urdd and ddu is voiced, as in English this, them, not as in thick, thin.

Thirty Days of Druidry 13: But wait — there’s more!   Leave a comment

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“But wait! There’s more!” Whenever any cycle ends, it marks the beginning of another larger cycle that contains it. Time, it appears, curls back on itself, or rests inside its own loops and curves like an infinite series of Russian nesting dolls. If there’s indeed any end to cycles, no one’s seen it yet. Dragons may know, but they’re not telling. (Some suspect they may dip in and out of time at will. Dragon wisdom is well worth pursuing, but it can be a difficult teaching, this lore of fire and music at the heart of the world.)

The sweep of energies surrounding cyclical change can be confusing, and to anyone within the radius of a particular cycle, the opening of the next cycle may be obscured in the debris — physical, emotional, psychic, spiritual — of the closing one. Creation, including the destruction of the ends of the old cycle to clear the way for the new, is messy. Even the birth of the new in the midst of the old, not replacing but augmenting it, can be hard. The two things human dread most: change, and the same old thing.

Those of us outside the cycle may nod or smile knowingly, feeling even a little bit superior to it all, if the ends of the cycle don’t happen to lick our ankles or caress the napes of our necks. Ah, but then it’s our turn.

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The Spring-in Winter of April ’16 in VT

The field of energies at work in the physical cosmos looks to be in rough equilibrium. That doesn’t mean stasis. Change still ripples and tears through from time to time. Yes, we face our storms and floods, earthquakes and volcanoes, and occasional meteors. And yes, they can be devastating and destructive. But overall — and life itself’s the best evidence here — the planet’s remarkably stable, and has been over very long periods of time. How else can a world be a home?

I find myself in a chair set down near a soundstage. The floodlights are off, though there’s a rather dim and diffuse glow coming from some back lighting, and there’s a bustle of stagehands as a scene change gets under way. Next to me a Druid sits at his ease in the director’s chair, sunglasses perched atop his head, flipflops dangling from his outstretched feet. In this short break in the filming he looks to be sleeping, but a moment later he opens his eyes and favors me with a wink. He leans toward me and whispers, “Avoid comparing the raw footage of your own life to other people’s highlight reels.”

 

 

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