Intersections

Exploring the crossroads of religion, culture, and science through a Pagan lens


Leave a comment

No John Trumbull: Hamilton’s Stories and the Lives we Manifest

We all live in our own stories, and it is central to magickal practice that where we put our energy helps manifest out lives.  How we see ourselves and our actions becomes a script, a thought pattern that influences our lives.  Sometimes these stories are beneficial.  They give us inspiration and a goals to achieve.  Other times, thought patterns of failure or helplessness can hold us back.  

Often, the source of these thought patterns comes from literature, film, and pop culture.  Characters from story provide something to compare our lives to.  Witness the multiple quizzes that circulate social media promising to tell us which Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Game of Thrones character we “really are.”  Users eat these quizzes up, perhaps showing some internal need to identify with someone else’s story.

Any good story can provide characters to inspire us.  They help us reflect on our lives and bring some context to our own ways of living.  New stories keep coming to bring us new insights and context.  One of the most popular stories to enthrall people recently is the hip-hop inspired Broadway musical Hamilton.  Based on the seemingly uninteresting story of the nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Hamilton delivers a beautiful panoply of fascinating characters with competing motivations, offering a large arsenal of stories for viewers and listeners to identify with.

Perhaps part of the musical’s popularity, and certainly part of what provides an extra layer of interest in its characters is that these people truly lived.  They are not fictional characters. They navigated their own lives, struggled and fought with each other, made gigantic mistakes, and yet they did something extraordinary by creating a brand new nation from scratch.  Each one has a story; each one has a motivation; each one has real, not fictional struggles, which makes their lives more real to us and can give us both inspiration for a well-lived life and warnings against the obstacles to that life.  

This may be best stated by lyrics that were removed from the final show, but sung by The Roots in the opening of the Hamilton Mixtape.  In the song “No John Trumbull,” we are confronted with the fact that our founding fathers were not the patient and virtuous Greek god types we see in Trumbull’s famous painting depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence:

You ever see a painting by John Trumbull?

Founding fathers in a line, looking all humble

Patiently waiting to sign a declaration and start a nation

No sign of disagreement, not one grumble

The reality is messier and richer, kids

The reality is not a pretty picture, kids

Every cabinet meeting is like a full on rumble

What you’re about to witness is no John Trumbull

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence: Not how it went down Source: Wikimedia Commons

Not depicted in Trumbull’s serene painting are the painful conflicts among the founders, nor each person’s internal struggles.  Hamilton provides both of these in spades, and they can be inspirational for any modern viewer.  Whether or not you are familiar, you are probably familiar with some of these thought patterns.  They may be within you, or they may be in someone you know.  They may help a life, and therefore be something to be encouraged, or they may provide a hindrance to living our best lives.  So here are some thoughts about these real people, and their prevailing thought patterns according to this immensely popular musical.

 

Alexander Hamilton: “In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet.”  Hamilton shoots from obscure poverty to fame and prestige because of the hurricane that almost killed him.  His essay describing his experience inspires charity, which gets him to New York and begins his improbable journey to power.  From there, he lives his life in constant chaos, seeking conflict and goading his enemies. From age 17, his life is a hurricane destroying every obstacle.  His only peace is found in chaos, and he seems to seek it out “nonstop.”  In our social media fueled world, it seems that so many of us seek discord and drama and their lives manifest exactly that.

Aaron Burr: “Talk less, smile more.” Hamilton’s executioner is also his foil.  He seeks peace and compromise at all times, sometimes at his own expense.  Misunderstood by the more opinionated characters, Burr seems to always be on the outside of every group.  Some of us are peace-seekers and adverse to confrontation, a fact that angers our more opinionated friends.  Of course, when peace fails and confrontation finds these folks, they struggle and make mistakes, as Burr does before he finally acknowledges, “now I’m the villain in your history.”

George Washington: “History has its eyes on you.”  The great leader is always conscious that his actions have lasting consequences, even when he is attacked for considering them. This is the thought pattern of those who, like a military general, see the larger picture and contemplate the consequences of everything they do.

Marquis de Lafayette: “I’m taking this horse by the reins, making these redcoats redder with bloodstains.”  Lafayette is fearless and brilliant.  He faces danger and always comes out on top.  This pattern can be seen in people who almost seem to have a golden touch and act with courage in whatever they take on.

Hercules Mulligan: “We in the shit now, somebody’s gotta shovel it.”  The larger than life Mulligan isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.  As a spy, he knee deep in his enemies.  Especially in the world of social media, it is common for people to get stuck in the misdeeds of those they disagree with instead of living their own lives.  

John Laurence: “I may not live to see our glory, but I will gladly join the fight.”  Laurence is a brave and idealistic soldier, yet he dies needlessly attacking the British after the war is basically over.  Some of us are unable to pick and choose our battles effectively and run directly even to the most futile and fruitless of fights.

Eliza Hamilton: “That would be enough.”  Eliza is her husband’s anchor and opposite.  Not ambitious, she yearns for a quiet life.  While this thought pattern can weigh us down, it can also provide a strong foundation for our ambitious loved ones.

Angelica Schuyler: “You want a revolution, I want a revelation.”  Brilliant and self-sacrificing, Eliza’s sister seeks mental stimulation to the point where intelligence in others is sexually attractive to her.  Unfortunately for her, her quest has to be balanced against her own line, “Nice going, Angelica, he was right.  You will never be satisfied.”  Many among us seek the next big thing, but find it always outside our grasp instead of being satisfied with what we have.

Charles Lee: “I’m a general, whee!”  We’re not all great leaders, and some of us are more interested in power and glory than doing the difficult work.

King George III: “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”  This thought pattern is shown by those with an exaggerated image of their own importance who are unable to see their own faults in any situation, leading them to just make that situation worse.

Thomas Jefferson: “The emperor has no clothes.”  Hamilton’s enemy portrays him as a “vacuous mass,” an unrealistic dandy,  but Jefferson is the actual overdressed and under-accomplished aristocrat in this story.  His character echoes those of us who suffer from what is commonly known as “impostor syndrome” or those who project their own faults onto others.

 

Cabinet Battle: Jefferson v. Hamilton Source: cookiesandsangria.com

James Madison: “Get in the weeds, look for the seeds of Hamilton’s misdeeds.”  Madison doesn’t do direct confrontation.  He’s more like that negative guy in your office who spreads harmful gossip about the co-workers he doesn’t like. Some people enjoy acting as poison pill, but don’t have the courage to confront those they dislike.

Philip Hamilton: “Even before we got to ten, I was aiming for the sky.”  Philip’s innocence and desire to live up to his father’s example give him too much bravado and trust in others, with tragic consequences.  In our lives, there are those whose trust in the world allow them to be walked over by those who are willing to break the rules.

Maria Reynolds: “Just give him what he wants and you can have me.”  It’s unclear if Hamilton’s mistress was a conscious part of the sex scandal that plagued him. She debases herself for either Hamilton’s attention or her husband’s financial gain.  Some of us yield our own wills to others for purposes that do not serve us.

James Reynolds: “Uh oh, you made the wrong sucker a cuckold, so time to pay the piper for the pants you unbuckled.”  Manipulative and dishonest, Reynolds is willing to sell his wife for profit.  Some of us are more interested in results than methods.

 

All of these thought patterns can live within us and cause us to live our lives in ways that manifest them.  Like us, none of these characters are truly evil nor truly good.  They simply live with their own stories that fuel the way they live their lives.  And, of course, it is as simplistic to boil each of them down to one line as it is to boil ourselves down to one line.

But our stories motivate our lives.  What is your story?  Who tells your story?  How is it fueling what manifests in your life?  None of us is perfect like a John Trumbull painting, but neither were the subjects of his artwork, yet many of them lived good, meaningful, accomplished lives.  Choosing our own stories can help us manifest excellence, even if we are no John Trumbull.

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Reflections on Beauty and the Beast

I don’t remember a Disney movie launching with as much controversy as this year’s live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.  First it was Emma Watson, a well known advocate for women’s causes, taking fire for playing the role of Belle, one of a long line of Disney Princesses who fall for the charms of a man (the term “man” used loosely in this case).  Then there were Christian groups advocating boycott of the film because of a brief moment hinting that the character of Lefou (Josh Gadd) was gay.

Source: comingsoon.net

In the midst of the blowback resulting from that “gay moment” (which, for the record, was quick and innocent), social media blew up with a meme shaming the film’s detractors with a message to the effect of “Keep your gay characters out of my movie about bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome.”  A first, I thought the meme was funny, but then I finally saw the film.  The truth is, this Beauty and the Beast is about much more than the 1991 animated film leads us to believe.  This version is bigger, smarter, more emotional, and- dare I say it- more human.

 

Much like mythology, Pagans often look to fairy tales for lore and wisdom.  Like the ancient myths, fairy tales are often thought to express deeper truths that shine through the fantasy for those with eyes to see.  Larger in scope than the original Disney movie, this Beauty takes more time to explore a number of these deeper truths.

 

  1. True Beauty is on the Inside. This is the obvious theme from Beauty and the Beast.  The film stresses this not only through the medium of the plot, but also in its casting and costuming.  Characters who are terrible people, like the Prince before he is transformed and our villain, Gaston, are good looking.  The Prince, in particular, dolls himself up with excessive makeup, almost as if he is intentionally overcompensating for his inner ugliness, much in the same way Gaston does with his constant bragging.

 

  1. Feminism and anti-rape culture. Gaston’s efforts to gain Belle’s affection are steeped in misogyny and male privilege.  “The only kids you should worry about are your own,” has mansplains to Belle after climbing onto her porch against her will, crowding her space, and making a baby bump gesture over his own belly.  It even seems like Gaston’s entire character arc is essentially a large date rape scheme as he singlemindedly attempts to “work a yes out” and assumes his good looks entitle him to the woman of his choosing.  Instead, Belle falls in love with the Beast, who eventually reveals himself to be intelligent and sensitive, exactly the type of man she was looking for. True, he kept her prisoner, but he does eventually free her and she voluntarily returns to save his life.

Source: zimus.deviantart.com

  1. A Call to be Authentic. Beyond the obvious “Beauty is only skin deep” theme, there is Pagan-friendly call to know thyself in all your parts.  Prior to his transformation, the Prince heavily made up and lathered in wealth and privilege, an outward showing meant to cover his inner insecurity.  We later get glimpse into a childhood in which his beloved mother died young and his father twisted him into a monster – a monster he eventually became.  Belle, on the other hand, knows who she is and what she wants, and she pursues it.  We learn that there is more to each of the Beast’s servants than the objects they turn into, but their human lives were clearly overshadowed by their employer.  After all, “Life is so unnerving for a servant who’s not serving.” Sometimes seeing yourself for all that you are and integrating your various parts is the key living a fully human life.

 

  1. The Rose in the Wasteland.  This may be a bit of a stretch, but bare with me.  In Arthurian legend, the King’s wounded relationship with Guinevere is often seen as a wounded relationship between the King and the Land.  This wounded relationship transforms the lush kingdom into a barren wasteland, which only the Grail can heal.  In Beauty and the Beast, the Prince is similarly out of relationship with his people and in love with his wealth and power.  The curse of the enchantress, which comes as a consequence of mistreating a woman, creates a similar wasteland.  The castle descends into darkness and disuse as its inhabitants slowly lose their humanity while the nearby village forgets their lives and their sovereign.  Yet hope, in the form of a rose, exists and reuniting with a representative of the sacred feminine restores order to the land.

 

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  The live version questions what would happen if what was “gone” was humanity itself, and it explores that question more effectively, in my opinion, than the original animated movie. Through that loss, the cursed in the castle learn a new respect and love for their very existence. What they become literally, perhaps we could all become metaphorically – in the words of a song from the Broadway musical that was cut from thus film – human again.


Leave a comment

Finding the Hook in your Heart and Soul

I am an unabashed lover of all things Peter Pan.  Aside from the sheer brilliance of the story itself, a tale that speaks to both children and adults, I have always been fascinated by the many permutations and iterations the J.M. Barrie’s convention-breaking stage play about a flying child.  It is a mark of great literature that many readers over multiple generations can find new and interesting angles from which to approach an old story, and Peter Pan may have more retellings and alternate approaches than just about any other story.  Through these retellings, a story stands the test of time.  And time, in the form of threatening adulthood and the deadly Tic-Toc Croc, is the principal antagonist in the story of the Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Finding Neverland is one of the most interesting incarnations of the beloved story.  Based on a play by Allan Knee, the 2004 film presents the story of how the Scottish playwright Barrie dramatically altered his life, challenged London’s strict social norms, befriended a family of young boys who inspired him, and ultimately penned this enduring classic in the face of deep resistance.  It’s a lovely, touching movie.  

In 2015, the story hit Broadway as a stage musical.  Music is a powerful way to touch at your heart, and the show pounds its way into your senses near the end of the first act and never lets go.   

If you know the movie, then you know that the London theater establishment resisted Barrie’s fantastical idea of a children’s play not necessarily for children.  A nanny dog, flying children, and non-verbal fairies seemed like a terrible stretch to the minds of straight laced Edwardian England.  They were right, to an extent.  In the show, Barrie gets called out on his over-exuberant fantasy at the cost of anything interesting:

“You don’t even have a villain,” Barrie is told.  From there, he suffers the loss of all that is important to him.  He is alone.  In his outcast mind, struggling with how to achieve this play that will eventually make history, he is confronted by the darkest part of himself.  James Barrie comes face to face with his shadow self and his iconic villain: James Hook.  Barrie’s alter ego tells him:

 

“No need to be afraid

Every little shackle deserves it’s praise

Time to unshackle all your chains

Don’t be so cowardly I’ll change”

 

In a dark and scary moment for both Barrie and the audience, Captain Hook tells his creator

“You have to look in your heart in your soul

You must find a hook in your heart in your soul

ANd search every nook in your heart in your soul

Don’t live by the book in your heart in your soul

We live by the hook!”

finding neverland

“Stronger.” Source: nytimes.com

It was the conflict that was necessary to make a classic.  With the darkness, the conflict, Peter Pan blossomed from a limp fairy tale into a robust and enduring classic.  Peter Pan is made what it has become not by its fun and frolic, but by the creeping crocodile threat that contrasts with Peter’s playful denial:

  • Peter Pan almost dies to end the first act.  We go to intermission with our hero proclaiming, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
  • Tinkerbell sacrifices herself for Pan and her light fades toward death.
  • The Darling children are captured by pirates and threatened with their lives.
  • The Darling parents spend the entire story sick to death at the loss of their children.

Tic Toc.  Tic Toc.  

Our lives and our magical practice are the same.  We may prefer the easy moments, the fun and frolic of living in a state of Neverland-ish denial, but on its own that has no meaning.  We must face the Hooks in our own heart and soul, for it is our struggles and painful moments – and perhaps ultimately our victory over them – that give our lives greater meaning.  They create the awfully big adventure.  Barrie needed his hook.  Peter needed his shadow reattached.  We need our pains to know how we’ve triumphed.  They help us define ourselves and learn how to be, in the words of the first act finale, Stronger:

 

“I can run now so much faster

Now defeat won’t be my master

I will conquer the demons

I won’t have to wait any longer

I’ve got to be stronger”

There will always be difficult times ahead, but if classics can be written under adversity, we can also become stronger from that which does not kill us.  Our Hooks give our lives meaning if we can find them.

 


Leave a comment

Hidden Figures and Pussyhats

The new film Hidden Figures tells the story of three black women (among many) who helped to save the American Space Program.  In segregated Virginia, these women battled both racism and misogyny, deftly fended off micro- and macro-aggressions against both race and sex, and figured out the very mathematics necessary to launch Americans into orbit and bring them back safely.  Ultimately, their work helped to win the Cold War.

Source: Educationworld.com

Their stories have been largely untold until now.  Their lives were mostly unknown by the general population.  Sadly, despite their incalculable service to their country, despite the fact that they fought against all odds and proved their value and their capabilities, the same fights are still being waged.  Racism is alive and well; misogyny is on its way to taking power in the White House.

After the movie, I happened to overhear two people discussing what they had just seen.  “They didn’t complain,” said one person.  “They just accepted things for the way they were and worked harder.”  These two moviegoers went on to praise the three main characters in the film, not for their genius or their bravery, but for being quiet and meek about the injustices they were forced to overcome.  It was, in their minds, good for these three black female heroes to remain hidden.

Someone clearly missed the point.

As a Pagan, I’m proud to be part of a religious community that is on the forefront of the fight for equality.  We aren’t perfect.  Racism and sexism and other injustices still crop up, but large numbers of our community believe in and actively fight for the equality of all people.  To the general public, we are often hidden.  They want us, and others who believe in equality, to remain that way.

No.

With an administration that has openly insulted women and advocated racist and xenophobic policies, those who believe in equality can’t afford to remain hidden.  What is hidden needs to be revealed, and it needs to claim its power.

One way women are doing that is through the Pussyhat Project.  Inspired by President-Elect Trump’s now infamous claim that he can “grab” women “by the pussy,” knitters have created a hat design to bring their support for equality out of the shadows.  They are taking a term usually used pejoratively and taking back its power.  Many plan to wear the knit hats as they protest the inauguration in Washington D.C. and across the country.  It’s a simple, but visible sign of protest.  It’s a method of claiming power and refusing to stay hidden.

Source: thestranger.com

Contrary to the views of the ladies I overheard, remaining hidden does not help.  The three women who sent America into space may well have succeeded in changing the culture of NASA, but it took a larger and more visible fight to make progress against legal segregation.  There’s a larger, cultural reason that Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were unknown before this movie.  The contributions of both women and African-Americans is largely absent from standard history books.  That leads to ignorance about their contributions.  Ignorance leads to hatred and fear.

The only remedy for ignorance is exposure and education.  I’ll be wearing a pussyhat proudly and I look forward to helping my black and female friends shine a light on their contributions to society.

 

 

 


2 Comments

Top 10 Pagan Quotes of 2016

2016 was a difficult year in Pagan quotes.  It has been a year of radical change.  It included painful losses of beloved musicians and actors.  It has seen the international stage struggle with surprising and potentially world-changing transformations in the status quo. Marginalized communities feel threatened and unsure of the future.

 

In the midst of mainstream lurches in the norm, the Pagan community was embroiled in political and theological arguments even as we were grasping for answers to the larger questions in world’s sudden changes.   As I prepared this annual list, I realized just how much the Pagan microcosm was reflected in the international macrocosm.

me-2016

And yet, through darkness comes light.  Our bodies heal when we sleep, and we learn valuable lessons from life’s difficult moments.  This year’s top 10 quotes embody the many struggles the Pagan community has been through, both internally and externally.  As usual, these quotes must have been said or written by a Pagan (large umbrella).  They are based purely on my reading and my tastes, so I undoubtedly missed something you loved.  Please feel free to continue the discussion by adding your favorite quotes to the comments.

 

Alright Witches and Pagans, here are my votes for the Top 10 Pagan quotes of 2016.  We’ll begin with a quote from January that, looking back, seems quite prophetic:

* * *

10. “You may not know how to embrace change, but I am here to show you the way. Let me introduce you to my Lord, Loki.”

Heather Freysdottir, January 11

 

9. “If we hope to create societies without domination, violence, and war, then we must transform the distorted images of masculinity and femininity that have been developed in patriarchy. We must insist that domination, violence, and war are no more part of masculinity or male nature than passivity and lack of consciousness are part of femininity or female nature. It may feel good to speak of reuniting the masculine and the feminine, but feeling good will not help us to transform cultures built on domination, violence, and war.”

Carol P. Christ, January 25

8. “But self-reliance is a myth. We are all co-dependent upon everything else on this planet. We do not exist in a vacuum. We need others in order to exist, let alone thrive. We are not separate. Without the innumerable other factors in our lives, beings seen and unseen, we simply could not be. I think that this is why I believe in the gods.”

Joana van der Hoeven, November 14

 

7. “I find Power in the things Christians shout at me–damn straight, I am Lucifer’s f*ggot spawn!”

-Pat Mosley, May 12

 

6. “You know who a lot of those newbs were? Young women. You ever notice how we make fun of anything young women like?

“The internet is full of people bitching about what is and isn’t real witchcraft. Jesus, just look at Patheos’s pagan section and be bored to tears after the tenth article on the subject. That hasn’t changed since the dawn of the internet, and it never will. The only thing that changes is the target everyone is trying to tear down. Pastel Instagram-worthy witchcraft is a fucking easy target because it looks shallow as hell.”

-Mama Fortuna, May 29

 

5. “We don’t run away from the monsters.  We make the monsters run away from us.”

-Greywolf Moonsong, December 21

 

4. “Seriously? When did Witchcraft become a pissing contest?”

-Jason Mankey, April 7

 

 3. “Power comes from all kinds of places, even the places you think are trivial.  Remember that when your sisters that you were so eager to step on as you were coming up get strong enough to come for you.”

-Deborah Castellano, June 1

 

2. “We are most happy to report that none of our clergy subscribe to your views on mixed race or gay marriage, and so we cannot assist you in your upcoming visit to Ireland. Fuck Off. Yours very sincerely, Everyone at the Pagan Federation of Ireland.”

-Everyone at Pagan Federation of Ireland, April 24

Source: theoutmost.com

Source: theoutmost.com

 

1. “In drawing on the momentum of emotions and saying what he pleases, with no apology, Trump has trumped American politics.”

-Taylor Ellwood, March 3

 


Leave a comment

Virtues of the Goddess: Mercy

In October 2014, a podcast called Serial was released.  Hosted by NPR’s Sarah Koenig, Serial tells “one story, week by week.”  That first season told the compelling story of Adnan Sayed, who was convicted during his senior year of high school for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 1999, but who has long maintained his innocence.  The use of Sayed’s voice, intriguing plot points, and the brilliant weaving together of all the aspects of storytelling made Serial an instant smash hit.  It was the first podcast to reach 5 million downloads.  Serial was an overnight cultural phenomenon.

 

Which is strange.  Here was a show that, while officially objective, was sympathetic to a convicted murderer.  Here was that murderer’s own voice, not a secondhand caricature of him.  The gripping story and questionable evidence helped spawned multiple spin-off podcasts, all of which examined the details of the trial and advocated for the overturning of Sayed’s conviction.

Source: Flikr, labeled for reuse

Source: Flikr, labeled for reuse

Somehow, by painting the picture of a real man suffering for a crime he may not have committed, Serial turned “tough on crime” America into a merciful nation of podcast listeners passionate about righting an injustice.  Not only that, but Sayed is Muslim, and much of America was being kind and merciful to him, and that’s not something often seen in the media.  We have that that quality in us, somewhere.

 

As the Fall Equinox approaches and we look into the time of darkness, it can be important to remember that many people’s darkness is deeper than our own.  While many of us watch the sunlight slip away as we sink into winter’s coldness, others don’t have homes in which they can take shelter from that cold.  Others, like Sayed, who may very well be innocent, don’t even have the freedom to leave the walls that surround them.   To me, the way we treat those people, people over whom we have much power, is the essence of the virtue of mercy.  And who has less power than prisoners?

 

Helping prisoners is hard to swallow for some.  Despite the reaction to Serial, many in America still have a “throw away the key” attitude toward the incarcerated.  There’s still an attitude that prison should be for punishment, not rehabilitation.  There is still a clear lack of mercy toward prisoners.

 

Leslie Hugo, the Lead Capricorn Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft, would disagree.  She has been doing prison ministry, mercifully reaching out to the least powerful people in her home state of Utah, for almost three years.  She explains that, “Most of the over 200 inmates I work with are under 30. They made mistakes when they were young, usually still teenagers, involving drugs or gang related activities. At this point, they want out of the lifestyle they had been involved in. Many have expressed their dreams and desires to get out of prison, get married, find a good job and raise a family.”

Leslie Hugo [Courtesy Photo]

Leslie Hugo [Courtesy Photo]

Counterintuitively, mercy toward the incarcerated may actually help society in the end.  Once someone has experienced prison, they usually don’t want to go back, yet recidivism rates are high.  One possible explanation for that is the lack of monetary, spiritual, and physical resources for released prisoners to make a life for themselves. By helping to provide them these things- spiritual training, job training, education- we help ourselves.

 

Hugo emphasizes that, “more than 80% of these inmates will be released, and they will be living and working in a community side by side with us.”  With that in mind, it makes little sense to take all spiritual and societal resources away from them.  “It is in everybody’s best interest that these individuals have a strong spiritual path that can help and give them support when they are released,” she said.

 

 

Thanks in large part to Serial and the effort of its listeners, Adnan Sayed’s conviction has been overturned.  He will get his day in court again, and it all came about because millions of people took mercy on this one unlikely person.  Others, both behind bars and on the outside, don’t have that same opportunity.  Homeless people suffer in America every day.  A racial divide still eats away at our country.  There are opportunities for mercy all around us.

 

If you think about it, human beings are the only animal that truly demonstrates mercy.  It’s not easy for us to do.  It’s often not our natural reaction, but we are capable of it. That puts us in a unique place.  Think of what society could be like if it were structured around mercy for those who struggle rather than turning a blind eye.  We are special.  Mercy does exist within us.   It can make the world a better place, but only if we all find it within us.  If we can’t, we will never find it outside us.

 

Virtues of the Goddess is a series on the eight virtues mentioned in the Charge of the Goddess and their relationship to the sabbats of the Wheel of the Year.  This is Part 7: Mercy.


1 Comment

Pokemon, Privilege, and Pagans

Two trends rolled over the Internet last week.  One involved people striking out into their world to capture things that no one else could see and displaying them to a disbelieving world.  The other was Pokemon Go.

 

At the same time that the wildly popular Pokemon app was inspiring children of all ages to brave the world outside the confines of their homes, a real struggle was gripping the country as the Black Lives Matter movement was handed two more obvious examples of why their movement must continue to have a voice.

 

Two more examples of the normally unseen were blasted across the web, and these two horrible incidents made the issue even harder to ignore.  Their names were Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  They forced anyone with a modicum of paying attention to acknowledge that, yes, there really is something going on beneath our very noses, and it’s not the presence of a Rattata.  It’s a very real and very insidious privilege that is burning away at society.  It may be harder to see than a Pikachu lurking in your closet, but it is much more dangerous and a lot harder to capture.

 

The Pokemon Go app advises its players to be “constantly aware of your surroundings.”  That’s good advice, but not just in the game.  Here IRL, we also need to be actually aware of what is going on around us.  When the black community takes to the streets to protest the killing of yet another innocent young man, it’s not the whining of “thug.”  They are not claiming that only their lives matter.  They’re not asking for special treatment.  They are crying with their whole souls: “Look at what is happening to us!  Please acknowledge the value of our lives!”  They are begging those of us outside the community to see what is occurring right before our eyes.  If we can do it to capture a venemoth, surely we can do it to facilitate the survival of our fellow human beings.

 

Those of us in the Pagan community tend to believe in the reality of that which is unseen.  That should apply beyond believing in the Otherworld and extend out to a different reality experienced by our brothers and sisters of color.  It may be difficult for us to see personally if we are not people of color, but we have enough evidence, littered on the streets in the forms of a slew of dead black bodies, to know it is real.

 

One of the hallmarks of Paganism is the belief that all in this life is sacred.  We don’t believe in a fallen and sinful material world.  We believe that this life, and all that is in it, is sacred.  It’s time to actually live up to that belief and to honor and support the innocent, sacred black lives that are lost every day.  To honor black lives is not to dishonor any other life.  Rather, it is to acknowledge that those lives are just as sacred as any other life and should be treated with as much respect and reverence.  When they are suffering, we support and help them.  Those of us who are not of color may not fully see and understand their experiences, but our sight is limited.  As Pagans, we know that no single perspective is correct, so if we open our minds we may be able to capture all sorts of monsters that we had never seen before.