Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Doing things for ourselves

Yesterday when I was listening to the radio, a quote from the story Detroit Neighborhoods Take Matters into Their Own Hands  caught my attention: "People will say, well, they are never picking up my garbage, or they don't board up the houses, or they came and boarded up some houses. And so our question is: Well, who are the they? And that has changed, that they have to become us."

It seems to me that more and more, our lives are made by "them," not by "us."  We have people to raise plants and animals that become our food, to do the processing to turn the plants and animals into food, to make our clothes, to make our trash disappear, to provide electricity and heat, to build our houses.  When someone else is doing the work, it's easy to be critical of them for not doing it perfectly.  When we try to do something  ourselves, we realize that it's actually not so easy.


Latest tidbit from Lives of the Trees: Chestnuts have protein like other nuts, but they also have starch, which makes them more filling than other nuts.  "Before wheat was common and potatoes came to Europe, chestnut bread kept many poor people alive."

My grandmother has talked about people surviving the Depression by eating food they found in the woods.  Could we do that now? Many of us don't live near the woods.  Many of us wouldn't know what to eat if they did go to the woods.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Looking back to simpler times

A few days ago I read that Native Americans saw the world as a whole, land and sky and so forth, all as one.  It struck me that I've read the same thing about Celtic peoples.  Actually, what I read recently about Native Americans mentioned that the view is common among hunter gatherer peoples.

It seems to me that we all have hunter gatherer ancestors, it's just a matter of how long ago.  For Native Americans, I think things changed about 400 years ago with the coming of the Europeans.  For the British, I think things changed about 2,000 years ago with the coming of the Romans.

Now it seems there is such a cultural difference between the Native Americans and those of us of European ancestry.  But those of us of European ancestry come from a people who were once like the Native Americans too, it's just longer ago.

It seems to be part of human  nature to fantasize about times past.  Some look to hunter gatherer times.  Some look to medieval times.  Some look to Victorian times.  We romanticize the past, we don't think about the hardships that people endured in the past.

Looking to stories about the past is part of understanding who we are.  When we think about the past in this way, we may not be thinking in an entirely historically accurate way, but what we are doing is being inspired by the values that we choose to guide us as we seek the path to the future.

Druids are present in the material world

Today in the mail I received a book I had ordered, Druidry and Meditation by Nimue Brown.  She's such a good writer, so readable.  It's hard work to write things in a way that they seem easy to understand.  There's a nicely written introduction about how you can't learn druidry from a book, you have to do druidry, so why write a book about druidry?  The answer is that books are like maps or instruction manuals.  They can help you as you find your own way.

The introduction is two pages, and then on page 3 she writes
Druidry is not a religion that seeks to transcend physical experience.  Our spirituality is rooted in nature and nourished by experience.  We seek connection, relationship and inspiration....Druidry embraces physicality and honors our tangible selves."
That was page 3, and that was as far as I got reading, because then I had to go write it here in my blog.  It captures so well why I'm a druid and not a Buddhist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to help people

I regularly read Nimue Brown's blog Druid Life, but today I came across a post by her on The Pagan and the Pen from October 2010.  In Help!, she touches on one of the things that always bothers me, the way people claiming to want to help actually makes things worse.  She gives some guidelines on how to help in an actual helpful way.  Now if only everyone would follow those guidelines.


The latest from Lives of the Trees by Diana Wells:

  • "Bamboo is evergreen and very pliant, so it bends rather than breaking in winter storms.  This was considered by the Chinese to be exemplary of true gentlemanly behavior."
  • "a group of third-century Chinese poets called themselves the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.  One of them took care to be accompanied always by his servant carrying a shovel, so if he happened to die suddenly, he could be buried at once -- in the bamboo grove.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Treatment of prisoners

In "My Guantanamo Hunger Strike Hell," Shaker Aamer describes the conditions he experiences as a Guantanamo detainee.  Some excerpts:
They started by taking my medical things. I had an extra blanket to lessen my rheumatism, but that was soon gone. My backbrace went at the same time. The pressure socks I had to keep the build-up of water down did not last long. Then they came for my toothbrush. Next, my sheet was taken, along with my shoes. My legal documents vanished soon after, leaving me only my kids’ drawings on the wall. They were the last to go. And now I am left alone. Since 8am Monday, April 15, I have had nothing, not even my flip-flops....some 22-stone soldier puts his knees on my back while the others pin my arms and legs to the floor, and they leave me a plastic bottle. You’re allowed only one bottle at a time, as having two is somehow a threat to US national security. That means from morning until night, I have nothing to drink unless I conserve it carefully.  
I just don't understand how it is that we allow this to happen.  I don't understand how they can take my money (they call it taxes) and use my money to fund this.

I don't understand why people think this is a good thing to do.  I mean, if a person does something to harm others, we put that person in prison.  I understand that we might want to put them in a prison as a way of keeping others safe.  But once prison takes the person out of society, how does it help anything to do violence to them? Is our goal to teach them to hate us? Is our goal to teach them that violence is the only way to gain power?  Wouldn't you think our goal would be that after they get out of prison, they not hurt people? And wouldn't you think that the way to bring that about would be to give them respect, kindness, and knowledge?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Corn Flakes

I've got a box of corn flakes from Nature's Path.  The package boasts that they are organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free.  That sounds well enough.  Then I read the details.  According to the package:
"GMO" stands for "Genetically Modified Organisms."  Doesn't sound too tasty, does it? The Non-GMO Project agrees, and their verification assures you that the food you're buyin is made in the kitchen -- not in a lab.
That's dumb.  Basically the case they are making for why you should choose non-GMO food is that the name GMO does not sound good?!

Then they say the food is made in a kitchen, not in a lab.  Now what is a kitchen? Well you plant the crops, grow them, harvest them.  Then once they are grown, in the kitchen is where you mash things up, mix them together, cook them, etc.  If you make food, that's one step in the process.  If you are a company selling cereal in a store, your kitchen is probably an industrial kitchen.  But if you do any sort of processing, any mixing or cooking of ingredients, rather than just selling raw ingredients, then that means you prepare the food in the kitchen.  The fact that you do so has no bearing on whether the ingredients you use are from genetically modified plants.

It makes me want to never buy from Nature's Path again.

And it ties in to what I keep seeing -- a world based on rhetoric, not truth.  A world in which people seek profit and seek to create a positive image of themselves, rather than seeking to make something of good quality.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Today NPR had a story called "How Oregon is getting 'frequent fliers' out of the ER."  Basically, the idea is that if someone visits the emergency room often, a social worker will take that person's case and help the patient with some underlying needs.  In the example given, the patient was homeless. The social worker bought him shoes, a pillow, and a sleeping bag, and then eventually got him into housing.

There's an attitude in this country which would cause people to say, "The hospital shouldn't be buying people shoes.  If you spend money on anything but medical care, you are mis-using your funds."

But the care the social worker gives reduces the number of times the patients visit the emergency room.  The net result is that the hospital spends less money.

This ties in with my recent post "Violence prevention."  In my post "Stewardship," I raised the question of where do I want to focus my efforts.  Which specific aspects of caring for my community and the earth are my unique calling?  It seems to me that my calling has to do with prevention, with building something positive, with reducing the need for things like emergency room visits and prisons.


My neighbor likes hydrangeas.  She has a lot of them in her yard.  When I walk by, I admire them.

As I walked by this morning, I thought, "If I had a yard, maybe I would plant a lot of hydrangeas too."

I recalled that the color of the hydrangea depends on the pH of the soil.  Would I put things in the soil to adjust the pH? No, that would be too much work.

I inadvertently have 6 house plants.  I didn't particularly want them, but they came to me in various ways.  Some I actually did buy, for particular reasons.  Others were given to me.  I don't want to be bothered with giving them plant food, re-potting them, whatever it is you are supposed to do with plants.  I water them, and  they have survived many years with watering as the only care I give them.

In my life it seems like I am trying to do a hundred things.  I don't have time to worry about soil pH.  I see interesting articles on the internet, but if they are long, I don't have time to read the whole thing.  I have piles of books I want to read. I don't have time to read them all.  And so, I give each thing as little attention as I can.  I eat the foods that require that least effort to prepare.  There are so many things that are important to me.  If I rush, maybe I can attend to all of them.

That's not the way to tend to anything.  Have you seen someone who truly tends to something? Someone who cares for a garden, cares for their children, cares for their marriage, cares for their elderly parent? Have you seen someone who pays attention to the details, who thinks about what they're doing?

As a druid, it's my responsibility to care for the earth and for my community.

I can buy local, organic food and carry it home in my re-usable bags.  Get my brownie points for being environmentally correct, and get on with the hundred other things  I want to do.

That's not what it means to be a steward of the earth.  A steward of the earth tends the earth with care.

I can't do a hundred things.  I need to choose.  What do I personally want to do? I can't do everything that is needed to fix my community.  Luckily, other people in my community are also contributing in their own ways.    They each contribute in their own unique way.  Which is my unique way? Instead of giving peripheral attention to a hundred things, doing a shoddy job on a hundred things, is there something to which I can make a commitment? Something I can really tend, something I can dedicate myself to trying to create and care for?

Monday, July 8, 2013

In the labyrinth

Yesterday on the radio on Selected Shorts I heard part of "Ziggurat" by Stephen O'Connor.  In the story, the minotaur and the new girl go round and round in the labyrinth, but there is no way out.  It struck me that the story is what my life is like.

Afterwards, there was a brief interview with the author, and that's what the author said too.  He said the story is about how now matter how we try, we can't escape our situation, or who we are.

When the story starts, the new girl is playing a computer game.  Later when the minotaur asks her about the game, she says, “Basically, they’re all disappointment games. Except this one. This one’s about ambition. You’re supposed to build the Tower of Babel before God knocks it down. But that usually ends up being a disappointment game, too.”

What the minotaur does is he encounters people and eats them.  He encounters them going about their lives, but it doesn't  matter what they are doing, because he eats them anyhow.  "None of the things they yearned for would come to pass. All their beliefs about destiny and justice, all their rituals, injunctions, inhibitions and plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face truths: trash, irrelevant, wrong. Their gooses were cooked—royally—and always had been."

Then today I was listening TED Radio Hour, and the story was "How Do You Get People to Pay For Music."  Amanda Palmer was a street musician.  The way it worked is she played music, and trusted that people would give her money.  So when she became a star, it seemed natural to her to do it the same way.  She lets people download her music for free, but she asks them to donate money.  When she travels to give concerts, she asks people if she and her band can stay at their house. She love connecting with her audience.  She says it's about trusting that people will be there for her.

I don't trust.  I guess that's why people aren't there for me.  My experience is that humans either turn their back on me, or else they tell me how they think I ought to live, what I ought to do.

Amanda Palmer lives outside the labyrinth. She lives in a world I'd like to live in.  But I can't get out of the labyrinth.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer evenings

When I sit outside on a summer evening, whether at a concert, with people, or alone, that's when I know this is what life is all about, this is what makes life worthwhile.

Enough admonishment

When I dropped off my food scraps for composting, the compost lady looked at my food scraps and said, "You don't cook enough."

Every day I tell myself:

You don't cook enough.
You don't clean enough.
You don't spend enough time looking for another job.
You don't exercise enough.
You don't spend enough time practicing Morris dance.
You don't spend enough time doing your work for the time bank.
You don't spend enough time preparing your radio show.

I really don't need any help admonishing myself.  I've got it pretty well covered myself, thank you very much.

Violence prevention

According to Shankar Vedantam's July 2 story "Therapy Helps Troubled Teens Rethink Crime," often violence is not a calculated thing, but a matter of someone getting mad and out of control.  That seems consistent with many cases I've heard about.  On Tuesday, in a neighboring town, at a youth baseball game, an umpire made a call, and as a result was assaulted by a parent and a coach.  Even in cases where it's a little more pre-meditated, often it is still the same dynamic where someone feels disrespected and is filled with rage, so they decide to go after the person who angered them.  A recent case in the news is that of Aaron Hernandez.  After he was arrested for murder, more stories came out of his reacting violently when angry.

The article tells about a program in which young people were taught to slow down and think before acting.  During the year the program was going on, the students in the program had a lower arrest rate than the control group.  However, the change did not last after the program was over.

I think it's a step in the right direction.  Making guns less readily accessible would help too.  So often criminal justice focuses on punishment.  By then it is too late.  I hope we can continue to work on preventing crime before it happens.  When crimes happen, the victims and the perpetrators can have their lives ruined.  Let us teach our young people not to ruin their own lives and other people's lives.

It is present in human nature, this ability to burst into violence.  It bursts out in certain circumstances.  It seems to have to do with feeling disrespected.  It has to do with anger, and anger seems to come from hurt.  Can we care for our young people so they don't have to erupt into anger?

Maajid Nawaz grew up feeling alienated, and became an Islamist radical.  When he was in prison in Egypt, he was adopted by Amnesty International.  Because of this experience of being embraced, he changed, and became a counter-terrorism activist.

Rejecting people, we alienate them, incite them to violence.  Embracing people, we inspire them to compassion and reconciliation.  No, it doesn't always work that way. It doesn't guarantee safety.  But people are more likely to be nice to us if we are nice to them.

It seems so simple and obvious.  Why do people not do it that way? Why when my country feels another country is a threat, do they drop bombs on that country?  We have made more enemies in places like Iraq and Pakistan than we had before we were bombing them.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


For pagans, there is magic. For monotheists, there is prayer.  I believe they are just different approaches to the same thing.  I do not believe there is any entity or force outside ourselves which is influenced by magic or prayer.  However, I do believe they  have merit.  I believe that what they are about is formulating intentions and feelings.  The Druid Magic Handbook talks about the importance of formulating intentions.  It suggests that at least three meditation sessions are needed before deciding on an intention.  It gives examples of how intentions can be framed in the wrong way.  It really takes a lot of thought to  frame an intention.

What would my intention be? Maybe this: to be brave, true, and open.  

I am lost. I don't know how to get out. I have been stuck in these for years.  I have been working to get out for years, but it's quicksand, sucking me back down all the time.   

To be brave: To seize opportunity when it comes.  To step into the great unkown, for doing so is the only way to escape where I am.  

To be true: I don't know the way, but I have an instinct that tells me whether I'm going the right way or the wrong way.  I  have an instinct that tells me when I am being true to myself, and when I am trying to be something else.

To be open: To show others how lost and vulnerable I am, because by doing so, maybe I will invite help.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Flying soaring freedom
Home of eagle, home of hawk

Blue tranquil deep

Raindrops, teardrops.

Where does sky begin?
The air around me, invisible,
Caressing my cheek
That's not sky
But the air goes up and up forever
Until it becomes sky

When does it become sky?
When it turns from invisible to blue.
It's not really blue.
It just looks that way to us.
It's all an illusion.
It's all a matter of point of view.

We always say that the color of the sky is blue.
I look above and I don't see blue.
I see gray.
The sky is gray.
That is not sky.
That is clouds.
Clouds floating in the sky.
Clouds blocking the view of blue.
Clouds between me and the sky.

Where is the sky?
Are the clouds in the sky?
Or is the sky the blue behind the clouds?
It's all just a point of view.

Dark, forbidding.
Lightning strikes.
Hail hammers.
Tornadoes destroy.

Stars twinkle.
Moon shines.

Golden sunlight dazzles.

The air around us
Reaches up
Touches treetops
On to mountaintops
Reaches the moon
The sun
The planets
The stars
The universe

Aspen, apricot, and avocado

Next in my series of comments from Lives of the Trees by Diana Wells are aspen, apricot, and avocado.

Apricot and avocado are apparently very nutritious.  Reading about them caused me to want to eat them more often.

As for aspen, they
are some of the toughtest trees on earth.  Indeed, the very trembling of their leaves is a strategy to avoid damage from gusty winds in the exposed places where aspens so often grow.  Aspens can live in barren, mountainous regions, as well as many other places.  Their heart-shaped leaves are borne at the end of long, flattened stalks so that instead of resisting breezes and breaking, they bend with them.
Wherever I find barren regions and gusty winds in my life, may I bend and tremble so as not to be broken by the storm.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Narrowing it down

So, in my earlier post "Success," I wrote about how I aspire to do too many things, and that if I want to move forward, I need to set achievable goals.  I listed all the things I wanted to do.  Now how do I narrow it down?
  1. I need to find a way to escape my job.

    It's  not going to be an easy journey.  I don't know exactly what I want to do.  I have a number of ideas.  I need to just try things, to explore.  As I do that, I'll find that some things are promising while others are less so.  I need to not get discouraged by all the dead ends, to remember that it's an ongoing journey.  I have in a way been trying to figure this out all my life.  There were reprieves for several years, when I was doing something I enjoyed.  Even if you only count the most recent spate of it, I have been struggling with this for six years, and I'm still stuck in my job.  I need to steer clear of the people who think that the fact that I'm still stuck in my job is proof of the fact that I'm not working hard enough at it, or that I'm going about it the wrong way.  With that, plus all the jobs I've been rejected by, I feel hopeless and traumatized.  I need to keep going. I need to find ways to keep up hope.  I get infected by this idea that everyone thinks I'm not good enough, there's no skill or ability I have that anyone values.  So, finding a way to escape my job includes:
    • Exploring specific types of jobs.  Volunteer work, conferences, workshops, classes, information interviews, reading, projects, applying for jobs, etc.
    • I need to keep my spirits up.  I need to push away the experiences that make me feel that I'm not good at anything, that no one wants what I have to offer, and that I don't like to do anything.  Unfortunately, I can't push away my job.  While pushing away the negatives, I need to seek the positives.  I need to surround myself with people who value what I have to offer.  I've found that in the two communities I wrote about in another post today.  I think that even if it does not appear to be directly related to jobhunting, being involved in those communities is essential, because it helps restore my feeling that I have something to offer the world, and that there are people who value what I have to offer.
    • Networking.  The best way to find a job is by word of mouth.  Again, this is a reason to continue to continue my involvement in communities.   Especially I need to focus on being around people I like, to counter the bad experiences which have taught me that I don't like humans, that I should avoid humans.  I do need to challenge myself, to push myself to talk to strangers, even though it's scary.  In particular, I should try to seek out ways to meet people who may be involved in careers that interest me.  I need to reach out to people even though it's risky and scary, but I also need to recognize that certain people erode my confidence, and cease reaching out to them.
  2. I think it would be helpful if I took better care of myself.  Physically: eat, sleep, exercise.  Spiritually: maintain perspective by way of my druid practices of meditation, time outdoors, and ritual.
  3. Try to let go of the desire to do everything.  I can't always be hiking, rollerblading, and kayaking.  I can't go to every concert, dance, fair and festival.  I can't learn every kind of dance and various musical instruments.  I can't join every group in my communities.  I'm already over-extended, and maybe shouldn't add anything else at this point, but if I were to add anything, the things that seem to be tugging at me most right now are joining the Transition group and learning to play either harp or hammered dulcimer.  Well, I guess the other two things that tug on me a bit are spending time outdoors and dancing, but it seems to me those are things I can do in a manageable way.  That is, dancing can be just dancing around the living room for 15 minutes, and spending time outdoors can be just going for a relaxing stroll.  
So, an attempt at a  narrowed down list, though perhaps it is not narrowed down enough:
  1. Actively pursue finding a less loathsome way to earn a living.  This will involve a variety of activities.
  2. Build my confidence and my network by being involved in my local community and the folk community.  
  3. Besides just generally surrounding myself with positive communities, also build a support group of people to help specifically with my jobhunting, because it can be very demoralizing for me.
  4. Ground myself by resuming druid practices of ritual, meditation, and time outdoors. Allow time for rest, reflection, and relaxation.
  5. Care for my physical self by being mindful of eating, sleeping, and exercising.  
  6. Find joy in music, dance, and the outdoors.  Realize that I don't have to do everything in these arenas.  Just find joy in what I do do.  

Looking for open doors

I went to a library workshop the other day.  It was kind of interesting, but I had such a feeling that the community of librarians is still closed off to me, that going to the workshop is like knocking on a door, and I'm going to have to keep knocking on a lot of doors before I find a way in.  It seems overwhelming.

In other areas of my life, it seems like I am surrounded by open doors.  There are just so many possibilities I could pursue.  It's frustrating that the limits of time and energy mean that I can only seize a small fraction of the opportunities

But you know, it wasn't always like that.  There are two communities that I'm a part of which seem to be full of open doors, beckoning me.  But when I first tried to join these two communities, I felt like I did at the library workshop: like I was knocking on doors and not finding a way in.

One community that I'm in I'll call the local community.  Most of the people in the community are in my city.  Some live in neighboring towns, but the community's focus is really in my city.  But this community that I'm part of is not everyone in my city.  It's generally people who care about things like sustainable living, organic gardening, renewable energy, building community, etc.

I think it was almost 3 years ago that I started knocking on doors for this community.  I joined one particular group.  I liked it, and yet I felt like I was looking for something more.  I wanted to get involved in something, but I didn't know what.  Then I joined another group.  It was when I joined this second group that things really opened up.  This group offered me lots of ways to get involved.  Also, it opened the doors to the rest of the community.  The way I see it, there are about a dozen organizations that make up this community.  Different people have different interests, so they participate more in one organization than another, but the people in these organizations are all so inter-connected that it seems to me that it's all one community.  And now I'm inside the walls of that community, so that I can see what's going on, I can see the many opportunities available to me.

The other community that I'm part of is the folk community.  This is more of a regional community, not focused in my city.  About 13 years ago was the first time I joined a group in that community.  As happened more recently when I joined the first group in my local community, I felt like I wasn't in the door yet.  I joined the one group, but the group did not have a good use for me, and it did not open me up to the related groups.  I moved on from there to join another group, then another, then another.  Now I finally have what I was looking for.  I'm in one group, but being in that group shows me many doors to other things.  I can think of 8 groups that make up our folk community.  As is the case with my local community, different people are more active in one or the other group, but there is a lot of overlap between the groups, and it feels like it is all one community that makes these 8 organizations happen.  As is the case with my local community, when I joined my first organization, I felt like the community was still closed to me, but now the whole community has opened up to me, and I see far more opportunities open to me than I have the time and energy to pursue.

So if the library community feels closed to me, don't despair.  It takes time.  It's like each community is a walled castle, and you walk all around the outside of the castle wall knocking on it, trying to find a way in.  But once you get in, everything inside the castle wall opens up before you.

So, that may be the case in this situation.  On the other hand, the local community and the folk community are grassroots organizing.  Librarian is a profession.  You have to get a job to be part of it.

How to earn a living

I really don't like my job.  Changing that has to be a priority.  I hate jobhunting.  I hate the pompous people who tell me I'm wrong to hate it, that I should just think of it as pursuing the things that interest me.

So, what's a better way to earn a living? There are so many things that I'm interested in, one would think it would be easy to find a better way to earn a living.  But it's not so simple.  The things that bring me joy are things that I enjoy in small doses.  Doing them at a professional level would be a completely different thing.  I love physical activities like dancing, skiing, and rollerblading, but I have limited stamina.  I don't enjoy doing them for more than an hour or two at a time.  I also don't have  professional level of skill in these areas, and would not enjoy the hard work needed to develop such skill, since the demands would exceed my stamina.

For a number of years, I've felt a desire to learn to play harp and/or hammered dulcimer.  But I haven't even begun to learn, so I don't foresee it being something I could earn a living at until I'd had years of practice.  And even if I was skilled at playing one of those instruments, a lot of people who play them have day jobs.  Even skilled people often can't earn their living at it.

I like to do some things related to organizing, like organizing nature walks or volunteering at festivals.  I think doing something like this could be some part of my paid work, but I wouldn't want it to be the whole thing.  There are so many aspects of organizing that I don't like, such as outreach and financial management.  Also, there are times when I just get tired of being around people.  Interacting with people is like physical activity -- fun only in small enough doses.

So it seems to me that where I want to earn a living is in something that involves working with information: reading, writing, compiling, making lists, working with databases, looking stuff up, analyzing data.  These are the activities that I can do for hours and not get tired of.  These are the activities where I believe I can grow, to increasingly develop skills.

This is not a new insight.  I have thought for years that this is the area to look toward in figuring out how to earn a living.  I've been looking to this area for years.  I've looked into many different kinds of jobs in this area, only to conclude that each type of job I look at isn't really right for me.  My latest thought is to be something like an archivist or librarian, maybe at a state library.  I haven't yet rejected this latest idea, but I'm not entirely excited about it either.

So, I've spent years looking into careers related to working in information, and I didn't find anything that I got excited about.  Does this mean that I am looking in the wrong direction?  It does look that way.   But on the other hand, I do see that I do have an enduring interest in working with information.  I see that for whatever activity I'm involved in, I'm drawn to things like compiling lists, looking up information, keeping records, and writing summaries.  There are things that excite me that I can only handle in small doses.  If I'm going to earn a living at something, I don't want it to be something that gives me small doses of excitement.  I want it to be something that I can focus on for hours a day.  And maybe that sort of thing just is not as flashy and exciting as the small dose things.

Working with information is  not just working with information for its own sake, it's using information toward a certain purpose.  So maybe thinking about working with information just for the sake of information is not exciting, but maybe it would be more exciting if I were thinking about doing it for a particular purpose.

I do feel a passion for getting information out to people.  I feel a passion for not telling people what to think, but for helping them become informed, and teaching them critical thinking.    The NPR story Reactions to Gay Marriage Rulings Run the Gamut includes a quote from someone who says, " What the Bible says about marriage is one man and one woman....I don't think truth changes through the years."  I am disturbed by the ignorance in the statement.  For one thing, marriage in the Bible includes polygamy.  For another thing, clearly things do change.  In the Bible, they had slavery.  We don't approve of that any more.  Freedom of religion is important in our country.  If there are people who have a religious belief in monogamous heterosexual marriage, they should have the right to practice that religious belief, just as others with different beliefs should also have the right to practice their beliefs.  My goal is not to change people's religious beliefs.  My goal is to give people the ability to draw their own conclusions in an informed manner.  The person making the above statement clearly was not informed.

So I want to do something about giving people the opportunity to learn, whether I'm a librarian, archivist, writer, journalist, educator, outing organizer, or presenter of music and dance (presenter could be musician, dancer, DJ, festival organizer, etc.).


I define success as finding the life that fits you.  Lack of success is trying to be what you're not.

Also, successful people are the ones who identify the problem or issue, identify what to do about it, and carry out doing what needs to be done.

Those may seem like two different kinds of definitions of success, but I see a connection.  If you aspire to be something that you aren't, then you probably aren't able to see and carry out the steps to getting there.  

When I was in college, they told us we were too smart to be homemakers.  I knew it was wrong.  I knew that my mother was a homemaker, and that that was right for her.  My mother is a success.  She gardens.  She raised six children, and now she babysits grandchildren.  These things are exactly what she wants to do.  

They told us in college we had to go out and have a career, but my mother would detest having a career.  If she had a job, she would hate it, she would be struggling.

My friend is a success because he knows that due to his physical and psychological ailments, he can't drive a car or hold a job.  He lives with his mother.  He doesn't try to be someone he's not.

Many students drop out of PhD programs.  I saw one who realized right away that it wasn't for her, and dropped out right away.  She's a success.  

Other students don't fit the PhD program, but they keep at it.  They are determined to get a PhD because they think it's the badge of intelligence and prestige.  But the thing is, the PhD is not an award that says you are smart.  The PhD is about doing research.  If you don't like to do research, it's not for you.  But they grit their teeth, they say I've set this goal for myself, and they keep at it.  They take classes.  They flounder in research.  They blame their advisor, they blame the school.  

I'm not saying you shouldn't work hard to achieve your goals.  Just be mindful of whether your goals are right for you.  It's fine to aspire to something that you don't yet know how to do.  It's fine to aspire to something that terrifies you.  The problem comes when you aspire to the wrong thing, when you aspire to something that you admire or want to be, but that isn't who you are.  

And that's my problem.  That's what I've done all my life.  I haven't been able to figure out the right aspirations for myself.

According to the alumni magazine of the college I attended, it seems my college classmates are all doctors, lawyers, professors, or businesspeople.  That's what it looks like in the alumni magazine.  There are classmates I know of who don't get written about, who are living with chronic illness, unemployed, underemployed, in prison.  When I read about all those doctors, lawyers, professors, and businesspeople, I feel bad for not being what they are.  But I do know that that's not who I am.

I donate money to the College of the Atlantic, because I like what they are doing, so I receive their alumni magazine too.  Their stories are a bit different from those at my alma mater:
  • Starting a farm and craft program at an elementary school
  • Being an administrator for an association of organic farmers
  • Teaching yoga
  • Designing and building wooden boats
Their stories are more appealing to me, but in a way that's more dangerous.  It's easy to get sucked in to wishing I could be like them.  

When I make my own list of what I want to do, it's completely unreasonable.  Besides the fact that it doesn't really include a way to earn a living, it is also overly ambitious.  Here's what I want to do:

Outdoors: cross country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing, nature walks, learn about trees, rollerblading, kayaking, rowing, sailing, sit on the shore gazing at the water, sit in the sun, sit under trees and gaze up at leaves, feel breezes on my skin, and go to outdoor fairs and festivals.

Music and dance: learn to play hammered dulcimer, learn to play harp, learn to play bodhran, learn to sing (to participate in folk singalongs), learn Morris dance, learn jazz dance, learn modern dance, learn African dance, learn swing dance, do Nia, choreograph dances.

Community organizing: be involved in Transition movement, be involved in time bank, volunteer at festivals and fairs,and  organize outings including nature walks, boat trips, and ski trips.

Compiling: Compile photos, family history stories.  Make playlists of songs for different occasions, (for example, one that starts slow and gets livelier in order to cheer me up; one for doing housework to; one for dancing to, lists of songs about themes such as songs about vegetables, or songs about light emerging from darkness).  Make a slideshow of photos to accompany a song, using the photos to bring meaning out from the song.  

Home and health: keep my home clean and uncluttered so that it serves as a spiritual retreat for me.  Cook healthy meals for myself.  Exercise daily.

Druidry: For the past year, I have been taking a break from my druid practices, but now I'm trying to get back into it.  This means spending time outdoors weekly, meditating daily, practicing rituals, and various reading and reflection.  

I aspire to do all of the above, plus I have a full-time job, plus I hate my job so I aspire to spend time trying to find a different job.

I aspire to do all of this, and therefore, I do not succeed.  The steps to success are:
  • Recognize that I wish to do all of the above.
  • Recognize that I can't do it all.
  • Make choices about what is most important to me.
  • Set reasonable goals.
  • Work toward those goals.
But all the things I listed that I want to do, I want to do them.  It's hard to let any of them go.