The Holidays... What's a Pagan to do when wished a "Merry Christmas"?
People get reflective this time of year... Our culture has conditioned people to think that a year actually means something - like it's a definite 'end' to a tangible thing. In a strange way, it could be viewed as a little death. Death of the old year... So there's a tendency to try and make amends before the end. They see a year as a complete and final thing, rather than another loop in the spiral of life.
Now this whole theory of mine is also predicated on the subjectivity of Time. People have placed this bizarre importance on the concept of time, and Modern People worry about time to nanseconds. Time (measuered time, that is) only exists in the imaginations of people. Does it really matter if it's Friday or December or 10:18 EST? No, not really. So the Wheel of the Year rolls forward and we go on living a little more.
So we (I'm speaking of Pagans, in general) celebrate the full moon, the dark moon, the eqinoxes, the solstices, the harvests, the seasons... we celebrate the events of life. And since we are modern people as well, we keep track of those events using Time... clocks, calendars, an ephemeris to track the stars. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a common denominator so we an agree to make plans to get together.
So my point is, is that Time doesn't really matter. BUT... Modern People have attached all these traditions and dogma around Time.
I get the emails from aquaintances, and some I never speak to during the rest of the year. But, a friend - well, an old co-worker I was friendly with several jobs ago - sends me jokes on a fairly regular basis... and never anything personal. It's not like I can call this guy and ask if he'll pick me up at the airport, but I remember him fondly. Once he sent me an email that said something like "I may send you jokes, but never talk to you, but I do this because I remember you, I like you and the thought of you makes me smile... I send the jokes because I want to do the same for you." You know, from some people, it's enough to know that I am remembered.
The politics of gift giving are another can of worms altogether... The whole idea of a deadline oriented gift exchange enrages me. It advertisers and marketers playing on your sense of obligation and guilt to buy more and more things to prove A: you love someone and/or B: to make you feel better about yourself because the gifts you give are superior to the gifts that others give.
I would rather give something I've made with love to a friend whenever the mood strikes me (or the thing I've made is finished). Or, lacking the skills to make a particular item, buying a gift for someone because I know that they would really appreciate it or needed it... and that would mean because I know that person well enough to know that the gift is completely suitable.
You'll read tips from 'experts' giving advice about stockpiling little nothing gifts for unexpected guests, so you're never caught 'emptyhanded'. I think this is pretty ridiculous. It's not about a gift EXCHANGE! I like you. I thought you would like this. I'm giving it to you because I want you to be happy. PERIOD. Their happiness at receiving should be reciprocation enough. You don't expect a gift back at a wedding or birthday, do you? Giving thoughtless gifts puts everyone in the uncomfortable position of 'but I didn't get you anything.' And that feeds the consumer machine of guilt and obligation. EXPECTING a gift is obscene.
When people say 'Happy New Year' to me, generally I'll say it back just because it's easier than launching into a diatribe about Time being subjective... but sometimes my reply is 'Happy New Calendar!' If asked about it, I'll simply say, 'time is subjective, it doesn't really mean anything, does it?' and smile... mostly because it just leaves them with a puzzled look and the feeling I've just said something really profound.
It is nice to get together with family and loved ones and celebrate that we have these connections with each other, but it shouldn't be a chore or an obligation or something you dread. People are social animals and we need the connections of the pack/clan/family/tribe. The pressures of the deadline (another encroachment of Time) makes it miserable for many of us. People used to celebrate together because of joint efforts... a hunt, a harvest, a birth... even a death will bring people together. But now, Modern People don't hunt, we don't harvest... the occasions to come together are no longer there, but the need to connect with our fellows is still ingrained in us.
When people say it to me, I respect that it is their tradition to say this and in return I will reply "I hope you have a wonderful holiday!" And I mean it with all sincerity. One day, I will wish someone a Happy Samhain or Blessed Beltane, and they will wish that I have a lovely holiday - and be sincere about it... Well, maybe not this lifetime, but I like to think we're moving towards it.
People do tend to think too much around this time of year. But maybe that's not always a bad thing. Maybe it's a step towards thinking more the rest of the time. Maybe we can only hope to change people's thinking a little at a time, and maybe only through example.
Whatever day it might be, whatever time of year, I wish you all love, health, beauty and plenty of joy.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Please buy a book and pass this on... It's an amazing book.
From my friend Lori:
One year later: Signs of Life
"Hi there (and pardon the intrusion....)
You may already know that I've made a book. You can check it out here: http://www.signsoflifebook.com
But I wanted to tell you why, and I wanted to ask for your help.
One year ago, I was sipping gin & tonics on an remote island in the
St. Lawrence seaway.
Two weeks later, I was wearing hip boots and wading through toxic
waste in Biloxi, Mississippi.
One rare night out in Biloxi, I was eating dinner at the only restaurant that was open for miles when an older woman sat down across from me at my table. (That's how it was then -- there were no boundaries, therewas little personal space. We were all in it together.) She had seen my relief worker clothes and wanted to know where I was from. I said I had driven down from upstate New York, and she, like everyoneelse, exclaimed, "That's so far away!"
Her eyes watered up and she reached across and took my hand in hers. "Thank you for coming," she said. "Thank you for being here, thank you, we need your help." And she started to cry and I started to
cry, and there we sat: two total strangers, holding hands and crying
into a basket of tortilla chips. She said to make sure I came back
to visit once they were all fixed up."
Well, it's one year later and they're not all fixed up.
Not even close.
So, I made this book of photos with my friend Eric (dogseat). It's my way of helping out -- now -- one year later. Entitled "Signs of Life: Surviving Katrina," it features over 80 photos by 40 different photographers. Many of them we found right here on Flickr.
ALL profits from the sales of the book will be donated to Common
Ground Relief in New Orleans; and Hands On Gulf Coast in Biloxi.
They're both still chipping away at what's left do down there. And
there is a lot.
Our hope is to sell 3,000 of these. That would mean we could donate nearly $10,000 to EACH non-profit.
This is a total grassroots movement. We don't have a publisher with a PR department. We're it. Just two folks aiming to make a difference in an interesting way.
Please tell your friends, your family.
Send an email to your favorite blog.
Or to your local newspaper.
Post a note on your Flickr!
Together, we can raise close to $20,000 that will go straight to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Utata Question: Why do we photograph what we photograph?
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a photographer... but film, developing, prints, equipment, it was all so expensive. I've never been fluid enough to afford the consumables to persue my photographic passion.
Eventually, digital photography came along and I shelled out a couple hundred dollars for a little point-and-shoot and rejoiced in the availability and immediacy of images! I could take, see, keep and - first with Fotolog and then Flickr - share my images! The constraints of my point and shoot forced me to learn how to 'get the shot', meaning work with what I have to catch the image I had in mind...
Fortune smiled on me in the form of a new friend who shares visions in this forum - meaning Flickr - and gave me a gift. Many gifts, actually. More than the excellent secondhand camera that came in the box, but the technology to capture the exact images I envision, and catch the serendipitous moments that happen all around me, and the support, encouragement and generosity of spirit that is shared here in this community.
And Flickr! Where would our photographs be without this amazing place? Some would get published and/or exhibited, some would go on to become professional photographers, but for most of us, our images would languish in albums and shoe boxes and living room walls...rarely visited, hardly shared.
I am not learning photography, per se, I am learning to see. The exciting part for me is being able to see how and what you see, too.
Friday, June 23, 2006
MYTH 1: The US was founded on Christian principles.
This is incorrect.
The Constitution never once mentions a deity, because the Founding Fathers wanted to keep their new country "religion-neutral." Our Founding Fathers were an eclectic collection of Atheists, Deists, Christians, Freemasons and Agnostics.
George Washington, the Father of our country, and John Adams (Second President of the USA) CLEARLY stated in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.”
G.W. rarely attended church and instead followed a popular 18th century philosophy called Deism—a Star Wars-esque philosophy that believed in a cosmic energy or big-ass universal "Force." The dictionary says that Deism is "a system of thought advocating natural religion based on human reason rather than revelation," that had nothing to do with Christian principles.
James Madison, original mastermind of our Constitution, was an Atheist to the core who loved skewering Christianity. In 1785 he wrote, "What have been [Christianity’s] fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
Thomas Jefferson, who sat down and authored The Declaration of Independence, rarely missed an opportunity to laugh at Christianity. In a letter to John Adams in 1823, he wrote: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus…will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
More ammo: In 1814, Tommy J. wrote about the Bible's Old and New Testaments, "The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful -- evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.”
In fact, it was President Jefferson himself who first wrote (to a Baptist church group in 1802), "The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between Church and State." Therefore, when Jefferson talked about “Nature’s God,” the “Creator” and “divine Providence ” in the Declaration that he wrote, he was being a hippie and referring to a general cosmic energy-- not the Christian God.
America is not a Christian nation. Period. Our Constitution derived from the post-Christian Enlightenment values of reason and truth...never from the paranoid yammerings of that otherwise compassionate cult leader who fucking died in the Middle Eastern desert 3000 years ago.
MYTH 2: US Conservatives tend to be patriotic, ethical Americans; liberals tend to hate America and are immoral.
Liberals aren't the traitors to America. In fact, conservatives who insist on sending American troops into the Iraqi slaughterhouse to watch some blood-n'-guts "towelhead" ass-kickin' are the traitors. Most of them could care less about our troops, no more than Mao or Stalin cared about the safety of their own soldiers. In the neocons' view, these young boys and girls are expendable test dummies. They're dying for virtually nothing, so that the hicks in the Bush Admin can make good on their campaign promises to their buddies from the petroleum and infrastructure-rebuilding industries. By revving up the Arab threat, these MFs can scream "national security" and "freedom" as smokescreens, while getting their hands on a diminishing resource: Middle Eastern fossil fuels, which power everything from your lightbulbs and computer that you leave on all night, to your stupid gas-guzzler pickup truck.
Pro-war conservatives are the traitors to America. With only 29% of the public approving of Bush's policies now, it took a full 5 years for America to finally wake up in bed next to this disgusting fact.
Do liberals hate America? No, in fact they care so much about the USA that they fight so aggressively to make it better. They're not anti-American; they're just anti-stupidity. Do liberals hate American policies? Sometimes, but only the self-destructive ones that threaten human rights, liberty, democracy, justice, inquiry, excellence and reason-- the values that our country was founded upon.
As for conservative moral superiority? Frauds. Think of the child-molesting priests, money-scamming televangelist preachers, Jack Abramoff's friends in the Bush Admin, gay-hating Jesus lovers, the Christians who beat up the professor who opposed intelligent design, human rights violators like Lynndie England and her Abu Ghraib hick officer pals, Tommy "Scandal-icious" Delay, Scooter "Leaky" Libby, the entire K Street Project meant to hire only Republicans, FEMA's Michael "Yer doin' a heckuva job" Brownie, and so on.
Oh and by the way, conservative Red states have a divorce rate 27% higher than the liberal Blue states, the per capita rate of violent crime in Red states is 49 per 100,000 higher than in Blue states, the top 5 states with the highest rates of alcohol abuse are Red states, and the per capita rate of gonorrhea in Red states was 41 per 100,000 higher than in the Blue states. Time to unshelf the antibiotics for our "ethical," "God-fearing" conservative friends with their "traditional family values."
MYTH 3. The US has a liberal media.
This is a paranoid Republican myth.
Reality check: the US media is a mix of liberal, centrist and conservative voices. Also, the US media is largely owned by 10 corporations who frequently push pro-conservative agendas to the American public. Evidence:
1. Even Republican Pat Buchanan confessed, "For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on earth does that." Neo-conservative pundit Bill Kristol also said, "I admit it: the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures."
2. A 2005 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that "coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media." Why? Partly because only four major corporate networks control American TV news-- up to 75% of the audience share. The "Big 10" media conglomerates who control the bulk of the entire US media are: AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media. Yes, we have National Public Radio, but compare its public reach to that of Canada's CBC and the United Kingdom's BBC.
3. Eighty percent of all US newspapers are owned by corporate chains.
4. Liberals are virtually non-existent on talk radio stations nationwide. Rush and Dr. Laura, eat your hearts out.
5. Conservatives are very well accomodated for across FOX News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the American Spectator, the Weekly Standard, the Drudge Report, the National Review, etc. Even so-called "bastions of liberalism," e.g. the NY Times, MSNBC, WashPost and NPR make a concerted effort to be "fair and balanced" by bringing in right-wing views like those of David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Charles Krauthammer and Cokie Roberts to have their say in these forums, respectively. This is in stark contrast to FOX News' claims to unbiased objectivity, which were easily demolished by Robert Greenwald in 2004.
6. Contrary to what some paranoid Republicans claim, most journalists are centrists, not liberals. A representative sample of 141 US journalists and bureau chiefs were asked in 1998, "On social issues, how would you characterize your political orientation?" Answers: Left 30%, Center 57%, Right 9%, Other 5% . Next question, same sample: "On economic issues, how would you characterize your political orientation? " Answers: Left 11%, Center 64%, Right 19%, Other 5%. Also, look at the total number of think tank citations in major newspapers, radio and TV transcripts: Conservative TTs: 7792, Centrist TTs: 6361, Liberal TTs: 1152.
7. Eric Alterman summarizes a 1999 research study from the academic journal Communications Research: "Four scholars examined the use of the 'liberal media' argument and discovered a fourfold increase in the number of Americans telling pollsters that they discerned a liberal bias in their news. But a review of the media's actual ideological content, collected and coded over a twelve-year period, offered no corroboration whatever for this view."
MYTH 4. The US doesn’t need improvement compared to other countries; it is the greatest country in the world.
Wrong again. I'll only cite the statistics here.
USA Ranking on Adult Literacy Scale: #9
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- OECD
USA Ranking on Healthcare Quality Index: #37
(#1 France and #2 Italy)- World Health Organization 2003
USA Ranking of Student Reading Ability: #12
(#1 Finland and #2 South Korea)- OECD PISA 2003
USA Ranking of Student Problem Solving Ability: #26
(#1 South Korea and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003
USA Ranking on Student Mathematics Ability: # 24
(#1 Hong Kong and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003
USA Ranking of Student Science Ability: #19
(#1 Finland and #2 Japan)- OECD PISA 2003
USA Ranking on Women's Rights Scale: #17
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- World Economic Forum Report
USA Position on Timeline of Gay Rights Progress: # 6 (1997)
(#1 Sweden 1987 and #2 Norway 1993)- Vexen
USA Ranking on Life Expectancy: #29
(#1 Japan and #2 Hong Kong)- UN Human Development Report 2005
USA Ranking on Journalistic Press Freedom Index: #32
(#1 Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands tied)- Reporters Without Borders 2005
USA Ranking on Political Corruption Index: #17
(#1 Iceland and #2 Finland)- Transparency International 2005
USA Ranking on Quality of Life Survey: #13
(#1 Ireland and #2 Switzerland)- The Economist Magazine ...Wikipedia "Celtic Tiger" if you still have your doubts.
USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability Index: #45
(#1 Finland and #2 Norway)- Yale University ESI 2005
USA Ranking on Overall Currency Strength: #3 (US Dollar)
(#1 UK pound sterling and #2 European Union euro)- FTSE 2006....the dollar is now a liability, so many banks worldwide have planned to switch to euro
USA Ranking on Infant Mortality Rate: #32
(#1 Sweden and #2 Finland)- Save the Children Report 2006
USA Ranking on Human Development Index (GDP, education, etc.): #10
(#1 Norway and #2 Iceland)- UN Human Development Report 2005
So much for those "socialist" Europeans and those "backward" Asians, hm?
We can do better than this.
*Only 18% of Americans own passports and bother to travel outside of the US.
* 85% of US soldiers in Iraq believe that they are there to get revenge for 9/11.
* New international student enrollment in US grad schools has decreased by 6%, because of xenophobic post-9/11 US visa restrictions, jacked-up tuition fees and better educational opportunities in the EU and Asia. So no, not everyone wants to come here anymore, because it's become a land of incredibly limited opportunity, and we've lowered our educational standards.
MYTH 5: The US government loves to help other countries.
This is a myth. The US government tends to be motivated by interests, not humanitarian principles.
Denmark gives the most amount of its GDP (1.01%) to developing countries; Norway gives 0.91%; the Netherlands give 0.79% and so on until the end of list, where the USA sits. Yes, America ranks DEAD LAST in foreign aid at a pathetic 0.1% of its GDP, compared to the other 21 nations listed as developed nations. The idea that the US government is a heroic bunch that runs around the world helping the poor and the disempowered is not backed up by the evidence. We have one of the stingiest governments on earth.
Most Americans believe the US spends 24% of its budget on aid to poor countries; the actual amount is well under a quarter of 1%. Our country also ranks #5 on asylum-seeker acceptance rates (#1 is Denmark and #2 is Canada).
For you self-congratulatory, redneck-inspired conservative fuckwads who will start to say, "B-b-b-but you're anti-American! M-m-m-moonbat! G-g-g-god bless the USA!" I answer, "Go fuck yourself. We can do better." Stop blindly believing everything your president tells you. Come back to us only when you start realizing that the $400 billion your president has allocated to his Roman Empire-style military overstretch could be better spent on correcting the sociopolitical and economic problems in the arenas that I've listed above.
For you liberal shit-heels who will start to say, "Yeah! Right on!" I answer, "Grow some fucking balls." That goes for women and the LGBT community too, and don't call me a sexist either: I'm more than comfortable with being a female, but I believe balls can be useful in situations like these. Instead, stop apologizing for being the "liberal elite," and start championing un-abashed excellence in everything, not mediocrity. Help your reps and senators take back Congress, and stop dithering while the political tides are turning in your favor right now. The conservatives are terrified now; TAKE advantage of that. And don't waste time trying to explain rational things to any homophobic Christians, or hyper-patriotic losers who wave and cheapen our American flag only for a self-esteem buzz, or those testosterone-filled, gullible, culturally-ignorant military recruiter robots who lack even a basic intelligence. THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH. They don't understand statistics, elaborate charts, legislative proposals or complicated scientific explanations. Just let them go. Let them go.
In the meantime, stop being SHEEP and get up and do something before some bright and ambitious Chinese, Indian and the European students grow up to be international leaders and make your lazy, self-absorbed kids irrelevant on the world stage.
If this is a reasonable manifesto, click "best of," upper right-hand corner.
Non Sequitur: (Found on the best of Craigslist.org)
Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian
10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
I know how he feels. (Yes, 'he'... it's in the email address)
:::ahem::: And I quote:
"These are the motherfuckers our benevolent citizens voted for. These are the motherfuckers that pledged to achieve justice for the poor, middleclass, and upperclass members of society who met their death in 2 100 + story buildings in New York City. These are the motherfuckers who will lower the standards of environmental protection idespite being in place for two decades. These are the motherfuckers who will put Sears Family Photo opportunities in place of a dry place to sleep.
These are the motherfuckers who will challenge a grieving mother who lost her son in Iraq. These are the motherfuckers who will take advantage of those who want to believe. These are the motherfuckers who will align themselves with a philosophy of religious righteousness that would be condemned by any ordinary Christian.
These are the motherfuckers who cut taxes to the wealthiest people in the WORLD...not the nation...in the WORLD as in corporations and other citizens that do business here...while the divide between those who can afford to wireless internet and those who can't afford socks are deeply divided.
These are the motherfuckers who deny those who are sick and suffering the hope that stem-cell research will someday cure the diseases they are ailing from. These are the motherfuckers that will go to their graves denouncing human beings from loving eachother unconditionally because of the way they were born.
These are the motherfuckers denouncing the gunfire that befalls them that proponed the very guns that fall at their heads. These are the motherfuckers that that say good things take time.
These are the motherfuckers that can summon the Congress of the United States of America from all over the country to come together and legally impose upon a family, the life and death of a wife and daughter.
These are the motherfuckers that abandon us until an election year. These are the motherfuckers that allow images of it's own citizens to beg and plead before televison cameras for basic needs such as water, food, a place to shit privately and cleanly, medications, shoes, health care. These are the motherfuckers that couldn't provide for it's citizens yet countless journalists and Harry "Fucking" Connick Jr somehow found it an accessible area to deliver the message.
These are the motherfuckers we need to vote the fuck out of office. If my language is harsh, so be it. This is contemporary America. Right? Shouldn't we be angry? We voted into office Trent Lott. And Jesse Helms for more decades than Lincoln was alive. We let Joe McCarthy scare the fuck out of people from speaking their opinion. We elected a president who was so intent on "being President" that he broke laws none of us would even dream of breaking.
Yes, we have a right to be angry at the motherfuckers. We don't have an unwritten honor to restoring righteousness and honesty to the presidency. Fuck that! We have an innate right to restoring honesty, plurality, and progressiveness to ourselves. And once we align ourselves with a common sense initiagtive that will give people a choice...and let the rich be rich without sacrificing the poor from being so poor...without taxing ourselves into a nightmare...without allowing the savvy commercialists to decide the voting process...with allowing the lobbyists to decide the amount of medical waste we are allowed to swim in...but allowing and inviting all of us in deciding sensibly how we are going to live and love...is it a pipe dream? Well, then...it's a sham. A dirty sham.
We are the motherfuckers who let these motherfuckers we let get too far."