Midnight Epiphanies

I have never been a good scholar. Oh, sure, I’ve written scholarly essays that gave me the grades I needed to pass the classes that I was in, but when it comes to scholarly concepts (especially when it comes to the human condition), I fail. I fail at getting the words right. I fail at being the person that the other social justice scholars think I should be. I even tried writing a book that talked about all of these concepts of privilege, oppression, intersectionality, and all of the other concepts that I’m supposed to know as an educated feminist. Even in that, I failed, because I know that there are other people out there who can explain them much better than I can.

Yet, here I am, after reading essays by bell hooks, in the middle of the night, writing an essay about my failures as a social justice scholar. Or, to be more accurate, my failure to be a scholarly social justice writer. My wife, who is as much my priest as she is my wife, suggested to me that I read those authors who write passionately. My mind thought of all the Womanist theologians who inspired me through seminary (and while I am not black myself, I found Womanist theology a breath of fresh air after reading the droning that is white feminist theology in my seminary days), and my brain connected “bell hooks” with “you should read her work.” So I fired up my Kindle, downloaded several of her works, and started reading “remembered rapture: the writer at work.”

And here I am, writing, in the middle of the night about my failure as a scholarly writer.

I’m still a theologian, though. I think about religion and spiritual matters all the time. It makes me hope that even though I won’t be scholarly in my writing, with mounds of footnotes that reference Rahner, or Tillich, or Spong, or any of the other classical or modern theologians, that the theology police won’t come and confiscate my theologian card. Frankly, regular, scholarly theology can be incredibly dull to me. They have the same conversations over and over again about the same few topics using twenty-five dollar words in 1100 pages, when, in my mind, they could have edited it down to about 100 pages and moved on with more important things. I felt this especially true when I was reading white feminist theologians (although, I think I can forgive them for it since in the misogynistic world of academia, women are forced to go above and beyond to prove their sincerity).

I could go on about my gripes with modern scholarly theology, but that’s not really why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this essay.

No, I’m up in the middle of the night because I’ve had an epiphany about my own writing.

I am just not a scholarly writer, hence the talk about my failure as a scholarly writer. You see, I wrote a book about radical inclusion. It was filled with explanations about the concepts I mentioned earlier: privilege, intersectionality, etc. All of that stuff about social justice that I’ve learned over the years and talked with many people about on my podcast. This book goes into very specific details about what I think is wrong in the Pagan community, and my ideas about how to bring in radical inclusion, or, at least, a set of questions one can use to bring radical inclusion from the head to the heart (as Bishop Flunder of City of Refuge would say). I poured out 25000 words into a document that I then sent to others to read.

But if I’m honest with myself, there was something about it, even in my excitement of having written it (or really, having written 25000 words on anything at all). I knew in the back of my mind that it was a failure. I could feel that there was something missing, something not quite right. I wasn’t seeing something in it that I felt should have been obvious. I thought that maybe I was too close to the writing and that I needed others to read it to help me find out what I was missing.

When the first comments came in, especially the more pointed and honest ones, imposter syndrome and depression hit me really hard. At first I was defensive. When I talked with my wife about the comments, she helped me put them in perspective, since many of them were very valid commentary about my own privilege and knowledge. I took a look at my own defensiveness, did some work around my depression and imposter syndrome, and left the commentary to sit for awhile. When I looked at it again, I realized that it was all true. It wasn’t the fault of the people giving me their comments, far from it, it was my own. And tonight, the epiphany is that I tried to write something “how to” and scholarly, which I’m not good at. As I said, there are many people who can, and do, write about these topics in a scholarly and explanatory way much better than I can.

The second half of this epiphany came earlier today when I asked my wife about which writing she thought was my best. She told me that it was the writing I did when I Spirit was coming through and when I wrote about the things I’m most passionate about. When I thought about it, I knew she was right. All of my blog rants, prose pieces about deities and spiritual experiences, human stories around my faith and belief, those were the things that always felt “right” when I wrote them. They were the pieces that felt the most satisfying to me when I put them out into the world.

If I really think about it, I’m more of a works versus faith type of theologian. I’m more interested in how spirit moves through us. In how people use spirit for good and in observing the ways humans interact with each other. For example: I could explain radical inclusion by citing scholars and theologians in a massive tome, or I could tell you a story about a young autistic boy who gave me a hug at the doctor’s office and the mother’s profound relief that I not only accepted that hug, but treated him like a human being instead of a freak. The first I’m miserable at. The second, however, still tugs at my emotions and makes me want to write.

I’m a scholarly failure, and I’m actually rather OK with that.

It only took 25000 words, my wife, some beta readers, and a bell hooks essay for me to figure this out.

And one late night (or early morning) essay writing session for me to really believe it.

(This post was written in the wee hours of the morning of September 23, 2016)

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cheese (A Mabon Recipe)

I made this for my coven the other night for our Mabon dinner and it was an instant hit! This is vegetarian and gluten free! Yes, you can make this with regular bread if you wish, although, we all liked the texture of the gluten free bread in it (it doesn’t get as mushy). This is pretty adaptable, and according to my original sources, you could also use cooked rice instead of bread. I may also make a non-veg version of this by adding some cooked bacon. (Mmmmm….bacon!)

I was inspired to try doing a stuffed pumpkin by this blog post and video by Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc, who have a YouTube show about 18th Century Cooking.

What you need:

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs (or an acorn squash, or kobocha)
About 2-3 cups of gluten free bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 8 oz package of a shredded cheese blend of your choice (you can always add extra)
1 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
1 5-8 oz package of baby spinach
2 shallots, finely diced
2 heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic (or about 4-6 large fresh cloves diced fine)
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons of butter

What to do:

  1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds. (You can either discard the seeds or roast them.)
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Put in the shallots and cook until just translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown.
  4. Add the baby spinach and cover the pan to let it wilt.
  5. While the spinach is wilting, add your bread cubes, cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and toss together.
  6. Once the spinach is wilted, stir the spinach, mushrooms, shallots and garlic together until they’re well mixed, then add it to the large bowl with the bread cubes. (Some of the cheese will melt, but don’t worry, it’s ok!)
  7. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl until well mixed, and then pack as much as you can into the pumpkin, squishing it down into the pumpkin if you have to, until you can just fit the top of the pumpkin on without it sticking up too much. (The top should still fit as if you were making a jack-o-lantern.)
  8. Slowly (!!) add the heavy cream. You’ll want to do this in 2 or 3 stages. Add some, then let that soak in a bit. Then add a bit more, let it soak in, and then add a little bit more. You want to be able to see the cream come a bit to the top, but not so much that it’s drowning (with all the bread and stuff packed in, you won’t be able to add too much anyway).
  9. Put the top back on.

Cooking method 1 (which is how I cooked it for our dinner):

Wrap the pumpkin well in heavy duty aluminum foil so that it won’t leak. Get your grill set up and start your coals (you could probably even use a regular campfire for this method!). We used mesquite coals, but I’m pretty sure you could use regular charcoal for this, too. The goal is to have a very hot set of coals to nestle the pumpkin in to. When your coals are ready, make kind of a well in the middle, and carefully set the pumpkin on them. Bring up the coals around the pumpkin (kind of like using a dutch oven), and cook for about an hour and 15 min (or longer, depending on how hot your coals are). You can tell it’s ready if you can poke the pumpkin from the outside and it feels like it’ll squish if you poked it too hard. Carefully remove from the coals into a heat proof dish, unwrap, and be ready for awesomeness!

Cooking method 2 (for the less pyro among us):

Put the lid on the pumpkin and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours. Basically, when you can stick a knife in the pumpkin without resistance, it’s done. To make it fancy, you could take the tops off, add more of the shredded cheese, and put it back into the oven until it’s all good and bubbly.

Blessed Mabon everyone!

So, this happened…

img_1864 img_1865

The final design and tattooing is being done by the super duper awesome Morpheus Ravenna of Banshee Arts Studios. (Pictures by Calyxa Omphalos)

In two weeks we’ll be doing all the fill, but OMG! Look how awesome!! (And Crow was being pretty funny while the tattooing was going on!)

Squee!! 🙂

 

Being Dismissive of People Who Don’t March (aka More Social Justice-y than You)

There’s a thing in social justice and activist communities that has now become a call-out culture thing that really bothers me. It’s the idea that if you’re not doing “X activist thing” that somehow you are not doing enough, or you don’t care about the subject of said activist thing, or that you are somehow complicit with the oppressors if you’re not making statements about everything that comes up.

I see this over and over in many communities:

  • Some activists in seminary thought other seminarians weren’t activist enough because they didn’t march on the streets during the Occupy movement. (or BLM or other marches, etc)
  • Some people in many different communities may think that I don’t care about certain topics because I don’t blog about them, or that Circle of Cerridwen doesn’t make a specific statement, or that we don’t send money, etc etc…
  • Because I pushed Bi issues in college, I wasn’t accepted by the local queer community that was heavily lesbian and gay. Even a lesbian professor, when I came out to her, refused to talk to me afterwards because I wasn’t for the “lesbian cause.” (I’m somewhat certain, though, that she was a TERF.)

In this, there is a certain idea that the person doing the calling out is somehow is superior to you because they have at least done something and you haven’t. Usually with the person doing the calling out not bothering to ask the person they’re calling out about what they actually do. (And gods help the person if they say that they “pray.”)

I feel like a broken record when I talk about this, but I get so many people who have said to me that they can’t do public activism for a variety of reasons: disabilities, mental health issues, financial issues, stamina, time, spoons, or their talents lie in other areas. Sometimes they fear that they will lose their jobs, or work for the government, or are in a situation where they could be in danger if they do public activism. There are also people who can’t go to protests because of the fear of being arrested. They either have medical issues the an extended lock up would complicate or make worse, or they have been arrested before, or have some legal or family issue that an arrest would make worse.

What I tell people when they ask me what they can do is that you do whatever you can, because at least it’s something. If you can pray, send energy, do magick, then that counts. If you can pass along information, sign petitions, write to your congress critter, then that counts. If you can order pizza to send to people who are marching or cook for them when they come home, then that counts. If all you can do is live your life, educate yourself, and try to be an example of a caring, loving, human being who treats everyone, to the best of your ability, as human beings, too, then that counts.

Are prayers, or writing, or any of these other things enough? Of course not. This is why we have a community of people with different talents. It’s amazing that there are those who can march with those doing the protests. Or that they can travel to places, or take the time off, or feel ok with the risk of being arrested. I’m glad that they can do that work.

But, to me, it’s another form of oppression being dismissive of people who are the support: the cooks, those who pray, the writers, the information disseminators, those who educate, those who are just aware and try to be an example of what’s good. To me, it’s like feminists being dismissive of stay-at-home moms (or dads), or lesbian and gay people telling bisexuals, transgender folks, asexuals, non-binary folks, etc that they somehow don’t belong in the queer community. Just because someone can’t do ALL THE SOCIAL JUSTICE THINGS doesn’t mean they don’t care, or aren’t doing anything at all.

Blessed be the supporters: may you know that even your smallest helpful things still counts as activism.

The Imposter Syndrome Voice

When I get into a depression, and as I’m coming out of it, my Imposter Syndrome Voice (ISV) decides to rear its head. My ISV can hold me back quite a bit when it decides to exert itself on my brain. Some of my friends call this Voice “brain weasels” and I think that’s a really good term for it, too. Right now, even, that voice is saying “Oh, you shouldn’t bother writing about this because everyone else has written about it and you’re just noise so maybe you should just delete this and watch more YouTube.” (Run on sentence intentional.)

This can be the voice that says I shouldn’t bother talking to anyone, either. It’s the same voice that will tell me that I’m boring, or that I don’t have anything worth saying, or, on the worst days, that people think I’m horrible and they don’t want to be around me.

I know that Depression is a liar, and so the ISV is, too, but somewhere along the line, my brain decided that it was easier to listen to the lies rather than believe reality. It’s always been hard for me to not think that an argument, disagreement, or mistake is the end of the world (or relationships, or employment, or whatever). I could have days and days of happy, good, joyful things but if I make one mistake, I’ll end up obsessing about it, thinking I’m this horrible person and everyone hates me, regardless of all the good that has happened.

Intellectually, I know that there are a lot of you out there who go through this, too. My wife and I share some similar things around this and we talk about it a lot (and I know she still likes being around me because she married me *grin*), but in the middle of a bout where the ISV is in control, it’s hard to see outside of myself.

I suppose I’m not sure how to work with this. Do I try to banish this voice, or do I embrace it and acknowledge that this is a part of me, or both? Is this voice more of a Check and Balance that keeps pushing itself too far? Or maybe I just need to disconnect it from the reactions I have to criticism and challenge?

I’m writing about this because I want to make it less of a Voice and more of a Thing I Can Control. One of the first witchy things I was taught was that if you can name a thing, it makes it a real thing that you can deal with. Whether I can do that, I’m not completely sure, but I know I need to do something because I’d like to be able to do my art without as much anxiety as I have now.

(This is more of a noodle to help me sort stuff out. I do exercise, meditate, take vitamins and other physical things of that nature to help with my anxiety and depression, so please no advice about those kinds of things, thank you.)

Blank Page (Post-Hidey Ramblings)

I’ve been staring at the screen for a few minutes, listening to my Samhain playlist, and wondering what I should write about. There’s plenty of dust ups and politics that I could write about, but I feel like I’ve said all I really need to say about things. I mean, how many times can I write some version of “don’t be shitty to people”? On the Internets it feels (to me anyway) like banging one’s head against a brick wall. Or shouting in an echo chamber.

Facebook has been really bad for that. That’s a big part of the reason that I’ve been taking a Facebook sabbatical. It’s not that don’t care about any of the issues that people talk about, far from it, but there’s only so much I can take before the depression sets in. Which it did for a couple of weeks, as I kind of “disappeared” while the Olympics were happening. (Here’s a good video about this and why those of us with depression and anxiety do it.) Although, spraining my hand also forced me to stay off the computer since typing was hard (although, I did get practice with Google Dictation in Google Docs).

What I’m realizing, though, is that the most stable and happy I’ve been (and the wife confirms this) is when I maintain a somewhat strict monastic schedule. Get up early, meditate for 20 minutes, take care of altar, pull cards, then get dressed, have breakfast, and go about my day. At night I clean up the altar from the morning and meditate or ground, depending on how tired I am when I get to it. This schedule works, along with my swim training, and I’m finally getting back to it.

It makes me wonder why people tend to think that a monastic life isn’t a legitimate form of work, particularly when it comes to social justice. I get that “prayers aren’t enough” but there are some of us that, for whatever reason, just can’t do all the activism that some activists think that everyone should be doing.

Then again, most of my ministry really stems more from being an example of radical inclusion. I hope that most of the time people can feel included in my home or at any public event that I help to run. I’m far from perfect and I know that some people don’t really subscribe to my ideas of inclusion or even my theology. I don’t always get it right, and I don’t need a cookie for my work. But it’s how I roll.

I pray for the Dead and the Ancestors every day.
I pray for all those who need a light in the darkness every day.
Some days I do more.
Some days prayer is all I’ve got.
I try to be as inclusive in my being as I can.
I hope I get it right more than I get it wrong.
So mote it be.

Owie (I sprained my hand.)

So I sprained my left hand slightly around 4th of July. I thought it was getting better but I recently made it much worse. Now it’s all wrapped up so I can’t type for a couple weeks. I am dictating this through Google dictation, which works really well, but takes a bit of practice.

I will not be doing blog posts or much typing in the next couple weeks. Just be aware that I will be dictating a lot or using a handwriting keyboard on my phone so it might be a bit slow to get texts/emails back from me.

I guess the gods really do want me to take this month off!

Don’t want to vote for President? Ok, but PLEASE STILL VOTE! Here’s the reasons why:

1. THE ENTIRE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, all 435 seats, are up for re-election.
2. 34 SENATE SEATS are up for re-election.
3. 12 STATES are electing new governors: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, (my home state of) New Hampshire, North Carolina (the infamous “bathroom bill” state), Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virgina.
4. EVERY STATE has state elections: 42 out of 50 state senates are holding elections, and 44 out of 49 state houses are holding elections.
5. EVERY CITY will have city elections. You should learn who’s up for election in your town.

What I want to make clear here is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO VOTE FOR EVERYTHING ON A BALLOT!! Not voting in a section of your ballot DOES NOT invalidate it.

IF YOU DON’T WANT TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT, BUT STILL WANT TO MAKE SOME CHANGE, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, OR FOR LOVE OF LITTLE GREEN APPLES, OR EVEN FOR THE LOVE OF COOKIES, ***VOTE!!***

Need help registering? Click the “Rock the Vote” link to the right there, or send me an email.

Recent Reflections (with expletives)

  1. I like makeup, and I’m having fun with it, even though the butch side of myself is going “huh? wut?”
  2. I am an activist for some things, and I’ll do the work when I need to, but I’m not so keen on the community around activism sometimes. There are times when the very far left sounds quite similar to the very far right, especially in the “I will shout at you until you believe like I do” school of activism.
  3. Speaking of politics, I am not an anarchist, even though I’m pagan. I love all you Anarcho-pagans out there. Keep doing what you do. I just am not. I’m very much a New England Yankee Democrat.
  4. I’m not Hillary’s #1 Fan or anything, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that Bernie didn’t get the nomination. I don’t think there was any actual conspiracy on the part of the DNC to see him not win, either. Having grown up in New England with history nerds for parents, I’ve lived and breathed politics from the cradle. What the DNC has been doing is what usually happens during elections. Unless you get a surprise winner like Barack Obama in 2008, most of the time they have a general idea of who’s going to end up with the nod.
  5. That said, the Republicans have gone batshit crazy, and what they have is certainly not normal. Trump is nasty and should not get in office.
  6. Personally, I think a third party vote is throwing votes to Trump. But you know what? You don’t have to give a fuck what I think, and I don’t really give a shit who you vote for as long as you actually vote. There are plenty of down-ticket things that still need your attention, even if you leave the presidential vote blank.
  7. I keep wavering about running for office. Sometimes I think I should and sometimes I think that way lies madness…of the bad kind.
  8. Working with Ereshkigal keeps the “give a fuck” tank low and the bullshit meter set on high sensitivity. The extra helping of hormones does not help this.
  9. It’s rather fun watching my wife watch the DNC. She’s getting a real education about American politics this year.
  10. Pink is my favorite color. Most of you know this already. I am just reasserting my pink-loving identity. 🙂