On a Winter Night Years Ago

Greetings lovable readers, and welcome back for another helping of my thoughts. Today I would like to share about an aspect of my life that is important to me, an aspect that I don’t often share with other people. I recently posted a comment on another blog (Dark Circles etc) about a nostalgic reaction to a song. The song reminded me about a winter night a long time ago, when I gained a better understanding of the energies that surround is, infuse us, and connect us to everyone and everything in the world.

I am a Pagan. At least, that’s the closest term for a spiritual belief with which I identify. It should be noted that I also use the term “Pagan” as a blanket term so that I don’t identify myself too tightly with any one brand of Paganism because I am still searching for a clearer direction in my spiritual journey. No, I am not a witch. No, I do not worship satan. No, I do not engage in ritual sacrifices, either animal or human. There are many ways in which people, now known as Neo-Pagans, practice their spirituality, but a common belief is centered around nature. They, and I, believe divinity can be found in nature and the natural order of the world.

The night in question is the night that I came to look at my previously held spiritual beliefs. I was with a friend who could already be described Pagan, and we were at Starbucks discussing nature, energy and how energy affects the world around us. More specifically, we were discussing how energy could be directed to affect a desired change in the world around us. It was cold out, we were drinking coffee – go figure – and as I contemplated what she was saying, the more sense it made and the cold seemed to be less cold, somehow.

Energy is everywhere and in everything. Matter, as we see it with our eyes, is merely a very wide variety of energetic configurations of the minute amounts of actual matter of which the universe is composed. Our personalities, the behavioral traits that make is who we are, are the result of our unique synaptic pathways. Energy in the form of electricity. There has even been shown to be an electrical field around our bodies.

Many people in the Pagan communities use ritual magick to effect the world around them, using ceremonial artifacts and incantations to focus their desires/energy to be sent out into the universe. There are also particular times of the year when the communities celebrate the changing of the seasons, those who have come before, and give thanks for what has been given. These times are known as sabbats.

I suppose I am not all that different. While, I don’t worship the pantheon of Pagan deities throughout the year, I do pray to the Mother Goddess and Father God. I don’t have intricate rituals, but I do have a simple ritual of meditation and visualization to focus my energy. As for nature, I have always felt more at peace while in nature. Nature goes on as nature does, has always done, regardless of human interference. I find that particularly comforting.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out in nature, truly out in the wilderness, and I miss it. But it’s not that bad. I live in a house in a neighborhood surrounded by trees of all sorts, we have a family of squirrels in our backyard, and all sorts of birds (including woodpeckers, blue jays, owls, and small clouds of little tiny hyperactive birds I can’t identify). Time has passed. Priorities have changed. I’ve got a family and all the activities that surround daddyhood. Although I haven’t been out in the forest for a while, I am comforted that I have nature here with me, in the kids and my family, as we all grow.

That night at Starbucks, I didn’t find an absolute answer about the functioning of the universe. I’m willing to admit that I am wrong about it all if that’s where life goes. What I did find was a way of looking around me and relating to the world in a way that is comfortable to me. It encourages me to learn, it is a moral compass, it helps me embrace change, and it just felt right. No matter what life hands me, I know I will be okay, that I can be a loving individual, and that nature will be there to welcome me home when the time comes.

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Batkid Saves San Francisco

The San Francisco branch of Make A Wish did this for a boy who loves Batman. It was his wish and people from far and wide came together on this day because of and for this one boy. Faith in humanity increased, not necessarily restored. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s things like this that make me think we might just be able to make ourselves a more loving global community.

My thoughts on the princess culture

My family isn’t all that large. Mom, dad, two sisters, five aunts, two uncles, two nieces, a passle of cousins my girlfriend, her daughter, and last, but certainly not least, my daughter. I am surrounded by women. I am surrounded by women and, for the most part, I am used to it. Let’s face it, this female environment wasn’t a difficult thing to get used to, as my parents didn’t raise me in an environment laden with gender stereotypes. Oh, I played with boy toys, my sisters played with girl toys, but along side our gender specific toys we had selections that violated the societally proscribed norms. I housed my My Buddy buddy (look it up, that wasn’t a typo) in a Strawberry Shortcake house, and my sisters loved their trucks.

Now that I have a child, I’m looking at gender roles, play, toys and values in a different way. In fact, this is the first time I have ever had to examine them. That’s different…right? Well, it’s different to me.

The girls and I were visiting some friends who also have kids yesterday, and as I sat on the patio with our friend (let’s call him Ted), we got to talking about kids, in particular, having daughters. Somehow, our conversation got onto the topics of critical thinking and princesses in the space of about two minutes. Not a discussion of our favorite princesses and the qualities of each that make them special to us (if pressed, I would have to pick Ariel…that’s all I’m gonna say), but rather the way some girls fancy themselves princesses.

As a play choice, I don’t have anything at all against the princess. I mean, which girl (young and young at heart) doesn’t want to feel beautiful, radiant, special, sparkly even? When you get right down to it, who doesn’t want to feel special, sometimes, regardless of gender? I know I do. I’m just not likely to assume the identity of a princess to achieve that. (I might pretend to be Harry Potter, however)

My problem isn’t with a girl/woman’s desire to feel beautiful, but with society’s princessification of girls at a young age. That is, feeding them the ideals of princess-hood, promoting a particular image of beauty, telling them that their worth and status as a special little girl is derived from them looking a certain way.

It didn’t take a lot of searching to see this and the resulting behaviors when many of these girls grow up. Those girls (you’ve seen them), scurrying around so worried about how their appearance is going to affect their social standing, searching for the “fairy tale romance,” where the prince arrives and showers her with gifts and happily ever after just because she’s beautiful, complaining about men when they don’t find what they have been consciously/unconsciously told they should have (and that they are a failure if that isn’t how their life unfolds).

There are many reasons that I know I am lucky to have the parents that I do (and I will post more about that in the future – stay tuned), but as it relates to this, it’s because they allowed me a healthy level of control through choices and promoted critical thinking. Because of them (and reinforced by a small collection of teachers through the years), I believe that I am well prepared to raise my child in a way that is open and accepting of her as a person, not just a gender, as they grow.

This is important to me. We still live in a society that pays women less for the same jobs, on average. We live in a society that still finds ways to justify rape (“she was asking for it! Just look at the clothes she was wearing.” Sound familiar?). We live in a society where it’s okay for our daughters to play with boy toys, but god help the boys who want to do something feminine; it’s as if the feminine things are of a lesser value, while it’s okay for the girls to express masculinity. Is that really the message we want to send our children?

Yes, my parents gave me a gift, alright, and it’s one I am going to do my level best to pass on to my daughter and perhaps to my girlfriend’s daughter as well. I am definitely not going to discourage princess play, but nor will I discourage play choices simply because they aren’t girly. If she wants to pretend to be Cinderella, I will dance with her as if we were at the ball, but I will not forget to teach her about her own worth, as a person and a girl; that her future and fortunes do not hang solely on her looks or her gender. I can’t control how society draws it’s gender lines or how it views those who don’t conform to those lines. All I can control is how I think and how I raise my daughter to view herself and her place in this global community. If the society of the near future hasn’t come to evolve its gender sensitivity, I will be somewhat sad and disappointed, but I will be comforted by the knowledge that my daughter will always be able to readily find a safe place to escape the gender judgement she may face simply because she happened to be born a princess.