Clergy Oath Dream, 12/28/2016

I do not often dream, but sometimes, the results are hilarious. This is what I'd classify as a "nightmare," but in the light of day, it's not so scary, at all. But it is funny. The dream begins in media res, at a rite at Wellspring where all ADF's clergy were reciting the oath they take at ordination in order to renew their credentials (which is, by the way, not a thing we actually do).


It was my turn to recite and rededicate myself to my clergy oath in a ritual at Wellspring. Others had gone first, and I was somewhere in the middle of the pack.

First, Karen was going to take my oath, so she asked Leesa to find a copy of the Satanic Bible for me to swear on. Leesa found one at The Magical Druid shop, but everyone balked when Seamus insist it be paid for. There was some amusing price haggling.

Fortunately, I had sent Jan to get the Grove sickle, and it was there for me to swear on, so that was used instead. Some folks seemed disheartened, but I was happy the Shop made a sale.

When I got up there, I blanked on the words (as I type this, the words come easily to mind). Funny thing: everyone else seemed to have blanked as well.

Kirk tried to help. I riffed on the oath for a while, making it sort of sound like an expansion on the original. Kirk would whisper a line to me, but so quietly I could not hear it, so I plowed ahead with my extemporaneous oath, trying to get him to speak up.

Then, when I gave up and asked him directly, he blanked, too!

Skip tried to help by reminding me that Gwen wrote it, and it was only two lines. This reminded Ian that knowing this fact probably wouldn't help, because that just meant it was bad poetry, and thus hard to remember.

Someone had a copy of the oath in Gaelic, and I tried to speak it in Gaelic from Kirk's (clearly incorrect, but I was trying anything at this point) pronunciation guidance, but half of it was in runes, so he could not help me pronounce that part. I tried to transliterate it, but it got really complicated when it became clear it was not a "standard" runic alphabet, but one from an inscription.

Someone produced a poorly-translated omen written down from another ritual that matched the oath as if it had been garbled by Google Translate, replacing "fire" with "burnination," "water" with "coffee," and "blessings" with "raining men." We tried to translate it back into actual English to offer the oath, but were unable (likely because fire, water, and blessings are not part of the oath).

The omen gave me an idea: I had ministered the oath to others several times, so I opened my pouch hoping to find a copy. There was a lot of paperwork in there that does not belong (receipts and such) in a ritual bag, and several snippets of ritual work that were not at all the oath I needed to recite.

Others began rifling through their ritual bags as well. Drum thought he had found a copy written on an orange pill bottle he used for offerings. He handed it to me with a smile, saying "Who's your daddy?" But it was a prescription to aid pooping. It had the word "pooping" written in florid doctor-scrawl on it.

A couple of people looked genuinely pained at the antics going on, and especially pained for me, but didn't have anything to offer to help: Caryn, Nancy, and Sue all did their best to lend moral support with sympathetic gazes.

Drum got into a group off to the side with G.R., Rowen, and a few others, and started reciting a new oath they had written to be more poetic. I am not sure if it was supposed to be a serious contender or not.

"I shall not skin cats to turn them into dragons, or otherwise desecrate them," the group spoke in unison. I looked over at Mel, who said I should check out the reactions of other priests to the list of things being suggested for this new oath. The group continued with the new oath, but annoyingly, this is where I woke up.


For reference the oath is (the oath a Senior Priest speaks does not include the last line):

I pledge to love the land, serve the folk, and honor the gods.
To this I dedicate my hands, my heart, and my head.
I further dedicate myself to continue my endeavors to the program of study of Ár nDraíocht Féin

A Yule Rite for (All) the Ages

Last night's Yule rite was pretty awesome. Despite chasing kids around, running a lot of video cameras, and generally being exhausted at the end of the day, there were some serious highlights.

  1. The live-stream when phenomenally. By the time we'd finished, it looks like over 500 people had viewed the stream (we'll know more when the analytics arrive and give us a solid idea of how many people were tuned in). Since then, nearly 1,000 people have watched the event on Facebook, far more than I would have ever expected (and 2/3 the total membership of ADF, which also says something about the reach of this sort of work).

  2. The Gate Opening was weird and fun and I want to plan it with way more kids. I was attending without my wife, and with my twin three-year-olds. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to do my part without them hanging out with me, so I worked them in. I'm thankful to everyone who helped spin the kids around, especially skylark913.

  3. I was able to leave someone else in charge. Mike B.'s first rite went amazingly well. Cool, controlled, and with good stage presence, he ran the rite like he'd been doing it for years. Kudos to him. I couldn't have asked for a better ritual leader for our first really successful live-stream.

  4. The working was powerful for those involved. Several folks took home bulbs from the rite to turn into something that blossoms in their lives. From start to finish, this working was perfect for the rite, both in theme and in execution. It even looked good on video.

  5. My daughter has a new "book." This morning, as I dropped my kids off at school, my daughter refused to let go of the ritual program from last night, saying that she wanted to take her "Crane Book" in for show-and-tell. I can only imagine the conversation going on at this moment.

The Gate Opening, with kids spinning the Gates openI think, as I reflect on it, that the Gate Opening is what makes me happiest about the entire rite: the fact that we live-streamed the event, plus got to really push the kids into the work and highlight a method of inclusion, was pretty huge for me.

It's easy sometimes to forget that kids make up the next generation of our work, that including them in ritual is really very important (my own feelings on kids in ritual have transformed since the first time I had to deal with them in ritual back in 2003, where I immediately gave them a part). It's chaotic, crazy, and they don't really lend themselves to a "calm, meditative experience," but honestly, I get enough of those sorts of experiences, anyway.

What including kids in ritual does do, and I think this is very important, is it continues the work of making our rites open, accessible, and joyful to all involved.

Watching them "twirl the Gates open" is an experience I won't soon forget... and that I hope to get to repeat very soon, with even more kids joining the dance.


Speaking When Words Cannot Be Found

A photo of the candles on my altar, stating: Flames lit for those whose flame has gone out, whose voices may never again be heard. Victims of hate and fear: we remember you.
A prayer for Orlando
It is worth saying at the outset that truly, deeply, my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, friends, and a sense of safety in the tragedy in Orlando that spawned this post. My altar is bright for you, as it is bright of us all.

There are things that happen that make no sense. They defy the words we have to offer, and the comfort we wish to share. They break our hearts, and they beat down our spirits. When you cannot think of anything to do, it is even harder to think of something to say.

When awful things happen to a community we are not a part of, but are allied with, it becomes even more complicated: how do you speak to a community that is hurting without speaking for them, and silencing them in the process?

I've spent a lot of time considering these questions. I don't know that I have all the answers, but I think that I've come to a place where I grok a sembalance of some answers, mostly as they relate to the work I do as an ADF Priest.

There are often discussions in online fora about the "need" for Pagan clergy, for Priests, and for institutionalized training. Generally, as a priest in ADF, I come down on the side of "people don't require priests for much of anything, theologically." Anyone from the eldest of elders to the most novice of beginners has the inherent ability to access the divine, and that's a cornerstone of my theology, actually.

But there are times when having skilled priests becomes an advantage. It's good to have a priest when you get married, for example, or when your child is born, or when you die. There, priests are certainly useful, even if you can probably do all the things you need to do yourself (except for that pesky "your own funeral" part). There's a subset of the "skills one learns when learning to be a priest" that can perhaps be best described as "making your important life event less of a clusterfuck."

A prayer for Paris,
Nov. 13, 2016
It's not a course you take or get credit for. It's just something you learn through a weird combination of experience, coursework, and through being there for others over time. It's a valuable thing, a worthwhile thing; that's why most priests charge for weddings and funerals: the ability to have someone else handle the details and not screw things up has value and utility to folks.

But what that skillset does is prepare you in ways you never expected for things that no one should ever have to expect in life. When tragedy strikes, we are the ones who are expected to have words, to have actions, and to have ways of transmitting something meaningful in a world seemingly gone mad.

And that has been happening far too often recently.

I mentioned above, I don't think that I, as an ADF Priest, am necessarily uniquely qualified to do these sorts of things. But through experience and work, I've found that there are ways to interact with tragedy that help people come together, rather than fall apart.

None of this is perfect, or easy, or even necessarily something you can duplicate more than once. But I want to share some of the ways I work to help others when something large happens, because I think it's important, and I think it's something I can learn more from explaining, and hopefully others can learn more about by reading.

I will also point out that I was not at all very good at this when I began my work as clergy. I was, in fact, terrible. I still think I'm not really very good at this, but I also think that no one is very good at this: the people who appear to be are just more practiced in their process.

There are a few things I have picked up on in the process of working for individuals that have been important to carry forward into my work for larger groups, trying to help others through grief and fear. These are what I consider the starting point for any attempt to act as priest in a moment of tragedy, whether personal or international in nature:

  1. Read up on "things not to say to people who are grieving" - Seriously, I'll wait. Here are a couple of resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Trigger Warning: if you've recently gone through a grieving process, some of these might be hard to read because they are insensitive). The act of reading through those lists will do more for your ability to speak with meaningful support than anything else, because those lists are full of people speaking backhanded compliments, minimizing the person's feelings, and turning someone else's tragedy into their own. And why are the lists so similar? Because people keep saying these things. Break the cycle.

  2. Act on the information you know is true, not on speculation or gossip - Never approach someone with an assumption that you know what's going on. You don't have to know details to offer support, and you don't have to make an assumption about what a person is going through to tell them you're there for them. Also, don't assume hard data tells the whole story: people have broad circles, and it's not just people in France who were affected by the Paris attacks last November, for instance. Also, don't post about someone's death until you're certain of two things: 1) they've actually passed, and 2) their family has all been notified.

  3. Work on formulas, and develop a practice for tragedy -  When it comes to people who have personal tragedies, the internet norm is to comment "*hugs*" and move on. You might reach out via a private message, or post something a bit longer if you know the person well. Know this: that person will get a lot of social media messages, and they can seem empty when they are all the same. Build a practice for this sort of thing. Mine is not complicated, but it's personal and meaningful: I often light a candle, take a picture, and send it to the person with a note letting them know it's for them. Because it is personal and meaninful, it lets the person know that they are special, and that their cares and feelings matter.

  4. Value the person experiencing the tragedy - They reach out because whatever the tragedy is (and whatever your understanding of the level of "tragedy" in this case), it's real to them. Even if you think it's a "first world problem," look at it through their eyes. Don't devalue the tragedy and devalue the person at the same time.

  5. Choose which tragedies you can respond to, and how deeply you can respond - This is the hardest bit of advice. If you reach out and say, "If you need anything, I'm here," and then you go on a fishing trip and don't check your email, you've done worse than if you had not reached out at all. We all have a capacity to deal with a certain amount, and if you can't manage this level of tragedy, let someone else handle it. If the person reaches out to you directly for support and you can't handle it, that's okay. Have a place to refer them to, and be clear that you value them, but you cannot manage it right now. If you can't handle it, you need to outsource it, or risk making the problem worse.

On a personal level, these things are small, meaningful gestures. What I've been very surprised about recently is how well they scale for large groups of people, and how well they can reach people when applied well. But trying to share things broadly has some pitfalls, too:

  1. Create something easy to share - I want to be clear: this isn't about popular posts, or shares or likes or reblogs. Those are metrics and data that can help you understand how helpful your post is, but that's all they are. What this is about is crafting something that people can take action and ownership over, and giving them something they can control. Text is hard to share; graphics are easy. Video requires attention to tragedy, something a lot of people don't want to do. Rememer that lit candle? Look at what I did above for both Paris and Orlando. Paris was a Snapchat photo, saved and uploaded to Facebook and Tumblr. Orlando was a few candles on my altar. What you do doesn't have to be elaborate and staged. It just has to show action and provide a light in the darkness.

  2. Keep your theme on point - Simple messaging is key. In the 24-hour news cycle we have, it's impossible to have all the details when you first want to say something. Speak to the value of those affected, and avoid specific detail (with most tragedies, death tolls fluctuate wildly in the first 24 hours, and so do motives and understandings of whether the tragedy is over or still ongoing). If your message contains too many details, the fact that you care will get lost in them. Your first and most important theme? "I care. You're valuable. We're in this together." (If you can't honestly say those things, don't post about it.)

  3. Be timely - If you let the sun set on a tragedy, you're likely moving too slowly. Temper this with the knowledge that you can't always respond to everything, because there is too much. It's okay not to provide words for absolutely everything. By the same token, don't rush something out to "beat the crowd." Be considerate and careful about what you say.

  4. Recognize that sometimes, someone else says it better - It's okay for an ADF Priest to "say something" by reblogging another Priest's post, or even to reblog another church's (Pagan or not) post on a tragedy if it says what you wish you could say. Lean on others who have experience and voice, because, frankly, none of us has enough experience (or enough words) to speak to every tragedy, and there are no rivalries worth fighting over when tragedy strikes. There's no need for every person to speak, in their own words, about every tragedy. Simply put, we can't do that. And that's okay.

  5. Don't talk over the victims - Don't assume your post, your condolences, or your words will resolve the problem for everyone, or that it will cover every need. Check in with people in the area. Discuss with someone from that community. Make sure your statement gives ample space for their statement.

  6. Make more than one post, when appropriate - If you're going to be both timely and on point, you might miss details that come out later. There's nothing saying that two or three days later, you can't put out another prayer or thought on the event: one that is more informed, more direct, and that speaks to the issues that have been raised in the intervening time. See below, for my second post about Paris, as an example of how different a "first post" and "followup post" might be. The first post allowed me to get something out that was simple and effective, and the second one allowed me to spend some time. Both were helpful to a lot of people, each in their own way.

These are a few lessons i've learned about this "Helping Others With Tragedy" thing. Again, it's hard. It's practically impossible. It's stupid and dumb and we shouldn't have to do this, not in a sane world. But the power of being there for each other is immense.

I care. You're valuable. We're in this together.

May your fire burn brightly.

Growing Up, Learning the Path

Before the twins were born, I wrote a bit about my "Changling Bane" plan, and I wanted to give a bit of an update.

The Changeling Banes are still doing their job, standing guard. We've moved to a new house, and the little figures came right along with the kids. It's funny: I let the kids choose their spirit themselves, and my daughter chose the older, bearded, male spirit, while my son chose the female spirit.

There's been a nifty change, though, in the way that the kids interact with them, just in the past week or two: now, the kids understand that these figures are home to spirits that protect them.

My kids love the movie "Song of the Sea," but it turns out that the owls in the flim are a bit scary for them at their current, tender age of two-and-a-half. We were having some trouble putting them to sleep, so my wife showed them the spirits who were still in their window (and who have been with them since they were taken out of the delivery room), and told them about how the spirits were there to protect them.

Now, my daughter has to give her spirit a hug and a kiss each night, just like she gives to me, and then her spirit goes back up into the window to guard the room. My son asks for his spirit to sleep with him, and he clutches her all night, and occasionally converses with her in the dark, and I have to hug and kiss both him and the spirit before bed.

It's amazing, the kinds of little things that we don't really expect to have a lasting impression, but do.

I mostly made these Changeling Banes for my own piece of mind, to control the uncontrolable, to keep curious things out in the world full of spirits that I live in. My half-rational, half-religious mind is split down the middle on their function: I have a deep belief that the Spirits are there for me and my psychological well-being, and also a deep belief that they're protecting the kids from things that might go "bump" in the night ("Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Leggity Beasties," if you will). It's a strange place, but I'm in love with the fact that the kids have given these little spirit figures a real, deep life my rational mind resists giving them... and that makes their reality all that much more deep for me, too.

Answers are the easy part: Questions raise the doubt

TL;DR: The kinds of questions we field about Druidry can tell us a lot about how our values differ from the broader contexts of other, mainstream religions. Here's what I discovered.

Last week, I was privileged to speak to a number of high school students in an alternative humanities program here in Columbus, on the topic of Druidry. I gather that they get to write response papers to my presentation, but something struck me today as I was thinking about the experience: I sort of want to write a response to the experience of speaking to them.

One of the interesting things about this particular group of kids is that they always come with good, high quality questions. I've been coming to speak to them for about six years (since 2009, though one year my slot got snowed out), and it's always been fun.

This year was no different in the fun department, but I did lead a basic Two Powers meditation for the class this time, which I had not done before. Typically, this class hears from a number of speakers and has a number of experiences with non-mainstream religions as part of their world religions section. Very often, those presentations inform the sorts of questions I receive.

Thinking about the questions that they asked (on the afterlife, on what a ritual is like and why we do those things, on an example of "working" magic, and on how we strive for "perfection"), I began to look at them in the broader religious and spiritual context that these questions represented. What I realized is that Druidry is very different from a lot of other religions, in its basic premise: we are far more concerned with how we act in relation to others and the cosmos than other religions are.

Most religions are, on balance, interested in the self. The assumptions made about where they're coming from and where they're going are very different. Other religions place emphasis on things like:

  • These are the things I have to do or believe for me to get to X kind of afterlife, or to ensure that I'll see my loved ones when I get there.

  • There's an external sort of thing to strive for, a "perfection" we might wish to achieve, or an escape from the state that is this world.

  • Things are best divided, between spiritual and physical, between sacred and profane, between self and other.

These sorts of ideas aren't as important in Druidry. We don't start from these kinds of places, and we don't ask these sorts of questions, mostly.

Instead, we focus almost exclusively on our relationships in this life:

  • How do my actions affect the cosmos? How do we affect the world we live in?

  • What is the affect of my actions on others? Is this behavior ethical, given all that I know about how the world can and should work?

  • It's okay to make mistakes: the important thing is to take ownership of them.

  • The functional divide between that which is "spiritual" and that which is "physical" is hardly important: both the physical and the spiritual are equally important in our lives. Indeed, both of them have equal value in our lives.

  • Do what works for you, not what someone tells you will work; your quirks might form an interesting and powerful relationship.

Part of this is knowing that right action is vitally important to the way the cosmos maintains itself. Part of this is know that we don't know anything about the afterlife, and we can't (though we can make some educated guesses). Part of it, too, is a healthy dose of "I can make my own decisions."

But a lot of it is being aware that others are not a vehicle to our own benefit. We are, instead, in this together, and entering into relationships with one another. As humans, we're engaged in a broader web, one we may not always understand, but which we clearly feel that we gain from and give back to. We only gain when others gain. We don't have to improve our lives at the expense of others: we can best improve them when we bring others with us.

A lot of that has to do with offering help where we can, being kind to others, and being open to the possibility of a *Ghos-ti- relationship (indeed, it is important to take the first step in forming a relationship even when there is not one). This seems to be important on both a local scale, and on a broader cosmic scale. Doing so, we think, will improve and enrich our lives in ways that it is often hard to describe, but easy to relate to.

Other religions are often concerned with these things as well: kindness is not rare as a virtue among religions, for example. Yet it seems that the focus on creating relationships because they improve the cosmos instead of the self seems to be something strange and out of step, particularly with mainstream religions and the culture that they provide. . . and the questions about our religion that they seem to raise most often.

Druidry, as a "thing explained."

Today, I stumbled onto the XKCD Thing Explainer "Word Checker" and decided to try and write a description of Druidry using it. The Word Checker tells you when you're using a word that is not in the 1,000 most common words in English, and prompts you to figure out some other way to explain what you're talking about (check out the graphic that explains how a Saturn V rocket works done with this limitation).

With no real plan, I came up with this very simple description of Druidry. Hope you enjoy it:

I'd like to talk about the beliefs of the old "land across the sea" people. These are the people who were around before the now "land across the sea" people, and they did a lot of moving around, going from place to place until finally stopping at their now place, which is really more of a "then" place, since it was before now.

There were many groups of these people, each talking their own way and having their own ideas about who lives in the world beyond ours, just out of our reach. It is said that they went to fights without clothing, gave gifts to the people living in the world beyond ours, and gathered around fires and trees and things to be together.

Today, we do a lot of these things, sort of like they did them then. We gather on certain important days, do work with moon faces and part-faces, and remember the people living in the world beyond ours, and hope they hear us when we speak. We sing to the Earth Mother, Her children, the Spirits of Place, and our Mothers and Fathers.

We light a fire at the center of the world, and we give gifts to the spirits around it. We hope they will come to visit us there, as we speak to them, and hope that our work will help keep the world working, and ordered.

Even though we have moved across the sea to be where we are now, we remember where we came from, and bring it with us to this place we now live.

It was an interesting exercise. I'd do it again.


Equality and Joy: revising yesterday's prayer just a bit

I heard the news yesterday that the SCOTUS had, in a 5-4 decision, approved same-sex marriage nationwide.

And I heard it early enough that I got to tell a few people about it first. That was pretty awesome.

I was down at ComFest, which meant limited access to keyboards and internet, but I managed to get this prayer up onto Tumblr:

Kindreds, Spirits all:
We have persevered.
In joy, we sing out for love!
May all our voices be bright together
As we sing praises to Justice,
To Joy, and to Liberty!

I wanted to write more, and I thought my words completely failed when I wrote it, but looking back, it is not really half-bad as a prayer. Still, I wanted to give it another shot, today. So:

I sing praise first to Love,
You, who is greater than Heaven and Earth,
You have brightened our lives this day.
You, who is greater than all that lives,
And who was here before all else.
We are one people before your might,
Raised up, healed, and overflowing with you!

I sing praise next to Joy,
Whose voice has filled my heart,
Singing out from my lips!
The folk join together, hand in hand,
Brightened by the rising star of Love.
May we never forget you, Joy,
Especially as we share you with others!

I sing praise next to Liberty,
You, who have fought so hard to be heard.
We see you persevere through bigotry,
Your march steady, conquering,
And full of faith to the last.
May we never forget this day
Where your shining light touched us all!

I sing praise finally to Justice,
You have been well served today.
We have seen what your hand can do,
Righting the scales of those crushed
Beneath the heel of fundamentalism.
Know we heed your call this day,
And your triumph here brings new challenges.

That's about what the prayer would have looked like with a full keyboard and a decent internet connection. It's what I thought as I stood there in our tent, stunned with joy and love.

Love has won, but there is still work to do on this front. Let us not forget that discrimination is still allowed in this country based on sexual orientation.

This fight is not just about love; it is also about human dignity.

We keep fighting.

On Flags and "Distraction"

So, lemme get this straight: you believe we're being "distracted" from "real stories" about "the government" and "corporations" by "the media" with "things that don't matter". . .

If that's true, I have news for you:

  1. If the media, whose biggest scoop is whistleblowing on the government and corporations; and corporations, who hate to be controlled by the government and can't stand journalists; and government, who hates "gotcha journalism" and breaks monopolies, are all in bed together. . . does it really matter what they're covering up? Your Facebook posts aren't going to dent that armor.

  2. Black lives matter.

Now, I haven't arragned these in any particular order. It just so happens that Point 1 provides a nice springboard for Point 2.

Let's start with Point 1. This isn't the first time I've seen this: apparently, we're distracted by a lot of things, according to a few of my friendly conspiracy nuts (I mean that in the nicest possible way; think of it as an endearment): the media distracts us from
BigGovermentThingX and/or BigCorporateThingY with InsignificantThingZ all the time. News of the Pluto exploration mission (New Horizons, launched nearly a decade ago) is designed to distract us from fracking. News of the divorce of some big celebrity provides a smoke screen for government surveillance. News of the Sony hack distracts us from CIA torture camps in Afghanistan.

And news about a little orange flag on the SC capitol grounds distracts us from the TPP, pyramids on Ceres that were built by aliens, or ISIS going on the offensive now. This brings us to Point 2.

I have to be honest, a lot of my friends (a lot of my white, privileged friends) have a lot to say about how this controversy over the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is "just a distraction." It's not. The killing of black kids by police isn't a "distraction." The fact that this flag was brandished by a white kid before he killed nine black people in a church is not a "distraction."

It sounds like a distraction to you, because you feel it is unimportant. Let that sink in for a moment: you think that a person using the old "Stars and Bars" as a symbol of hate is isolated, "improper," and at the end of the day, unimportant. That's what you're saying when you call it a "distraction."

The worst form of this is the open-ended, "More about this silly flag. What else might they be distracting us from?" This line says to me: "I'm so uninformed, I cannot find a single thing that is worth caring about less than the way minorities feel about this flag."

I know, you didn't choose to see it as "unimportant." You think the issue is different, that there's something else going on than racism here. You might even think that it's "reverse racism" (note the quotes: that's because we're using a made-up phrase; sorry, but that's true). You might feel that the flag in question is "misrepresented," but your feelings are born of your ideas about the flag, and doesn't take into account anyone else's perceptions (which, of course, means you must be right).

Your "distractions," when your cute little conspiracy nut head gets ahold of them, are expressions of how you interact with institutional racism. And in your privilege, you say it doesn't matter.

But it does matter. To all of us. And you're in the wrong on this one.


The Power of the Winds

So, we had a couple of people in the shop, and a lovely young lady comes in. I saw her walking around the corner and looking up at the shop, and she comes in. And we greet her in the usual way we do, "Hi, welcome, let us know if you're looking for anything in particular, we make most of our stuff, etc. etc."

And she says it's been a long, rough day. See, she's been going door to door telling people about the wonders of wind power.

Now, I've been in the store for a bit already, so I've been talking to people and having the kinds of conversations we often have, and we start engaging in small talk about wind power and how neat it is and all this stuff.

And about 3 minutes into the conversation, I realize that she's going door to door for a utility company, *not* describing the power of the North Wind as it relates to the power of the East Wind, or the directionality of wind in general.

And I feel really, really silly.

But here's the best part: she didn't really seem to notice that she was talking physics and renewable energy, and I was talking metaphysics and energy direction.

I very often love working at the Shop.

Raising children via constructed mythic drama

Over the last several months, I've been doing what most people do when they have kids: obsessing a little bit over whether or not I'm "doing it right," realizing it doesn't matter, and then obsessing a bit again.

One thing that I have found, though, is that there is a standard by which I can judge my own work, and as a result, also a template I can copy. I have a story created by photos and anecdotes that provide me with information about how I can raise these kids appropriately, and get them to turn out "right." Or, I guess, at least like I did.

A sort of "mythic drama," if you will.

Engaging in mythic drama, to me, is the act of taking stories or actions and repeating them because either

  1. They have been memorized and you unconsciously follow the directions they provide, like understanding the world in relation to myths, ritualized actions, or even song lyrics.
  2. Finding maps and clues about ways to accomplish things you have no context for by creating a story out of thin air, and diving into it wholeheartedly.

What I realized is that I have many of the photos, and I learn more anecdotes all the time, that detail how I was raised, and the things we did. And in having access to them, I have access to a sort of myth about how I became the person I am today.

One of the first things I looked to was a particular photo of my dad feeding me. Fortunately, it was dated, so I know when it took place: two days short of my two month birthday.

Dad and Me

I set it up with my wife to match the photo. It was a sort of silly thing: posing with my kids just like that original photo. But creating and engaging in mythic drama is not about being serious or even necessarily having belief. It is, instead, about understanding (either consciously or unconsciously) what has been done before and respecting it as a useful and joyful experience.

And so, when my twins were two days shy of their two month birthday, I sat down and we took some photos.

Amelia Ann | Leo Colin 

It made me feel better, like I was doing the right thing, that I was a good dad. More than that, it actually made me into a good dad, because to me, this is a picture good dads take with their kids. The proof is irrefutable: my dad did it, right?

The process of "making myself into a good dad" is not an easy one. There aren't textbooks or qualified experts (contrary to the belief you might form if you look at all the parenting books in the bookstore). All you can do is what you know is right. (Of course, I also had some help and a bear hunt)

But I'm getting there, and every little thing that makes me feel like I've "made it" is huge to me.