Archive for the ‘spam’ Tag

“Nothing in my spam queue” as a Guide

Log in to WordPress, check your site, and with luck you read a notice that announces “Nothing in your spam queue”.

Imagine: even spam has been lining up to see you! You’re not as small and insignificant as you thought!

Spam — the stuff that clamors for my attention whether it deserves it or not. First cousin to Fake, Faux, etc. Cut down actual trees, put models of ’em in a Tree Museum*.

A whole Spam world? Sign me up! Take the Blue Pill …

The subtitle of this post could well be: What’s So Bad about the Apparent World, Anyway?

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Finding hollow spaces to celebrate richness. Mt. Ascutney State Park, Vermont.

The “Apparent World”, you’ll recall from previous posts, and as OBOD ritual reminds us, is this one, this world of apparently firm surfaces that consist of little more than the orbital shells of electrons surrounding atoms — nothing “substantial” at all. Spam. This world of matter, energy, space, time, friends, relatives, partners, pets, car, house, job, neighbors, Current Political Crisis #437, aliens, the solar system, all the galaxies beyond it — apparent. Yes, all these things really do “appear”, which is what apparent means. What else, after all, would anybody expect them to do?

“As the Apparent World fades …” says the ritual. Well, maybe I like this Apparent World. After all, I’ve spent 2-3-4-5-6-7 decades acclimating to it, acquiring skills to deal with it, maybe even occasionally thriving in it. I’m invested in it, even if those annoying Others have paved paradise and put up a parking lot*. Yes, I know I have to leave it all too soon. How could I forget that? Reminders all around me every day, even in the best of times, as if I’d forget otherwise! Sometimes ya gotta deny the end just to notice and enjoy everything that comes before it. Smell the flowers, they tell us. Hey, sometimes denial is one of the best and most adaptive survival strategies of all!!! “Some of the happiest people I know …” and so on.

Because just when I think it’s (only) apparent, it shifts on me and becomes fabulously, dangerously, pulse-quickeningly real.

“But wait. There’s more!” Paradoxically, many of the same people reminding us about The End also keep telling us there’s so much beyond it. Huh. What? How’s that work?!

Thoreau has something to say about that. Love him or hate him, he’s on the money often enough to deserve our clear attention:

Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one.

“Counting one” can be a ritual. Maybe the ritual I’ve been longing to do, but for any number of reasons I haven’t yet done. Yes, fishing’s also a grand ritual, as any devotee knows. So is drinking, too. And seeing the sandy bottom, detecting its shallowness. Noticing eternity. Daydreaming of fish in the sky, pebbles like whole planets and stars. Longing to drink deeper.

Our Apparent World, for all its richness, is paper-thin, and with eternity banging at the door and peering in through the windows, and always beginning right now, why deprive myself of that glorious abundance, especially when I don’t have to? In another paradox, it turns out that the true Masters of self-denial, the rabid ascetics and flagellants [warning — link to rites of self-crucifixion in the Philippines!] are those who restrict themselves to the Apparent World, never bothering to drink and detect and long and notice and count. But only a few of us are really cut out for the Apparent World, though almost everything’s set up for their convenience. Most of the rest of us run around vainly trying to arrange “something more”. I’m speaking to the latter group. Because if you’re content with apparent, why do anything different? You’ve got what you need, and I don’t need to photobomb your perfect selfie. Delete this blog from your feed immediately. Otherwise, I’m your spam.

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A post appeared this morning on an OBOD Facebook page from a new bard uncertain about where she could find in the published course rituals any kind of entry point for herself. The rituals she’d encountered so far felt too grand, too dramatic. She wasn’t sure where or how she fit, or how they fit her. She also noted she was a Solitary, with no group nearby to experience that form of ritual with.

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Who else is solitary and may have something to teach me? Do I know?

One of the replies to her post took an interesting tack. Yes, ritual can exist to impress others, the commenter noted, taking them to places they might not go on their own. The dramatic gesture, the theatrical staging, often matter more in such cases where people can beneficially be surprised out of skepticism or ironic detachment or a long-established cool by an honest-to-god encounter with a god, or a spirit, or themselves, or another world, or even this one. But ritual can also be for ourselves, and take any size or shape we wish.

We all do ritual every day, all day long, anyway. Why not make these moments work more beautifully and magically for us, rather than spamming our attention with thoughts, opinions, images, emotions, possibilities and so forth that just don’t fit us and who we are and where we want to go?

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*with thanks to Joni Mitchell and her “Big Yellow Taxi”.

 

Christian spam, “cheap grace” and Commitment

Most spam to this site gets deleted without me ever seeing it.  Some slips past the filters and I manually delete it after scanning it.  The following piece that arrived earlier today felt like I could squeeze it for something bloggy:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…When Christ calls someone, he bids them come and die.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

We like things to be easy. We don’t want to have to think or commit too much to anything. We want to get the most reward for the least amount of effort. We expect it from our technology, our education, and from our God. “I went to church and I even put money in the offering, so we’re cool, right, God?” We did the minimum and we think that should be good enough. Yes, you’re still saved through grace; grace that is a free gift. But that grace is hollow, because you didn’t put yourself on the line for it. For years, our experience of church has been safe. Sit, stand, sing, bread, wine, Jesus loves you. Being a follower of Jesus is mainstream and acceptable. In most cases, we don’t risk anything by being a Christian. We proclaim a cotton candy gospel (that is, mostly sugar and air) and nobody gets stoned to death, crucified, or drawn and quartered. Do you see what I’m getting at? I’m not saying you have to defy the Roman Empire to validate your faith, but if you’re not willing to stand up for it, what is it really worth? What are we worth if we let intolerance and injustice rule over us without a fight?

The message intrigues me.  (Learn wherever you can, I tell myself.  Don’t turn away from a teacher just because you don’t like the color of her skin or the accent of his voice or the flavor of her wisdom.  You might pass up something valuable.)  It also spurred a set of responses.

One is how contrary to much preaching, but how common-sensical, it is:  ya gotta work at anything worthwhile.  Salvation in Christian terms is a gift, unearned, but this post tells a deeper truth.  Salvation isn’t enough; it’s just the start. In eco-spiritual terms, Christians may get saved, but Druids get recycled.

The second probably arises out of the time of year.  A good number of us are halfway into hibernation mode right now.  Yes, we often want the easy path, because we’re lazy.  Why expend energy pointlessly?  Laziness makes good animal sense, up to a point.  Devote your hours and muscles to acquiring food, finding a mate and — later — protecting your offspring.  Anything else is likely not worth the effort.  If you’re human, add in a few comforts you may have come to expect, if they don’t cost you or the planet too much trouble.  Beyond that, it’s almost always diminishing returns for your efforts.  OK, that’s one view.

Another is the universality of suffering, as Buddhists like to remind us. It’s not like Christians have any corner on resisting intolerance and injustice.  To point out just one example, can anyone say Arab Spring?  Any person can reach the tipping point of disgust with tyranny or suffering or despair and rise up to fight it.  It need not be a specifically religious struggle at all — though it can be a profoundly spiritual act.

A fourth response (in case you’re counting):  plenty of Pagans and Druids are also easy in their practices, just like the “cheap-grace” Christians in the spam above.  And we can opt to let them enjoy a space and time where they may practice undisturbed.  But others, depending on what part of the world they live in, may face considerable daily risk.   Does that make them “better” Druids and Pagans — or Christians? Not necessarily.  Maybe more careful, or stronger, or more committed.   But these are character traits, present in some practitioners of all spiritualities and religions — and none.

A fifth response:  the natural world calls Druids and Pagans to live consciously in it.  We all die and are born, along with everything else.  We’re compost after just a handful of decades.  When the path of Druidry calls, it says wake up to the world we’re in right now.  Whether or not it’s the only one, it’s this one, and our lives here, as long as we’re still breathing, are our answers every day. Figuring out what the questions are — well, that’s a task for a lifetime.

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updated 22:15 EST 11 Feb 2013

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