Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Celebrations of Life

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with wishes of joy, peace, and generosity for this holiday season.

Christmas is ambivalent for many people. The holidays bring music and decorations that are meant to lift spirits, yet it's often reported that depression spikes upward at this time of year as well. I personally like the secular Christmas carols a lot, but have a harder time listening to some of the more religious ones.

I think that we who doubt the scriptural story of Christmas are challenged by this time of year because we see others attributing joy to a source we cannot credit.

I want to believe in peace and decency and the power of a happy heart, and so it troubles me that I see people expressing these things while ascribing to them an origin I find dubious. Alienated from the cause of their joy, I ask whether my faith in joy itself is therefore in doubt.

Then, too, it is easy to tread the path of cynicism and ask, "If peace and generosity and love of one's fellow man are so important to remember, why not remember them all year long, instead of just for the space of a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day?"

Nor is the task of accepting holiday cheer made any easier by buffoons in the media who try to fire up their listeners with stories about the "War on Christmas," full of outrage that department store chains ask their greeters to say "Happy Holidays" instead of extolling the specifically Christian message that the righteous desire to hear.

But the existence of pettiness and hypocrisy should never be allowed to tarnish that which is real and beautiful. If so many people have larger hearts at this time of year, that is an undeniably good thing, which can never be lessened by the fact that a few of them also have smaller minds than we'd wish.

When large numbers of people celebrate life, sing of hope, and give sanctity to joy, then we should bow our heads with them in appreciation, even if we believe differently than they do.

People are ugly and mean and vindictive year-round. The fact that some of them can be better during the Christmas season, and the fact that most can express wishes for a better world, should give us cause for boundless gratitude.

Thank you, goddess, for all occasions which lift hearts and encourage wonder.

Merry Christmas to all.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

Friday, December 19, 2008

Revenge 55

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a story of triumph that I hope will serve you well. 

It surprised Pamela
that she had enemies.

on the road.

She tried so hard to be nice,




At last, though,
she finally found

Every day, 
she got up in the morning,
and she lived her life
as if none of them


Thank you goddess of love, for the knowledge that enemies have no more power over us than we give them.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When Grace is the Comfortable Norm

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a recommendation, if you find motivation or purpose elusive.

In most large cities, you should be able to call the local ice-skating rink and find out when they have classes and what level of skaters they teach. (Don't worry; I'm not going to recommend skating lessons.) Consider taking a trip down to the rink the next time a high-level class is scheduled, and simply go in and have a seat in the observation area.

You might even have luck just going in during open skating and looking amongst the crowds of skaters for the small number of really proficient ones.

What I want you to look for, and pay attention to, is an excellent skater who is not actively practicing.

A true talent who is just standing around. Perhaps chatting with a friend.

The reason I want you to look for this, and watch it closely if you find it, is simple: it will show you how the pursuit of art changes you.

Whether one likes figure-skating or not, it's an impressive art form that requires extraordinary discipline as well as natural ability. These facts are obvious to us when we see the elaborate routines that good skaters develop and perform.

But what is less obvious is that even when not performing, a truly exceptional skater is something beyond ordinary. The typical person at the rink, whether in motion or still, remains not quite in his or her element. Even people who skate well have a bit of tension, a bit of caution in their posture, when not actively skating. They may be comfortable, even relaxed -- but they will not appear quite as comfortable or relaxed as they would be standing flat on solid ground.

A remarkable skater, though, is different.

A remarkable skater, one who has lived and breathed skating for years, appears just as much at ease on the ice as off -- perhaps even more so. They can be fully preoccupied with something else -- a conversation, or paying attention to a trainer or coach -- and still exhibit complete and effortless grace in their posture and movement.

They have become creatures at home in a strange realm, and this transformation has left them unable to appear clumsy or out-of-balance unless they deliberately attempt something beyond their skill.

In pursuing the ability to create beauty, they have themselves become reflexively beautiful.

And this is where effort takes us, when we aspire to make ourselves capable of beauty: to the place where grace needs no conscious thought.

Of course, if you're already a champion figure-skater and still find motivation and purpose elusive, I guess this post is pretty useless to you.

Thank you, goddess of love, for all those who have in some way made greater beings of themselves.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Wilderness of Your Soul

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a metaphor, which I hope does not come off as too painfully overconstructed.

We have within us wild places -- frontiers of our psyche that are little explored, and also woodlands and marshes we have been to time and again, yet never managed to tame. The mind is a place rampant with growth, where our conscious thoughts are the only domesticated residents.

When we focus our consciousness outward, to deal with the people and things around us, we live in a civilized realm, or at least one that puts on a mask of civilization.

But inside, we have passions and memories and reflexes that do not answer to civilized notions.

If we shun those wild places -- if we look only outward, live only for the external events and pressures and stimuli that we encounter -- then our interior frontiers can only grow more wild, more dangerous. Sooner or later, we may be forced to venture into them, and if we have never prepared ourselves to do so, they may consume us.

But whatever the perils of our untrammeled wildlands, they have richness and beauty too. And if we seek their safer quarters, if we explore and search with the right preparation, well equipped for pushing in through trackless, thorny depths, then we can learn how to be safe and even comfortable in their fabulous and natural glory.

There is wildness inside you. Put on your boots and take up your walking stick. Make sure you have matches and a pocketknife with you. 

Find the green glade splashed with sunlight where no one has ever been.

Look up at the vast blue sky.

Let yourself quiver a little at the distant growling that echoes from the shadowy undergrowth nearby.

And know that it is all you.

Do this often enough, and carefully enough, and you will eventually learn which paths through the wilderness of your soul are safest, and which fruits you can carry out of the woods to share with those beyond.

Thank you, goddess of love, for the forests of thought and instinct and, yes, metaphor within us.

Lovingly yours, 

A devotee