Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Industriousness

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

Industriousness is an interesting subject in the modern sense. We like to believe that, in most ways, we are more lazy and less productive than our forefathers had been, and that we should get back to the good ol' days of hard, honest work.

However, numbers do not lie. Thanks to the advantages of technology, we produce more than ever before with less physical effort.

And that seems to be the crux of it all. Less physical effort.

We used to have to move our bodies to do everything. We had simple machines to help with the task, but hand-sewing and machine sewing are two very different animals. There are even machines that knit for us!

The truth of the matter is, we didn't used to work all that hard, either. Historically, the Jewish literally didn't even cook on Saturdays, and the good Christians ate cold food on Sundays... after spending all day at church. Yeah, all day.

Have you ever read the poem about what day you do what chore? This was COMMON! For families with eight or nine kids! I have two kids and we have to run a load of laundry every day to keep up.

Why? Because we change our clothes every day. And bathe every day.

Historically, bathing was a once a week or once a month activity. You had maybe two or three outfits for everyday, and a good shirt or dress for your religion day.

Clothes were made sturdier, yes, but they also were worn every single day for a whole week, unless something majorly dirty or damaging happened to them. Women wore aprons because aprons are easier to wash and mend then dresses.

And fun was spending an entire day travelling a few miles away for a barn raising, potluck and dance. Three days spent just to socialize! And that kind of thing happened a lot.

The problem isn't that we are lazier. We just have more efficiency, but with the same idea of what it means to work hard. Industriousness needs a redefinition, and this is my suggestion for that.

Industriousness is doing what you can in the current social system with your resources. It is acknowledging that intellectual and managerial work is just as valid as physical work, and vice versa. In many ways, it also means understanding the ways that work and production and income have grown, sometimes in vastly different and opposite ways.

Industriousness is about making yourself a part of a successful local and larger economy, improving the lives of those who are dependent on you and interact with you, and instilling your values of a productive life on those who come after you.

This can mean a person who works two jobs to support their family, but it can also mean the spouse/partner who stays home to keep all the balls in the air on that end. It can be a blue-collar worker who sweats through their shift, or the HR manager who makes sure employees are paid and treated fairly. It can be the loyal worker of 40 years, or the protesters who urge governments and companies to respect that loyalty.

Industriousness has become more complex as our society and economy have grown, but the value of working for the betterment of your kith and kin has not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Error of Following Your Bliss; and Other Misleading Spiritual Tropes

If we choose the right career, we will make enough money. The evil cousin of that being "Do what you love; the money will follow." I've given that advice before, and now I can admit that it doesn't always work out that way.

There is a problem with the soundbite advice that stems from love'n'light spirituality. And I'm here to break it down for you.

It's Black & White

You either feel the love, or you don't. You release your anger, or you let it consume you. You follow your bliss, or you whither into a hopeless shell, a cog in some faceless corporate machine.

The thing is, life is in grayscale. You can feel loved one moment, and have moments of insecurity the next. You can be fulfilled in a job that isn't quite your ideal. You can allow yourself to feel anger about things that deserve your anger.

Life should be about the ups and the downs. Your feelings should not be static, they can pendulum over the happy medium, swinging to one side before returning to the calm center.

There is Privilege Involved

This mindset often suggests, or outright states, that your situation is your own making. This is not only harmful to those who have had traumatic experiences, and those who are born differently abled, it is also contradictory.

If I am fully in control of my life, and my actions harm another person, but they are creating their own situation by their mindset, who is responsible for the harm?

Obviously, if I am the one acting harmfully, I am, but the positive mindset culture frequently shames or simply implies that it is the victim's fault. The psychology of narcissism and psychopathy both show that compassionate, loving and forgiving people are often the targets of such behaviors.

Love is not a Panacea

Let's just give that one up now. If love where the solution, there would be much less abuse in the Pagan and Buddhist communities. Yet we struggle with abusers, too. The 70s had cults and communities based on love and trust... and stories of abuse have surfaced from several of those as well.

As nice and clean as that would be, we are supposed to honor nature, and...

Nature isn't really very Nice

Predators kill prey. Blood begets life. Some of the worst tragedies to descend upon humankind has been Nature, from floods and volcanoes to earthquakes, hurricanes, and even diseases.

If we want to honor Nature, we can't ignore that Nature's next earthquake isn't going to be loved into a gentle shake. Things happen that we cannot stop. Genetics mutate. Birth defects occur. And the people effected shouldn't be told that they "created their situation".

Back to Business

We may love to do a certain kind of job, but there are other factors that can interfere with that being a realistic life model.

First, just because we love to do it, doesn't always mean we have the skills. The passion? Probably. But passion is only a driving force.

Second, the part you love is only part of the whole thing. You may love gems, but that doesn't mean you know how to run a gem shop. The idea that you can follow your bliss to wealth doesn't hold up when you realize your passion doesn't extend to the bookkeeping portion of the program.

Third, the market probably isn't too concerned with what you, the individual, are passionate about. Ritual clothing for pets can seem like a good idea (yes, you can use that), but that doesn't mean that enough people want their puppy in circle with a merlin-esque beard to be able to pay your rent. Even in mainstream economics, studies show that the number one indicator of a successful business is... timing. That's right, the luck of having the right idea at the right time. And that's why most businesses fail.
Pictured, me with $2k

Fourth, your passions don't necessarily mean you have the resources you will need. I really wanted to start a retail business. To open a storefront, I discovered I would need, at minimum, $20k, just to get through the first year. Pro tip: if you are reselling other people's goods, you don't have built-in collateral to get a loan. Passion doesn't mean you'll be able to get the money or resources.

So We Shouldn't Follow our Passions?

I'm not saying that at all. Being passionate about what you are trying to do can keep you going when it gets hard. But it will not dissolve all the obstacles you may face. If you have a solid plan, the resources to get started, and a realistic idea of the work involved, do it!

The problem isn't relying on passion so much as relying ONLY on passion... and blaming a lack of positive thinking for failures. 90% of businesses fail in the first FIVE years. Positive thinking may not prevent that.

On the other hand, it may be what gets you back up on the horse to try again. And that is a good place for positive thinking.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Letting Go: Mourning the Right Decision

We like to think of things as simple. If we choose the right career, the bills will get paid and vacations will be possible. If we find the right life partner, the birds will sing us awake in the morning and we will fall asleep with the sounds of love and laughter in our ears.

But life is not clean and straight-lines. It isn't fluffy clouds and rainbows. And, most of all, it isn't simple.

At the deepest level, we want our decisions to be clear. We want to make the right choice and feel the rightness. We want weights to be lifted from our shoulders. We want a smile to creep across our faces with how right we were.

Right decisions should make us feel good. But they don't always. Sometimes, we are faced -  with an impossible choice and, no matter what path we choose, it won't feel good. We will still need to mourn the death of that other possibility.

I once lived in a house with a great bedroom. My bedroom had a 3/4 bath attached. My bedroom had a (non-functioning) fireplace. My bedroom had a closet under the stairs, so the ceiling - and even the closet door - had a severe angle in it. My bedroom had a broken doorknob, so I could take the doorknob with me as a kind of lock on my bedroom door.

When we moved, we moved to a farmhouse. I picked out my bedroom, which had a vent through which I could see down into the living room. Even better, I could listen to the movies and TV shows my parents watched after I went to bed. My brother and I could pack up snacks in a back pack and roam the large hills in which this new home was nestled. When the rotation was right in the summer, the mooing of cows would wake us too early and set us on our adventures. We touched electric fences, stared down bulls, climbed to the tops of the tiny mountains around us.

The choice to move was a good one. Never for one moment did I think it was the wrong choice. Yet, as we packed up to move out of my bedroom with it's angled closet, 3/4 bath, and broken doorknob, I cried.

Looking back, I see the wisdom that my 10 year old self had in that moment. Even when it's the right thing to do, you may still need to mourn the path you did not take.

I have made a decision. I have several dreams for my life. Most of them are possible to do at the same time, but I realized that dividing my time and resources as they currently are will result in neither of them being fully realized.

I have to give one of them up to let the other come to fruition.

It's the right choice that I've made. I am also pretty certain that I will eventually pick the other dream up again. In the meantime, I am sad.

I'm sad that I had to make the choice. I'm sad that I can't carry both dreams right now. I'm sad that all the work I've put into the dream left behind has been, well, left behind. I am sad, but I made the right choice.

We need to allow ourselves to give vent to the negative emotions without worrying about whether it's appropriate to HAVE those emotions. Emotions are always appropriate. Behaviors based on those emotions are a different story.

Let yourself mourn the right choice. You can be scared when you move. You can be sad when you had to cut a toxic person from your life. You can feel guilt when you can't afford to help someone out.

These feelings are okay. Feel them. Honor them. Then move on with your right choice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dark Night Demands: Pressures and Misunderstandings about the Dark Side

I am very good at understanding where my emotional baggage comes from. I'm pretty darned good at figuring out where others' emotional triggers stem from as well. This is a handy little talent that I use to help myself and others work through their Dark Side stuff, the messy, muddy junk we need to face, deal with, or even just acknowledge in order to move forward to become the best version of ourselves we can be.

That's the whole goal - the best version of myself. I've been doing this on and off (more on than off) for 20 years, consciously. I'm not exactly a slouch, but I'm also the first to admit that this is not a destination goal. This is about a journey of constant self-improvement.

And sometimes, there's pain. Sometimes there's heartache. Sometimes, on this journey, you stub your toe, or get a cramp, or strain a muscle. Sometimes, you sit down and have a cry.

When this happens to me, my husband annoys me. Don't get me wrong - he thinks I'm awesome and sexy, always right and pretty darn perfect. He's great 99% of the time, but he always asks me why I feel the way I feel.

I'm sure you are asking "geez, why would that be a problem?" And you have a bit of a point, but the issue is that there are assumptions about that question.

Me: I just feel really down and kinda like crap.
Hubby: *fully aware of all issues due to financial stress, extended family drama, whiny children, having major deadlines coming up, etc* Why do you feel like that?
Me: *shooting him an are-you-kidding-me look* Just... never mind.

See, the problem there isn't that there isn't an answer, or I don't want to face the answer, or any of the usual traps in working with the Dark Side. The problem is that the answer is a million straws on this camel's back. And none of those straws is a problem that can or even should be given that kind of focus. In fact, they are all being addressed as they can be.

The problem is, there's a kind of taboo on letting oneself feel cumulatively crappy. Feeling bad is only as valuable as letting you know what to fix (or letting hubby know what to fix for me). And that is a problem.

I can deal with the individual issues, just like I can carry several boxes at once. If I pause to catch my breath and let a frown show on my face because the boxes' edges are cutting into my hands, there's a certain understanding. That stuff is heavy and things can suck without being deal breakers. Sometimes you just cuss a bit while suffering through it.

We don't give ourselves permission to do that, emotionally. If I feel overwhelmed, I need to change something. If I feel depressed about money, I should get another job (or cut back on my imaginary daily coffee at Starbucks). If I'm a little depressed from the stress of constantly reassessing my ever-changing schedule due to adding deadlines, running errands, or dealing with kids, than I need to scrape my plate clean.

The problem with that is, I don't need to change something. I don't need to get another job. I don't need to scrape my plate (except for after supper). I am dealing with my life. I'm just stopping to readjust the boxes. It doesn't mean I should leave my things by the side of the road rather than keep carrying them.

Those kinds of black-and-white, hyperbolic solutions are a huge problem in the spiritual community. And it's completely unrealistic.
  • If you don't love it, throw it out. - Ha! Buh-bye taxes! Sorry, IRS, I just didn't "love" doing that kind of paperwork.
  • Anger is a hot coal that burns you not the other person. - I will not apologize when someone tells me that I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm a woman under the age of 60 (as if those people give 60+ women respect either) and I get steamed because of it. ANGER IS A SIGN OF A BOUNDARY BEING VIOLATED, NOT A FLAW!
  • Think happy, be happy - Think rich, be rich. Think healthy, be healthy. All those "if you think it, you will be it" things are only 15% correct. Yes, there's something to be said for taking a breath and faking confidence until you feel it, or singing upbeat songs to lift your mood. HOWEVER, it is sold as a panacea for all your ills and neither your landlord nor fibromyalgia gives two brown logs about your happy thoughts.
Interestingly, science actually supports the idea that we should give some vent to the minor frustrations in life. Pain is reduced when you cuss, as anyone who stubs their toe on that stupid coffee table knows. Naturally, there is a difference between letting yourself sit down and feel/experience the crap that you feel, and wallowing in negativity.

So the answer is, I just feel like crap, sometimes. And that should be enough.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Beltaine: Celebrating the Fullness of Life

This post is also available HERE.

Each Sabbat brings with it a special meaning as part of the wheel of the year. The journey through the seasons is not just a physical one, but also mental and spiritual.

As we approach each Sabbat, we can grow with the seasons when we know the lessons each one brings us. This series explores the Sabbats' spiritual meaning in the context of modern Pagans.

Beltaine is the time of year when we celebrate the fertility all around us. But fertility doesn't just mean producing biological offspring.

We, as humans, produce many things. We have the minds, the drive towards technology, the ability to create in the most awe inspiring ways. It is this that is the spark of the divine, and celebrating fertility means celebrating that spark in all its forms.

Whether you focus on raising children or organizing activities, whether you create works of art or craft items both beautiful and practical, you are manifesting the Divine Mother, the fertile earth, the Seed of the Wild God.

It is important for us to remember that even the most basic of activities can be divine. We can be founders of companies, making changes to honor the others in our work, or we can be "burger flippers," contributing to the conveniences that nourish our communities as we push for even more in our world.

How do you honor the divine in your work? What dreams of fertility do you hold dear?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Truth

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

The hardest thing to face about the Truth is that, despite all of our beliefs and efforts to the contrary, it can be subjective. This means that what is Truth to one person may not be Truth to another, and that doesn't necessarily make one of them wrong.

How do we navigate a world where one's Truth is so embedded in one's experiences? How do we hold on to what is right when there are so many shades of gray?

The only thing we can do is to discover our own Truth. This isn't as easy as it sounds, either. We all have a shallow idea of truth, but it isn't until we do the work of self-reflection and self-awareness that we learn our deeper Truth.

And, in case that isn't tough enough, we must also learn to understand (though not necessarily agree with) the deeper Truth of others. Only then can we know what we stand for, and what we will stand up for.

Truth is very much entwined with courage. It takes strength of mind and self to be able to dig deep into our beliefs and our selves to uncover our Truths. It takes a fortitude of spirit to stand up for what we believe is right in the face of people defending, sometimes violently, their own beliefs.

Recently, I was faced with an opportunity to stand up for something. Even those who believe the same as I do didn't necessarily agree with the standing up part. While I admit I was emotionally exhausted and unable to make a good showing, I still stood up for what I felt was right.

Sometimes, you don't get praised for doing what is right by your Truth. Sometimes, others don't understand, either because their Truth varies just that much from yours, or because they don't have the courage to take the actions that you do (or vice versa).

The part that sucks is knowing that, to a certain point, all of these things are valid. But you don't owe anyone the compromise of your Truth, just as they don't owe you the same. Any re-evaluation must be for you.

Odin knew the power of Truth and the importance of constantly seeking the Truth. He was the Wanderer, walking the worlds for years to learn about different peoples and beliefs. He knew the value of speaking the truth, and of withholding the truth when necessary.

There is value in all knowledge, and in understanding others, we know more about ourselves.

And that's the Truth.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ostara: a Time of Growth

This post is also available here.

Each Sabbat brings with it a special meaning as part of the wheel of the year. The journey through the seasons is not just a physical one, but also mental and spiritual.

As we approach each Sabbat, we can grow with the seasons when we know the lessons each one brings us. This series explores the Sabbats' spiritual meaning in the context of modern Pagans.

Ostara is the Spring Equinox, straddling the line between the cold Winter nights and the warm days of Spring and Summer. While Imbolc brings the light to the year, the warmth of that light takes a bit longer, welcomed by Ostara.
This marks the time when we need to get serious about getting things planted. If we haven't started yet, the time is coming soon. Seeds should be sorted, plots of land mapped out - the future depends on whether we plant the right stuff to harvest and eat in the winter.

This applies to our metaphorical seeds, as well. Soon, we will no longer be trapped indoors by the weather. We will be free to do all the activities we need to. The days are still getting longer, giving us more time and energy to be active.

What "seeds" are you preparing for this year? What plans do you make?