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It appeals to logic, to think that evil might be a virus. Viruses infect millions of people every year, making them contagious to others. Many of those infected refuse to admit that they are sick until it's too late, and sometimes stay in denial even after the diagnosis is made. They think the test results must be wrong!
Another interesting fact about viruses is that a few people in each generation are immune to them, or else have an inborn resistance that renders their infection relatively mild. Physicians seek the secret of such immunities with the same fervor that the Knights of the Round Table sought the Holy Grail....
Somewhat to my surprise, it took me to age 60 to believe that my Creator had endowed me with the right to make choices without obtaining somebody else’s permission. This is pretty good proof that my father overplayed the discipline card, because even now I am careful not to get into too much trouble with authority figures. I’m 67, for God’s sake – who could be a better “authority” on me, than me?
On the other end of the spectrum, today's youth seem to have no trouble at all making choices and not caring what anybody thinks – an attitude that may not be so smart or safe for the young and inexperienced. People are very diverse, so I’m sure there are still parents who teach their children respect and courtesy – military families and Mormons come to mind - but in today’s overly permissive society this must be hard, indeed, to enforce....
Over the last week or so I've been systematically going through my house and sorting my various possessions into two piles: What I'll keep and what I'll get rid of. So far I've managed to cull quite a bit of my possessions, which I'm pleased about because they can hold you down sometimes. This time of year is perfect for this kind of work. People are in a reflective mood, looking back over the previous year, while also starting to plan toward the future, like Janus. The act of sorting your possessions is simultaneously a releasing of the past and an embrace of the future. You let go of what is holding you back and open yourself up to the possibilities.
You might not think that your possessions would weigh you down to the past, other than through the obvious physical reality they embody, but with anything you have there is always an emotion and memory attached to it, if not more than one. In some cases you can rewrite those memories by making new ones. I've done that a lot over the last few years, but in other cases, it can be good to just let go of the memories and emotions by letting go of the possessions. In my case that includes letting go of 8 crates of books, which served their purpose, but now is just a lot of weight, emotionally and physically to continue carrying around....
San Diego, CA
Day One: Friday
The Pacific Surfliner Amtrak train arrived in San Diego at 1:00 a.m. on Friday, having boarded the Coast Starlight in Emeryville at 6:10 a.m. on Thursday. Due to confused arrangements for lodging, I had no place to stay. Took cab to home of my niece Ally and crashed on inflatable mattress in their living room. The good news is that I got to spend a little time with her, her spouse Lisa, and their darling little Rockwell, aged 19 months, on Friday morning. I taught him a new word. He was identifying animals in one of his picture books. He liked to go “hoo, hoo” when he saw owl. He could say something approximating “sheep,” but didn’t have sheep’s sound. I said “baaa, baaa” in a really croaky sheep voice, and he cracked up. Now he has another word in his vocabulary: “baaa.” Meaning I blew off the early Friday sessions I’d planned to attend.
Ally dropped me off at a hotel where I was staying for one night, thanks to my friend Megory Anderson of the Sacred Dying Foundation. Checked in and made my way to the colossal San Diego Convention Center, where I picked up my nametag and bag. (Purple this year, and sturdily made.)
Feeling a bit lost in the vastness of this convention center, I headed for familiar territory and found myself at the Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University, annual luncheon. I decided to stay for a while because the luncheon was headed by John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker; John Grim and I had participated in The Biodiversity Project Spirituality Working Group at a small retreat near Madison, Wisconsin, in 1999. The first person I encountered whom I knew was Bron Taylor, headed for this luncheon. I was fortunate to have a little time for one-on-one with Bron, when we shared optimism about the emphasis on climate change at this AAR, and considered more recent changes in radical environmental activism with the death of such notables as my friend Sequoia in 2008. I chatted with some of the organizers for a while because we were early, and learned that one of them, a man from Vermont, has a son who is a grower in California. You never know.
Soon we were joined by Graham Harvey, Doug Ezzy, and others. As I listened to every person in the room -- I would guess more than 100 -- introduce her or himself and say something about where they were working (universities, graduate students, NGOs, et al.), I was pleased to hear all the references to ecology, nature, climate change, and the like. Of course, some went on and on explaining what they were doing, and that had to be checked so there was time for everyone else to speak. I said I was from Covenant of the Goddess and Cherry Hill Seminary, indicating that CHS was the first and only Pagan seminary and that it operated in cyberspace (green, ya know), and that I lived in a county in a metropolitan area that, thanks to some far-seeing wealthy environmental activists and not to me, is zoned 70 percent open space.
I wasn’t able to stick around for very long because I left for a tête-à-tête with a Pagan pal from Colorado before the conference got too crazy.
Here are examples of a few of Friday’s sessions that intrigued me but that I couldn’t attend
★ Religion and Media Workshop, “The History and Materiality of Religious Circulations,” a day-long seminar “designed to foster collaborative conversation at the cutting edge of the study of religion, media, and culture…[exploring] the history and materiality of religious circulations.”
★ Dharma Academy of North America (DANAM), “Polytheology: The Vision of Plural Divinities,” featuring, among others, papers on “Conceptualizing Divinity: One, None, or Many”; “Conceptualizing the Divine: How Hindu Deities Are Presented in High School World Religions Courses in Canada”; “Devotions of Attachment and Detachment & the Myriad Divinities of Jainism”; ”When Hanuman Became a Jain: The Miraculous Story of Babosa”; “Deities, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas: Nontheism in a Theocratic Universe.”
At one time you may have considered yourself a Christian - because you loved the persona of Jesus, and felt a deep intuitive understanding of his attitude and teachings, as though he was an exemplar of kindred mind, the like of which you might grow to become yourself in time. You may have heard him communicate with you in your prayers and meditations. But the churches in your part of the country insisted that to be a Christian, you had to accept him as your personal savior, whose status you could never hope to attain - and moreover, you had to be evangelical about it. You saw no need for either of these things. You felt that each initiate must make his own sacrifices and his own choices, and that Jesus would prefer that you learned how to stand up for yourself! But because you had such a stiff-necked, self-willed attitude about it, no minister bound by a literal commitment to the Nicene or Apostles Creed could admit you into church membership.
You might have also considered yourself a Hindu - because you meditated and chanted the Gayatri Mantra, and you received loving messages and assistance from Mother Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu, Sri Krishna and Siva Nataraj. None of them ever turned you away, that you could tell. You were sure you had lived many past lives in India. Yet militant "born" Hindus sent you nasty emails telling you to stop insulting their religion and stop teaching Yoga; you couldn't possibly understand the depth and gravitas of the subject. You couldn't possibly be psychically or emotionally gifted enough to communicate its truth to others. (As though complete strangers would be in any position to make that judgment about you.)...