Living Spells: breathing, dreaming, growing.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You Become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Life feels like it’s simmering. Bubbling along and reducing down, but also becoming thicker, more flavorful. Trying to Become. Trying to reduce-out all the watering-down we’ve had over quite a few generations. Those flavors can be good or bad depending on what part of the soup you live in at the moment, but it seems as though at this point most people recognize that change is happening at an inevitable pace. It’s time to stir the pot some more.

Many folks are getting incredibly worked-up, and I don’t blame them, but we need to hang-on to sanity if we want the change to be effective in transmuting our reality. Channeled anger can be incredibly useful, so long as it’s channeled into something we actually want. Unguided rage, or random attacks on internet strangers who are “wrong” tend to be unproductive at best, and more often counter-productive by furthering Argument Culture and Binary Thinking in general. And sometimes by further spreading propaganda which helps no-one*.

(*I don’t consider the various persons at the top of the elite levels to need “help” with this so I refuse to count them)

Fear, sadness, and anger seem to be ever-growing, at the dawning realization by many people that the western model of society as a manifestation of materialism and materialistic behavior. That’s good to a certain extent; shit’s bad and we need to do something about it! But people have different views as to how it’s bad that are usually limited by their own experience. We have a tendency to frame all of our problems with boxes so that we can assure ourselves that everything can be controlled and sorted out(at least so long as other people agree to use the same boxes as us). That tendency makes it fairly easy for all of our anger to wind up being re-channeled into trying to rebuild or repair the current broken model with us all being played against one-another, because it was broken from the beginning. We never intend to repeat the mistakes of the past do we? But somehow we manage to keep doing so, and to me that seems to indicate that some of our most basic assumptions of reality, the boxes we put our thoughts in, are fundamentally not large enough or flawed in some other intrinsic way.

We need to try to find useful ways of re-framing and expanding our views of the world that are less-binary. It also means making them less-exclusive towards approaches to thought and experience that are foreign to us, either because they are just not our experience, or because the dominant culture has largely abandoned them altogether. In other words, we need to start re-enchanting the world with magical perspectives and experiences that can lead us into a more healthy and joy-filled relationship with the world around us.

Recently, Gordon White and Conner Habib were having a chat about the interplay between activism, argument culture, and expanding our metaphysical approaches. It connected to ideas which I’ve spent a lot of my life unpacking, but sparked some really new and interesting ideas about metaphysics, animism, and the way we interact with our current cultural realities. I want to say upfront that I deeply appreciate them having the conversation they did and putting themselves on-record for a bunch of it, despite my having some misgivings about some elements of their conversation early-on. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, despite some issues I have with their presentation approaches in the beginning. It’s really worth listening to, and trying to break it down and internalize the bits that need internalizing and trying to externalize others.

Once they truly get started, Gordon and Conner work on some difficult, but probably needed criticism of the trend of reactionary-escalation in our culture(which I think most people can agree exists). As gay men who in my estimation tend towards honest and conscientious activism in their individual lives in various ways, they have a broad appreciation for the need of change in our society. More than that, from a mystical perspective they are convinced of the inevitability of change. That optimism shows through and is founded on their strongest point, which I’ll get to later. However they reserve some of their early criticism for other activist-types who have a tendency to fall into internal-bickering or unproductive shouting matches with opponents.

They point out how this is at best unproductive(paraphrasing: “You don’t convince anyone of anything by yelling at them that they are wrong”); that it distracts from the overall messages that are pursued by activists, or even detracts if it makes them look like just a bunch of angry reactionaries, however valid their core points.

I agree to a great extent, but I think this point turns back on itself in a self-destructive spiral the longer they belabor it: effectively they are tone-policing people for being tone-police(added irony points that I now find myself doing the same thing)! I’m sure this isn’t their intent, and it’s more a function of the dialogue getting hung-up and going in circles.

While some people might see this as a reason to dismiss what they are saying, I think it’s a good prompt for self-examination: perhaps the answer, rather than criticizing criticism, is to try to take a step away from that. Acknowledge that there are problems with how functionally useless certain criticisms become, not due to their content but because they turn back in endlessly rehashed criticism of language. That criticism has a powerful tendency to lead towards a functionally infinite downward and inward spiral that will suck-in bystanders as easily as any car-crash.

Ultimately, I think, that’s probably the point they are trying to make but it also hung them up not due to the observation itself(Yes, please, let’s be kind to each other, but stop wasting time in endless critical loops with people of good-faith!) but precisely because they belabored it and got sucked-in. There was some good stuff mixed in to that front-half of the conversation, and as is normal with them they softened a lot of it with hilarious/cringe-inducing humour(the best kind), but it felt a bit scattershot and it all felt like it got a bit bogged down and distracted-from in the very ways they were trying to point-out. Come to think of it, in a weird way, they may have proved their own point, quite well? We’ll sum it up with “Don’t follow the TERF’s down their own drain”, which as a trans person resonated deeply, and is a message I wish more of us would take to heart. That fight is won already and directly engaging trolls of any sort only empowers them.

So I’ll simply leave that criticism at just a few paragraphs(I wrote a lot more at first but realized I was falling into the same exact trap because it is soo easy to do!). Instead I’m going to move in the opposite direction, which they also eventually did: an upward and outward spiral of fractalized empowerment and expansion of our grasp of reality.

Now a huge part of the impact of this episode for me was their discussion of the power of transgender people to expand human consciousness. As a trans woman I’ve been aware of this of course, and even actively pursue it: there’s little more satisfying to me in life than talking to someone who starts off prejudiced in some really generic and boring way towards trans-folk, talking to them, engaging their confusion and fear (and often suppressed curiosity), but with care and compassion which they aren’t often expecting, and becoming Real to them.

This isn’t for everyone because it’s emotionally taxing and you really need a certain sort of confidence in your place in reality to do it, but it can be infinitely more effective than criticizing language/approach. Rather than trying to confine them, you are trying to expand them. People are built to want to grow. They fight against restrictions, even if those restrictions are sometimes good or at least necessary. On the other hand if they are encouraged to grow and expand their reality they’ll usually do it.

Sometimes of course this doesn’t play out, especially if a person is deeply fearful of having to expand their reality. Some people are so afraid of being put in boxes by others that they put their whole world in a subdivided set of boxed definitions and effectively cage themselves away. It’s a much easier to defend a prison you’ve locked yourself away in than to try to break through in other people’s prisons and risk being trapped. They lock themselves into a world that is static and unchanging and without exceptions, rather than one that allows for infinite variation and growth. But some part of them still wants to grow and resents the cage they’ve put themselves in.

This is one of the really important bits of the message Gordon and Conner are trying to get across and they do it in a couple of interesting ways. First of course, is the idea of “becoming invincible” and realizing that ultimately you yourself can’t be destroyed, and can only be bound if you accept those boundaries. Some boundaries may be useful to different people in different situations based on their temporal limitations, but if you take a long-view where human souls are indestructible essential bits of us that move from life to life amassing more ever greater complexity, then you realize that as humans we have an infinite potential and capacity for self-improvement and expansion.

The celebration of that possibility of expansion should not be limited, but needs to be discovered, due to a culture and worldview in the west that tries to deny this in an engineered attempt to restrict growth. Not through mere laws but through cultural norms like toxic masculinity, binary argumentation, colonialism, etc. We’re fed into a cultural system that I would compare to factory-farming. All we know are our boxes that we’ve built for ourselves, with the help of our overarching cultural stories based around limitation: laws, religious mores, categories, stereotypes, even language. Because there’s no end to the way humans can grow, we can be trained, train ourselves, and eventually try to entrain others to restrict ourselves to growing inward rather than outward. Our minds wall-off ideas much as our bodies wall-off infections, internalizing them without truly dealing with them in useful or healing ways. We can become an infinite fractal of internalized sins to find and imprison us in a deep dark hole that only we can see or hear.

The solution G&C put forward is effective in helping us refocus on the long-term progress of individual spirits. Opening tiny doors in people’s hearts to unlock a small part of them seems useless when it’s framed with only a few small beneficial changes over the course of a lifetime, but over the course of many it makes sense. And especially when you factor in the likelihood of psycho-spiritual trophic cascades, it even comes off seeming almost inevitable.

It’s certainly optimistic in a way that’s difficult to achieve sometimes if we get caught up in the scream-factory that social media and news seem to make of our day-to-day lives. It also encourages us to interact with that reality with different approaches to living. To unplug sometimes, to meditate, to develop our own souls, so that we might engage more effectively with those of others. Because ultimately we are on a rescue-mission for ourselves and our reality, and when we engage, we need to do so from a place of broader understanding and love.

They uphold trans-folks as extremely visible warpers-of-reality in a metaphysical sense, forcing a confrontation with the limitations of worldviews where gender is as rigorously a defined box as taxes, money, or the concept of land-ownership. That is inspiring to me as a trans-person; it’s great to have that aspect of my hedge-witchery recognized and lauded! But I think it needs to be broadened out. In many ways Trans folks have a lot of potential in common with other people who stand at the edges and boundaries of our realities like Saints, Witches, Bodhisattvas, Prophets, even “mere” Artists.

Seen as outsiders, both feared and respected, sometimes persecuted, disruptive to their societies due to their confidence in who and what they are, ultimately focused on love and growth among fellow humans. I think these are things that are upheld in many places as the essential qualities of someone who is a bringer-of-change and growth. I think ultimately that’s a place that it would be healthy for all people to get to. A sort of grand-recognition of the fuzziness of our reality.

Of course in some ways that’s scary, but it’s very real, and in fact the power comes from a place of stepping outside of the boxes and embracing the Real. This is a power we all have if we’re willing to step outside our boxes and live honestly Real lives that encourage others to love and grow, rather than to hate and stagnate. This doesn’t mean we’re pushovers(far from it!) but it means we have the ability to break and warp the mundane, depressing, two-dimensional world so many of us live in, simply by finding who we truly are and becoming Real. There are numerous paths to pursue that sort of magic in your own life of course; art, occultism, mysticism, zen… scuba-diving in ancient ruins or heck, hurtling down mountains dressed like a giant flying squirrel if that’s your jam!

As one point in the episode one of them(I forget which) asked semi-rhetorically “how else are we supposed to do it?” and they are entirely right: we do it by expanding our realities into fractals. Where rather than relativising our experiences and saying nothing is real, we make them into fractalized manifestations of relationships between stories, where everything can be real when it needs to be. We’re building-in the ability to handle the incomprehensible complexity that is an integral part of our world that allows us to grow, as “a feature, not a bug”.

I am reborn a thousand times, and a thousand times a thousand times.
Every second of every day.
I am the new and the old, blending a hundred million times a minute into an infinite fractal of conscious and unconscious and super-conscious. I am human and god and angel and daemon and fae. I am plant and animal and mineral and liquid and wind.
I am your life and breath and death, in infinite interplay in every moment of existence in every point in time and in every way of experiencing.
I am a Sorcerer living in Ptolemaic Thebes. I am the dreaming of humanity that swallowed him up and digested him and his work all the way up to the present.
I am Gordon White and Conner Habib, and they are me and all the rest, but all contained within our own infinitely-growing manifestations of fractalized reality.

This isn’t to say we aren’t “real” or aren’t “ourselves”, but rather that we need to accept that those selves are necessarily made up of the interplay of an incomprehensible array of influences that change in an infinite variety of ways every moment of every day. Whether it’s the stories we tell ourselves about persons around us or those other stories themselves, the Realness that is Me is a compound of untold numbers of influences smooshed together around my core being, which grows until all of that smoosh is melded and the cycle begins again. Beings of near-infinite complexity.

When you can start to think this big and still be able to find the youness that is within all of this, not only are you “Invincible” but you’re capable of helping other people grow in their own invincibility. Those stories and experiences will necessarily be completely alien from our own, and terrifying in Their own marvelously complex beauty. Language is merely a veneer that disguises for us the profound alien-ness of every person we meet, human and inhuman. “Alive” and “Dead”.

All of this is overwhelming and impossible to contain in words, but requires us to try to express it nonetheless. I think that for me at least, I’ve been strongly inspired to grow once again, into something even larger and more capable of inspiring love and growth in all you wonderfully alien creatures, straining to escape your boxes and grow in your lives and dreams as fully Living Spells. I hope you’ll do the same for me!

 

Header-image found at https://www.maxpixel.net/photo-3206739 under Creactive Commons 0 license.
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Intuitional Homesteading

[This piece was put together in two major chunks. My 12 year old dog and most loyal friend Maggie, who had helped me through my divorce over ten years ago as a puppy had been ill but seemed to be on the rebound as I mentioned a bit further down. She relapsed severely and I helped her along myself, just over a week ago as of this publishing. I’ve been pretty depressed and haven’t worked on this much since then, partly because she was in quite a few of the pictures I took for this that weren’t published, which made finishing this very difficult. But I’m quite sure she’d want me to get it up and out, especially since a tree or bush is going to be going-in over her in the near future, so here it is! Thank you Maggie for motivating this to completion! I’ll always love you<3]

I am bad at planning. It’s not that I’m not good at coming up with plans, it’s that if I make them very specific then I have a tendency to rebel against them and go my own way. Sometimes that works well and sometimes it falls flat. However I’ve figured out over my life so far that if I define my plans in a loose, sketchy way, I’m less likely to self-sabotage but it also is much more likely to work out than no plan at all. It wouldn’t work best for most people, but it seems to usually for me. And as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke said “No plan survives contact with the enemy”; in this case the most pernicious enemy is me.

So currently, I’m working on probably the most elaborate single project I’ve ever started: turning our 3 acres of land in rural central Missouri into a small farm using horticulture and permaculture approaches. My spouse is in it with me thankfully or frankly I’d flounder about with ideas without ever quite gaining the motivation to *do* anything! They and our kiddos are the motivation my life once lacked. I can always use more, but so far we’re making it.

Currently we’ve got a few dozen trees and shrubs coming in the next month or two[as of publishing this, some have been planted and a lot are sitting in dirt in the garage waiting for good weather] and I’ve promised a few folks on my Twitter that I’d write up a blog post detailing plans and then keep this up to date with what we’re up to. The last couple of weeks have really been emotionally rough, due to my old dog getting progressively more and more sick and my worry over the likelihood of having to help her pass along. The last few weeks I had steeled myself for doing that today, but she’s perked up quite a bit yesterday and today so I’m going to let myself bow to my perennial hope and procrastination and see if that holds. So now… this blog.

I went out and took some pictures a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to be referring to this little piece of handiwork.

Treemarks

Yes, that’s right, I screen-grabbed satellite imagery of my property and then did it several injustices in MSPaint. Sorry not sorry; it was actually kind of fun being a completely inexpert person doing something like this! But clearly I’ll have to explain the color-coding and since I took a bunch of planning-pictures of the homestead the other week I’ll share those with marks on the map where the various photos were taken for perspective. I guess a virtual homestead-planning tour? Boring to most probably but then again most people don’t read my blog! (Hi to whoever you are, reading this! I love you!)

So before the tour I just want to say a bit about our overall goals and reasons for this. My spouse and I are kinda hippy-go-with-the-flow-ish but realized when we’d been married for a few minutes that we needed some kind of shared dream to follow. We each had many hopes and dreams but weren’t good at making concrete goals(sense a theme?) so we spent a couple years exploring our options via pipe-dreams and theory-planning; like-ya’-do. Our original plan was to run a craft business, touring the country in a tiny-home on a trailer, selling stuff at Ren-faires, pagan events, anime conventions and the like. We still occasionally sell nerdy-stuff like this either at the rare ‘con(My spouse has a booth at Springfield G.A.M.E this year for anyone in the area who wants to say hi!) or to friends, but having a child put that plan on indefinite hold. We’ve always loved gardening as well tho, so we’ve settled-down for a bit and plan on working with the land we managed to acquire. I’m particularly into the idea of using it as part of an interactive relationship with the spirits of the land and wild areas around us.

My spouse is a bit less into the spirit-oriented side of things(more of an energy-model of magic person), not out of disbelief, but out of a sort of respectful-fear of anything spirit-world related. Thankfully they’ve agreed to let us “haunt” a corner of it, and I’m also fairly convinced that we have some rather Good Neighbors, whom I regularly put out whiskey and water for and who leave us some rather odd presents sometimes(worms in a bowl we’d left by our backdoor ~30 feet from the edge of the concrete pad..).

So the goal of this is not to drastically change the land, but rather to help wake it back up and to help it achieve various possible potentials. So with that in mind, and the fact that our plans will almost certainly change as we go along, let the tour begin!

So this first batch is of the “front yard” in a clockwise rotation.

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There are several flower-beds up here that the previous owners put in. We plan on replanting these with perennials and possibly a few pretty perennial herbs and such, as the main “decorative garden” area. I missed it but just to the left of this and kind of hanging in over the far left side of the drive, in front of the carport is a hickory-tree that we’re going to harvest the nuts from this year!

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The Sweetgum that is closest and leftmost here is just a beautiful climbing-tree, which once they get big enough to follow me up, I’ll teach them to climb! The cedar and two pines are quite nice for shade and smell. The gnarly red-bud in between them is weirdly adorable and probably about to be very pretty here in the next few weeks when it flowers!

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So these pictures of the front, southern bit of land among these broadly-spaced trees is what we plan on keeping as a proper “yard” for the kiddos to play in. Except for the second one in(American Elm in a bit of rough-shape I think?) they are almost all ornamentals in some sense, so they are mostly there for shade and to look nice.  I plan on building a field-stone wall along the front fenceline, probably next year, because I’ve been fascinated with the idea of dry-stone walls from old Viking-lands, particularly in Ireland and the western coastal areas of Britain. This and the general need for putting up fences and hedges for our homestead in the next year or two seems to fit rather well(and indeed in a surprisingly positive way) with some of the overall space-weather that will have influence on the next couple of years. There are also a couple of persimmon trees obscured behind the others here that fruited pretty heavily last year on the ditch-side of the fenceline, and I hope that when I build my wall there may be a few good opportunities to spread a few of the fruits right along it so from the road it will be fruit-trees in front of a wall! This year we’re going to try making jams, or pies, or something from them if they produce well!

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You can’t make-out very well in this picture but inside the fence to the left of where my spouse is wrangling our 2yo is a maple-sapling and an elder that are our first two tree/shrub plantings here at the homestead!
Also for next year: once we’ve got some strongly performing Elder plants growing in our hedgerow(see below) I plan on laying a hedge down the east(center of the picture) side of the driveway. Then wood or some other kind of nice looking fencing down the woods-side so the border under the eves of the “Good Neighbor’s” wood can be used for a magical/legal-psychoactives herb-garden.

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Here at the end of the drive we’re going to put a pair of gates and possibly a little stone wall or post for when we develop our magical-herb garden along the edge of the Neighbor’s woods.

1 Yard and house-adjacent

For clarity, here’s a blow-up of this part of the property. I was standing by the leftmost pink dot(flowerbed) when I took these pictures. Brown is existing trees. The tree lone brown dot and purple circle in the front-corner are the sapling and elder-baby that were planted last fall and super early this spring. Hoping they do well this year.

 

So next up is the side-yard area which will primarily be garden-plot space. We don’t have worked out yet how the bulk of the land will be used, and that may very well vary from year to year depending on what we decide to plant to make sure we are treating the soil well overall.

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This is going to be our main gardening area, this year at least. To the front-right of the apple/pear trees[which I just added a few new saplings in a grid to form a mini-orchard this morning], you can make-out the raised beds which was most of what we managed for gardening last year.

Depending on how some things go in the next month or two, we’re hopefully going to have a mobile chicken-coop with attached-run built, and a few chickens to drag around and fertilize a lot of this soil that we won’t necessarily be planting this year, so that next year it’ll have some nicely amended soil. I think we’ll probably try to do this with a “fallow field” area that will be the chicken-area in a new part of this every year, tho that’ll be up in the air until we figure out how many chickens and how mobile our coop-plans actually are once they are built!

You can also barely see that we are putting in a couple of long raised beds next to the house on the east side here. Those ones we’re going to make more permanent, as you can see in the next picture one I have managed to get surrounded with cinder-blocks that are painted a nice red-brick colour and have some lettuces already planted. We may have to replant it, as we’ve had one late freeze already and are about to probably have another (hopefully final!) one this week[update: there was another late-frost and we may get yet another which is just how this sort of thing often goes.] Given the space-weather late/early-frosts and difficult winters could become pretty common the next couple of years? Note to self: make sure to get a yearly copy of the Farmer’s Almanac, take notes, and compare in a couple of years!

Also next to the house, we’re set to build a rather unusual trellis immediately behind, and over-the-tops of the raised-beds, which will hopefully come together in the next couple of weeks for growing various climbing veggies and also to shade the windows on that side of the house during high-summer hopefully! Consider this a teaser for an upcoming blog-post on the implementation of this idea that my spouse came up with!

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As becomes clear, the only interference with planting in this part of the yard(besides damnable lawn) is a single tree. It didn’t do well last year, shedding most of it’s leaves during the mild end-of-summer we had, before we even got to our surprisingly long and clement autumn last year. If it continues failing, I’m plotting it’s removal and use as either firewood, or run-off management. If it makes it we’ll have a mildly shady part of our main growing area from the previous picture, and can just use it with that intent.

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This broad open area we’re still kinda working on what to do with it. It’s open and south-facing, with very minimal early/late shade during peak growing season. The far half by the front fence retains water pretty intensely, and I’m wanting to find out if it’s possible to put in a pond in the far left corner somehow, but that’s mostly just an idea at this point(although I included it roughly in my theory-draw on the map).

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This is the open fence line(posts without wire for some reason?) that we share with the neighbors, and this picture is a bit out of date. We have the beginnings of a hedgerow [now mostly planted] that will border the open property-line and provide more privacy from them. They’re decent folk, but I’d really like to be able to lay naked in the sun on the back patio occasionally, or go out and work in practical, femme clothes without having to worry literally about “what will the neighbors think”. It should also give quite a bit of food if all goes according to plan! We’re putting it between the row of previously existing maple trees and the property-line and I planted several pairs of elder-plants to get it started(represented by the maroon dots inside the purple outline that will be the hedgerow itself. I think given everything I hear about “edge effect” and all the other cool things about hedgerows, that this is maybe the project I’m most currently excited about! I’m looking forward to putting it together like a puzzle and finding the right places for everything so it grows together in a healthy way!

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I’ve left-out the bit of continuous picture here for the hedgerow that was directly between me and the neighbors house cause it was basically just a fifteen feet to the property line and a pretty boring picture. This one tho shows where we’re going to end the hedgerow)between the stump that was left to us but is apparently trying to make a comeback, and the young tree further on which I think is another black walnut, although I’m not for sure. I don’t like black walnuts much but it’s possible to sell or trade them around here by the bushel so that might be worthwhile.

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Here’s the final view of the edge of the grassland that we plan on eventually using as pasturage for a couple of alpaca and goats Next Year. That will need fenced sturdily, and we may need to get a guard-dog who can defend them against coyotes and dogs various neighbors let run-loose. Also my dear, and recently departed Maggie-dog making her first appearance here, just before the map of the area we just covered. As you can see from the map, we plan on probably dividing the main growing area with fences at some point, because rabbits rather adore our property, and while we don’t entirely mind sharing, we don’t want to be exclusively feeding them and the deer that also come by overnight sometimes! These pictures were taken from the eastern side of the central yellow field-zone.

2 Side gardens and fields

So this next bit is where things get much wilder and more interesting; the back almost 2/3’s of the land I’ve let-go(everything behind the barn), completely untouched for a year, with the exception of a ritual-circle area that I kept mowed. The bits that I didn’t were basically reclaimed into a regionally-normal grassland area for the most part. It’s an interesting mix of tall grasses and “weeds” like Queen Anne’s Lace(a type of wild-carrot that looks like Water Hemlock), certain species of which have remained standing over winter and others have matted-down.

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This part through here we plan on simply knocking-down with a brush-hog ever year and eventually fencing and making our main “pasture” for goats and a couple of Alpaca probably the season after this one. It has pretty direct side-access to the barn which we plan on doing one end up to serve as rough-weather housing for them.

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This is the bottom part of the “pasture” section and while it’s not visible in this picture, a stream-bed runs left to right through the middle of this, separating one side of the land from the other. The bits near it are pretty soggy most of the year except in the driest parts of summer. I plan on planting wetland plants and trees along through here, especially as I plan a water-management system for the barn-runoff as a major project for this year which will direct more flow down this in hopefully a more consistent way, as well as making some of the area behind the barn more useable(see below).

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Down the eastern fenceline from the midway point of the yard where we actually have fencing going back the rest of the way. There’s a strange ruined concrete foundation of a long-gone building here that is overgrown with brambles and honesuckle that I think of as our “devil’s acre/fairy-fort”. It’s a bit of a wade through tall grass and muddy ground that has been only awkwardly accessible for the past few months so I haven’t had much chance to try to find out more about it’s nature. It definitely has a strange feeling to it that I find quite reassuring in the sense that it’s definitely a place of some kind of strangeness and mystery. I like that but it remains to be seen how we’ll learn to interact with it over time. The stream-bed divides the property in the very middle of the fence way back behind it where those cedars and we’ll deal with that a bit later. Those three pics I took from the middle of the right hand side of the map.

3 Barn and pasture

As you can see from the map, the land continues to have a sort of divided-in-half topology. The big open areas in the brown are probably where we’ll run a couple of goats(maybe with access to the back areas behind the ruin/fairy-fort, since it’s the most distant part of our land that is open ground.

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So these pictures are taken near the corner of the barn right by the path that leads back to our ritual-circle. This first one that currently has a brush-pile of last fall’s yard-waste is the area we’re probably going to build a few tiny-houses next year so that we can have visitors over(the house is a bit small and can only host maybe 2-3 people between a futon-foldout and the couch. Also like I said early, we’ve been fascinated with the idea of tiny-home design and using it for “guest-house” type places is perfect. Plus once we get a few places built we can always use them for kids’ “campout” spaces to help them learn independence, or places where we ourselves can spend a night or two if we just need some time alone.

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This is the turn-around between the back-patio and the barn. You can see the grilling-area of the patio, unfortunately I didn’t get a direct picture of the patio, but in the next few months we’re going to dig-out around the concrete pad of the patio and square it off with a gap for soil and then cinderblocks. Then we’re going to work on a permanent herb-garden growing as a border to the patio most of the way round! Also going to put in a couple of steps off of the concrete in the middle where it’s a bit steep but is the most direct walking-route to the barn and also to the compost-heap and path down to the ritual-circle.

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Here’s the current compost heap(which we want to upgrade soonish). I’ve come up with the creative use of fireplace-ash as weed-control around it. It needs stirred and to have more dry-material to it, which we are bad about, but it’s been incredibly rainy so far this spring so there hasn’t been a lot of “dry” to make happen.

Everything on the left hand side of the yard and around the barn and then down into the middle is the main water-runoff areas. The barn clearly generates a lot of runoff, and as is visible in the next few pictures the area right around it is pretty sodden due to being on a bit of a slope that descends pretty steeply behind it, and needs some channeling work.

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Especially since right in the middle of everything in this central acre is our sewage-lagoon. It’s like a cesspool but in the form-factor of a pond. In this picture it’s right behind the split cedar tree. It’s an interesting and mildly difficult challenge to design around because it requires light and wind accessibility for the bacteria to function effectively, unless we want it to get really stinky. Theoretically the overrun from it in heavy rain is supposed to be relatively clean, but with things like soap and hair-dye going into it, I’m not sure how well I trust the area right bellow it as far as planting food-bearing trees or shrubs. Surprisingly it doesn’t stink for exactly the reason you’d normally think it would: Bacterial activity.

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Anyway I’m wanting to design water-collection troughs and runs that will collect and divert runoff around this on both sides so it will stay more of a contained system and won’t always overflow with it’s overflow-pipe unless we have a really incredible rain.

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This is the overgrown slope right behind the barn that helps funnel the runoff down into a really sodden piece of ground between it and the lagoon, which also happens to be right across a part of the path that leads back to the ritual space. I miss you Maggie-dog!<3

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You can kind of vaguely make out where the grass is lower across the middle here where it gets really wet. Also the narrow muddy rut that goes down the middle of the path where it’s wet, which I think is a deer-track that will likely only get worse. My idea here is to put in a bit of a channel with mini-levies/burms fronting the path. This will make everything to the left of the path quite the mini-wetland, and then to put one gap to make the start of a stream-bed across the path and to put in a little bridge over the top. I also want to grow some kind of ground-cover along this whole path(not a paid endorsement, just a commercial site I’ve been using to get some ideas) that will be pleasant to walk down barefoot, maybe some kind of a mint or a dwarf chamomile or something that will stand-up to foot-traffic but also have a lovely fragrance. Or maybe just moss because I absolutely love moss!

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Back of the barn. These trees are dead and need taken down. I’ll probably use them in my berm-construction. Which coincidentally will make a good place for growing a small batch of trees or shrubs with a Hügelkultur approach, although it would probably require a bit of reinforcing to function as an effective water-control berm.

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You can see from these pictures how some of the water already flows around the western side of the lagoon and with water coming from the other side and from the overflow of the lagoon it actually starts to form a channel, which stays green year-round, probably thanks to “pollutants” acting as nutrients for some atypical-for-the-land waterplants. Effectively this is similar to a leachfield for a septic-system, which I’m remembering now is another, perhaps better comparison for how the lagoon is meant to work, bacterially, if you’re interested in such things.

In the center-left of that picture is where I want to put a small hexagonal building with windows all around and a desk with a typewriter. Possibly an easel for painting or other artistic supplies. I’ll want to run the barest bit of electrical hookup for a space-heater/freestanding AC unit. A writer’s space to get away from everything comfortably. I also plan on banning all cellular devices from this point back. The rest of the property is meant to help reconnect with the Wilds.

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This is a picture from a mini-circle where the path bends towards the main ritual circle. I didn’t get a picture of this proper, but it is where I helped Maggie along to her next place, and buried her. I think of it as a staging-area for ritual purposes before you get to the main circle, and I just yesterday planted a weeping-willow there next to Maggie’s grave, so my ritual space will be guarded by a tree of the dead and a friend who is dead. She was my very own deeply cherished and missed “Black Dog” who helped me through the end of my abusive first-marriage and subsequent years of ups and downs.

I am sure some representation of her, at very least symbolically, will stay behind and helps those using this space in preparation and liminal transition into a magical-working space. She seemed to have chose the space herself, as the last several times we’d gone down this direction she’d paused here sniffing extensively around the location where later(April 2nd) I would baptize in her blood and make various offerings to her, both immediately before and after her death.

It’s probably clear that I’m hung up on this and I should probably make another post about it all at some point and how it seems vaguely connected to a possibly-self-inflicted curse due to my feelings of guilt at having not managed to help her to heal, and killing one of the closest friends I ever had in life. Such it may be.

Anyway on with the tour.

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This is the Circle proper. As you can see it forms something of a circle naturally with the trees surrounding it on all sides. I mowed it down a few times last year and it seems to have changed the ground-cover a bit, but another project will be to even the ground out just a bit(there’s a few ruts from long-gone downed trees) and get probably the same groundcover we use on the path to cover this over and make it barefoot-ready. We’re also going to plant more trees to fill-out the circle, probably with a few concentric rings. We may plant an interior-ring so it’s perhaps just a bit less space. There’s a huge old oak that overhands the entire thing on the forrest-side, so it requires semi-regular care just to clear it out of fallen branches. The way the whole thing abuts the forest is a rather nice feature I think, with all kinds of rather intense noises coming out of them in the dark!

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A look back up the hill from the Circle. Shows how much down-slope the land has on the whole.

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This is my “haunted wood” viewed from the circle. The fenceline runs down from the left and goes all the way back to a corner back there, dimly visible as roughly where the leaf-cover meets the dark lines of the side and back fence. I’ve collected a few fresh corpses of animals that died on the rural road that we prefer to take to/from town even though there’s a highway that’s faster. It’s a lovely drive and so far I’ve collected a young grey cat and a red squirrel(which are uncommon around here). I bring them here and encourage their spirits to wake-up and interact with each other and with visitors. At night it’s very eerily… I don’t know how to describe it… blanketing with attention? It just feels incredibly aware of you, standing in it in the dark. Not in an unfriendly way, but in a curious way. I do it so that they can be given a more decent resting place than the blacktop, and I like to think it helps them adjust more quickly to their new situation in a more calm and comforting environment.

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These are some pictures of the back section I’m not quite sure what to do with. Once we complete and fill-out the trees that form the ritual-space, this whole area will still be pretty open. We may use it as a back-pasture for our livestock when we get them, or possibly for something else entirely that I haven’t thought of.

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The main course of the stream-bed flows down from a fork: one branch coming from the left/east side where the fairy-ruin lies and funnels it’s own stream beneath broken foundations and tangled brambles, and one from the right/west side originating at the barn where I showed originally.

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Here at the bottom of the property it forms a bit of a marshy-area in a depression here that I may try to turn into a pond at some point when it’s dry. I really enjoy digging and this depression would be a pretty handy place to do something like that, but I don’t have a good plan for it. You can see it flows to the left around a little rise and out of the property.

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And here is the little rise with yet another, much smaller ruined foundation of some sort, roughly marking the center of our back-fence.

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Also this part of the land could I suppose be left as a natural prairie, which is one of the standard types of habitat around here historically and that things will obviously default to if left-alone entirely. You can see the fairy-ruin just behind the tree in this picture.

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So there you have it! That’s almost the entire tour! Here’s the map for the back bit of property and a few bonus pictures of the “fairy fort” as well(mapped in pink-circle and red dots)! Note that the red-circles on the map are where I plan on planting a few experimental plantings of a fast-growing Chinese Redwood that we’ve obtained. One of them doesn’t seem to have made it, but the other two hopefully will. They are in buckets presently and I’m secretly hoping that since they are quite large wetland plants, that maybe in twenty years time, if we are still here, that we can perhaps build liveable treehouses or meeting-spaces in them: my very own touch of Lothlórien!

Now that I’ve got this huge post out of the way, I’m hoping it will be easier for me to knock out a few further posts in the next week or two about the planting we’ve gotten finished since I started writing this last month, further projects as they happen, and perhaps one about Maggie and her death and grave site.

Also any suggestions for further content along these lines, let me know!

And without further-ado: the Fairy-Ruin!
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My Miraculous Month of Magical Mambo

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break…

May is my month. I was born in it and I think it’s maybe likely that I will die in it. And this particular May has chosen itself to be special in my life; at the end of the month I will begin hormone replacement therapy.

Lately I’ve also begun a more robust set of magical practices and we are living in a house on beautiful land that a year ago we barely dreamed might be possible. I largely attribute this to an incredibly successful sigil-working which I named “Kevin”(I don’t honestly know why). We are now in a rural enough area that part of the property is largely invisible to the only neighbors who might see it so long as it remains dark.

Not coincidentally it seems, that part of the yard had managed at some point to grow a rough ring of trees around it, so I’ve done some things in it to make it into our very own little “magical grove”. Perhaps also not coincidentally, just a day or two after I finalized my consecration of it, an acquaintance offered to send me a copy of Gordon White’s “Chaos Protocols” which, as a paying-member of his Rune Soup group, I’ve been feeling rather behind having not actually read.

Also I’ve been having various “coincidences” and other imaginary correlations pointing me in the direction of performing the “Headless Rite” for a few months now. The book arrived just a few days before the 1st of May. Just in time for Beltane or whatever else you choose to call May-day, which is commonly thought of as a time of thin borders between the spirit-world and our perceived “real” world.

Also also, I’d recently come across and been taken with the idea of trying out the idea of a month of ecstatic, meditative dance thanks to another acquaintance/connection from the same group.

In my mind these all correlated to an idea spawning and being decided fairly quickly after I received the book: I would perform a month-long fast and ritual, culminating with my beginning hormone-therapy on the 31st. A ritual and spiritual process of transformation preceding the beginning of my physical transformation. A liminal experience that would lead to a liminal physical reality.

As with many things magical, the process “began” working and building inside of me as soon as I made the decision to do it. That night I had an extremely vivid dream, which is rare in itself for me regardless; I only occasionally recall having dreamt at all during the night, maybe once every couple of weeks, and actually memorable ones only come to me a handful of times a year at best. I’ve only had dreams this vivid perhaps a dozen times in my life.

The content was also of particular note: I’ve been considering beginning a process of magical communion with my ancestors; in this dream I was spoken to by an ancestor. My mother’s father’s mother came and “woke me briefly” to speak to me at some length about her husband(my great grandfather). She told me about their relationship as well as his ancestry and revealing that he had covered up his native-heritage. According to my dream-great-grandmother, his mother had been a “Sioux-woman” taken as the wife of my twice-great-grandfather as a sort of trade or something for services rendered(she was a bit fuzzy on the circumstances) and it was tolerated in the rural southern-Iowa community they lived in because of his influence, although it was seen by most of them as somewhat beneath him. This would have been in the 1870’s probably. I’ve done some research and she would have most likely been Dakota or Yankton. Their son apparently managed through some help from his locally influential father and through intense civic-service beginning during his later school-years to avoid being labeled as “Indian” on census and other official paperwork, effectively “passing white”. In the dream I was shown several faded photographs of him and read me letters that he sent to her and to other people which she had retained, some of which mentioned this, and a few newspaper clippings related to his work in various social-clubs and playing in a community marching-band.

This was an intense beginning. I don’t think this means in any way that it would be acceptable for me to claim Native American heritage(culturally I’m definitely white) but if I am to properly honor my ancestors this information, and particularly having made contact with this woman(who’s personal history, incidentally, I know almost nothing of, other than seeing the picture of her that my mother has) is an important piece of the puzzle! Obviously I need to do a bit of genealogical work!

I continued to have semi-memorable dreams and actually have continuously since that night, which is a thankful relief to me(I’ve always felt vaguely left-out of the whole experience when people talk about them, since I have them so rarely).

On May 1st I performed the Headless Rite proper. It was chilly and I wore my spouse’s hooded-cloak, carried a purple candle, and the book for reference, and wore a headband of plain white with the words AŌTH ABRAŌTH BASYM ISAK SABAŌTH IAŌ written on it in black.

The ritual went as planned; I won’t go into it in depth as there’s not a lot to say: I felt remarkably disconnected through the whole process. Wearing a cloak and holding a candle between yourself an an open book tends to reduce the world down to those dimensions alone. It definitely felt as though it “worked” though, with a strong sense of connectedness to the Being in question as it’s temporary representative in that space here on earth and later as ambassador to the courts of the Four Kings.

When it was done I danced around the circle, hooded and cloaked, quite a whirlwind in black cloth, and after some minutes of spinning and jumping and becoming more and more… alive is how I guess I’ll put it, but also slightly dizzy.

In retrospect, I think I had read about doing part of the Rite blindfolded, which I hadn’t been able to find again when I’d looked for it so I hadn’t done it. But while I was dancing the voluminous hood kept slipping down over my face and so I semi-spontaneously decided to continue the dance “headless”; as the emissary of the Headless One, I myself would become headless. So I drew the hood down, engulfing my sight in warm shadow, then danced and spun, now aimlessly in the dark.

A few times I brushed up against the trees around the circle and it always felt like hands were guiding me gently to stay within it’s bounds. I also somehow never stumbled, despite the ground being muddy, rutted in places, and rather overgrown, since it had been raining extensively and I hadn’t been able to mow for quite a few days.

It may have been a bit reckless, but by the end, when I spent the last several minutes actually spinning around the circle like some kind of blind, mad dervish, I stopped and found that while I had thought I was near the bottom of the slightly sloping circle-grounds, I was actually at the top, exactly at the entrance.

Since that night, my dancing has continued unabated, despite once having my foot punctured by a stick(have been wearing shoes since then until I rake the circle) and despite rain and mud on several nights. The re-connection with my own place in nature seems to be the strongest effect, and occasional spine-tingling thrills for no apparent reason, which I assume is when spirits happen by.

On the third night it was raining and 44°F, so I went out and trugged around in the muddy grass as gracefully as possible for about fifteen minutes, touched the trees, laughed into the rain… etc, mostly trying to work through the process as quickly as possible so I could get back inside. Just a sort of spiritual check-in. One or two steps before leaving the circle, I heard a rough male-sounding laugh from somewhere off to my left. There wasn’t anyone there(I can see very well in the dark), and though it was a bit creepy and the laugh was… somehow assertive..? I still had the impression it was more a laugh at me dancing in tights and a sweater around a muddy circle in the cold rain. I must have looked ridiculous, especially since I was rushing!

Tonight will be my tenth night dancing in the circle. Each time it feels more natural but also somehow as though it is bringing more potential into the world, even on the nights that don’t seem quite as intense. So that is my experience of the Rite and my ongoing dance working so far.

If anything particularly interesting happens in the rest of the month I’ll make sure to post about it, and I’m quite sure that I’ll post about my doctor’s visit and beginning hormone therapy. I expect the rest of MY month will remain eventful.

PS: I don’t actually remember how to Mambo, tho I did learn it in a dance-class long ago; I was looking for a 5th “M-word” for the post-title since I was born on the 5th of May that would be related to dance and the translation just fit so well

Resistance is Useless

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy.” ~Albus Dumbledore

I was trying so hard to put off or avoid writing a post about politics.

This blog isn’t really about that: it’s about parenting, and magic, and my struggles with my own weirdo personal issues as someone who is very much the “outsider” living secretly in the middle of “normal” folk. Nearly no one reads it. And somehow I’m kind-of hoping nobody reads this either. Gods know that there are thousands of think-pieces out there, from more popular writers.

But I can’t really avoid writing it all out anymore. Politics has become unavoidable, even in my own “safe corner” of the internet. For the record, in case anyone wonders, I am an anti-partisan, mostly pacifistic, social-anarchist, professionally-closeted trans-person, with numerous “progressive” friends, living in the capital of a U.S. state that tended towards conservative politics before this election. This year swept all major state offices into that category. My parents are serious evangelical Christians and I know many of their friends from when I used to attend the same church. I inevitably have friends and professional contacts who are therefore fairly conservative.

While some people have the luxury of avoiding those they disagree with, I do not. So, especially given who I am, Political liminality is unavoidable. As a Vogon guard once put it to some rather unlikely heroes being carried along towards certain doom, just for trying to survive:  Resistance is useless!!!”  Well, maybe it isn’t useless and maybe resistance is exactly what we need, but that should beg a question with a less-obvious answer: what are we actually trying to #resist?

Politics, whether we like it or not, is a manifestation of ideas and opinions that people actually hold. So unless you are one of the stubborn few who are able to completely ignore politics(how do you even manage it? I’d be impressed if it weren’t part of the problem! also, you’d best stop reading this post!) then you realize that at this point in history, getting political is a nigh inevitability.

We’ve been chucked into the air-lock. Time to write-up an improbability drive so the story can progress with our heroes still… resisting! In our present reality resistance has yet to be proven completely useless but only if you actually think and consider what need to be confronted and done carefully.

Unfortunately, the lousy/unhelpful opinions have been rather louder and more popular lately than the ones that are practical and useful. Probably because they are easier than what really needs doing while providing enough of a sense of action to let people pacify their consciences.

There are some things that have been coming up and voices of reasonable, if difficult I’ll post a short list of the useful ones that I’ve seen recently:

  • Echo chambers are the same thing as putting your head in the sand. Pull it out and listen to the people you disagree with and even the ones you hate because you can’t fight for useful change if you don’t know what you are actually fighting against, or who you are actually fighting for. More than half of my liberal friends fall into this category, in one way or another.
  • There’s plenty of blame to be placed on plenty of people. We do not now, nor will we ever have, a shortage of blame. Much of what is being said about blame is well-founded, much is not. It doesn’t matter which is which. Blame is detrimental to a nuanced understanding of what is happening and therefore to practical problem-solving.
  • If you think things are suddenly bad now, you are wrong; they were already terrible and this is simply a manifestation of that in several ways. Try to look back over the past decade or two and think about what has lead to all of this. If it makes no sense whatsoever, then you’ve got a massive blind-spot or two somewhere that you probably need to look at and see about filling-in.
  • America is no more racist or prejudiced in any other way than it has ever been, which is to say, that it always has been. It’s just displaying it more openly. If this surprises you, again, you almost certainly have a blind-spot, probably from living in a privilege-induced echo-chamber(see above). If you don’t have meaningful interactions on a regular basis(several times weekly) with people of colour, “rainbow folk”(as I prefer to call us in the LGBTQIA+++ alphabet-soup), immigrants, or people from minority religious groups… or if you avoid talking about issues that are pertinent to those aspects of their lives, then it’s obviously past time to start, so you can know where they are coming from and how your ignorance might have contributed to it.
  • Just because someone voted for an agenda that the media has roundly deplored as racist doesn’t make them racist. Often it means they are ignorant or brainwashed or just focussed on different issues and dismissive of “overzealousness” they have been culturally trained to dismiss. Given the sheer number of people who did this, but voted in the immediate past for the “other side”, we need to be raising our eyebrows and examining the reasons why. And also why that is so surprising.
  • Actions speak louder than words. It’s clear that the time for merely sitting around on the internet and complaining about problems is long past. The irony in making a blog-post about this is not lost on me at all, but I’m mostly doing this to get these thoughts out of my head so I can get on with pursuing some kind of useful action. Being an “ally” is all well and good, but only if it means more than just wearing a pin(which anyone can do, regardless of whether they are a real ally or not by the way). Real “allies”, acting from a place of privilege to help facilitate meaningful social change will need to be involved in actual volunteer capacities if real change is to occur.
  • Sometimes words can be actions in one space, but not in another. If someone rants about how terrible something is to people who agree with them it doesn’t count for anything. If the same person instead explains how bad that same thing is to people they know who are part of continuing that problem then they are doing important work. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel discomfort or fear of social repercussion in standing up for something that needs to change, then you almost certainly are “preaching to the choir” and it doesn’t count for anything.
  • Both actions AND words can be damaging if done without proper examination. If you try to persuade people of something, but it’s not the right thing, then you are distracting from the real point(probably because you don’t know it from being stuck in an echo chamber). That’s just words. Riots reinforce stereotypes, and without any practical aim, do nothing to advance practical solutions. Protests and rioting are often totally called for, but I’ve yet to see a single coherent explanation for what the ones going on right now are meant to actually accomplish! Anger and frustration with a broken society are completely understandable, and can be useful if not diverted or hijacked. But when they aren’t guided towards practical and effective change they make it more difficult to find actual solutions. Both ineffective words and actions can and are widening the rifts in our society. People who might otherwise empathize and support practical change become alienated. It also vents anger that desperately needs to be channeled into pursuing real change. While violence can sometimes be an answer, directionless/generalized violence and protest isn’t.
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That goes for social-ills just as well.

Ok, that’s enough listing. But look! There were some good thoughts up there! Don’t blame! Listen! Gather information from all sides! Use it to work together to deal with the real underlying(not superficial) issues!

There’s actually quite a few people saying these things, in various ways, across the internet. So despite some well-intentioned people spreading bad ideas long with the good ones, there’s a lot to be hopeful for; a ray of light through the darkness of confusion and fear.

There’s one key tho – we can’t just sit around.  An awful lot of us have been resting on perceived laurels. It seemed like things were getting better, but that was really just the illusion of our social echo-chambers amplifying the things we wanted to hear and drowning out the sounds of ongoing trouble and oppression. Whether it be from POC’s and LGBTQ+’s who are in danger both physically and economically, or WASP’s making the terrible mistake of falling for Trump’s propaganda because they are drowning in debt in the “Rust Belt”, we need to listen and realize that, even if we often act as enemies because of competition over economic resources and socially induced fear, we all have the same arch-enemies. Those are the powers who have been actively promoting fear and division between us over every difference or mistake we have for most of recent history. The ones who literally feed on the products of everyone’s suffering and struggles and need those conflicts and struggles to continue for them to continue devouring our lives in the name of profit.  

We are all humans of various sorts, and until more of us start focusing on our shared needs and goals and laying aside the miasmic biases that fill our world and cloud our understanding of reality nothing will get better. Yelling about how blind the other guy is does nothing, and is an excuse to avoid confronting the things you have power over in your own life.

As Gordon over at Rune Soup puts it: “Become invincible, have better ideas, never give up. That’s always been the play. That is the play before elections. That is the play after elections. That is the play during tsunamis, alien invasions, and zombie viral outbreaks. It has not and will not change.”

~ The Song Remains the Same ~

I had a dream. Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go

Hear my song. People won’t you listen now? Sing along.
You don’t know what you’re missing now.
Any little song that you know
Everything that’s small has to grow.
And it has to grow!

California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu Starbright – the song remains the same.

~ Led Zeppelin ~

Magic. Magick. Magik. Majick. Whatever. Ick.

Whatever it is, it’s interesting enough for people to get in dumb-fights on the internet about how to spell it. Personally I can never decide how I want to write it, because being silly with language is kinda a thing I just do. So if I switch between spellings as this goes on, please realize that I am just messing about with thoughts and minds with some playful absurdity. And if you are one of those peoples, I will kindly thank you to maybe try to loosen up a bit eh? Sure, maybe language as it relates to mage-work should be something taken seriously, but I’ve often thought that taking anything too seriously is the most obvious sign of being out of touch with reality! Coming from me… that’s a laugh.

So. What the hell is magick anyway? There are so many attempts at answering that question and I am here to tell you: they are all Right! They are also all Wrong!

That’s because the question itself is like asking “what is the purpose of human existence?”(perhaps awkwardly similar in fact). Magik is different for each entity that uses it, and since almost all humans use magic(most unknowingly), there are at least as many answers as there are people. That’s a lot of answers.

So I’ll share my ideas of it, and my theory about why it’s so different for everyone, and as the Bard says you may “Take it in what sense thou wilt!”

Magick is the process of manifesting imagination to re-create some aspect of Reality. That’s it. Nice and stupidly simple and painfully broad. Yep.

So many people get hung up on either the complexity or the simplicity and can’t get past them. In my experience though, the reason people get hung up on both is because of a misunderstanding of the nature of reality. People feel like reality is solid and coherent because that is the way their experience, and science, and modern western culture presents it; Reality is defined and those definitions can be discerned. So people see magical acts as somehow violating or bending the rules of reality.

This is only as true as we let it be tho, because we’ve got it a bit backwards; the laws and rules of reality are actually guided by magick on their fundamental levels.  The reason that seems backwards is because our collective version of reality is the product of generations of human magick(through philosophy, linguistic subterfuge, and theoretical science) attempting and in some ways succeeding, at pressing reality into a form-factor that is comforting and comfortable. This is not the case everywhere. Anyone who has been to certain parts of the world that are largely untouched by these ways of thinking(for whatever reason) can often feel a sense of “otherness”. Specifically an idea that somehow reality is different there. That’s because it truly is! Because as I said in my previous post, reality is much more fluid and mutable than people think.

This idea is frightening to many people. In fact that standard response of probably half or more of the population is to be simultaneously creeped-out and fascinated when they are confronted with bits of reality that are different than what they are used to. This can be anything from feeling completely overwhelmed with awe in St. Peters, to stark terror after following the pull to visit a local haunted house, to finding a waterfall hidden in a patch of woods in a nearby neighborhood and feeling like you’ve stumbled into fairyland. It’s because you are in a part of reality that actually is different and often hanging onto some connection to other, less-visible parts of reality. That waterfall probably matches one at the same “point” in fairyland. St. Peters is clearly connected metaphysically to the Catholic idea of Heaven. And the haunted house has a connection to a darker part of the spirit-world. 

But we aren’t here to talk about reality specifically. We’re here to talk magic! And mage-work only connects to reality in certain ways. Currently, because of the force of generalized human will, our overall tendency worldwide is to see magic as having relatively little overt impact on physical reality. This is certainly less applicable in certain cultural areas than others, but still; in effect those of us who practice what lay-people call magick are operating in a global dampening field, created by the combined will of every single bit of doubt and skepticism generated by humans on the planet. This suits a lot of people, particularly those who have Power over their fellow humans, because historically magic has been used for two prime purposes; to oppress and to rise-up against oppression. Because of this, it’s in the interest of those in power, particularly those who are more or less aware of the interactions between magic and nature, to manipulate people into disbelieving in magic, and thereby not only handicapping themselves, but also acting as a buffer against anyone or any thing that might try to undermine that power using magical means.

So generation after generation of humans have been pushing out thoughts and theories and ideas that say that we understand and that we are in control. That someone has to be in control! And because reality responds to human thoughts and ideas(through magik, particularly language and culture), it has been shaped into this seemingly definable form where humans will “eventually” be able to “understand” the complete nature of existence; where the supernatural doesn’t exist; and where human beings do not have souls or exist outside of their internal perceptions. And also where “someone” is in control.

Some  have gone so far as to suggest and believe that our human perception of our own existence is a biologically defined imperative and that all of our thoughts and actions are the product of our genetics and personal history; that free-will is an illusion that has developed because it’s evolutionarily adaptive in some way.

And I say that is total bullshit! If you want to believe that that is true about yourself then by all means, go ahead and believe that you yourself have no ultimate purpose and that even asking that question is just the result of evolutionary programming. Just don’t assume that this is the case for everyone else around you. More than one type of reality existing simultaneously isn’t just possible, it’s a foundational premise of logic! As integral as the idea that we share a world, is the idea that we each have an fractally unique and experience of that world, which can be observed as such by any other outsider(Entium varietates non temere esse minuendas – “The variety of beings should not rashly be diminished.” p541). Therefore because of our own perspectives we each inhabit our own, fully developed and unique world, within which other people come and go. No other person experiences that same world because if they did, that person would be us. We generalize that same experience to others to a greater or lesser degree, which is where we get empathy, and also the idea that our reality is shared.

This idea of a shared-reality is a Good Thing because otherwise we would all be completely self-serving and psychopathic! However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t also still live in our own little separate universes. Effectively, the best way of dealing with this is by not only accepting the existence of “Consensual Reality” but also by recognizing that sometimes our understanding of reality may be well and truly at odds with that version of reality.

As we’ve said above, The Powers That Be have a vested interest in keeping the focus on a single consensual reality that benefits them. But many people in the world do not believe or accept this. For some it’s because they are more in touch with nature and it’s various aspects, which can be incredibly abstract, fulfilling and yes, sometimes frightening. And for some it’s because they willfully reject the overarching and oppressive reach of that reality. And for yet others, the current version of reality simply chafes them in some fundamental way that drives them slowly towards madness(in my estimation, that psychic chafing is the primary cause of most mental illness).

That being said, realizing all of this, what does it mean and why do people not think in these terms?  The main reason is fear: it means that we have both a huge amount of control we didn’t think we had, and a huge amount that cannot be easily controlled. And who could blame people for wanting to avoid living in a scary version of reality that can visit unpredictable and often uncontrollable harm on them? The thing is, we already do.

What an understanding and practice of magic does then, is give us a manner of approaching that underlying and mutable nature of reality and gaining whatever control we can wrest over reality from those around us.

Personally I find the idea that reality is at least a little pliable to human consciousness very appealing, and the idea that I have no freedom of will whatsoever to be completely unacceptable. I think many people share that assessment, despite the seeming collective will of the Masses to define our reality in ways that only benefit an oppressive elite. Maybe that’s confirmation bias, but it’s also possible that our culture itself is subject to it’s own confirmation bias that has progressively restricted it’s own freedom of thought.

But I’m getting a bit off track into speculation; my point is that currently, within areas that fall within the realms of “Science” and “Rationality” we have a pretty staunchly defined and defended set of fundamentals. People believe they can know things in an absolute sense and that that knowledge can be clearly communicated to one another. 

Unfortunately for science and rationality, human beings throw a huge wrench into this system. On a day to day basis we recognize that we can’t know for certain many things about ourselves. If you ask me if I love my mother and I tell you yes, what do you think of my answer and why? Is your knowledge complete enough to form a judgement on my own secret thoughts? Is there even a single coherent answer to that question? How the hell are we supposed to define love, and would people who speak different languages have different answers to all of these questions?

Ok, then, let’s leave out the humans and keep it basic instead – let’s talk about physics; what is light and how does it work? Does the universe have size-boundaries(biggest thing/smallest thing)? What is infinity and can it exist? How does gravity work? Can we even trust our own senses? If we can’t trust our own senses, how can we understand anything about reality?

The simple answer to all of these is that there is no coherent consensus on any of them, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to convince you to believe their perspective over  that of their rivals. It’s all well and good to practice logical argumentation and skepticism, but it’s not good to arrogantly assume that you know better than someone else how they should think, or that everyone else experiences reality in the same way you do. That’s where prejudice takes hold.

However, as overwhelming as all of this sounds, in the overall scheme, it doesn’t matter: we keep on living our lives and dying our deaths and will keep doing so on and on, just as we have since whenever we may or may not have started in this whole mess.

And we are really pretty good at it! How do we do this? Well we come up with a lot of ideas about the way reality works and we teach them to each other and our children and whatever system seems to make the most sense is what usually gets used.

Magic is the process of manipulating those fundamental ideas to affect how we and other humans interact with our reality, and also how that reality will respond for us. It encompasses basically everything humans do; building a bridge is just as much of a “spell” as taking someone else’s hair and doing an incantation and some other hinky stuff to it so the person will fall in love with you. One is just more consistent than the other in our current approach to reality. If you believe a thing it’s more likely to work on you. If everyone believes it and says you should believe it, it’s unlikely to NOT work on you!

Now what people think of as Magick is actually what happens when people manage to undermine, defy, bend, distort, or otherwise manipulate the general human consensus on how reality is supposed to work. This is a lot easier of course if people don’t particularly understand how something works or if you are working in an “artisitic” system where the sciency rules of “how things work” are suspended by general consensus. Alternately it can be done by “tricking” other people and/or reality into forgetting how things are meant to work(at least for the duration of the “spell”)so that something particularly useful or marvelous can happen. After the fact people(including the practitioner) can believe whatever they want about the “trick” of it, because if it has worked then clearly it must fit into the overall paradigm somehow right?

So to put some kind of temporary wrapper on this so that I can stop rambling(and go to bed) I will summarize:

  1. Reality is really weird and squishy(duh).
  2. We try to function a lot as tho it isn’t because the alternative is difficult.
  3. Trying to make reality less weird than it is gives us cognitive dissonance.
  4. Our ideas and perceptions have a major impact on our own realities.
  5. Since our realities interact with others’, we have an impact on “shared reality”.
  6. Magic is the practice of leveraging our own understandings of reality to more effectively modify everyone else’s perceptions of reality.
  7. Reality changes. Possibly related to the above.
  8. Abracadabra.

And thus the spell is cast. And thus(and always) The Song Remains the Same.

A Primer on (My)Reality

My perceptions about reality are constantly evolving, and I think that reflects a reality that isn’t actually static. I think a lot of what we see as static or ongoing processes in the universe are only perceived that way due to modern human expectation. In the sense of cosmic time and space, do a couple of hundred years of scientific “observations” really prove anything other than that the last few centuries have had a few fields that were relatively stable as far as certain forms of observation? And of course a certain amount of bias in inbuilt into the idea that you are measuring for certain chosen things.

I also think that maybe human thought has a larger affect on reality than “quantum” effects when taken in aggregate; I think “magic” is a manifestation of human will on reality, but that for the last few hundred years most humans have been using their wills to make the universe more predictable and observable. So basically the fact that science has seemed to work better and better, and developed better and better tools for quite a few generations in a row now is because western civilization as a whole, and some elements of human culture on a more generalized global level, have been driving a narrative of reality that reinforces itself and makes reality more coherent and “rational”.

In other words, science and rationality are basically forms of magic which attempt to reign-in chaos and make it more understandable. I think that can be healthy to some extent but has gone a bit too far. Most early founders of scientific thinking were magicians and alchemists, and I want to get back to that sort of lovely fusion of wonder, magic, skepticism, and rational-insanity that has produced some really interesting ideas in all sorts of directions besides mere rationality.

The problem with a materialist perspective to me, is that a completely “rational” universe would be really boring to me, and possibly to most people. I’m definitely biased here, but I do think we’ve gotten to a point where more and more people are beginning to WANT to believe in the irrational, because the current setup for western industrialized culture and reality leaves so much to be desired. Be it in economic or spiritual senses, people don’t really like the main options that are offered to them, at least within the geographic area of “Christendom”. Interestingly that’s the same area that has been tied to western industrialized culture and I don’t think that that alignment is an accident. Culturally in Europe and North America there seem to be two ideologies(Christianity and Materialism) which have been struggling with each other since the Enlightenment developed in response to Christian corruption.  These two forces have respectively subsumed and corrupted numerous other independent ways of thinking or spiritualistic approaches which were once thriving, creative, and diverse. In my perspective that system of thinking is beginning to fail because humans can’t really accept a completely one-dimensional version of reality, regardless of whether that singular perspective is monotheistic or atheistic. That’s not really how humans operate on a deep-level. This is a manifestation of our spiritual understanding of the universe. We’re also sick of it because the culture that has gone along with this whole situation really sucks!

Now, I recognize that I could be wrong about all of this; it could just be wishful thinking. I myself am tremendously bored and depressed by the prospect of a materialist universe and/or western-style industrial economics, and to be honest, while I appreciate a few things about Christianity I feel basically the same way about that. I’ve always tried to maintain a certain internal skepticism for my own ideas because I think that’s healthy and valuable. But at the same time, given a choice between satisfying pure rationality and it’s exponents or being labeled as various forms of outsider or “insane” I choose the later. If for no other reason than it’s more interesting to me to be a crazy wierdo than a drone. I do try to strike a balance, which I get from lots of ancient philosophical and spiritual perspectives, which I think generally have a lot to offer that modern people seem to overlook as if we’ve moved past and somehow superseded them. I particularly utilize a lot of Taoist, Stoic, Buddhist, Neoplatonic, Animist, and Hermetic ideas.

Whatever a person thinks and believes though, I think it’s long past time to disabuse ourselves of the idea that those ideas don’t matter; with the collective will and cultural power of humanity behind it, any idea can and does impact reality. We need to do a better job policing ourselves and not just cruising along in the two crappy lanes we’ve been provided with.

It’s time for spiritual off-roading.

My own worst enemy

I have been struggling to write a particular blog post. The one about magic. And I’ve basically got it all figured out but… I can’t do it. Or haven’t been able so far. Nothing is final or absolute with me. Absolutely. The sarcasm grows strong.

So here I am, I’ve decided to just get on here and write because sometimes just pouring the jug of bullshit thoughts out through the keyboard is what it takes to get to the ones that aren’t quite a much bullshit.

Can you tell I’m frustrated? Other people get frustrated with me when I get like this and it just makes it worse; seriously I am more frustrated with myself than anyone else could possibly be!

It’s a bit odd actually. We’ve been accomplishing huge amounts in life; raising a child(and pretty damn well if I do say so!), almost have secured a home-loan, exercising regularly. The Spouse figured out that if we set a specific goal for exercise it will work much much better for getting in shape. So the goal is to train hard over the next few years so that we can complete their dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Which is a tremendously difficult, yet certainly achievable goal(barring accident or injury). So we’ve been hiking a few hours each day the last several of days. Which has helped improve our self-image already, as well as leaving me physically wiped out. And we are going to keep doing it.

I’ve also been back to enjoying flirtatious back-and-forth on my Twitter and exploring the world through all of the interesting people I follow on there. Very strange sometimes how you realize you know more about what is going on in the world than people who watch 24 hour cable news regularly. And much more accurate view too; biases are much more clear when people don’t feel some professional sense of needing to hide them, so you can read between the lines and form your own opinions more effectively.

Also have been catching up on my favorite blog/podcast about magic, which is largely how I sorted my ideas about how magic actually works, even if they don’t exactly line up precisely, that’s actually part of my worldview: nobody’s ideas should exactly match up because we are all unique entities in space/time/spirit so if everything matched up for even two people it would be… disturbing.

Anyway, need to go grab my lovelies from home and go vote in local primary-elections(probably the only ones that matter and certainly the ones where our votes have the most statistical impact!) so that is all for now. Tonight is my scheduled “writing night” so maybe this will have broken something loose and I can finally knock that draft into something like publishable format so it doesn’t just seem so much like the long, arcane, and vaguely argumentative piece it currently is.

 

Ta!

~K

An Incantation

We wend our Way between the lines.
Twixt East and West we stride.
The North and South mean nothing here
All borders stand aside.

The mental map humanity
Has lain upon this Earth,
Must be surpassed and overcome
For new thought to have birth.

The frontier lands of home and hearth
Are where our quest shall start,
To venture forth through spirit-sight
And enter realms apart.

So further up and further in
Our hearts and minds must flow;
Hind curtains’ shroud the back of stage
Where watchers’ eyes shant go.



**Re-appearing Note**: When I posted this, this note was accompanying and it seems to have disappeared for some reason. Anyway, this is obviously a magickal incantation. It precedes a short series of posts that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks about my ideas about magick and the paranormal and how they should(and often do) interact with our everyday lives. It’s a bit of a teaser, a placeholder, and also a motivator to keep me moving on this blogging adventure.

A Working in Progress

I’ve probably let this sit longer than I ought.

I have several mental differences from your average person. Of those, perhaps only one of those can be clearly labeled a fault(for which I am thankful). That one fault is my fairly regular inability to do things.

It’s not depression. I do sometimes struggle with depression, and it can occasionally put me in the grips of a period of inaction. But it just as often happens independent of any other depression-related issues, and often these periods have lead me into the worst periods of depression because I become so frustrated that it makes me feel useless. Thankfully it isn’t something that is a truly constant struggle, just a very common one, that strikes particularly hard when it comes to any creative work I want to do!

I have an acquaintance who has autism and has this issue, with a few differences, most likely as part of a package deal with their autism. They gave me the term for it though: Executive Dysfunction and simply having the term has let me begin to confront and deal with it constructively.

This is a pretty good summary of how this issue often plays out in academic areas. When I was in school I dealt with a lot of those issues simply by leaning heavily on my incredible gifts when it comes to academics. Occasionally my “procrastination” would be something I couldn’t overcome with a last-minute binge of writing, but for the most part, the 6-12 hours I would spend reading a couple of hundred pages of material researching, and then writing 10-20 page research papers, would result in grades in the solid B-range.

That was in college; in High School I really never had anything to work on last-minute that would take me more than maybe 3 or 4 hours of concerted effort(also always the night before, or sometimes finishing on the bus on the way to school). And while my school-mates have historically been jealous of my ability to get by with “so little work” I have always been jealous of their ability to actually spread that work out over time, and to avoid the stress of doing everything at the last-minute!

I made it though, and successfully graduated University with an Anthropology degree a few years ago. It did, however, take 12 years altogether to get my degree, due to an unfocused class-schedule that barely followed a coherent course of study, and because of dropping many classes that just didn’t feel like classes I could bother attending. Plenty of them seemed interesting, but for whatever reason I simply couldn’t persuade myself that they were worth going to. Looking back, I think it’s practically a miracle that I was able to make it through an entire Bachelor’s degree program, and I’m pretty proud for succeeding eventually. But it also seems like I wasted a huge amount of time that could have been much better spent.

I’m not using my degree now, except as an elaborate way to build credit by giving lots of money to loan companies. I could have learned most of what I learned in University from online courses and spending time at the library! Except that without the motivation of the actual process of going to classes and being “forced” to complete assignments I’m fairly certain I would have stagnated.

I’m not in school anymore though, and this issue manifests in altogether more profoundly troublesome ways now that the guidance of a specified life-course has been removed.

I have wanted to be a writer for many years. Originally the dream was to do so professionally. But being a “writer” requires you have to write. Not just dream up stories and characters and clever dialogue. Not just come up with ideas you think people will find interesting and innovative. All that is worthless unless you actually sit down and put it onto the internet, or into a word-processor, or through a typewriter, or write it out by hand. And as much as I adore the actual process of forming words into sentences to do the very real Magick of making other people consider or perceive things that they otherwise wouldn’t… it is very hard.

Simply sitting down and putting my hands on a keyboard with the intention of doing something creative(such as writing this blog-post) is often a tremendous struggle. I want to, but I will have a block on the actual act of starting. I know how to start, but I often don’t have the capability of actually doing it. Somehow if I’ve had the ideas it seems in my brain as if they should simply exist for everyone else to be aware of. And the Will to do anything to actually birth them into reality will seem comparable to actually birthing a child; how is it even possible when you think about it?!

And sometimes it’s like when I fill-in paperwork(particularly job applications) and I’m asked to answer fundamental questions about myself. It seems actively demeaning to me to record information for others that is available in the public domain. For some reason, my brain tells me that I should not have to go through this necessary process because it is somehow beneath me. Because for some horrible irrational reason, some part of me feels that since know what I’m thinking, then everyone else should also know the same thing.

Rationally I know these problems are absurd, to the point where it took a very long time for me to even realize that I have them. It’s not a problem “normal” people have to deal with so there isn’t a lot of language to describe it, aside from variations of “lazy” which couldn’t be more inaccurate. It often takes about the same effort for me to make a cup of tea or a sandwich as it does to go jog a mile or exercise for an hour, sometimes more, so really I work incredibly hard just to be a functional adult. I have declined to apply for jobs that I would truly love before, simply because the application was too much in some undefinable way and I was actually unable to complete it.

This has been a constant frustration, particularly in my writing. It is the creative thing which I am probably the most skilled at, and a favorite thing to do to relax… but only when I can start! And I need to do creative work because not having a creative outlet is one of the primary causes of my periods of depression!

Thankfully(getting back to the theme of the blog as a whole) I am a new parent! As part of becoming a new parent I’ve been going through my life and finding my weaknesses and things that are lacking, with the idea of changing them to be a better example for my child.

So in my mind I’ve been building a subtle sort of “spell” for myself. Now, when I do magick, that can mean many things, but in this case I mean I am reprogramming my own perception of reality. I use the energy and force for positivity and self-improvement that having a child has given me to enable me to think of these creative acts as involuntary actions required for properly living life. Specifically, I am hacking my mind to instinctively see creative expression as an integral part of proper parenting.

I do this programming every night that I sing the baby to sleep. I hack my mind every time I make funny voices, faces, and sounds at the little-one to help them gain some understanding of communication. I do magick every time I write in this blog so that my child will be able to understand what being a good parent and being a human whose soul is truly alive means in our life.

In the future this will only expand. As this nascent human grows more and more into their potential, I will finally grow into mine through using teaching and parenting to destroy my own barriers in life. Specifically because I have to be an excellent example for them to follow! I have no choice but to show them that we must express ourselves even when the deck is stacked against us. Whether that means society, economics, family, or our own minds, if we don’t struggle on for success then we’re just giving up the essence of life.

I do still have plenty of difficult days and weeks(this last week was particularly difficult creatively for some unknown reason). To make a cowboy analogy, sometimes the horse bucks you off, but you get back on the horse and keep riding, because otherwise you’re giving up on riding the open range.

And riding the frontiers of creativity, thought, and emotion is what makes us human. Without it, we are lost.

The Dualistic Distortion

Day and Night. Black and White. Left and Right. Wrong and Right(Ok, that’s enough rhyming). Chocolate and Vanilla. Happy and Sad. Optimist and Pessimist. Fate and Free Will. Body and Soul. Yin and Yang. Logic and Emotion. Arts and Sciences. Male and Female. Mine and Yours. Holy and Profane. Human and Inhuman. Man and Nature. Liberal and Conservative.

Us and Them.

Humans have a problem, which we’ve  ingrained in our cultures, and therefore, in most of our ways of thinking; we are addicted to binaries. Whenever we find a topic that has two significant components, it takes very little for most people to begin thinking of those two components as the only components.  Or at least the only ones that “matter”. So if “you” disagree with some element of “my” opinion then “you” automatically become associated with the other camp. Never-mind that maybe “my” experience is outside of your sense of absolute binary.

As I am writing this, I heard about the Orlando Nightclub Massacre which happened last night. Like lots of things along these lines, and maybe more than some others, the media frenzy and on a more personal level the human reactions to this are going to intersect with a whole lot of dualistic perspectives.

People are arguing over whether this was a hate-crime or terrorism(personally I don’t see a lot of difference). It’s being blamed on “Islamic extremism” and he’s being called a “monster” which are just different ways of making him into the dreaded “Them”; “The Other”. Except he was an American citizen, and he was the friend and family member of many people, who are also horrified and shocked that this happened. We need to look further to understand what really happened.

He was a human being with emotions and ideas that were as real as any others, and those are what drove him to commit this terrible act. In using the “Us/Them” duality we distance ourselves from understanding his motivations as a human being. It’s uncomfortable for us to realize that this is a very human act, and that any one of us is capable of being a “monster” in some way or other, because that potential exists in any human being. Which is scary and can make us confront our own biases and the evil within our own hearts.

And because understanding the underlying causes(not just the superficial motivations) behind such things is a necessary first step to confronting the problems with our culture and our society, that Othering that comes with a sense of dualism is actively harmful.

Another thing that is (very reasonably) being brought up is gun control. This is another incredibly dualistic issue where again, it shouldn’t be. For some reason this, like many other political issues, devolves into an extreme binary very quickly. “We need to take guns away from everyone so this can’t happen anymore!” says one side, while the other basically says “We should give as many people guns as possible so when something like this happens, someone will be able to stop it!”

Both of these positions are incredibly naive, and based on an instinctive reaction to take a “side” based on which mistaken extreme seems more reasonable to the individual making that false “choice”.

To those who want to arm “good guys with guns” it needs to be pointed out that without proper training in how to handle a gun, especially in high pressure situations, it’s very likely you’ll do more harm than good, with friendly-fire and the like. That’s not to mention how many people fail to follow basic safety procedures with guns. I say this as someone whose life was actually saved by a properly trained “good guy with a gun”(a friend of mine with his concealed carry permit who protected a group of friends from an armed criminal).

To those who want to start “taking the guns away” it seems pretty painfully obvious that black markets for guns will always exist, and that mass shootings happen even in countries that have fairly strict gun-control laws. Maybe not as often, but they still do.

I think we desperately need more flexible and nuanced ways of approaching things. The perspective that treats “compromise” on political issues as heresy is only a couple of steps away from the one that condemns gay people to death because their existence doesn’t jive with their religious or personal perspective.  Never-mind the political fact that compromise is the only thing that gets anything useful done in political democracies!

But I digress; this post isn’t directly about politics, because the fucked-up nature of our binary political system is a secondary problem. The arguments over abortion, over gender and sexuality, the arguments over gun-control, over big government versus small government, over use of military force versus pacifism, etc, etc, etc… they are all based on the fundamental cultural error of thinking that there can only be two real choices or opinions for most things. The same applies to arguments about religion(“our religion” v “everyone else’s”), international politics(“us/our allies” v “our enemies”), interpersonal/relational conflict(“men” v “women”), race (“black” and “white”)and more.

We do this even though, on some level, we know better. We know that categories like this are mental stereotypes that trick us into thinking we understand a vastly oversimplified reality. If a person takes a minute to consider what it would actually take to convince them(rather than some abstract Other person)that they should go and mass-murder a bunch of people, it will quickly become apparent to them that it would take a complex interplay of negative influences and bad experiences through life for a person to get to that point. People aren’t born “monsters”; even if humans have some negative predispositions, we have to grow into them to do something so fundamentally horrific.

The same goes for people who are less blatantly destructive, like politicians or the corporate psychopaths who are perfectly happy to bomb or starve those weaker than them for their own benefit, because their binary thinking lets them dehumanize others and value money/power as the measurement of “success” v. “failure”.

Or for that matter the parent who harms their child by teaching them that “boys don’t cry” or “only sluts dress like that” or “participation ribbons are for losers” or “only our religion is correct” or pressure them to follow the parent’s conception of “success”. This list is long, and these sorts of things all have underlying binary dichotomies that teach children to think in those terms, and whether they eventually accept those exact concepts or not, they are often trapped in that thinking.

So why do we fall into these ways of thinking? What is it that makes binaries so appealing anyway?  Should we try to reprogram ourselves as a species? Can we even do it?

Well a lot of these issues are touchy ones themselves in academic circles. Thankfully I’m not an academic, so I don’t mind just speaking my mind without hiding behind academic double-speak and technical language that’s about as clear as mud! [note: comment if you think I do this; I want to be easy to understand!]

So it really boils down to this: as humans, we’ve used binary judgements of situations and people to help us survive since we first developed rudimentary critical thinking skills(Academic writing warning!). All animals have some basic wiring that is tied into a “safe” v. “unsafe” binary judgement. Lots of us also have the “beneficial” v. “unhelpful” judgement as well. It(mostly) helped our species, and occasionally even individuals can do pretty well with it. But nature/evolution is a heinously cruel parent and doesn’t really give a shit about individuals; lots of people get screwed over by “survival of the fittest”, depending on what traits are most useful in the moment.

So we instinctively apply these fundamental dichotomies when it comes to food and mates. Which is all well and good(maybe)? And because we are extra-complicated animals, who have developed creativity and critical thinking, we’ve taken these tendencies a few steps further. We’ve gone and mutated them to “help” us make more complex judgements that aren’t as “simple” as, say, who we should have children with……

In other words, that instinctive use of binaries is a simple throwback to other basic binary decision systems from our deep evolutionary past. As I’ve already pointed out, they clearly aren’t capable of handling the complexity of human society, but people keep trying to instinctively use them anyway. And it’s not as though humans haven’t developed a couple of different methods for understanding and decision making. Plenty of those have mistaken binary ideas about reality also, but from a critical point of view, those can and should be broken down so that our decisions are more nuanced and reflective of the complexity of reality than simple dichotomies.

So to me it seems that if we can, we should. Since we have methods of approaching reality that are more reflective of that reality than dualistic “this or that” choices we should use them! If, in teaching change, we can prevent one person from going on a shooting rampage, or bombing an abortion clinic, or even just committing suicide, we should do whatever we possibly can as individuals to make that change happen!

What we need then is to make an effort, as individuals, as parents, and in whatever institutions we participate in, to teach and influence ourselves and those around us to be better thinkers and actors. Whether it is about the man who murders people at a gay nightclub, or about awful presidential candidates, or an acquaintance or friend who expresses an idea that seems distasteful, we need to try to understand them. And in understanding them, try to help the people we interact with(friends, family, children) to confront and bypass their own binary biases.

Only each of us working within our own spheres can change culture. It has to start like a snowball rolling down a blanketed mountainside, culture change happens with a few people compounding their influence through others and butterfly-effecting all over the world.

Certainly, there is always the temptation to boil things down because, unfortunately, lazy-thinking is comforting and easy.

But it can be interesting to break down and overcome binaries too. Once you start looking for binaries that don’t really make sense, you find them all over the place. And breaking out of them can really help in life; a clearer view of reality is just comprehensively useful, but it also means you avoid the stress of cognitive dissonance that crops up when binary thinking is confronted with situations that “don’t fit”.

And beyond self-interest, we owe it to our children; it is the one thing we can each do to help make the future a less-judgemental and partisan place.

It will probably even help prevent a few massacres and maybe even wars! So, maybe worth the cost of a little effort of self-betterment, and confidence that we can change the world?

I think so. Let’s do it!