Sunday, September 15, 2013

A lofty moment, then back to earth

I lay back in my chaise chair listening to "Dearest Lord" by the Beggar Folk.  Soaring harmonies. Lofty.  My body tingled with holiness.

I came back to reality.  I was wearing my pajamas.  A fleece top I used to wear in public has become so stained that now I only wear it as pajamas.  All around me, clutter.

On one hand, it's nice that I can soar to lofty spirituality amidst the mess.  On the other hand, I have long wanted to make my house more of a spiritual haven.

I guess I just have to accept my finiteness.  I aspire to many more things than I have time for.  For the most part, I think I might the right choices about how to spend my time.  I think I can be at peace with what I do and don't do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Druidry and the Ancestors

I am reading Druidry and the Ancestors by Nimue Brown.  It's a great book.  It's readable, not too long, not too dense, and yet in another sense, it is dense.  I mean, it seems light in terms of the ease with which one can read it, but at the same time, it is so richly thick with intelligence.

I'm eager to read it all, and yet each nugget deserves time for pondering.  What I've decided to do is read it all the way through, giving rein to my eagerness.  Then once I've satisfied my urge to see what more she has to say, I can read it more slowly next time.  I can read just a few pages, and meditate on them.  I'm not yet done with my first time through, but I'm more than halfway there.  I'm on page 151 of 231.

Nimue has so much knowledge, and such an ability to synthesize that knowledge, and then to write it all in a way that makes her deep insights seem simple and obvious.

The title tells you what the book is about, but then when you read the book, you realize that the topic encompasses far more than you ever imagined.  It's about how we understand our past, and making choices about what from our past to take with us into the future.  "Our past" encompasses our family history, as well as the history of humanity and the planet.

At many points, there are things that remind me of some viewpoint I heard in the past that I knew I disagreed with, but I was not able to understood what was wrong with it with complete clarity and depth.  Nimue provides that clarity and depth.  I feel like next time I am faced with people who don't understand my viewpoint, I want to just hand them this book and say, "Here, this is it.  This explains everything about how I view the world."  Of course, that's not realistic -- when people don't understand me, I need to personally engage with them.  It's just a fantasy, that if only everyone would read this book, they would understand me.  Of course they wouldn't, because they would read the book through their own eyes, not through my eyes.

One thing I like is the way she talks about the history of druidry.  She's very realistic about historical fact, about the fact that we hardly know anything about druids, and that so much of what we associate with druidry is a mythology that people have made up over the years.  But she embraces mythology for its own sake.  I've always found it strange the way some modern druids think the only way to be genuine is to focus on the actual Iron Age druids, and ignore everything that was made up after.  What I find even stranger is when Reconstructionists seem to believe that Revivalists are foolishly believing that the stuff that was made up after is actually historical fact.  It's as if Reconstructionists think, "Druidry is about revering the way of the Iron Age druids.  Revivalists revere stuff that was made up later.  Therefore, Revivalists believe that the stuff that was made up later is historical fact about Iron Age druids, because the only reason a druid would revere something would be if they believed it was true of the Iron Age druids."  I also find it strange the way some Revivalists do try to believe that the Revival stuff is actually true of Iron Age druids.  Nimue expresses so clearly that a) the Revival stuff is not fact about Iron Age druids, and b) that's okay. It's mythology, and we can embrace it as such.

Another example of something I've long believed that Nimue explains better than I ever could: Once a pantheist commented that it seems that humanity is evolving toward pantheism.  This seemed wrong to me.  It seems to me that pantheists, atheists, and Christians all believe that their beliefs are the most enlightened state, and they feel sorry for the people who live without the benefit of that enlightenment.  It also seemed to me that she was speaking from a small knowledge of history.  It seemed that she was mostly thinking of how the United States used to be more widely Christian, and now more people seem to be turning away from Christianity.  It seemed to me that she was not thinking of the wider world.

One thing that Nimue brings to consideration of this comment once made by a pantheist is her consideration of the different ways people look at history.  Some people look at history and see that we  are progressing toward a more enlightened state.  Others think that our society is in decay, moving farther and farther away from the good old days.  Another way of looking at it is that there is no direction at all, it's just a bunch of people doing things and seeing how they work out.

I've always liked that.  I like reading things that describe the different outlooks people have had, and how those outlooks have varied across times and cultures.  It's as if my worldview is a planet, and seeing nothing beyond my planet, I believe that my planet is the whole world.  Then I learn there are galaxies, and realize that my worldview is just one of many.  I probably won't change my worldview, but it expands me enormously to see my worldview from the perspective of where it fits among many others.

Nimue's book is about how we build upon what went before.  For her, one of the people who went before is Ronald Hutton.  Like me, she has read his work and has been impressed by it.  In a sense, we could not be where we are today without him.  I  mean, he compiled such vast amounts of knowledge that were part of laying the groundwork for the ideas -- the ideas that have lived inarticulately within me, and which Nimue has been able to express so well.

Ronald Hutton is just one example.  Where any person is at today is a result of the past work of millions of people, stretching into the past for millenia.  It's something we don't often think about, but Nimue's book reminds  us.

Druidry and the Ancestors expresses a great deal about what it means to be a druid, and what it means to be human.  This is a book which I want to read, reread, and meditate upon.  This is a book that will inform my understanding as I read other druid books.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When to follow your instinct, and when to listen to other views

As I have mentioned in many posts, I'm upset with people who tell me what I should do.  Perhaps the reason it bothers me is because I always feel I should give them the benefit of the doubt, should consider their view.  I don't believe in dismissing people's views.  If I could dismiss their views, maybe I would not be so mad at them, and would not feel like they were holding me back.  What I mean by holding me back is that I take time away from the path that I know is right in order to give consideration to what other people say.

On the other hand, it wouldn't be right to forge ahead on my own beliefs alone, and shut out any input from others.  The beliefs of any one person are limited.  When we let in the views of others, we can expand our understanding, and be a little less wrong.

It's a fine line, knowing when to let in the views of others, and when to proceed with what you believe to be right.  As in my previous post, it's the kind of thing that you can spend your whole life trying to get right.

Questions to last a lifetime

When I was a teenager, I had it all figured out.  I thought of things in the abstract, and in the abstract, they were easier to solve.  Seems simple to say

  • Let people do whatever they want as long as they don't hurt anyone.  Stop people from hurting others.
  • Don't work so hard to earn money that you become cynical and stop being joyful and playful.
  • Look to research to see what works to solve social problems, and then go out and fix the problems.
Now these things are not so simple.  It seems to me that a person could spend a lifetime struggling with such issues.  What seems simple in the abstract is far more complex in the implementation.

Strangely happy

I find myself feeling content today.

I was downtown for 5 hours today, at the farmer's market and nearby stores.  At the market, I had breakfast, got groceries, and spent some time tabling for a community group I'm involved in.  I liked being part of the community.

And then I went home, and I liked having quiet time at home to do whatever I wanted, to not have to be running around going places.  I compiled photos and compiled a playlist for my radio show.  I like compiling stuff, listening to beautiful music, and looking at beautiful photos.

There was a festival tonight, with fireworks.  I wanted to go, but it would have been too much. This year I didn't go to our county fair either.  I didn't go to the July 4th festival and fireworks that I usually go to.  I only went kayaking once.  In the past, missing those things would have upset me.  I think growing older means accepting that you can't do everything, living within your energy level, and savoring that which you do, rather than aspiring to do everything.  In the past, I have pushed myself to do things I wanted to do, and I learned from experience that they're not enjoyable if I'm tired and sick while I'm doing them.  If I'm feeling tired and sick, as I was today, I will find more enjoyment in compiling playlists than I will in going to festivals.

Mission statement

This is not really new, I think about and write about this sort of thing all the time, but I was thinking about how to define my mission statement.  Here I am in middle age, realizing that life is slipping by, and if there is something that I wanted to do while I was on this earth, I had better get to it.  Right now it seems like my mission is:

To eliminate poverty and violence by building communities in which people continually strive to grow in:
  • treating others with respect, compassion, and kindness
  • integrity
  • knowledge, wisdom, and critical thinking
  • sustainable living
  • joy and playfulness

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I'd rather know about sociopaths

In a recent post, I alluded to an article on a web site about how to tell if you are dating a sociopath.  That part is not hard.  I mean, I don't try to judge who is or is not a sociopath, but I know something unhealthy when I experience it.  I know that when I have that feeling of nothing I can do is good enough in the eyes of that person, that that is a person to walk away from.

But I have two other questions.  Sometimes it's not so simple to eliminate someone from your life.  Maybe they are connected to your job or to your family.  So my first question is how to cope if you've got one in your life.

My second question is am I a sociopath? Some people would say that some of the traits apply to me, such as:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Staying calm in dangerous situation
  • Having few friends
  • Never wrong, blames others
  • Intense eye contact

On the other hand, some traits don't apply to me at all, such as:

  • Charm and charisma
  • Big ego
  • Thrill seeking
  • Recklessness
  • Illegal behavior
  • Lying
Or if I'm not a sociopath, what about someone who is? I know people who exhibit some of these traits who sincerely want to be a good person.

A friend once told me that he believes most really annoying people desperately yearn to not be annoying people.  They hate the rejection, but they just can't act another way.  He was talking more of people with no superficial social skills, while a sociopath would have superficial social skills, but I think the same concept applies. 

What if someone really wanted to be a good person, but they just had a personality that was hurtful to other people?  

And how much do we even know how much we hurt other people? If people are afraid of us, they may try to hide it.  

If someone thought they were a sociopath, they might try to go to psychotherapy for help.  But they might find it was no help, and they might quit after a while.

So I don't know who is a sociopath and who is not a sociopath, but what I want to know is:
  1. How do I cope when people behave poorly toward me?
  2. How can I make sure I don't behave poorly toward other people?
Those questions are intertwined, because the question is, when do I accept people for who they are, and when do I stand up for myself?  How do I say "stop treating me that way" without putting the person down?  

What hurt people want

When people feel hurt, what they want is someone to validate their hurt, to say they understand.  They tell the story of their hurt, in the hopes of getting affirmation.

Let's use some fictional names just for clarity, so I don't keep writing about "the hurt person" and "the person the hurt person is talking to."  Let's say Cheryl is upset, feeling that Laura hurt her.  Cheryl tells Laura why she is upset.  She wants Laura to validate her hurt.  But that's the last thing Laura wants to do.  Laura feels that if she lets Cheryl's feelings be legitimate, that will be the equivalent of saying, "Yes, I did a bad thing. I am a jerk." It hurts Laura to feel like a jerk, so she wards off that possibility.  She counterattacks, telling Cheryl she  has no right to feel hurt.

So then Cheryl complains to Diane about how Laura hurt her.  Diane may say, "You shouldn't let things bother you so much," or she may explain to Cheryl what Cheryl ought to say to Laura.

But if either Laura or Diane would just say something to Cheryl like, "I'm sorry. I can see why you're upset," it would do wonders to heal Cheryl's hurt.

Yes, this is something I feel strongly about personally, as I'm upset with people telling me what to do and how to feel.  But it's also something I see all around me, hurt people taking out their stories, telling their stories over and over, in search of affirmation.

So, if someone is hurt, just listen and affirm their feelings.  And, if someone is angry, the reason they are angry is probably because they are hurt, so if someone is angry, just listen and affirm their feelings.

Media and independent business

Recently people have complained that the media was paying more attention to a scantily clad celebrity than to the situation in Syria.  What media? I get my news from public radio -- both via the radio and via web sites.  It all seems very sensible.

I don't watch TV at all, and don't listen to commercial radio, but I do sometimes see advertisements on web sites, and I also see web sites of profit-oriented media, which include not only advertisements, but stories designed to attract profit, stories about a celebrity's sex life, or tips on how to tell if you are dating a sociopath.

Even though I mostly shield myself from it, I realize that junk in the media is very widespread.  I'm grateful that we still have alternatives like public radio and Yes Magazine.  We need to support these alternatives so that they will continue to be there for us.

In my community, we also have a farmer's market and an independent bookstore.  Our food co-op went out of business, but a neighboring city has a good one.  Not everyone has these things.  When my mother asked me stepfather if there were any independent bookstores in the area where they live, he said, "You mean like Barnes and Noble?"  Some people don't even know what an independent bookstore is because they haven't seen one.

Let's not take these things for granted.  Let's support the things we value, so they don't disappear.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


When my friend was telling me the rumor that the group leadership wanted the new guy out, he commented, "Maybe he has Asperger's.  Maybe they are discriminating against him."

I said, "Well I figured he did."

There's an attribute some people have that you can see right away, and for many years I had no name for it, but now it seems to be called Asperger's.

What it is is a directness, a lack of small talk, that makes me comfortable with a person.  Normally I'm not comfortable with people.

Not everyone with Asperger's syndrome has this directness.  I know people with Asperger's who make small talk and beat around the bush.

Is Asperger's real? Actually they have un-invented it -- now officially we just have autism spectrum.  But we had Asperger's for a while, and it was really popular, and still is really popular.  I wonder if it is over-diagnosed.  I know people who have been diagnosed with it who are oddballs, but to me don't seem to fit the criteria for Asperger's.  Of course I understand that people with Asperger's are very different from each other.

Sometimes it seems everyone I know has Asperger's.  Some have the diagnosis.  Others believe they may have Asperger's, but haven't been officially diagnosed.  Others haven't told me if they've ever thought about it, but I see something in them that makes me think of it.

In part, it's because the place I work draws a disproportionate number of people with Asperger's.  But I think it's also me.  I think I gravitate toward people with Asperger's.  As I said, there's a certain directness that some people with Asperger's have that makes me feel comfortable.

That raises the question, do I have Asperger's? Whenever I read the criteria, I can only conclude that I don't.  Yes I'm an introverted, awkward oddball, but I just don't fit the description of Asperger's.

Some people with Asperger's may fear that it makes them unlike-able.  It doesn't.  I don't automatically like everyone with Asperger's of course, but in generally, I would say Asperger's increases the likelihood that I will like someone.

I guess the main thing is the directness.  I like people with directness, and many but not all people with Asperger's have directness.

So, to anyone out there who thinks no one will like you because you are too weird, who tries to pass for normal in order to make people like you, bear in mind, some people like weird people.

And that's what I need to bear in mind too.  Because I too often feel that no one will like me as I am, so I have to try to pass for normal.

Well, it's not only that.  The reason I try to pass for normal is because if I admit to having any problem, people lecture me on how to solve my problem, and I can't stand that.


I met someone new today and I really liked him.  I liked that he was so direct.

He is trying to become a member of an organization that I'm a part of.

I met him at a meeting, and at that meeting a policy was announced.  The policy would preclude him from joining.

Later, I heard a rumor.  I heard that the leadership of our group didn't like this guy and another who wanted to join.  They went to the governing body above them and asked the governing body above them to decree this policy.

They wanted to keep these two individuals out of the organization.  They hid that fact by pretending that:
  • It was a policy matter, nothing against the individuals.
  • It was out of the control of group leadership, and against the will of the leadership, and came from the governing body above.
I like him because he's direct.  I respect him because he is direct.  

I do  not respect the way the group leadership for this.  It's hard to say no to someone.  But if it's your choice to say no to someone, take responsibility for it.  You don't want to be the bad guy, but you are the bad guy.  Own up to it.  You have the authority to choose.  Own your choices.

I hate it when people do that to me.  If they would just say no, then I could move on, but instead they go all vague and squirmy.  

Squirmy people suck.

Nimue Brown wrote two blog posts recently about behaving honorably.  I think this is about being honorable. Being honorable means owning your choices.


I have never been good at hands-on or practical things.  I don't draw, sing, play a  musical instrument, fix cars, fix houses, garden, or crochet.  But in the privacy of my own home, I don't have to be good.  In the privacy of my own home, I can dance, sing, play ukulele, and draw.  Today, feeling beaten physically and emotionally, I needed some healing activity, so I made some scribbles.  It is so good to just follow my instinct, to not have to fit an expectation.