Choice

I don't want to give myself the illusion that I have more choice than I do. For example, some people believe that before they were born, they chose to live on this earth and learn specific lessons.

I have no way of knowing if this is true for myself. And while I do have a lot of power, there are a lot of other people who have power, too, as well as nonsentient forces such as weather and inanimate objects.

On the other hand, I don't want to give up power that I do have available. There are some who believe that there is some kind of divine plan or guidance for us, and that if we just go along with it, we'll be okay somehow. I have been trying to figure out if this is true for a while.

I'm thinking now that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I don't know exactly where.

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.

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.

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.