Monday, March 6, 2017

Predestination

I had a lot of time to think as I drove to the hospital in Chico and back yesterday. Most of my days begin at 4 a.m., making breakfast for a client, packing his lunch and taking him to work. After that I usually Goruck three or four miles, hit the gym and make it back to the Nichterhof by 6:30.

But yesterday after dropping off my passenger I filled up the tank with gas and hit the highway. I like to drive with the radio off when I’m alone. I’ve found that there is a profound difference between Occupied and Unoccupied Awareness, and driving occupies my conscious awareness but not my cognitive thoughts. And, that difference, the space between them, is my sweet spot which I call the "cradle of intuition.”
Time plays an interesting role in our consciousness. Anticipation and anxiety are merely ghosts of the future, while gratitude and regret are born from the past. During the drive up state, I felt my emotions reach forward into the future, and then claw deeply at the past as I drove home.
Sitting in the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit and staring at the tangled life supporting tubes and wires, I realized that it is mostly pain that keeps my occupied awareness locked into the present moment more than anything else.
That’s why pain is such a great motivator. It commands our attention.
One day back in 2014, while driving down the highway with the radio off, I had a glimpse of the future; and it wasn’t a pleasant vision, but a painful one. That pain motivated me to make several changes which were necessary to steer the timeline towards a more desirable chronological destination.
Those changes began with my retiring from active Pagan Prison Chaplaincy, then closing Mill Creek Church, then the Seminary, eventually the Coven, and finally withdrawing from the Pagan community almost entirely.
I am still amazed at how difficult it was to change these things. I honestly had no Idea how deeply ingrained into my life, and into my identity they had become. So much so that I went through a moderate identity crisis. As a result, I don’t consider myself “Wiccan” anymore, and have not for some time now; which is an interesting subject that deserves its own post, but we'll get to that later.
It has been five years since I have written anything here. So much has happened, so much has changed, yet so much has remained the same. Like sliding back into bed with an old lover; I am writing from a new computer, on a new desk, in a different room, of the same old house. I still work the same job, but now I own the business. My wife and I are celebrating the twelfth year of our Happily Ever After, and the sex keeps getting better. Our kids are still our kids, but they’re not children, they’re legally adults now; helping out with the family business while they’re all primarily occupied with college (parenting win). And speaking of college, I'm shopping for a nice fancy frame for my new Master’s Degree.
But all those things faded away as I stood beside the bed in the Neuro-Trauma ICU, my eyes poured over his broken body. Riddled with scars and covered in tattoos.

Just like me.

But not like mine.

We are a so very much the same, yet we went in very different directions. We both went to prison many times, but for very different reasons. I was almost him, but I chose not to be.
In 1992, I had a glimpse of the future, and I didn’t like what I saw, so I altered that timeline and became who I have become. Many of us have tried to get him to alter his timeline for many years, and this last Thursday, he finally did, but we’re not happy with his choice of predestination.
He painfully reminds us how intricately our timelines are interwoven; that although we may be years and miles apart from one another, we are still tethered, and that through our actions we still tug at each other.
I have altered my timeline and I have arrived at my desired Predestination. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, but it was necessary for a greater good.
In kind, I am willing to be inconvenienced by any positive changes you want to make to your timeline.

The question is... are you?


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

[repost] Read This Before Patheos Deletes it.

The following is a repost of an essay deleted by Patheos Pagan detailing the changes they’ve made and their intention to censor their writers.

We are republishing this because it was deleted by Patheos and the author was locked out of his account, effectively censoring it from the internet.

Please consider reposting this widely, and even hosting it on your website in case of legal threats to us.





I’ve been writing at Patheos for 4 years now (blogging for 6 years in all). In that time, Patheos has changed in some significant ways. The three editors of Patheos Pagan that I’ve known — Star Foster, Christine Hoff Kraemer (who hired me on), and Jason Mankey — we’re each very different in their own way.

The biggest change, though, is that in the last couple of years, there has been increasing pressure to make Patheos profitable, and that has resulting in changes like increasing use of invasive ads (I still can’t read my own blog on my iPhone 4) and pressure (albeit of the soft variety) from the editor to post more frequently. Most recently, Patheos was purchased by Beliefnet, which is owned by an evangelical organization.

Today, the other shoe dropped. Our editor, Jason Mankey, gave me the heads up late last week that a new contract would be coming with a different pay structure, but what he didn’t say was what else was in the contract.

Under my original contract I make $50 a month. Twice in the 4 years I have been writing here, I made $100 because of especially high page views. (Incidentally, neither of those posts was anything to be proud of.) Fifty dollars is not much, but I know it is a lot more than most writers at Patheos Pagan make. I have it on good authority that only three of us at Patheos Pagan make that much. Under the new contract, I would make a little less, but since I’m not reliant on the income from Patheos, I really don’t care about that.

Others Patheos Pagan writers would make a little more, which I am glad for. But while five or ten dollars a month is more than nothing, it is still a pittance. Jason has repeatedly told me that Patheos is suffering financially, the implication being that we should be happy with what we get. Of course, we haven’t seen their books, so we don’t know how much revenue Patheos receives from ads and other sources, or where it is going. Needless to say it is common for miserly employers to claim poverty when employees demand a living wage. (I do find it interesting, though, that Patheos can afford to fly its editors out to visit their corporate headquarters and to other events, but they say they can’t afford to pay their writers more than third world wages.)

The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.

But the real problem with the new contract is the increased editorial control. The new contract reserves the right to edit any of our posts, and even to change the format of the post or to use the content to create a quiz (?). We are explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some minor exceptions) and the “tone” (a very subjective term) is expected to resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compares itself, like Slate or Huffington Post. The contract also prohibits advertising or self-promotion. We are also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts will be deleted after 7 days. (What is that about?) And Patheos can delete any post it deems, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive” — another subjective term.
Now, here’s the thing, in the contract, Patheos compares itself to Slate and Huffington Post. But I write for the Huffington Post, and I didn’t have to sign anything like this to write for them. Nor did I have to sign anything like this to write for Witches & Pagans. Or Gods & Radicals.

Finally, we are prohibited from “disparaging” Patheos “or any of its related companies”. This is potentially the most problematic part of the contract. For example, one of the other writers here brought to my attention that the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, is a partner with Affinity4, which is itself listed alongside Beliefnet and Patheos on the BN Media page. The ACLJ lobbies for the death penalty for gays in other countries. Under the new contract, ACLJ could be considered a “related company” that we’re not permitted to disparage. (And that’s just one related company that we’ve discovered in less than 24 hours.) Well …

FUCK THAT SHIT!

Oops, I used profanity. Actually, this whole post would probably be considered “disparaging” of Patheos. So don’t be surprised if this post is deleted soon.

[UPDATE: Here’s a list of some of the groups that may be considered “related” Patheos and whom we cannot “disparage” under the new contract: National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association.] https://www.affinity4.com/npo%5D

While some of these contractual provisions are common in the industry, I’ve learned that “standard in the industry” is code for “we can screw you over and there’s nothing you can do about it.” And while some of these changes might be dismissed if considered in isolation, the fact that it all comes at once, the fact that it was sprung on most of the writers with little to no notice, the fact that it was written unilaterally by Patheos corporate without input from the writers, and the fact that it goes into effect tomorrow, makes it all seem pretty suspicious (not to mention draconian).

It’s difficult to avoid the observation that the situation at Patheos is a microcosm of some of what has been happening on the national stage recently, with the power of corporations expanding and those same corporations (through their political lapdogs) trying to put limits on our freedom of speech. It makes me wonder if the timing isn’t coincidental: An evangelical company acquires Patheos. Trump is elected and sworn in. A number of Patheos bloggers are critical of Trump. And now, the new owners of Patheos want to exercise more editorial control. Coincidence? Maybe.

Jason has assured us that Patheos will not be censoring its writers. But you know, it usually doesn’t happen … until it does.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Age of Aquarius

I don't pretend to be knowledgeable in the subtle nuances of astrology, as I've always preferred astronomy. But as I understand it we are entering into the "Age of Aquarius," and I find that synchronicity quite fitting, on many levels.

I have neglected this space for some time now due to my primary obligations. I finally finished school, for the moment anyway. I've completed the requirements for my associates in religion from a baptist seminary and should receive my diploma in a week or so. And I will consider that a birthday present to myself, I'm an Aquarius, so begins my Age.

For those who don't know, I have Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and wanted a degree in religion to apply towards my prison ministry work. The VA requirements, mixed with my lifestyle settings limited my options a bit and I took advantage of what was available. Hence the Baptist seminary

As insane as it was at times, I still managed to learn quite a bit. There were even portions that I actually truly Loved, and over all I did benefit from the experience. That being said, I don't know if I'd do it again, ha.

I spent the whole time there wondering where I was going to obtain my bachelors, as the school I wanted to attend only offered graduate work, but I have other plans for that one too. Luckily the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology has become Sophia University and I will be in their first bachelors program next fall, fingers crossed.

I felt blessed by the synchronicity that they have made changes to their institution and curriculum, which not only suits my academic needs, but the timing could not be any more perfect. I actually need the spring and summer off from scholastic endeavors to focus on the huge changes in my career and employment.

For those that don't know, I moved back here to California almost eight years after getting out of the Army. I came back to take my turn serving the family business, we run care homes. I'm the fourth generation of care providers in my family. It's not a bad living, especially after almost ten years in the Army, and Iraq. It's a nice big house in a good neighborhood, and as opposed to being deployed all the time, I'm literally home all the time for my family. But that's the rub, I'm ALWAYS home. After a few weeks, months and years, ones stamina tends to dwindle.

For the first few years my friends in the Pagan community used to joke about "Joe's imaginary wife," because they never saw her, because she was always watching the house so I could go socialize. It was always one or the other, but never both of us together. Until a few years later when we finally found someone we trusted to work, so we could go out together. So many people were shocked that she was real.

So, after slaving away to my family for the past eight years we're finally moving up, we just bought the facility we've been working in all these years. My name was put on the license last month but tomorrow will be my last paycheck, and on Tuesday, January 1st, I change my business cards from "Administrator" to "Owner," and that's a pretty cool way to begin my Age. This first month will be all about getting my "owners balance," but being an Aquarius, I'm a system builder and already have it all in my head. I just need to a few weeks to work out the variables.

Work and School aside, I still have a lot going on. I'm presenting my work on Introspective Divination at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies this year. And will be presenting at Pantheacon this year for the first time. I co-founded the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association and this will be our first annual meeting. Our own Mill Creek Seminary will begin teaching introductory classes and our Advenio (a year & a day) prerequisite course sometime in the spring, probably Beltane. And our correspondence courses and Community Portal Website are already under construction.

 Exciting times!

So with all of that, and the fact that I'm supposed to be writing for Witches & Pagans online, I'm not going to be doing much at all here. A few years ago I took a break from this blogging thing to write a book and commit my time to developing my craftwork. It took a little longer than expected, but met those goals and then some. I love this blog, and the whole experience, it's how I really got started in the community and how I got recruited to write for W&Ps. I've missed it lately, and I will continue to miss it, but its time for me to move on. This will probably be my last post on the RattleBone. I say probably, because never say never, but don't hold your breath haha.

I plan to post a few press releases here, but for the most part if you're interested in reading my writing you can check me out over at Witches & Pagans paganSquare or friend me of Facebook, or Like our Mill Creek Seminary Page! Keep in touch, remember to tip your waitress, so long and thanks for all the fish.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the Age of Aquarius, Blessed Be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

reCircling the Wagons

Every time I finish a blog post there is a certain sense of satisfaction. Sometimes that satisfaction comes too soon, and I later look back to see the horrible mistakes in grammar and spelling I have made. But last night I walked away from the keyboard with the same troubling feeling I had sat down with.

I ended my evening adoration with a humble request for introspective clarity and self understanding. And I awoke this morning with my prayers answered. What bothered me about Teo's post was his shame. His feelings and his perspective, as enlighten as they are, are his, not mine. And with that came the realization that I disagreed with someone whom I admire and respect. And that was what troubled me.

We can look at the context and circumstances of the situation and easily find fault with some aspect of the event, however the core issue seems to be about the circle creating an Inclusive/Exclusive boundary between those within the circle and those without. Last night I wrote that really wasn't the purpose of casting circles, but a byproduct, a result. But I also said that the sad truth is that the us and them already existed, and despite the best intentions they always will, with or without a circle being cast.

When I say "we" in the following statements I mean specifically those of our particular Tradition. We, are one of the most inclusive faith communities in the world. We openly invite and accept anyone and everyone to join us in our celebrations. We don't do this to recruit, proselytize or save anyone. We do it because at the core of our fundamental theology is the precept of Tela, interconnectedness.

You don't even have to be a Wiccan, Druid or even Pagan at all to be, and made to feel, welcome in our circles. Therefore I do not feel shame before those who choose not to do so. I had never even occurred to me until I read Teo's post. I feel that despite the grand dream unity in diversity, there are us's and them's. Those line exist in all social circles and no amount of accommodation will ever change that.

And most surprising of all my feelings is that we should not have to try and accommodate everyone. It's a virtuous dream, but an impossible task. Moreover, perhaps an impracticable one. We can be over accommodating to a fault. My Coven and our Traditions has an established liturgy, for our rituals, holidays, and rites of passage (that's why we call it a tradition). But if we would have made changes every time someone showed up and wanted to tweak things to meet their own personal, individual needs at that particular time, we would not remotely resemble our original form. We cannot make everyone happy within our Pagan community, let alone the onlookers, and I don't feel it's our responsibility to try.

We are sorry if our spiritual or liturgical practices are not to your liking, but we aren't changing our Tradition to suit your needs.We have a right to our boundaries.Without them we loose our ways, our Traditions and ourselves. As I mentioned in the previous post, my circles have a special meaning to them, there is a sense of comfort and security within my ritual space, like my Grandmother's arms, yes, it is my church. And I will never be ashamed of that, and I will never water it down in an attempt to appease the masses. I have my boundaries and some boundaries are healthy.

I think in the end, not casting a circle would change things for us, but not for them.

Wow, that felt good. I feel so much better now, thanks for reading my rant. But in closing I would like to reaffirm my closing statement form last nights post, I still believe Teo's post shoved a big mirror in the face of Pagan liturgy today and called into question one of our fundamental religious practices. I still think that requires some bravery, and I still applaud him for doing so.  He has caused us to reevaluate our most basic beliefs and practices, and we should consider that a public service.

After reevaluating my beliefs and practices, analyzing my feelings and expressing them, I leave my keyboard with that sense of satisfaction I was looking for. Thanks for giving me something worth thinking about Teo.

Thank you Lord & Lady for the Safe Circles, Blessed Be.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

R is for the Voice of Russia

Any time a member of the Pagan community is contacted by the Media there is a potential for problematic public relations issues, because by default, like it or not, when you speak as a Pagan you end up speaking for all of us.

Not by design, but by result.

Because of that fact, many of us are more than a bit suspicious and hesitant to speak to the media. Jason has written on the topic numerous times in the past and recently wrote an excellent article about how we [Pagan organizations] should best respond to good or bad news.

We have seen and read some real hatchet jobs by media doing an expose on the local Witches a week before Halloween, but having been in the local papers more than a few times, I have never been misused or misrepresented. This does not however, ease my suspicions when someone new comes along wanting to do an interview.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I received an email from a reporter for the Voice of Russia, who was interested in writing a piece including Witch-Doctor-Me. We had a great telephone conversation, I started out asking what the purpose, interest and intention of the article was and in listening to her talk I quickly got the feeling she was coming from a place of good intentions.

Her article was published online today, you can read it here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for all the Positive Press, Blessed Be.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Q is for Querent

For as long as we have occupied this planet with cognitive thought we have looked up at the sky and asked why. Why are we here? Where did we come from? And where are we going after this?

And those are great questions, but unfortunately the answers are oath-bound secrets. *Wink-wink*

That's what The Fool card always reminds me of, the way he tilts back his head, casting his gaze upwards without concern for what lies at his feet. That's why I keep a framed Fool on the wall in my home, to remind me that I am, we all are, Fools...

One of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, taught me to embrace The Fool in myself at a very young age. In the book, the Teacher questions the student and the conversation goes loosely, something like this...

Q: Where are you?
A: Here.
Q: Where is here?
A: Berkley.
Q:Where is Berkley?
A: In California.
Q: Where is California?
A: In the United States.
Q: Where are the United States?
A: On a continent in the western hemisphere of earth.
Q: And where is earth?
A: In our solar system.
Q: And where is our solar system?
A: In our galaxy.
Q: And where is our galaxy? 
A: Umm... I don't know...
Q: Then you don't actually know where you are do you? Admit it, you're lost. Just a fool.

I have always believed that all religions are just the most popular "Best Guesses," and that these best guesses are mostly about confidence and control. But the brutal trust is we just don't know for sure. Well I do, but most people don't believe me. *Wink-wink*

Being the Querent is a good thing, asking questions is always good, but asking the right questions is fundamental, and there is a difference. I submit that it's not so much about why, where and what's next, as it is about the here and now. Don't waste too much of your precious time here, looking up and asking the great unknowable about the great unknowables. Just be a The Fool and enjoy yourself as much as you can while your here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for getting me lost.

Blessed Be.