Saturday, May 21, 2011


Some people struggle to overcome childhood traumas, but I was very fortunate in my upbringing. When I look at myself through my parents' eyes, I see myself as who I want to be, as my best, true self. My values grew from the examples set by my parents, so when I think of my parents, I am brought back to my values -- reminded that it's not important how I look, or what people think of me, and that what matters is kindness, integrity, simplicity, and living close to the earth. I don't have children of my own, but when I think of those who are the closest to being my children -- the siblings born when I was in my teens and 20's, and my nephew -- I realize that the way I feel about them, wanting them to thrive and live the path that's right for them, is how my parents feel about me. Thus, when I imagine seeing myself through my parents' eyes, my tangled doubts dwindle, I stop trying to be who I'm not, and I realize it's okay to be me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The power of music

I recently read Mad Maudlin and Music to My Sorrow by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. Both speak of the power of music. In these books, the musical people have magical powers which strengthen the effect of the music, but music can be powerful even without supernatural abilities.

In Mad Maudlin, some journalists visiting the homeless shelter gave candy to the children. It was naptime, but, having had too much sugar, the children are not in a napping frame of mind.
Sure enough, it looked like the aftermath of a tornado. The mats the kids were supposed to nap on were everywhere, and so were the kids. Rather than trying to get their attention, Hosea just settled into a corner with [his banjo] Jeanette, opened her case, tuned her quickly, and started to play, softly, a medley of old lullabies his grandmother had taught him. The banjo notes fell among the screaming, running, fighting children like rain. And, like rain, at first the music just ran off them without any effect. But as he willed calm and peace and sleepiness into the music, gradually fights broke up, kids dropped down onto mats, the noise quieted. Some of them looked up at him in suprise, as if they hadn't realized that he was there; others dragged their mats over to his corner and flung themselves down to listen. Yawns began, and yawning was contagious. Eyelids drooped, heads went down onto arms. --p. 296
Another character in the book, Ace, has the ability to influence people with her singing. Throughout her life, her preacher father has used her in his services to inspire people to donate money. Now a teenager, she has escaped this manipulation by running away from home and avoiding singing. Then there comes a situation in which a bad person has summoned a magical being who has killed him in front of about 2 dozen onlookers. Ace's companions have rushed to the scene to remedy the situation. They use music to soothe the onlookers, and Ace starts singing with them.
The song's words spoke of love, of endless forgiveness and healing, and as Ace sang, everyone in the room felt those things, blending into the magic, soothing the frightened panicky people, making it easier for the spell to do its work. --p. 420
Her companions had been unaware of her abilities, so afterwards, Hosea asked her about it.
"It's what I do," she said bitterly. "I can make anybody believe any kind of lie."

"But you weren't lyin'," Hosea said. "You were helpin' them see the truth. Girl, ain't it true that there's love, an' love forgives? Ain't it true that God -- whatever name you want to call Him by -- don't want nothin' for us but what's right and good for us? It's a powerful Gift, if you use it rightly. Have you evern thought that if you were given a goodly gift, you could choose to do goodly things with it?" --p. 421
In Music to My Sorrow, the sequel to Mad Maudlin, Ace does choose to use her gift in a positive way. Her father once preached a message of love, but under the influence of an evil elfin prince, his message has become infused with hatred. He holds a concert for his followers, with a band which projects hateful energy. Ace and her friends sneak in and offer a competing performance. As Ace sings "Amazing Grace," the crowd responds.
...those thousands of listeners looked in the mirror of her song, and saw themselves....Saw, at least in this moment; and, at least in this moment, realized all the pain they were creating. Realized that the Grace that had sacrificed itself for them, had done so in vain, because in their hate, their fear, and their rejection of everything that was just a little different from them, they had turned away from that Grace, and into the Shadow....But it's never too late to heal, the music seemed to say. Let the anger pass when the time for it is done, and leave the hate behind forever....You have stood in the Shadow, now come to the Light, for the Light will still, ever and always, welcome you, forgive you, want you still. Flawed and ugly as your hearts and soul are, the Light wants you to come home and be made beautiful again. --pp. 304-305.
Reading these books inspired me to do more with music. I think music speaks to the soul. I'd like to choose songs for my radio show carefully, to choose songs which will minister to my listeners. I would like to plan religious services which use music. I would like to learn to make music. Learning to play a musical instrument seems doable. Learning to lead people in song seems impossible, since I can't carry a tune, and yet it seems much more appealing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Called back to Quakerism

We all have our own paths, and it seems my path blends pantheism, druidry, and Quakerism. First I was a Quaker, but then I left it because it did not speak to me. Many years later, I found pantheism, then druidry. It was then that I felt drawn back to Quakerism. I think one reason is that when I was only a Quaker, I felt that something was missing. Now that I have found druidry and pantheism, I have found what was missing. And if I do only druidry and pantheism, then something is missing from that -- Quakerism is missing.

Last weekend, I was part of a Quaker group, and it seemed so right. I have certain core beliefs, such as a belief in treating all with equal respect. In my everyday life, I live in a world where it is assumed that things must be a certain way, a way that goes against my core beliefs. Last weekend, I stepped into a world in harmony with my core values. For example, in that world, everyone is assigned to a turn to help with washing the dishes -- everyone, right up to the executive director. In my everday world, the people at the top know they are above such tasks, and know that they are way above anyone whose job it is to do such a task.

In my everyday world, I am always thinking of things to do. In the Quaker world, I silence these thoughts and open myself to the light of the spirit.

In my everyday world, I worry that if I'm late, people will think that I am not working hard enough. In the Quaker world, I worry that if I'm late, I will inconvenience someone who is waiting for me.

Coping with moods

There are times when I slip into a depressed mood. It was more frequent when I was a teenager. Now it is not particularly common, but it has happened a few times in the past two weeks. When I am not in such a mood, I understand the following things:
  • Often, I become depressed when I am coming down with a cold. I don't realize it at the time, I just feel depressed. Then the next day when I wake up with a sore throat, it's like the dawn hits me: "Oh, the reason things seemed bad is not because they are bad, but because I was coming down with something."
  • During the times in my life when I regularly talk to someone I feel connected with, I don't get depressed.
  • I am also less susceptible to depression when I live with someone, even if it is someone I don't feel connected with.
  • I am most susceptible to depression in the evening, and when I'm home alone.
  • Getting lost in a fictional world for a long time (in the past, I watched TV, not it's only books) can cause depression, but it can also cure depression. It seems to me that during the absorption in the fictional world, there comes a time when I hit bottom or something, and after that, I come back from the depression.
  • Listening to music or doing movement such as dance or tai chi can be helpful.
  • I tend to be depressed when I come home from an event at which there were many people and I did not feel connected to them.
I have been more susceptible in the past two weeks because one of the people I normally feel I can connect with has not been available, because I came down with a cold, and because I went on a trip that was probably beyond my energy level. In times when I feel fine, such as now, I have been thinking about these things, trying to understand it, so that I can prevent depression, or can respond appropriately when it hits. And yet when it does hit, I feel no desire to apply wisdom to the situation. My desire at the time is to indulge the depression. But sometimes the voice of wisdom can overcome the voice of desire. One thing that helps wisdom to overcome desire in such a situation is the discipline of habit, and for me at this time in my life, that comes from druidry. Druidry is what tells me to meditate, practice ritual, and spend time outdoors. Sometimes I don't feel like doing them, but when I do them, they help to bring peace of mind.