"Today is a gift."

It occurred to me today, on a more emotional level, how I worry so much about the future, wanting to prepare for it emotionally, but now that I've looked at some experiences and had some new ones and thought about that, I realize it's really almost impossible to prepare yourself emotionally for your future - for the good things, as well as the bad. It's just... in a different time. And therefore a different state of mind.

So really, all those messages to "stay in the present" made more sense to me now. I think it's helped that I've had a lot of things happen over the past three or four years, and so that gives me more of a "meta" frame of mind.

Po'okela

In other news, the show I was in this past spring, "The Inspector General" at The Actors' Group,  won a Po'okela award! This is a local community theatre award in Hawaii. I'm pleased to have been part of a Po'okela-winning show, as you can see in this photo from the award ceremony night.

Immortal, Ephemeral

I was thinking in the car yesterday about how my two loves, writing and theatre, are opposites, in a way.

Writing, if you are lucky, is a method of immortality, especially for someone like me who doesn’t want to have physical children. Through writing, we can read the thoughts of someone from thousands of years ago. I think that’s incredible.

On the other hand, how many songs do we know from thousands of years ago? We may have lyrics, if we are lucky. Now, as I understand it, part of that might be a lack of standardized notation system in the past. But I think there are inherent difficulties in storing music or live performances. Formats change. I might record a CD of that performance now, but what kinds of media will they be using thousands of years in the future? We don’t know. Writing, on the other hand, especially when it’s physical, just needs someone to find and decipher it if it’s in a different language.

I realize that it’s not as simple as that, of course – cultural context gets lost a lot of the time, and nuances that come from seeing someone’s body language or hearing their voice, nuances that can be more universal. But, judging from the experience of the past, it seems to me that as things are, writing is perhaps a more reliable – not necessarily better – way of creating a long-lasting legacy.

Theatre impacts people in a different way, though perhaps no less important. Theatre, to me, is about raising energy levels and creating a unique, in-the-moment experience for the audience. Theatre is about coming in to the theatre in a bad mood, worried about your bills or those other kids teasing you in school, and getting lost in the experiences of the characters – experiences that you can identify with, or want to feel along with the characters as the story moves along.

Theatre is incredibly ephemeral. And I think for someone like me, who loves to plan for the future and be in my head a lot, that requirement to stay in the moment for both the performer and the audience is important. The audience member needs to pay attention, or they might miss something beautiful. The performer, of course, needs to be fully present in order to give of their energy to the audience and give an outstanding performance.

Theatre is gone at the end of the night. The curtain falls, and at the end of the show’s run, we strike the set and most of the physical evidence of the show is gone. We may save playbills and tickets, and if we are lucky, have some kind of photo or even video of the experience, but even that is rather rare. And a playbill, while useful and nostalgic, doesn’t begin to compare to the experience of the actual performance.

However, writing, in its exact, current form, can provide a powerful mental experience to the one who reads it. I have a friend who says that writing is inherently unnatural because it’s meant to capture thoughts in the absence of being in the same time or place. It’s a container for thoughts that is only necessary when there is distance. But I think that’s exactly what I find fascinating and amazing about writing. It’s imperfect, to be sure, and again, nuances can be lost. But there may be no better way to preserve my thoughts for posterity, thousands of years into the future. And yet, the shows I perform in may provide a memorable experience that stays with someone throughout their life, affecting their actions and the general energy flow of the world they inhabit.

One is immortal, the other is ephemeral. Both are important.

Wahiawa: Remembah Wen

My newest project is a role in a community-based theatre production called "Wahiawa: Remembah Wen." It is truly a play for and about Wahiawa. I'm basically going to be representing myself as a military spouse and unique personality. I'm excited to be doing something really different for my third production on-island.  I've been able to utilize my skills as both writer and actress, and I'm pleased to be able to work on my development on both fronts.

Positivity with wisdom is a bittersweet delight

I was thinking today about my seventeen-year-old self, and how part of me wants to get back to that. Then trying to justify the recent years of sadness with "Well, I've learned lessons," and whatever.
Then I realized - why can't I just go back to that?
True, I don't want to lose whatever I've learned in those years. But I don't have to.
I realized today that positivity has power. And you don't have to lose your wisdom and compassion when you are positive. If anything, positivity mixed with a little bit of sadness has even *more* power.
Take music. For me, some of the most powerful songs are the ones that have some sadness or angst, but end on a hopeful note.
The ones that say "Things may suck now, but there is something positive you can look at," whether it's put poetically or more frankly.
I realized that part of what made me so attractive in those late teen years was my confidence, the fact that I felt like I belonged in the niche I was in and just did what I did. It was a little cocky, to be sure. Especially when I was a freshman in high school. My feminism was un-nuanced, and I had a lot to learn.
But there's no reason I can't bring back some of that self-assuredness and positivity. Most important, positivity. I always tried to look at the bright side, tried to see the good in people. And while that doesn't mean I should discount the bad, I know now where my end focus should lie.

Pagan Humanism

I think I have found another marker on my path. (My spiritual path, that is.)

I am reading a book called "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe" by Greg Epstein. It is truly inspiring. The book deals with a positive philosophy, or the term that the author likes to borrow, "life-stance," as opposed to focusing on not believing in something in terms of atheism or agnosticism. In other words, as the title implies, it focuses on what we non-theists are to do, and believe in, and not just what we don't believe in.

I have heard many of my pagan friends and acquaintances say something like, "When I first read a book about paganism, I was amazed because I didn't know there was a name for what I believed." This is how I felt reading this book.

I had heard the term "secular humanism" before but at the time I passed it by with indifference, and perhaps then it meant something different anyway. Now that I am further along my "path," I'm reading this and finding it truly meaningful and comforting.

I have long suspected that there is nothing out there in terms of an organized intelligence or what many consider God. I have felt this... emptiness, since childhood. Even when I was a Christian and praying, I feel, looking back, that I was putting a lot of my own energy into this personality... but I have never really felt anything "out there" in terms of gods, spirits, anything.

More importantly, as the author is illustrating to me, it is not necessary for me to believe in a God. I mean, I always knew that on some level. But another part was always kind of wondering and aching, feeling kind of different for not having had these experiences, yet wanting some kind of spirituality anyway.

Paganism has been good to me, and for me, in that most pagans are non-dogmatic and encourage you to find your own path. And I have felt that connection with nature, and found comfort in the Sabbats celebrating the seasons of each passing year, and magic in the Esbats celebrating the cycles of the moon.

But in terms of lifestyle.. again, never felt the guidance of gods, despite wanting it. And now I realize something.

I don't need the gods to guide me. More importantly, the gods should not be guiding me.

Maybe there exist gods after all, who work with people on a personal level and this brings joy to them. That is fine. But if those gods exist, and they are benevolent, I am going to come to the conclusion that they think it is better that I fend for myself.

And the humanist view brings me a strange comfort as well as responsibility. There are no gods to lean on, to me, in times of trouble. No organized "plan" for me to just follow and submit to and I'll be all right.

Random things happen. Sometimes they are horrible things, cruel. Sometimes they are wonderful things. But the important thing is that when those horrible things happen, that we as human beings step up to prevent them from happening again and to help those who are affected by them.

The beautiful things are miracles in and of themselves, especially as they were not "given" to us by a God, but randomly happened.

Sometimes I still want that divine guidance, and who knows, maybe some kind of organized plan or benevolent spirit will be revealed to me. But for now, I feel comfort and pride in finally being able to identify myself as a Pagan Humanist.

Hymn for the Solstice

I am trapped beneath my blankets.
I am crying out for sight.
I am afraid of the darkness
Blinding my eyes.
I long to see the world again,
Color, shape and form.
I long to gain my sight back.
I want to see once more.

More on the Mother/Lover

I was thinking recently again, "What is a childfree, pagan woman to do about the Mother stage of Maiden/Mother/Crone?"

One thing I just realized is that part of it is growing up enough to be in charge of your own life. I don't know if this part is as relevant, considering that the Maiden is already supposed to be independent. Maybe you even need that trait to become a Maiden, even before you become a Mother/Lover.

More relating to the "mother" part itself, I'm also realizing it is having a cup full enough to share with others. You need to reach a certain point in maturity to take care of yourself enough so that you can take care of others. And taking care of others, or self-sacrificing, needs to be willing and heartfelt. Taking care of others because you feel obligated to or because you're "supposed" to is counterproductive and harmful. A good mother gives selflessly but within reason, and only makes a truly tremendous sacrifice if it is really necessary - and with complete willingness, because of the value she realizes her sacrifice to have.

Persephone

After reading some work by Jung and Kerenyi on the Maiden, Kore, and discussing it briefly with a friend, I thought I'd try to formulate my own ideas.

What intrigued me and frustrated me about reading this book ("Essays on a Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis") was that it touched upon these very interesting pathways but either didn't go further, or framed gender roles in such a way as to make some of their assumptions irrelevant or feel wrong for me.

I have been attracted to the Persephone myth for a while, and other Beauty and the Beast type tales for even longer. I watched Beauty and the Beast when it first came out in theaters, the Disney version, as a small child. As a preteen I read the Forbidden Game Trilogy, a beautiful blend of pop culture and old mythology, which centers on a demon in love with an innocent, brave, beautiful girl named Jenny. Later in my life I saw Labyrinth, with the dance scene between the goblin-king Jareth and the young, innocent, brave heroine who's out to save her brother. And even later I saw the scene in Legend where the Princess Lily dances with the Lord of Darkness and the ensuing transformation.

So there must be something these stories have in common that speak to a deeper psychological or spiritual truth in me. 

The main elements I can see are demon prince or beast, innocent, brave compassionate maiden, some kind of seduction or temptation, and the ultimate triumph of "good" - but these take different forms for each story, and often involve some bittersweetness.

But what of the story? Perhaps the story is a psychological story that needs to be interpreted, like a dream.

In the story, the beautiful maiden is minding her own business, safe in her maidenly activities, perhaps longing for something more.  A disruption in her life occurs: her father runs into a dangerous beast that demands his life in exchange for a rose he has stolen for his daughter.  In the heat of adolescent passion, she makes a wish she later regrets. She may see a strangely compelling flower (interesting, that flowers serve as the gateway). It could be a gift of food and beautiful jewelry. Or a simple game, a gift for the earthly boyfriend. 

These are the catalysts that force the maiden's interaction with the demon. A choice that is not really a choice. Bur there are options even when the maiden is ensnared.

Persephone chooses to eat the seeds of the land of the dead. Does she know the consequences? Most retellings that I see imply she was ignorant. But I wonder if she knew - if the land of the dead, the splendor of being queen - held an irresistable attraction. Something she had waited for a long time. No longer one of Artemis's companions - as the Queen of the Dead she now held power, influence, awe. And perhaps there is another side of this: she was always the compassionate maiden, and as Queen of the Dead she could help those who had no other hope - or at least keep order in their final home.

I have a few projects in the works...

First, The Rocky Horror Show! On Schofield Barracks at Tropics, this Friday and Saturday, the 28th and 29th, and Halloween night! (If you know me you have probably heard about this a million times already. But I'm really excited!) If anyone out there sees this and wants to buy tickets, go to http://www.armytheatre.com.

Second, my friend Lexxy and I have started an Internet show here. It's giong to be a mishmash of sci-fi, fantasy, videogame, movie, and book reviews, fashion, paganism, and our own silly ramblings. :) We had a lot of fun today, and even had a follower, although apparently the sound on my end wasn't working well.

(If anyone knows how to fix this, let me know!)

Attachment

I think I finally understand the Buddhist idea of "attachment."

I think it came about when I was thinking last night of how easily I had let Pablo off the phone, because he had to go. Earlier on I would be very reluctant to let him go.

It occurred to me that when you love something or someone, you cannot be attached to them. Because once you are attached you have a vested self-interest. It's like if you are financially dependent on a partner you have a vested interest in keeping them around even if they aren't good for you overall.

It's the whole "If you love something, let it go" thing. But not in a trite break-up kind of way.

When you are unattached, you are relaxed and able to accept what comes. You can better enjoy it if it is good. If it is not good you are able not to obsess over it.

If it is good and it leaves you are not too heartbroken because you "absolutely cannot live without it." The truth is, you most likely can. It occurred to me that while your life is worth protecting, this is why you're also supposed to not be attached to life itself - because you need to love and see life in this same way - as a transient gift that you *will* have to let go of eventually (hopefully when you're much older though).

I guess the best way of thinking about it for me is interchanging "attachment" with "emotional dependence." I think that is an effective Western way of putting it.

Storytelling versus Literary Portraiture

I was reading The Best Spiritual Writing 2010 and there are a number of excellent pieces so far that made me think.

In "The Judgment of Memory," Joseph Bottum describes me pretty well as a modern writer who is good at taking a literary snapshot of description but not good at telling a story. My husband, on the other hand, is a lover of stories. He prides himself on this, and we have talked before about how he likes to tell stories with a beginning, middle and end (often at his own expense) whereas most of my past writing has been these literary portraits that describe but don't move.

My question, then, is how does a literary painter turn themselves into a storyteller? Does it require some kind of mind-shift? I would say that any kind of writing requires some kind of faith on the part of the writer - if not in themselves, then at least in what they are writing.

I do notice that stories seem to become like children, taking lives of their own. I have heard J.K. Rowling say something to the effect that she didn't want to kill off certain characters in her Harry Potter series, but that it was required of the story. I have heard these thoughts expressed by other storytellers as well.

J.K., I would argue, is an excellent storyteller. She does not describe individual objects in people in excruciating yet "pointless" detail that Bottum notices in other writers. She throws in a few choice details like the right amount of salt, but "throwing in" is almost the wrong phrase, because these details have a habit of becoming extraordinarily important the more the story progresses. She is like a master chef who intuitively throws in a pinch of sage and it turns out that the taste of sage is what people love most about her dish.

It occurs to me that there is a kind of exquisite beauty found in these details if they detail nonphysical truths. For example, in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," there is a mirror that reflects everything as a distorted, ugly version of itself. The mirror is broken into a thousand shards and one of them gets into a little boy's eye. Where he previously saw beauty, he now only sees ugliness.

It is rare that you find these kinds of jewels in writing on a regular basis, but good writers tend to unearth them more readily, I notice. One of my good friends is a master of observation. I think good observation turns into good writing. My husband, too, has an eye for details, and he works them painstakingly into his own stories. In fact, my main complaint about his writing is that his work often isn't messy enough, in an emotional sense.

I have often been bad with transitions, both in my journalistic and creative nonfiction writing, and with beginnings and endings. I would say this has to do with my problems telling stories, but I'm not sure it's as simple as tacking on a good beginning and an emotional ending. I think storytelling is more organic than that.

Perhaps I should be praying to the gods of storytelling fertility, but I need to be careful what I pray for. Perhaps it is not just skill, but willingness to be a storyteller that turns a person into one. Or maybe some people are born storytellers.  These are questions that could be further explored in your comments, my readers, or in subsequent posts.

 

Capricorn Moon

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to participate once again in a Full Moon Ecstatic Dance, put together by Red Tent Hawaii

It was, of course, a beautiful night, and I am very thankful for the ability to take part in such a beautiful event.

I learned a few things during this moving meditation.

I learned that we need to send positive energy to the Earth, but we could send both positive and negative energy and both things would be good.

I learned that all of life is a meditation, and that I have been attempting to do this for a very long time.

I learned that breathing is indeed the gateway to these kinds of experiences.

I learned what it was like to be in the ocean under a full moon. The waves were strong and a little scary. It was a lovely feeling, though.

Maybe because it was an earth moon, I realized you could go even farther than the heart of the earth while grounding, all the way to the other end, sort of like the earth’s own root chakra. You could also spontaneously send out energy. It spooked me a bit when the facilitator said something about sending our energy out into the cosmos, when I had been doing just that.

I laughed a little when she said we were swimming in an ocean of dolphins. It made me want to laugh. But I thought that would be appropriate since dolphins are humorous creatures.

I learned that we very well might, indeed, end in death. That there might be nothing.  But this might be a release, a blessing. That we, and the universe, expand and contract like a heartbeat.  Both states of being are okay.

I looked up into the stars and just saw the stars. I didn’t think about myself. This, I think, is the essence of what it means to be “enlightened,” or all those blessed spiritual states that are supposed to be the goal of everything. You can reach it almost anywhere, it’s just about focusing on a particular action… in this case, dance. You do it long enough and you stop thinking about yourself. And you can come back refreshed, having been out of your head for a little while.

It’s like you’re a different person. Our consciousness is bound together by all these experiences. Sometimes I feel like the consciousness that experienced one experience is not even the same consciousness that experienced another experience, because they were both so different. But it’s all me. It has happened to the same body. It’s an interesting thing.

Finally I learned to appreciate and embrace each breath and moment of awareness, even if it includes unpleasant sensations such as anxiety. I figured out that being aware will spur me to action sooner, if it is needed, or allow me to enjoy the current moment if nothing is wrong.

An elemental revision

I was thinking last night about how I had modified my view of the four elements in paganism to better feel comfortable with what they're supposed to stand for.

The way I think about them is this:

Air - Direction (or discretion)

Fire - Will (same as it usually is)

Water - Sensitivity

Earth - Determination

 

Air, to me, is direction. In order to work on a goal, you need to know first where you want to go. Discretion is somewhat similar in that it involves wisdom and knowing if a goal is even worth pursuing.

Will, to me, is very important. You need to have that drive, that desire to have your goal accomplish and to want whatever it is you're after. It's simple, and hard to say much more about it, but super important.

Probably the biggest change I've made is for Water. I've seen words like "emotion" used in the past, and because I feel I resonate a lot with Water, I feel the words often used to convey the Water element have been rather lacking for me. Most people would probably agree that water is a receptive element. So I extend that receptivity to being receptive to everything. In order to have the knowledge to accomplish your goal, you must first be open to information about it, and to me Water is just that. You have to have your senses open in order to have an extrasensory conclusion via intuition. I think water is intuition, yes, but the prerequisite to that is information.

Earth, to me, is the counterpart to Fire/Will in that while Fire is the drive towards a goal, Earth is standing behind your goal even when you don't feel like it. When the drive is temporarily gone and you're needing discipline and the nitty-gritty details necessary to follow through, Earth is the one to call upon.

A new paradigm

I was thinking while I was walking about the maiden/mother/crone paradigm. A song came on that made me think of my "maidenhood," that time when I was 17, unattached, dancing my heart out to that song in Disneyland, attracting male attention and oblivious to how beautiful I was.

This was my maidenhood.

Then I realized what my new model should be, or is.

Maiden Lover Crone.

Pretty simple substitution, right? Just one letter. I think I have even heard a maiden/lover/mother/crone model somewhere.

But this is the model that fits me. I will cease being a lover once I become a Crone. Hopefully that day is very far off.

I asked next, wished very hard for a song to come on that reflected my status as "Lover." And my wish came true.

I laughed when it happened. It made me realize that love, while good, is also painful. And yet also a lesson. In my circumstances, at least, it can hurt, but it can also make you strong.

I don't know where that last part came from. Somewhere deep inside me, I suppose, or outside me. Because that's not what I meant to say. But it came to me.

I was going to say something about how I longed for my free, independent maidenhood and how strong I thought that was. But I guess something else interceded.

I'm going to have to think about that. Strength as a lover? Not what I would have first thought. But maybe I take my strength now, my particular kind of strength as a lover, for granted. There have been many that argue it takes great strength to be in a long-distance relationship, that it's not something they could ever do. And I have been doing it on and off for several years now.

Strength as a lover. Hmm.

I guess true lover (there goes another Freudian slip) takes great strength after all...