Facing the Darkness

The following is an excerpt from an entrance essay I wrote to a nearby college a while ago. Enjoy.

There is an inescapable truth to the world in which we live: every person that is born must also die. But it is neither the situation of our birth, nor the circumstances of our death which make us who we are; it is the manner and quality in which we live our lives that defines us.

Unfortunately, it is also true that the manner in which one lives, whether it be righteous, wrongful, or indifferent, does not always translate into the quality of life which one enjoys. There are those who govern their lives by a strict moral code, and appear to reap all of life’s rewards as payment. We call them the Blessed. There are those who live wrongfully, and cheat their fellows, yet appear to reap equal reward regardless. We call them the Corrupt. There are those who abdicate virtue, and appear to be punished with misery and deprivation. We call them the Damned. And finally, there are those who live righteously, and uphold the Rule of Law, yet are made to suffer regardless. We call them the Destitute.

It is the Destitute, whose unwavering moral rectitude is constantly confronted by a deluge of depravity, who are to be most pitied. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon us, who have the means, to discover within us the Will to raise up our fellows in just reward for their virtue.

I speak, not merely of material goods, but also of matters of the Spirit. There are those among us whose greatest worry is not a leak in their roof, or a deficit in their bank account; it is a crack in their very soul, left by some sudden trauma or the slow decimation of affliction. These people are all around us. They live next door to us, work in the same offices, shop at the same stores, and watch the same television shows. And every day they struggle, alone, with a demon in their mind.

To offer them succor, would be such a simple thing. It costs us nothing to listen; it costs us nothing to love; and for so many whose hearts are overcome with sorrow, compassion is the only coin they require. To stand, just for one moment, shoulder to shoulder with someone who has looked into the face of Darkness and say to them, “You are not alone,” is the greatest gift any person can give. And it costs us nothing.

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Snowflakes

I was struck by a thought today: a thought about similarity and difference. I have come to the conclusion that no two humans are or will ever be exactly alike, but also that no single human will ever be entirely unique. Just as we all have differences that set us apart from each other, there is not, has never been, and shall almost certainly never be someone who cannot connect to anyone on common ground.
Now, I know that the four-hundred or so humans I have met in the provincial, pastoral little speck of nowhere I call home can hardly be considered an accurate sampling of the seven-billion or more humans inhabiting this delightful little mud ball of a planet, but I like to think the specific events of my life have introduced me to a somewhat broader range of folk than the average museum janitor.
Aware as I am of different walks in life and of the walkers who stride upon them, and content as I can be in the company of a range of social and economic classes, I wonder how it is that so many of us get hung up on truly useless similarities or differences? Why does anyone really care what color I am or what language I speak? Why should they care who I sleep with or which name of God I pray to? How can these things possibly really matter? Why can’t we focus on the important things? Different bodies on the same planet… Different members of the same species… Different souls alive at the same time… Different minds seeking the same Truth?
I have often heard it said that no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike, but, in a way, there is never one that is entirely unique. After all, before, above, and in spite of everything else: they are all snowflakes. How magnanimous of the powers that be to have put such a splendid and simple metaphor right in front of us. Never appearing the same, but always intrinsically similar; settling down by different paths in different places on the same Earth; and, unquestionably, only here for short while and then gone, do I speak of snowflakes, or of us?

Resolution and Dissolution

Whew! It’s dusty in here. If anyone bothers to read these anymore, I apologize for leaving you hanging for so long. I simply never made the time to sort out and set down the various insights I’ve had over the past several months.

Let’s make that my first New Year’s Resolution: make more time for blogging.

That’s part of what this post is about: things I intend to do better about. 2014 is going to be a year of changes and preparations for me. For starters, I currently live and work as a wage slave somewhere on the mid-Atlantic seaboard, and that simply will not suffice. As the day on which the Gilded Jenga Tower of Western Civilization tumbles and scatters devastation across the world draws ever nearer, I feel a need to be better equipped to live in a post-collapse empire. I feel compelled to become a Maker of Things, a crafter, but of what…I have no idea.

I spent nearly sixteen years in school of some sort, somewhere, preparing for “what I would do with my life,” and now that I have a reasonably tolerable job with employment security and decent fringe benefits, I’m getting ‘Cold Pricklies!’ because I feel myself falling into a rut that could conceivably consume the rest of my useful life. Don’t get me wrong: I still have some plans for what I can do other than this, but it will take time to lay the groundwork and I begin to wonder if it will be worth it to actually embark on those alternate ventures after the time invested here while preparing to leave.

I guess what it boils down to is: should I leave now, with nothing invested and nothing prepared, or should I prepare to leave knowing my time invested here will be lost? Truth be told, I don’t think I have the resourcefulness or the courage to slip my moorings now with neither compass nor cargo. And so I have decided to take the near future to prepare.

This is the year that I put money away in savings for a rainy day. This is the year that I take up a study of new skills and knowledge. This is the year that I end my pretense at adhering to a Church in which I no longer believe. This is the year that I strive to maximize the health of my body and my spirit. This is the year I decrease my dependence on the manufactured, post-industrial world. This is the year that I will purge myself of shame and fear, and the year I will master my rage.

Be these resolved! And I shall put my whole Self into their completion forthwith. I will start with this: Some of you know me by my given name. When others ask who I am, tell them. And tell them I am no longer a practicing Catholic. I have not ceased to have faith in God, only those who claim to speak in his name. Too many people have preached love and practiced hate before my eyes. Too many people have said “Let all…come to me,” and turned away the modern-day counterparts to the tax-collectors and sinners with whom their Savior ate and consorted. The Church that proclaims “Not of this world, but of the next,” spends far too much time and capital on petty, interpersonal bickering and the private practices of individuals in whose lives the God that is Love, not the Church that is Dogmatic Stagnation, ought to be the driving influence.

A slew of harsh invective, to be sure. And in the interest of honesty with myself and the world, I must point out that the misconduct outlined above comes from personal experience with a few individuals and by no means represents the attitude of every Catholic. In fact, many have been supportive of, shall we say, my non-canonical views and beliefs. For them, I wish I could stay. For the love between honest, mostly upright people that is Christ’s second commandment, I dearly wish I could remain where and how I am. But I believe there are practices endorsed by the Catholic Church which contradict what remains of the teachings of Christ and for that reason I no longer commune with them.

I realize that this has all been phrased rather vaguely, and I apologize. I will endeavor to sort out some more specifics where I disagree with contemporary practices and explain them in greater detail at a later time. I may also have to give this message in person to some who don’t interact with me much online, and that will be the true test of my conviction in making this separation. I have lived so long with this dogma and the sharp, seemingly ever-shrinking boundaries, putting it behind me gives me pause and will doubtlessly be a strenuous process. If it is your way, please pray for me that I find the strength to pursue my convictions and not to revert to a hollow faith out of fear.

This post didn’t exactly go where I had first thought or planned, but it came forth truthfully, (as best it could in keeping with my anonymity and the privacy of others), and it shall not be un-made. I sign off today with a name that is beyond my given name, or my assumed name, for with it I named myself.

Malleus

Shield Anvil/ The Passing of an Age

I have decided that it would be better not to be a god. Gods are cruel things sometimes.

Today the best part of my grandfather was lost to me. Do not grieve-yet: his body lives. His mind, however, is all but gone. I stood and spoke with him for some time at dinner tonight and he was no longer here. He was confused, possibly afraid, and he wants to go home.

I once volunteered for a crisis hotline. One night a week for 11 hours or so I was the voice in the wilderness for total strangers on the worst days of their lives. Mind you, there were a number of abusive callers and several who were beyond any kind of permanent help and I eventually quit that service because I felt I was there for the wrong reasons.

But, soon–sooner than I ever would have wanted–I shall be called on again. The older members of my family who knew my grandfather in his prime will feel his loss acutely and must needs have someone to stand by them in their grief. I will make that my burden. No one would ask it, no one could ask such a thing, but I will do it.

I shall be as the mountain that rises from the sea.
Throw your grief upon the shore
And in my embrace find peace.
Give me your burdens, all you who are weary;
My shoulders are broad
And I will not yield.
I am shield and I am anvil;
I will guard you from distress
And temper your resolve.
So bring me your tears, all who would weep,
For I have weathered many storms
And I am not yet done.

After all, what use have the dead for the thoughts of mortals, brief as they are? To what purpose are the dead resolved? How can they lay down their burdens or banish their fears? And what of those left behind?  There must needs be one who can be shield and anvil for the living: one who will embrace their pain that they may live free of the burdens they know they cannot repay. It might as well be me; for I am still standing, and I am not yet done.

Magnetic Personality

I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person with varied interests and a general acceptance of the eccentricity of others. That being said, there are some things I simply have gut reactions to and very little can change my mind about them. One such group of things, is the colors in the world around me.

Many psychologists, or random people who took psychology in high school, have inundated the media and online data storage facilities with copies of their opinions regarding color theory. If the statistics class I took in high school taught me as much as your psychology class, then I know for a fact that your conclusions are fallible at best and outliers exist, whether you admit to them or not. and since I also took psychology in high school, I’m gonna be a statistic, specifically, and outlier. So here, have fun with my  color theory, Internet.

Red- Appears in several places in my life, mostly food-related, (raw meat, strawberries, NOT tomatoes, etc.) Red is also the color of blood, a substance whose taste I occasionally find enjoyable, and of roses; a symbol associated with a multitude of emotions. Red, in the right context, is an emotional catalyst and awakens powerful inner drives.

Orange-The color of a good bonfire. When seen out of that context tends it to imply danger, such as road construction or a drunken redneck with a shotgun. An eye-catcher, it shows up rarely in my life. Once, though, it was very important: I was asked to shield a cleansing and Fire, glowing decidedly orange, made itself available to me.

Yellow-I’m a lemon guy, that is; I eat lemons…a lot. In that context I’m somewhat fond of yellow, but it’s a horrible color for a car, so I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about it. Yellow is generally also associated with the sun, for more on that see White below.

Green-Bright greens carry a duality in my life, they can either be toxins, or bits of  tape marking out spaces on a stage floor. Generic greens are the grass beneath my feet and are a comforting background to almost any scene. Dark greens remind me of riverbank moss and the cool shade under the old Oak in my front yard. So green is a color I have to take on a case-by-case basis.

Blue-Another case-by-case color. All my life I have been surrounded by blue: light, mid-tone and dark blues in the walls and furnishings of my home, the navy blue pants I wore for eight years of Catholic School, (though I try not to resent the color itself for those years), the Ocean which so often fills me with a longing profound enough to break my heart, the Sky which is usually only blue on hot summer days when I’m stuck working outside, the lights on a police cruiser or an ambulance telling me someone is in trouble, the broken-in old denim jacket I’ve worn through so many (mis)adventures. Blue is everywhere in my life and strikes many cords from rage to contentment to deep sorrow.

Purple- Has recently acquired a happy connotation for me when it was a prominent color in my cousin’s wedding. It’s also the color of a lit-up black light, and black light parties are a personal guilty pleasure. I had always thought of purple as a resplendent color, reserved for royalty and official occasions, but was pleased to discover that this seemingly stuffy color has a wild side.

White-a color I generally don’t like. If you look at the Sun, it tends to be white and  I am not generally comfortable in direct sunlight. White is also a color that has been co-opted to stand for purity and I tend to associate it with presumption and arrogance. Yet it is also the color of snow which, while sometimes inconvenient or hazardous, never fails to bring a bittersweet memory of youthful delight. White is also the color of the Polar Bear, a spirit who answered my call when others needed me to be strong for them.

Gray-an often overlooked color that I couldn’t live without. A proper, mid-tone gray is the happy medium between black and white, the ultimate expression of a balanced universe. But gray comes in many shades, most of which I saw very recently when I all but literally stumbled into a moonlit, midnight snowfall. I stood for what felt like forever confronted by a world with no color, no disparity, just shades of gray blending into one another, and it was without a doubt the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Gray is the primary color of the Coyote who occasionally has fun at my expense, but never beyond my capacity to endure. Finally, Gray is the color of heavy clouds which can bring life-giving rain as well as devastating storms and generally energize the world around me.

Black-is a powerful force in my life. It is the secret spaces where things of untold value lie hidden. It is the backstage space where I do my best work, and the clothes I wear when I’m there. My dog, the only companion in my life whose loyalty has never wavered, is black. Black is Crow, the first spirit to ever touch my mind, and black is the Night, in which I feel a greater sense of belonging and where I find the Other-worldly comes closer to me.

Silver-joins black on my class ring and most of the relatively little jewelry I ever wear. It is associated with the Moon, for whom I have always felt a kind of friendship.

Gold-the color of splendor, it seldom looks good on me as ornamentation, but I still find the odd use for it. In particular, I have a golden necklace given to me in my youth by a friend and spiritual mentor, and though I no longer actively follow that faith, the charm reminds me of my roots. You might say gold is the color of antiquity and of endurance, coupled with nobility it is a rightful color for godhood.

Pink-I have a deep, violent, visceral hatred for most shades of the color pink. Wal-mart store Valentine’s displays have actually given me small seizures. The one and only time I found pink attractive was when my girlfriend dyed her hair hot pink, though I think that was her  more than the hair color. We’re not dating anymore and she changed her hair again, but it was a decent look while it lasted. sadly, those few fond memories have failed to redeem any other shades of pink in my mind.

Brown-yet another color my life would be incomplete without. Brown is even more pervasive in my life than blue, being a color in and on my house, the dirt around it, even the pants I generally wear. Brown is the tree I grew up playing in and the boards I now build sets out of. Brown is a delicious piece of chocolate or a stiff glass of whisky. when I work with a personal shield, it comes most easily as a suit of armor made of a strange golden-brown metal. It is heavy and feels very old, but it is solid, and I know I am safe inside it. I used this metal with the Fire in the shielding I mentioned above. Brown is home, and Brown is strength.

So it is written: Color Theory According to the Arctic Gnome. Some of these colors I am attracted to and others I find repulsive. There are also a few that can be magnetized one way or another depending on the circumstances but, generally speaking, it takes an event of personal emotional significance to change that polarity.

Now, as I make no pretense whatsoever at being an expert on the psychological effects of pigmentation, I wish to reiterate that these observations are solely my opinions and based entirely on my own experiences. I welcome comments.

Out of the Ashes

I have spent some time this evening lost in morose and depressing thoughts, having made of my reflection a thing devoid of indigenous purpose and beset by cowardice; unwilling to seek independence for fear of the consequences of failure…or success.

I had believed I was without worth. I had believed I was dead.

But before I could put pen to paper and so consign myself to fate, something said no. I am not sure where this defiance came from, only that it rose from the ashes of a thought progression that would have lead to the entombing fugue of despair.  Neither am I certain of where I will emerge when I have freed myself from this cage. I can, however, say this: one day I shall know my purpose, and on that day I will see the forces of opposition tremble in fear, for I shall be as the arrow from the bow and none will stand before me.

It is not enough to simply exist. Life is for the living. Tremble beyond the bars of my cage: I will wake soon.

Revelations and shit

Tonight I have returned safely to my college town looking forward to the end of my educational journey here. Along the way, something of interest occurred.  I began at one point to feel a mild headache coming on and instinctively raised my mental shield that I have taken to using to disconnect myself from an emotion or provocative situation and instantly the symptoms vanished. I held the barrier for a few moments and when I dismissed it the feeling failed to return. It dawned on me that what I felt may have been a probing consciousness and so I sought to convey my respects to whatever it was and inform it that I was merely passing through. If there was a response, it was too subtle for me to read. aside from some meditative practice here and there, this was the first practical application of my shield in the open world and I was pleased that it proved efficacious.

I have also made a personal choice of some import. I consider myself something of a real-world Sith Lord, (not that I’m bent on galactic domination, but from a philosophical standpoint), and, as such, I find myself frequently given to my passions. Part of the Code of the Sith states that Through Passion I gain Strength but not when those passions guide us. I have set myself a goal between now and the Solstice I must learn to make my passions work for me not the other way round. Common sense though this practice may be, it is not something I have truly devoted myself to in the past, preferring to curb my instincts sufficiently to prevent causing disturbance, but not to truly master them.

I have not put much stock of late into other people’s perceptions and visions of that Force which some call God, but on occasion such as this, it seems only fitting to offer some measure of thanks for yet another safe journey. My associate, Lady Imbrium, has spoken before of ‘refracted infinity;’ essentially (I think) the idea that the God/Force appears to different cultures behind different faces throughout history. Me being something of a craftsman, I believe in the right tool for the right job, and prefer to thank the right god for the right grace. (I may explain more of this in a further post at a later time) And so I go to pour libations to my chosen patron, Hephaestus, and Zeus, who watches over travelers. Until later then.