Intersections

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


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Virtues of the Goddess: Reverence

As the calendar moves through October, our local theater options tend to turn toward plays with darker themes.  Early in the month, I was privileged to see two beautifully realized musicals that turn a shaded eye onto humanity’s condition.  The first was Sweeney Todd, the classic tale of the murderous barber of Fleet Street.  The other was a surprise: a powerful stage musical adaptation of Disney’s animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame (itself adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel).  

Both of these musical feature pious, powerful men who become villains in their thirst for even more power and control over a woman who is unlucky enough to catch their fancy.  In both cases, these men result to a scorched Earth policy to force themselves upon the women they lust after, all the while maintaining an air of haughty propriety – a sense that everyone should be like them, and those who are not are unfit to live.  And yet, each show features an intense musical number where the pious villain breaks down in his weakness, turns to mush, then commits to his vile course of exploitation and murder.

Sweeney’s Judge Turpin whips himself in shame, then sexually advances on his adopted daughter.  This, of course, years after he acquired that daughter by raping her mother and falsely sending the girl’s father away to prison for life.

Hunchback’s Frollo, a Catholic priest, prays to his God, begs for help, then strikes out to burn Esmeralda at the stake if she refuses to submit to his sexual desires.  

Both excuse their actions through prayer, begging their god for mercy while offering none to the women who deny them.  Both use their positions of power and prestige as a sword to the throat of the innocent.  Both are objects of reverence in their own community who aren’t worth the ground their victims spit on.  

At the end of Hunchback we are give a powerful riddle to solve:

What makes a monster,

And what makes a man?

What Makes a monster? Wikimedia

What Makes a monster? Wikimedia

 

What makes a monster? Source: Playbill.com

What makes a monster? Source: Playbill.com

 

At the darkness of Samhain approaches, it came to me that the answer is the final virtue in this series: Reverence.  You can tell a “man” (to be inclusive, a person) by whom and what they revere.  In this case, actions speak louder than words.  Both villains make a show of revering their Catholic God, but in truth they revere power over others, control, abuse, and manipulation.  Without getting political, I think we can find a lot of people in our modern society like that.  These are the monsters.

Yet, there are others, people from all faith traditions and those who claim no faith, who revere the ideas and morals than make them “a man,” and their actions also reveal their loyalties.  Do they stand up for love?  Equality?  Fairness?  Do they live that every day?  Do they speak out for these things?  Do they truly live up to the moral code they espouse?  All of these can be done regardless of religious practice.  And if you truly revere these qualities, you live them.

And What Makes a Man? eddieonfilm.blogspot.com

And What Makes a Man?/ Source: eddieonfilm.blogspot.com

 

We get tested when things get dark in our lives.  As we approach Samhain, the time of darkness, we face toward our ancestors and we know that they know our true selves.  We come face to face with our death, and we know that what we revered in life will follow us in the memories of those who live after us, those who will call us ancestors.

What do you revere?  Would you rather be a “monster” or a “man”?

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 the final installment – Part 8: Reverence.


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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.


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Virtues of the Goddess: Strength

Strength may be the most misunderstood of the Goddess’ virtues.  She advises us to be strong, but the tricky part is what exactly is strength, and how can it be used appropriately instead of abusively?

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is by pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

-Booker T. Washington

 When animals are attacked, they often react with a show of strength.  Dogs growl and bear their teeth.   Cats arch their backs and hiss.  Humans brandish weapons, puff out their chests, and lash out at others in all caps over social media.  It’s natural.  It’s automatic.  And it’s usually false.

dont_know_whats_comin_3926784260

Photo Credit: Prevetz Partensky, “Don’t Know What’s Comin'” [Source: Wikipedia]

These are instinctual reactions usually meant to scare away a threat by showing it how big and tough they are, but the point is to scare the intruder away by pretending to be strong.  If an actual fight ensues, the big scary animal often backs down.  These are natural reactions to threat – meaning that the bear on all fours or the hissing cat are actually feeling frightened, not strong.  In an attempt to avoid a fight, they make themselves look scary and aggressive, when really they are feeling insecure.

Humans do it too.  How often have you seen an argument devolve into a personal insult match, either in person or online?  It’s the same thing: a person feels threatened so they lash back with belittling ad hominems or long strings of paragraph-free text filled with ALL CAPS instead of defending their position.  It’s not real strength; it’s insecurity. And it’s the sign that your argument is weak.  It’s the opposite of strength.

 

size-of-a-blowfish

Blowfish [Source: Yahoo Images]

To put it in a more practical light, imagine a teenager coming home late from a big party.  Instead of listening to her child’s side, the mother leads by confronting her/him at the door and accusing the teen of all kinds of offenses (shades of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” are ringing in my head. If you know the song, you get it).  Her daughter isn’t going to back down.  She’s threatened, so she launches right into her own argument, and things escalate from there.  It’s the easy, natural road to take, but the escalation leads only to a painful outcome.

Instead, what if mom listened to her daughter?  That doesn’t mean let her get away with it.  It means to lead from the heart with how concerned she was, and the two move toward a discussion of the offense.  Punishment still happens, but it’s a measured punishment that fits the crime, coming from a strong position rather than the excesses of anger, and the child fully understands what is behind it.  In psychology, this is called an Authoritative style of parenting.  It has been shown to be the most difficult, yet most effective method.

 

“It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate,

It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”

-The Smiths

Strength is doing what is right, despite your fears of the outcome.  It’s doing the right thing, even when it is hard.  In the Wheel of the Year, Lammas is the time where the God is seen as sacrificing himself for the good of the community.  Acting with strength often takes some form of self-sacrifice:

 When we listen to opposing arguments without attacking the opposition personally, and we take the time to deliver a measured response.

When we ignore trolls.

 When we apologize for something we did wrong and accept the consequences.

 When we calmly and reasonably stand up to someone who has wronged us.

 When we see injustice on the internet and do our research before unleashing our inner hissing cat.

The list could go on and on.  These all take some form of sacrifice, and in each our natural reaction is to puff up like a frightened blowfish.  Doing what is right is difficult, especially when you are being asked to act against your own self-interest. One of the things that make humans special is our ability to overcome our instinctual fight-or-flight response, and it is in exercising this ability that we show our greatest strength.

 

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 6: Strength.

 


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Virtues of the Goddess: Power

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 5: Power.

 

Early in college, I took political science from a strange professor.  He was large and blustery, with a beet red face and an intense stare.  Although he identified as a Libertarian, he would often quote Adolf Hitler to us in German, then take pains to shame us for not understanding the subtle differences between the Fuhrer’s native tongue and the English translations of his speeches.  

As part of that class, we read A Parliament of Whores, an irreverent take on the U.S. government by Rolling Stone humorist P.J. O’Rourke.  O’Rourke’s political views differ from mine, but his book was funny, light, and mostly enjoyable. One particular section, however, still sticks with me.  While contemplating the nature of power and the type of person who seeks to hold political power, O’Rourke wrote:

“Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history, mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power.”

Parliament of whores o'rourke

To a young college student, not yet of drinking age, right at the height of the dramatic Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush election, this passage hit me hard.  “But,” protested the young idealist in me who kind of liked that cool Democrat who wore sunglasses and played saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show, “some politicians really want to help people!”  O’Rourke had an answer for that too:

“Politicians are interested in people. Not that it is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs.”

Is it any different now?  Look at this year’s downright frightening presidential race, and you almost prove O’Rourke’s points.  Both sides of the political spectrum have included a battle between candidates who swim in political power vs. candidates who tap into large groups who feel disaffected and alienated by existing power structure.  There is a large element on both sides that sees establishment power as the scum and the fleas that O’Rourke called them so many years ago.  Certainly, they all claim to be fighting for the people, but you have to wonder if their interest in the people is sincere or whether, as O’Rourke believed, they are simply looking to siphon a little blood off their hosts.

So how can power be a virtue, as the Goddess tells us it is?  We all have some relationship with power.  On the various stages on which we act throughout our lives, some have power over us, and on other stages we have power over others.  At work we have bosses and subordinates.  In school we have teachers and peers.  The police officer who pulls us over may have temporary power over us, but once she’s off duty, our powers are equal.  In social groups, covens, groves, or other voluntary groups, we often voluntarily recognize a leader.  Power is a part of our lives.

The problem is more about who seeks it and how they express it.  As we near the Summer Solstice, we come to the time of the Wheel when The God’s power is at its strongest.  He is sovereign at this time, but he uses that power to be a steward of the Earth.  Solstice rituals often involve a theme of standing in our own sovereignty.  Yet, with the God as well is in our lives, the king must be in harmony with the land he rules as well as its people, or his power will fade.  Just ask King Arthur.

The God’s sovereignty becomes a symbol of our own control over our lives.  His example helps us take charge of our own intentions, hopes, and dreams.  With his reminder, we are able to “manifest our change according to our Will.”  We can’t be true magicians unless we stand in our own power, in harmony with our gods and our lives, and the Green Man at the Solstice helps us do that.

It sometimes becomes fashionable in religious communities to deny your own power, to “give it up to God,” or “trust the universe.” Pagans don’t have to do that.  On the contrary, for Witches, “To Will” is one of the four base points of the Witch’s pyramid.  We don’t give up power over our lives to others; we strive to control our lives and manifest our intentions.  You can’t do that without accepting your own power. We can acknowledge our power to work with the universe or the gods and manifest the lives we wish for ourselves and our loved ones.  We can help others do the same.  

Witch's Pyramid

We can hold power without being fleas.  We can use our power to help others find theirs.  We can focus our power in ways that help us live better lives.  Power is dangerous, but so is electricity.  It can still benefit our lives,and the lives of others, immensely.


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Virtues of the Goddess: Mirth

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 4: Mirth.

Mirth seems to explode around us as we approach the season of Beltane.  Nature seems to be slipping on her best dress and looking for a good time.  The flowers burst open with their colorful and aromatic call to be pollinated, and here in southern California, the eye-popping purple blooms of the normally unremarkable jacaranda tree light up our sunny days.  The birds sing beautiful songs and flutter about in elaborate dances to win a chance for love.  Thrilled with the longer, warmer days, humanity also begins to migrate from indoors to outdoors as we wear more revealing clothing or head to the gym in our quest for that perfect summer beach body.  After all that darkness, we’re all looking for a little fun right now.

mirth jacaranda

Jacaranda tree in full bloom

Jacaranda Mirth

The annual SoCal spectacle of Jacaranda.

The virtue of Mirth is unique.  The other virtues advised by the Charge of the Goddess can be claimed in some form by most mainstream religions.  That’s trickier to do with Mirth.  Mirth is a traditionally secular value that is somewhat opposed to most religions.  In some religious circles, the Mirth appears to celebrate THIS life and to turn attention away from the divine.  The Puritans even outlawed Christmas because people were having way too much fun.

 

But that really shouldn’t be the case.  For Pagans, especially those who identify as Wiccans or Witches, our bodies, this life, and the Earth are sacred.  In the tradition of “Remember thou art Goddess,” this physical world and this current life are expressions of the divine, so why not have just as much fun as the gods do?  Why not celebrate them?  As far as I’m concerned, that should apply to all faiths.  I’m not here to tell other religions what to do, but it seems to me that if your God created you as well as sex, dancing, wine, and other sources of fun, then it’s probably alright if you utilize His creation.

 

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

– Benjamin Franklin

 

I recently ran across a new style of mead called “Mirth in a Bottle.”  We, of course, enjoyed it with our Beltane ritual.  I could go over the tasting notes, but that’s not the point.  I love the idea of this mead because I believe there’s a greater truth to that name.   In everyday life, it’s all too tempting to avoid mirth.  To keep it bottled up.  Our jobs are stressful, our obligations close in on us, our lives are busy.  As a society, we often put our own needs – especially our own fun – last on the list.  That means it never gets done.  We often keep our mirth tightly corked.

Mirth Beltane Mead

It’s a shame.  Whether we have one life or many, we still have a limited time to enjoy the wonderful sensations and experiences only available to spirits in bodies.  On the cosmic scale, our chance to enjoy the wonders of physical incarnation, from laughter at silly pun to the ecstasy of amazing sex, is limited.  And yet, we squander that time doing work we often don’t like and performing the joyless chores that we place as a higher priority to the enjoyment of life.  We feel guilty when we take some down time for ourselves. We’re bottled up.

 

Have you seen that commercial that begins with the words, “When did leaving work on time become an act of courage?”  That ad expresses an unfortunate truth about our society.  We don’t allow ourselves enough mirth.  We bottle it up for the sake of the next promotion, peer pressure, or some other excuse. To me, that means we don’t value our lives enough to enjoy them.

 

Mirth is an expression of gratitude to whatever gods you believe it.  It is enjoyment of the gift the universe has given you.  To ignore it is to waste that precious gift and thumb your nose the gods, God, the Universe, or whoever you believe gave it to you.  In this way, mirth may be the highest and most spiritual virtue I can think of.  So dance, sing, feast, make music, and love.  For the sake of the gods, open up a bottle of mirth any time you can!

 

 

 

 


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Virtues of the Goddess: Honor

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 3: Honor.

Last Sunday, I was treated to a special screening of the classic Mel Brooks satirical comedy Blazing Saddles.  The screening, which included a discussion with Brooks himself afterward, packed our gigantic Segerstrom Center with rabid fans of the comic genius writer-director-actor-singer-composer-producer.  The crowd spanned across all ages.  My dad, in his 70s, sat next to me.  The lady next to him looked to be not quite of drinking age, and she enthusiastically sang along the opening theme song as she zealously cracked her imaginary whip at all the right moments of the introductory number.

 

(Fun Fact that I learned at the screening: The singer of the theme song, Frankie Laine, had no idea the movie was a comedy, so the heartfelt passion in his voice is genuine)

I was worried about how this showing would turn out.  My father is an avid Mel Brooks fan, so I grew up watching this movie and knew almost every line, but I hadn’t seen it in probably 20 years.  Released in 1974, Blazing Saddles is a Western spoof that intentionally and constantly pushes racial conflict directly into your face.  The N word is tossed around as casually as a softball on a lazy spring day.  It’s not pretty.

Other racist epithets abound.  The language is often shocking to today’s ear, but it was partly written by the legendary Richard Pryor.  There is no limit on who gets insulted, but the central story is of Bart, played by the classically trained actor Cleavon Little.  Bart is a black railroad worker who gets appointed by corrupt white politicians to the post of Sheriff of Rock Ridge, a town that sits on prized railroad land.  Knowing that the racist locals will tear the lawman apart, they joyously sacrifice him to the white masses hoping to induce chaos and steal the land.

Little

Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart

Could this play in our current political atmosphere?  It wasn’t very long before I realized that yes, it could.  The satire is plain – those who throw around epithets are portrayed as ignorant savages.  The racists are the bad guys.  They all are dishonorable. Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid character calmly explain exactly what they are: “morons.”  

Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles

Gene Wilder as The Waco Kid

 

This is not one of the Blacksploitation movies that were popular in the 1970s.  Bart is a fully fleshed out character, the least caricatured role in the film.  Bart is always portrayed as honorable.  He and the Waco Kid slowly plant the seeds of honor in the town of Rock Ridge, and those seeds bloom as Sheriff Bart begins to live up to the words film’s theme song:

“He conquered fear and he conquered hate,

He turned dark night into day!”

What makes Bart honorable?  He does what is right.  He lives up to his duty.  It’s not popular, and he risks his own life to do it, but he seeks the right course of action despite odds that are overwhelmingly against him.  He does the right thing, even for people who despise him.  Little by little, he wins the town over by planting seeds of honor.  Those seeds take root, and the citizens of Rock Ridge grow into their own form of honor.  They grow to love Bart.  They learn to honor Bart as a man who does his duty.  They eventually trust him with the ultimate fight against the bad guys, and he inspires them to stand up and defend their homes with honor.

Here at the Spring Equinox, we often contemplate the seeds we are planting.  What are we doing now that will blossom into a fruitful harvest in our lives come fall?  This year is especially important.  With seeds of anger and dishonor being cast far and wide across America, how are we contributing to a more just and honorable country?  t’s a time of contrasts.  We celebrate the returning of the light, yet we remember that we learn about ourselves in the darkness.  

Blazing Saddles is a film that unabashedly points out the dark parts of America’s soul, helping us learn about ourselves (even if it does include a scene celebrating the art of flatulence).  The movie takes racism head on and reduces it to absurdity.  It presents a vision where acting with honor, despite the dangers to yourself, can germinate real change.

I only wish we had learned that lesson back in 1974.  Still, as we rise out of the dark time, yet see so much darkness in the landscape ahead of us, may we plant our seeds of honor and do our part to “turn dark night into day.”


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Virtues of the Goddess: Beauty

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 2: Beauty.

I’ve never seen a purple crocus shyly peeking its fragile bud through virgin snow.  Where I live, he have colorful roses into January and the citrus trees are heavily laden with fruit, coloring our land in shades of lemon yellow, lime green, and orange, well, orange.  Fresh snow will never make it onto my altar.  The winter, with its sabbat of Imbolc, is a hard season to attune to here in California.

Yet, as a native southern Californian and a Witch, I can feel it in the land.  It’s subtle, and most people from other parts of the country would never notice it, but there are little signs of winter even here in the LA Basin.  The deciduous trees have finally all lost their green.  They stand dry and impassive.  The darkness arrives early.  Not as early as it did last month, but without the beautiful light displays decorating the neighborhoods, it feels even darker than before the solstice.

There are signs, if you know where to look.  While this is the time when colder parts of the country long for a return to warmth, we long for the return of the trees, the roses, our famous swallows, and the bees.  Our drought-stricken land seems wasted and dead just as those in the east are digging themselves from under a mountain of blizzard-induced snow.  The beauty of life is hibernating all around, but is seems far away.  We all yearn for that crocus or tulip, that drop of rain, that something that tells us there will be beauty again.

It’s not just in the land.  It’s in our culture as well.  One look at anything in the news these days is enough to make the whole world seem pretty ugly and drought-stricken.  Our politics are ugly, to the point where xenophobia and mindless insults carry the day with large swaths of voters.  Every day we hear of another terrorist shooting or innocent black child murdered.   Violence and fear seem to surround us, closing in like a Death Star trash compactor.

But, just like this Imbolc season is subtle in California, there is beauty if you know where to look.  So many of us were left bereft at some point this month as wonderful artists seem to have passed from this earth in droves.  David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, the list goes on.  Their passing left the world poorer, but their work left it richer.  Beautiful reactions from fans expressed how each of these artists had touched their lives began to circulate around social media almost immediately after each passing.

bowie

I was never really a Bowie or Eagles fan.  Yet, the tributes posted by fans were incredibly touching.  They help us remember just how deeply the beauty one artist makes can touch the hearts of others and how each of us finds beauty in something different.  I don’t need to know an ounce of Bowie’s music or a single word to “Hotel California” to appreciate how much these musicians meant to the fans who loved them.

Rickman is a different story.  I had been watching his career since Die Hard.  I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.  I wrote my master’s thesis on Harry Potter.  With Rickman’s crossing, I felt what Bowie fans must have felt.  I felt the shock and pain of loss, but I also better appreciated the beauty he left in my life and in the lives of his many fans.

Always

In the midst of anti-Muslim fervor last month, Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the evangelical Wheaton College, began wearing hijab in solidarity with those who follow Islam.  She stood up for them, stating on social media that both Christians and Muslims worship the same god.  This got her suspended.

image-adapt-480-low-hawkins_hijab_121715

Right in the middle of what has been a nadir of relations between Muslims and non-Muslim Americans, Hawkins took a stand on the side of love – and paid the price. There’s beauty there.  Many students and religious leaders came out to support her.  More beauty.  Sometimes it takes the worst to highlight the best.

There are other examples of Muslims protecting Christians from harm and vice-versa.  Groups of bikers ride out en masse to protect funerals from the venomous hatred of the Westboro Baptist Church.   I’m not saying we should ignore our very real problems an look only at the pretty and shiny things, just that beauty inspires us to go on in a world that seems full of its opposite.  These acts of courage are beautiful.  Art is beautiful.  Tribute to the fallen is beautiful.

The world really does seem horrendous sometimes.  Especially lately.  Yet, underneath the snow (from what I understand) there are beautiful flowers waiting to break through the ice.  Here in California, small green buds will appear on the trees within a month.  Light creates shadow, and beauty can stand out against the blanket of nastiness that seems to cover our world.   It can be hard to find, but it is still there if you know where to look.

Other posts in this series:

Compassion