Sunday, February 27, 2022

Taking a week off.

 As I mentioned last week, I'm out gallivanting today - so no new blog post from me. See you next week!


These moments of bloggy gallivanting have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

My Pagan path in an elevator pitch.

Maroon Bells | Lynne Cantwell 2017

I got name-checked on the Patheos blog of a Druid priest this week.

I've mentioned John Beckett here before. I've occasionally used one or another of his posts as a springboard for a blog post of my own. I've also taken some of the online classes he has offered; I'm not a Druid, but his classes are all ecumenical, if I may repurpose the term to mean practices and beliefs that are common to all varieties of Pagans. I did my best to enumerate the types of Pagans in a blog post a few years ago. 

But I still get questions about what Paganism is. A lot of them come from folks who have quit one or another Christian sect (I seem to have collected a number of ex-Mormon friends) and made a 180-degree turn into atheism. As if there are only the two choices: believe in Jehovah or believe in nothing.

So I asked John how to talk to these friends about Paganism -- keeping in mind that Pagans don't proselytize (no, really -- we don't). His answer is in the post that I linked to up top.

He calls these types of folks "religiously ignorant." I think that's a little harsh -- I'd go for "religiously uninformed" -- but his blog isn't mine. Regardless, the point is that because of the ubiquity of Christianity in the West, for the vast majority of folks, that's their only religious reference. So, as he says, first people want to know what you believe, and second, they want to know what your holy book is. Alert hearth/myth readers will see the problem immediately: Paganism has no holy book and no single set of beliefs. 

The next thing they often want to know is what you have to do to keep from going to Hell. When you say Pagans don't have a Hell, it doesn't compute. Pagans strive to live morally, of course, but not because of some heavenly reward awaiting us. The reward is here, in this life.

I encourage you to read John's post for his overview. If you're looking for more in-depth info, I could recommend a book or two. But if you want to know what I believe? Well, I guess I'd better write an elevator pitch for you. Here goes:

I believe there are a whole lot of gods. I've spoken in meditation with several of them, and I am confident that they are separate persons -- neither facets of a single overarching deity nor figments of my imagination. I have relationships with a few gods, and if you've read any of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, their names may be familiar to you: Lugh, who can do anything; Brighid, blacksmith, healer, and poet; Morrigan, both a warrior and the personification of the land; and Mokosh, the Slavs' Mother Earth, who spins the thread of life.  

I believe in animism: that not just humans, but everything on this planet, is a person who deserves respect. I believe that none of these persons is more special than the other -- which is to say that humanity has no special, elevated place on this earth. Our job is to learn to coexist, not just with each other but also with animals, with plants, with the air and the water, and yes, even with the rocks. 

I believe that magic is a thing, and that it works. I've seen it work.

I believe that to believe in Hell is to live in fear. I look forward to going to the Summerlands when I die, and I know I don't have to believe a specific thing or live in a particular way to get there -- the Summerlands are open to all.

I'm happy with this path. It feels right to me. It makes my life richer. It makes it make sense.

If you've chosen a different path and you're happy with it, that's awesome. I would suggest, though, that you ask yourself how you found your path. If it's simply a wholesale rejection of the path you grew up following, then consider whether your former path is still controlling you. If that's your jam, then great. If not -- well. Maybe shop around for one that has no relation at all to the one you rejected.


The legislative session ended at noon on Thursday -- right on time. I've been cocooning since then (other than a trip to the grocery store), readjusting to being retired, and I'm just about ready to rejoin the world. 

So I'm taking a break from the blog next week. See you back here in two weeks. Might have some new  pictures for you then.


These moments of bloggy pathfinding have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Don't try to encourage me -- just give me the candy.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day -- that day when retailers' seasonal aisles are awash in only-okay chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, and florists beg you to send someone a bouquet. (Talk about inflation: Have you ever priced a dozen roses during Valentine's season?)

Not everybody's a fan of the holiday. I'm not. And this year, the people who make Sweethearts candy -- you know, those little conversation hearts that taste kind of like chalk -- are trying hard to include people like me. Or so they think.

The original candies say stuff like TRUE LOVE and BE MINE. A few years ago, the manufacturer tried to be more appealing to the kids by adding sayings like TEXT ME. You'd think nothing would be more pathetic than a stodgy old candymaker trying to catch the zeitgeist of the youth market, wouldn't you? 

You might think so, but you would be wrong. You would be oh so very wrong.

This year, according to the Washington Post, Spangler Candy has decided to add another bunch of sayings. They're calling them "words of encouragement": things like DON'T QUIT and GO 4 IT and CRUSH IT. (There's a short video here that shows the new messages.)

I think I speak for the vast majority of Americans when I say: Spangler, could you not?

Christine Emba, who wrote the WaPo op-ed piece I linked to above, calls this toxic positivity. I think she nailed it. Here we are, on the cusp of year three of a global pandemic. We've been working from home or risking our lives at an in-person job or being laid off, coping with kids' fluctuating school schedules, and simultaneously fielding endless arguments over whether the vaccines are safe and effective (THEY ARE) or whether masks work (THEY DO). We're tiredI'm tired, and I'm retired*. And you want me to CRUSH IT?

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat in meditation, I heard someone ask me, "What do you want to do this year?" But in my mind's eye, I saw a big tree beside a meandering creek, and all I wanted to do was sit under that tree, close my eyes, and not move for a while. I might get bored pretty fast, I thought, but I'll take that chance.

The Sweethearts manufacturer says the idea is to give these new hearts to the "difference-makers" in our lives -- the people who have helped us become the best that we can be. Great idea! I'll get right on that. But first, that tree beside the creek is beckoning.


About that asterisk next to "retired": The New Mexico state legislature has begun the final week of this year's regular session, and I'll be working up until the end. We're at the point when things get really crazy; for example, the House of Representatives' Friday night session ended at six o'clock Saturday morning. I'm on day shift so I didn't have to pull an all-nighter, but day shift's hours did get extended this weekend so the night shift could get some sleep. 

I'm really looking forward to the hard stop at noon on Thursday.

Gee, maybe that's why napping under that tree seems so appealing right now...


These moments of encouraging blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Here's my Valentine's Day message to you: GET VAXXED!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Jonesing for a better future.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the last one to know everything.

All these years, I've believed that I was a Baby Boomer. I was born in 1957, which is comfortably inside the traditional span of Boomer birth years -- 1946 to 1964. But I always knew that the world I grew up in was different from the one my brother, who is ten years my senior, grew up in. The kids in his high school graduating class worried about being sent to Vietnam; by the time I was in high school, not only was the Vietnam War over, but the draft was, too. Young people his age went to San Francisco with flowers in their hair (although he never did); all that hippie stuff was over before I was old enough to drive.

But one of the biggest differences was economic. When my brother graduated from college, the economy was booming and there were jobs aplenty. By the time I got out of college, things weren't so rosy. Good-paying jobs were harder to find. I didn't understand at the time what caused the difference. Years later, though, I watched a documentary by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called Inequality for All that went a long way toward explaining it. You can see a bunch of the graphics from the film at this link. When I watched the movie, the thing that really got my attention was a graphic showing "The Great Prosperity" -- the post-WWII boom years between 1947 and 1977, when the economy was going gangbusters. After that, though -- starting in, oh, 1978 or '79 -- we got stuff like trickle-down economics and Reagan's breaking of the air-traffic controllers' union. Wage growth stalled and financial inequality grew. And grew.

Guess when I graduated from college? 1979.

It turns out there's a label for us late Boomers and early Gen Xers -- those of us who weren't old enough to be part of the Summer of Love and who came of age when regular folks started to get the shaft. For a while, I guess, we were termed the Lost Generation -- cheerful, right? But then in 1999, a researcher named Jonathan Pontell coined the term:

We're the people who grew up jonesing for the better lives we were promised -- the lives our parents and older siblings had.

Although the name has been around since the turn of the millennium, I'd never heard it until a few weeks ago. (I'm the last to know everything, remember?) The label has gained traction in certain circles -- for instance, some folks blamed Jonesers for John Kerry's loss to George W. Bush in 2004. But it's nowhere near universally known. Pontell's book must have sunk into oblivion -- I can't find it anywhere online, even a used copy -- although the author still has a website

I guess in a way we're still the Lost Generation.


By the way, Inequality for All is available to watch for free on YouTube at that link above. And if you're interested in this sort of thing, Reich is going to be presenting a free, on-demand lecture series called "Wealth and Poverty" on his Substack site. The class will run for eleven weeks; the first one will be available this coming Friday. I'm hoping to watch as many of the sessions as I can.


These moments of bloggy jonesing have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!