Archive for the ‘Foreigner’ Tag

Avalon of the Heart   Leave a comment

“Go ahead”, writes travel writer Rosie Schaap in an article in today’s (27 June 2017) New York Times, “say their names:”

Avalon and Tintagel. Believe deeply enough, and they might emerge from the mouth as through an enchantment-induced vapor, as though borne on the breath of a dragon. (Especially after at least four people have corrected your pronunciation of Tintagel: Be gentle with that “g,” it’s tin-TAJ-l.) And, indeed, these two sites in the southwest of England are epic and romantic, the stuff of myth and mystery.

Strip this opening paragraph of its hemming and hedging, its “mights” and “as thoughs”, and you have a compact magical working, a true spell, ready made. You know what setting you need, that will invite and launch you, right? Light incense or a candle, invoke with the two names, visualize being borne on the breath of a dragon, and you arrive in the southwest of England without the need for British Airways, Heathrow or Gatwick, customs or currency exchange.

Feel the mist cool on your skin, see the green and pleasant land, hear the clash of swords as you pass the guard, hear seagulls and curlews crying, as you walk out onto the spit of land where the gray stones of Tintagel Castle tower again. Yes, you’ve been here before. What’s the message for you this time? What do you need to know that has brought you here? What offering will you make in return for the gift you receive? Offer it with your thanks. Then return, return, return.

If even a feather of the wing of magic brushed your cheeks, you felt it. What is “real” on the other planes, after all, but what we pay attention to, what we animate with our love and creativity, our desire and energy? We practice the real to make it real, or else we let it go for something else that draws us more strongly. Our call.

“Myth and mystery” are “stuff” indeed — the potent formative ingredients for an “enchantment-induced” reality. (Aren’t ALL realities induced by something? Why not choose and shape for ourselves what that something is, rather than accepting a mass-produced substitute? We’ve given too much away, and now feel the lack yawning and gnawing inside. Reclaim!)

Leap with me here, to that old Foreigner song from the 70s — “I want to know what love is”. It always struck me with its odd assumption that anybody else must know better than I do what love is. Why?

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me.

I’ve got just one question: Who’s this “you”?! With my experience of love as with my reality: why let anyone else ever determine it, at the very least until I know theirs is superior to mine?! Take a look around: just how worthy are many of these other claims to a superior reality? Do we like what we’re seeing?!

Indeed, as Lou Gramm goes on to sing, “I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over. I gotta read between the lines …”

I swear this on the midsummer Sword of Light: I will not abdicate my spiritual sovereignty to anyone for anything less. I will practice love, as I practice reality, accepting the best I can achieve. Because as Lou also sings for us all, “I’ve traveled so far to change this lonely life …”

I have this sneaking suspicion that they’re versions of the same thing, love and reality, siblings of the same mother. Funny how love and reality so often harmonize. What we love is what is real for us. If one’s going well, usually the other is, too. They’re what I do to myself, for myself, as I do to and for others. And as they do to and for me. You who teach me, I keep learning from You what love is.)

Yearning is the first step that lets us know we need more — you hear something of that yearning as Lou sings — that we’re dying a little each day without it, that what yearn for is something we’ll recognize when we experience it. But we have a say in how we get there, and that effort will shape what we experience when we arrive. As we do, every day.

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The Druid Agenda   Leave a comment

cropcircle“Stop thinning your hair for good!” promises the spam in my inbox.

OK then, my inner imp says. I’ll start thinning my hair for evil.

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Because sometimes you can just tell it’s going to be one of those days …

I depart for a job interview in a neighboring town with about 15 minutes extra time built in, and I hit a traffic delay. I’ve Google-mapped the location — twice — but when I arrive, can I find it? I cannot. I have an older cell phone, one of the flip-phones that’s so last century. I tenderly call it my “stupidphone” because I’m too cheap to pay what still seem to me exorbitant data plan rates for smartphones. When I call the number for the interviewer, what I get is the immediately recognizable beep-and-squeal of a fax line. I call the other number I have for them and the line’s busy. Some days you’re just not meant to do what you set out to do.

The god aren’t so much crazy as determined to make you pay attention to your goals. Is this really what you want? How badly will you work for it? They ask. You check in with your goals and intentions and practice and find, yes, there’s a place that needed your love and energy. Or you’ve paid it too much attention already. Sometimes I’m the thing that makes the line busy, that re-routes all traffic to dead ahead in front of me. Sometimes the universe puts up road blocks just to get me to wake up a little more to my part in it all. We can never be wholly detached, apart, because we’re each a part. No man is an island, entire of itself, sings John Donne (Meditation XVII). Each man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. O American, proud of your illusory independence, crying in your loneliness, it never occurs to you the two are connected, and so you stand on your own two feet, oblivious to the earth beneath them holding you up.

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Not that I’m allowed to stay oblivious forever.

“I want to know what love is,” sings Foreigner. “I want you to show me.” Well, I think. No use waiting around for that to happen. Love can start here, with me. Even the smallest bit can be kindling for a fire. Once lit, it surprises me how well it keeps burning. Yet by doing my part, I realize love was pouring through all the while. I just couldn’t see it until I returned it. The circuit wasn’t complete until I stepped into it. I was the missing piece. Each of us is part of a circuit, self and Spirit that is the other pole, the thing that lets self be self. We know it when the circuit’s complete, when we’re plugged in, and also how desperately we need that completion, how it feels when it’s turned off. You know what love is, the trees sing, even without their leaves. We constantly show you.

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If there were a Druid agenda it would start in the silence of a November dawn. It would pour from the sky like rain or light or possibility, it would skip from leaf to stone like the chipmunk that scavenges beneath the bird feeder in the front yard, then sits up and gazes at me as long as I make no sudden movements. Sometimes beauty, truth, they’re shy creatures.

“You meet with things dying, I with things newborn,” says the old shepherd in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. Isn’t it always “Scene Three, Bohemia, a desert country near the sea”? That’s where we find ourselves, that is the tale of winter, a time of encounter with death and life on a Sunday afternoon. What, my life asked me today, is your Druidry not about? What doesn’t it touch on? Have you kept yourself from yourself, held a piece of you in reserve, not spent it all on this precious life? What is it you’re waiting for?!

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“Whatever gets the words on the page is right,” says one of the pep talks Nanowrimo offers on its site for this month. Please take that out of context, says my inner imp, running with it like a mad dog with a bone. The perfect defense for pretty much anything I do wrong. Just getting the words on the page is all …

8671nano15My novel this year involves a gang called the Red Fists, the Chenek Duz, incarcerated on the prison planet of Resken. A few days ago their names came through in a rush, and all in Gelem, a language I’ve invented just enough of for the story so far. The ringleader is Lodzat Moy, scarred from radiation burns and missing one eye from an assassination gone awry. With him is young and innocent-seeming Am Hezel, tech genius Dinshir Gagek, the thief Soknu Munt and the black-tempered, murderous Yar Fen. They get thrown together, through unlikely circumstances I’m struggling to make more likely, with a circle of artsy freshmen studying at the College of St. Swithins. I’m still working out the hows and whys. It’s fun to see it unfold. A kidnapping, a dream thief, a case of wrongful imprisonment, and bad love. What more could a writer ask for?

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Image: cartoon.

A Religious Operating System: ROS beta (Part 1)   Leave a comment

“Whenever I get bored or depressed, I do laundry,” said an acquaintance.  “Afterwards I may still be bored or depressed, but at least I’ve done something that needed doing.  And often enough I feel better.”  As a treatment, the success rate of this strategy may or may not equal that of therapy or medication, but as far as clean clothes production goes, it’s got the other two beat hands down.  At least I can be depressed and dressed.

How different the quiet of depression and the quiet of peace! (I’m writing about peace and using exclamation points.  Hm.)  One deadens and stifles, the other ripples outward and invites attention, a kind of relaxed wakefulness.  We say we want peace, and the holiday season bombards us with prayers and songs and sermons and wishes for it.  There are prayers for peace in the ceremonies of many religious teachings and spiritual practices, Druidry included.  But rather than asking somebody else for it, I can begin differently.  Peace starts in the center, and that’s where I am — or where I can put myself, with the help of recollection and intent.  “Come back to yourself,” my life keeps saying, “and remember who you are and what it is you want.”  If I start peace (or anything else) within myself, however small, however tentative, it spreads from there outward.  After all, it works for every other state I create, whether positive or negative — and I know this from sometimes painful experience!  “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is still some of the best advice ever given.  If I want change, who else do I expect to bring it about?  And if someone else did, how in the world would such changes be right for me?  Gandhi knew the secret lies in the approach.

In my early twenties, Lou Gramm and Foreigner were singing “I want to know what love is.  I want you to show me.”  It’s a lovely ballad — I’ve got it playing on Youtube the second time through as I write this paragraph, nostalgia back in full force — but it’s precisely backward in the end.  As loveless as I can sometimes feel, if I start the flow, jumpstart it if necessary, I prime the pump, and it will launch within me from that point.  Do that, and I become more loveable in a human sense, because in the divine sense I’ve made myself another center for love to happen in, and from which it can spread.

But neither love nor peace are things I can hold on to as things.  “We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most intimate,” says the German poet Rilke in his poem “To Holderin” (Stephen Mitchell, trans.)  “From images that are full, the spirit plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled; there are no lakes till eternity.  Here, falling is best.  To fall from the mastered emotion into the guessed-at, and onward.”  Whatever I long for in a world of time and space needs to be re-won every day, though in that process of re-winning, not always successful, it begins to gather around me like a fragrance, a habit.  Both the customary behavior, and the clothing a monk or nun wears, have the same name.  The connection’s not accidental.

The American “farmer-poet” Wendell Berry captures it in these lines:

Geese appear high over us
pass, and the sky closes.  Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith:  what we need
is here.  And we pray, not
for a new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear.  What we need is here.

So if we’re looking for a “religious operating system,” a ROS, we’ve got some design parameters that poets and others tell us are already in place.  “What we need is here.”  But try telling that to an unemployed person, or someone dying of a particularly nasty disease.  And of course, if I tell someone else these things, I’ve missed the point.  What they need is indeed here, but my  work is to find out this truth for myself.  I can’t do others’ work for them, and it wouldn’t be a good world if I could (though that doesn’t stop me sometimes from trying).  I don’t know how their discoveries will change their lives.  I only know, after I do the work, how my discoveries will change mine.

A recent article in the New York Times about the rise of the Nones, people who aren’t affiliated with any religion, but who aren’t necessarily atheists, offers this observation, from which I drew the title for this blog entry:

“We need a Steve Jobs of religion. Someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious. Like Mr. Jobs’s creations, this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment. A religious operating system…

I’ll be examining this further in upcoming posts.

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Laundry, Foreigner album cover, and Rilke.

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