Archive for April, 2020

When Nobody’s Right

Throughout our lives, we’re constantly trying to find our Selves. Who We Are.

There’s entire industries making money from that quest. Advice comes from every angle, how to transform your mind, body and spirit to become… what? Your ‘Truest Self?’

I’ve come to believe that this is actually the journey that is our lifetime – and even then, some folks don’t get there. That’s what Reincarnation is for 😉

However, it’s always confused me why some people seem to invest so much of their energy in telling others that they’re wrong.

Sometimes this is well-intentioned. Children are taught what is socially right or wrong, for example, and so society is maintained.

But what if those guiding hands are themselves wrong? Or at least misguided.

We learn early on that we have to trust in order to find out what’s acceptable (or not). Ideally, we also learn who to trust. Or who’s unreliable.

The real challenge comes when we grow up… and discover that our foundation was itself warped or incorrect, perhaps from best intentions but poor knowledge.

There’s so many examples here. The ‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong’ argument will continue as long as humans can communicate. From international politics to having/raising children, everyone has an opinion. Read any philosopher’s works to see more.

Different points of view are absolutely fine, by the way – that’s part of what makes the world interesting and varied. The problems arise when opinion becomes absolute Fact, regardless of evidence.

I’ve seen recently how difficult it is for some people to acknowledge that they might – just a little! – be wrong. The governments of both the UK and the US, for example, will not admit error, even when the evidence is overwhelming and they may gain some positive credibility for holding hands up and simply apologising.

Which heads us into Blame. ‘I’m Not Wrong, this person told me so…’ And thus we have (again, well-intentioned) random strangers yelling at others for being outside during lockdown, for example. One glance = one conclusion = judgement and reaction. Which may very well be wrong.

I look around right now and see so many people doing their best. Our current world situation is crazy, and seeing the truth is like looking through a multi-faceted lense – there are many perspectives (not least the multiple medias through which we get our information). So what do you do, when it seems that nobody is Right?

My illness has taught me to take a look at those Right/Wrong absolutes. What someone says to me somehow warps in midair, being interpreted by my brain in an entirely different way.

But I’m sure you know the sort of thing. What’s your immediate reaction when someone gives you a compliment? Do you presume they’re just being polite, or lying, or want something from you? Stop. How disrespectful is that to the person in question? Did they, in fact, simply mean what they said, and wanted to tell you something true for them?

If those who helped build our moral foundation were acting from a warped standpoint, we may well have become suspicious of everything we’re told. I know I’ve been gaslighted many times in the past – told that my opinion or understanding was flat-out WRONG, no two ways about it! When in fact, that person could not accept that I might be right… because then they would have to be wrong.

And back we are to absolutes again.

We are having to learn right now that it’s not that simple. Life is not, communication is not; everyone has different perspectives, knowledge bases and motivations. What we need to learn is how to listen, to discern intention behind the words.

We also need to stop ourselves from jumping to conclusions. I absolutely do this too, by the way, especially when I’m in a fragile place. The inner depression voice takes any opportunity to jump on its favourite narrative, of How Awful/Useless/Ugly/Unwanted I am.

Instead of believing that path, of slinking away to hide and suffer, is it possible right now to hide away for a little while… and challenge? Not from anger, but from experience? From your own learned knowledge, valid opinion and validation from trusted others? Of what you sincerely and deeply feel to be true for you?

We are living in a very fearful environment right now. People are reactionary, knee-jerking and lashing out with blame. That’s not helpful – we can review later, when we have more information.

In the meantime, is it possible to not just speak before thinking? To take time, ponder and then offer an opinion? To start a dialogue, not an argument?

It’s easy to believe our words and thoughts aren’t valid when we are shouted down by louder voices. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong. But we can take time to review, to see where that person is coming from, and agree or disagree. Then, is a response possible? Are they open to other views? If not, perhaps the best response is to walk away.

None of us are right – or wrong – 100% of the time. Nobody is a bad person for misjudgements or mistakes. Or rather… only if they continue to compound their errors by ignoring other possibilities.

I’m doing my best to listen to the many notes that make up the (somewhat discordant!) music of life right now. I sincerely hope that it becomes more tuneful soon. In the meantime, I try to do my best, so that my own notes inspire and add to the song, rather than take over and drag others with me.

Take the days gently, my friends. We’re still moving.

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Review: ‘Deus Ex Mechanic’

Deus ex Mechanic cover

‘Deus Ex Mechanic’ is the first full-length novel by Ryann Fletcher. I was kindly provided with an early ARC, but have promised an unbiased review.

This book has had a difficult birth. Originally scheduled to be hitting shelves (and ereaders) last year, it was delayed due to the publisher unfortunately closing down. The author took the brave decision to self-publish… and I’m very glad that she did.

We are taken on the journey of Alice, a humble mechanic in a future where humanity has colonised the galaxy and potentially beyond. We see a little of her life deep in the bowels of an enormous starship – where she’s busy working on the boiler with her trusty wrench. For this is science fiction, but with a generous slice of steampunk thrown in. Shiny and space-age on the outside, messy and basic underneath!

The action begins quickly, as Alice is kidnapped during an explosive incursion by a pirate crew led by Captain Violet. And if you know anything about this book, the sparks that soon fly aren’t just those in the boiler room.

The universe-building is intriguing, and definitely drew me in. There are clear parallels with the benevolent socio-political framework of ‘Star Trek’, with hints of the ‘Warhammer 40K’ fascistic society – but let’s not hide the obvious. This is a loving wink at ‘Firefly’, with a hierarchical ruling political body being quietly opposed by small groups of active pirates and folks just looking to survive.

Alice faces the dilemma of the ‘safe’ captivity of her regular role within the not-Federation, versus the freedom and danger offered by the crew of the ‘Cricket’. It isn’t an easy decision, and the pirates each have their own opinions on their new mechanic. It’s not ‘hard’ sci-fi, instead absolutely its own engaging form of space-opera drama.

The characters soon become like old friends. I was again reminded of ‘Firefly’, with its tiny-but-unique gang of criminals, but the Cricket is definitely its own beast. I found myself mentally casting a TV series as the book went on, because I so wanted to see the action-packed adventures of Violet, Ned, Hyun and the rest.

The story moves along fast, with pleasant pauses in the action to allow breathing room for relationships to develop… before jumping back into Major Peril again! It’s tremendous fun, moving smoothly from one incident to the next, but never feeling rushed. We know why everyone acts as they do, and are keen to see what happens as events unfold.

Also, this isn’t ‘just pin a cog on it’ steampunk. I was so glad that the universe seems organic (so to speak), without any hand-waving technobabble to make the plot progress. Pipes and boilers must be maintained to make starships run. Whole worlds of people rebel against the wider accepted society just by living their lives. Freedom under threat is preferable to (comparative) luxurious captivity. Literal Steam-Punk.

I understand that a sequel is already complete, and am very pleased to say that I can’t wait to see what shenanigans Alice and Violet get up to next. A fantastic first novel. Definitely recommended.

‘Deus ex Mechanic’ is available on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, etcetc.

Note: Because the in-person event had to be cancelled, Ryann is kindly holding an online Launch Party tonight on her YouTube channel. I’ll be there!

 

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New Challenges for Paganism

Just over a week ago I posted a new video to my Youtube channel, as the start of an ongoing discussion/stream-of-consciousness-chat about the current state of the world.

A large part of me went into this not quite knowing what to say. Because the world is in a completely new place right now – or if not new for humanity, certainly new for this generation.

As I spoke, the ideas that had been cogitating and fermenting came out. From a little hopefully-motivational talk came more and more thoughts, to the extent that this one-off video demanded that it be the first part of a series. This was just Paganism is Isolation (pt1).

I had to focus, to keep on-topic. My mind wanted to wander off in any number of directions, about fears and worries, but no – this was about Paganism. How my Pagan beliefs, practice and lived spirituality were helping me right now. Or how they weren’t.

One huge thing that the lockdown/isolation life has forced me (and no doubt many others) to acknowledge is our priorities. What is important to us and our faith practice? This is something that’s been on my mind for many years, but as shown in the video, it feels as if the universe is physically forcing us to turn and LOOK at what we need to see. And then do it.

We had become complacent. As the pandemic news was starting to break, I saw many conversations about content for groups and publications, generally carrying on as usual. Let’s talk about Spring and all the new life, potential and brightness! What trees we feel affinity for, what crystals, whether spells should rhyme or not…

I sigh.

I know such things are interesting to some people, but as I watched… and then compared such chitchat to the news stories unfolding around me… how easily I could see why people dismiss Paganism as ‘fluffy’ or inconsequential.

I’ve spoken in the past about how we celebrate Harvest when it’s been a bad year. Right now, we’re looking at an Ostara season, and likely Beltane too, from a completely new place.

Yes, we need to celebrate life – because we’ve realised how valuable it is. Yes, we need to look at the trees – because going outside is no longer a right, but a privilege. (I’m not commenting on crystals or linguistic word-salad. Just no. Not my thing.)

Many of us have more time now than we’ve had before, but we can’t truly enjoy it because of the price. People are either confined to their homes or to a hospital bed. If working, they will have constant anxiety of what might happen in the next minute, hour or day, for those they meet and how such random strangers may affect – or infect – them.

We are being forced to realize just how much we have taken for granted. We are forced to see exactly what is important, and what can be left by the wayside.

I’ve also spoken in the past about a certain reluctance (or even dread) on the part of some Pagans to discuss or acknowledge ‘dark’ deities. Well, now we’re having to. Because that darkness is part of life. It’s not ‘evil’ or ‘bad’, it just is.

We celebrate every sunrise, because it’s another day. We sit with the darkness of potential death, unable to reach out a physical hand. Thinking on it, I see more connection with our ancestors than ever before: that sense of uncertainty, or lack of control, of the wish to pray for guidance, strength or hope. Of the need for community and shared experience.

This is what our Paganism can bring to us right now, if we’re finally brave enough to face it. The balance of our lives, our world… and so of our faith that is specifically based in Nature. We’re not playing any more. We are now required to open our eyes.

Yes, it’s difficult. I absolutely know this. Yes, so many of us have already walked this path (personally with my own mental health battles, but for all of those who have their own everyday challenges). ‘Normal’ is fluctuating constantly. Folks who have been physically confined due to difficulties getting out are now able to be better understood. We can look, truly see and so empathise, perhaps help more usefully.

This is not about guilt. Guilt isn’t helpful. This is about our shared humanity, life and doing what needs to be done.

I don’t have answers – that’s kind of the point, nobody does! But I have a hand, reaching out across the wires, and a voice to tell my story. So do you.

I’ve absolutely more to say on this, and will do in the weeks ahead. But for now, perhaps take time to sit and look out at the world, while looking inward to what your own deeper Pagan beliefs are. Is it time to adjust your practices? What can you do to make your outer world reflect and aid your inner (or vice versa)? What is no longer needed, and can be put aside? What fuels you, where does your motivation, your power, your strength come from?

What stories can you tell, and what stories call to you to teach or guide you? What makes you uncomfortable… and can you face that to see what is hidden behind the unease?

Yes, in my own hemisphere it’s Spring. I can see buds on the trees and hear birds singing. But I also know there’ll be chicks fallen from nests, crops left to rot due to closed eateries, and so many looking for help…

What are we doing? What can we do? Individually and slowly reaching outward.

We have technology that our ancestors didn’t. We are modern Pagans, with our own thoughts and ideas. Let’s stand together and use them.

Love and solidarity, my friends.

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