Monthly Archives: July 2004

In the pagan mailbox this morning…

In my mailbox today:

Hello my name is X and I have a little problem with my beliefs. I have been a pagan since I was 14, and I was raised in a metaphysical household.{ I am not a flake I promise. } I have had many occult experiences in my life. I am 22 now and I have been doubting that Any of what I have experienced is real. This is probably due in part to the overly rational environment that my college trains a person to be. (for the record I am a sociology major with trust issues.) Well throughout my college carrer I have been getting less and less proficent at my abilities to where now they are almost nill. I can’t feel anything anymore when it comes to psychic energies. I am having trouble believing anything anymore and It is killing my spirit. NOTHING seems to be working and it continues to make me frustrated dispirited and sad. When I try some energy work or something it doesn’t seem to be very effective. I just can’t rid myself of that part of me that says; :This is stupid, I cant believe I am still doing this. What if there is no form of divinity and no such thing as magic.” I am not trying to have yo
u solve all of my problems or anything I would just appriciate some kind words if you wish to give them. Thank you for your time and concern.

Here’s my response:

I don’t know if I’m really the right person to ask. It sounds like the first place you should go for advice might be your metaphysical household. Barring that, it sounds to me like you are experiencing life as a typical 22-year old, at least based on my own experience. When I was 22, what I discovered is that my capacity for doubt really expanded. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing — but it certainly can be overwhelming when the questions outnumber the answers at a greater ratio than they did in the past. I wish I could tell you that the answers come quicker as you get older, but that would be a lie. The fact is that what becomes more important is that you really understand the questions. As for problems with workings, the only things that I can immediately suggest are to change, as much as possible, your environment. Start hanging out with people who intrigue you, who challenge your curiosity and are likewise searching for answers to the big questions. Take time out to simply “be” with nature. Don’t stress over controlling the energies of the universe, or focusing them to do your will. Seek to understand the balance, and to see the energy that by necessity inhabits everything. To paraphrase a Buddhist teaching — seek the sacred in the little things, the rituals you do every day without calling them rituals and isolating them from the “mundane”. There is no mundane. Every act is a deliberate thing, with consequences and learning wrapped up in it. The little rituals we do without thinking — like changing the mood of a room simply by smiling when you enter it, by saying hello, by being interested in other people — have much more effect that we typically acknowledge. Find music that speaks to your soul — not specifically “pagan” music.

Sociology is, in my opinion, a field that looks to find ways to help other people. But it often crosses the line of personal responsibility and does things for people that they really need to be doing themselves. And it often finds problems simply to give sociologists something to talk about and draw salaries for analyzing. Try to step back from the study in a dry, academic sense and think about what you can really do to help others. The first step in changing the world is to change your perception of it. That is magick in its most basic, fundamental form. Changing the world by changing yourself. That is the true meaning, for me, of “as above, so below.”

Finally, remember that in truth, nothing can kill your spirit. Because it is eternal. The problem that so many face is that they think so small. It is not just YOUR spirit. It is the spirit that indwells in every thing. The things you think are important, and the things you assume are not. The things you see and think you understand, and the things you don’t see and can’t even imagine. The world is bigger than you. And it doesn’t necessarily have a plan that is perceivable to you. All you can do is start where you are, today, looking at where your foot is on the ground. That is your path. And nobody else’s. That’s what makes it absolutely essential. Only you define it. And in the process of definition there are of course missteps, wanderings, periods of drought and flood. That’s balance. To understand that balance, and to strive to achieve it, is for me the essense of what being a pagan is. Not thinking metaphysically, or magickally, or religiously, or philosophically. Just thinking, and acting.

The real problem for you right now is not that things are not real. It is that they are absolutely real. And the illusions of ambitions of what could or should be accomplishable with energy workings, spellcraft, psychic energies are fading into a much larger, much more vibrant reality. The reality of being. Just being yourself. And figuring out who that is in the process.

Hope this helps.

Bright Blessings to you.

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undertown

in the undertown around the middle
earthen jars the senseless struggle:
i shall be released from this
before the current pulls me

undertown, around the rooting rockets way
before the dawn of timing, when
our cultured throats scream out so that
the horse-drawn whispers drawl
their quiet haunting innuendos.

in the undertown beside the river
runs the hiding seeking slumber:
i shall be awakened from this
just before the nightmare finds me

undertown, beneath the covered bridges burnt
before the gods of ego’s altar, when
our cultured pearls slide out so that
the tenderloin potential plays
its game of spattered caulking.

in the undertown below the wasteland
roving scarlet head supporters speak:
i shall not believe in this
until the dream has drowned its dead in

undertown, before subtle shaded sadness swells
its mottled cracking smile, and then
our cultured throats slide slow so that
the sword-clamped teeth can grasp
their severed thoughts’ aboutness.

1994

for Memphis

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Poetry and War

OK, so projects such as Poets Against the War and Voices in Wartime are pretty good ideas. They tout such noble themes, ponder such meaningful quiestions like “The terrible beauty of the poetry is our guide, leading us to the deeper questions of the origins of war is it innate in human beings? Do the warlike societies succeed? What is the human experience of war? Can art illuminate politics? And, in turn, can the grim realities of war teach us about the delicate and important role of poetry?”

But there is a different point to be made here. How many poets REALLY give a damn about anything but their poetry? How much attention to events that do not directly affect their me-o-centric, angst-driven, destined to die young-and-leave-a-good-looking-corpse fueled by the twin beacons of Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas lives do they really pay? Sure, there are specific poets that when called upon to address a certain political issue gladly push pen to paper and come up with something that can be used to further a campaign speech or lengthen lines at a booksigning.

But where, pray tell, were all these poets BEFORE 9/11? What were they using their sprawling notebooks of pseudo-verse to accomplish, other than blocking the landlord’s passkey by laying them against the door, or bartering a few odd lines in exchange for a double espresso? The question I’d like to ask, rather than the mawing query quoted above is this: do we have no sense of history because we have no poetry, or do we have no poetry because we have no sense of history? Or even, do we have no history because we have no sense of poetry, or do we have no sense of poetry because we have no history?

How many poets fill copious overpriced Moleskin notebooks with their innermost, dankest most feral intuition on the dangers of their own all-to-human failings, but reject as inapplicable the advice given to young guitarists — if you want to play like Eric Clapton, don’t listen to Eric Clapton, listen to who Eric learned from — BB, Otis Rush, Freddie King, Robert Johnson — and rather than seek for their pop icon poet’s sources, seek to emulate only the most recent iteration of over-hyped style and end up as poor, weak, undisciplined and sloppy hacks who don’t even have the imagination to imagine their own potential?

How many poets, I wonder, who channeled the inner turmoil of their apathy and the nation’s sleepwalking into projects like those mentioned above, have ever written, not about the War on Terror, but the War on The Things That Make Terrorism Seem Like The Only Option?

Where in this feeble, grasping, quip-throwing, cliche-burning circle of “Show, Don’t Tell” has anyone bothered to change their own reality?
There is a commercial on television lately that really makes me mad. If only because it is so truthful in the message in conveys about the current situation — ostensibly about politics, but ABSOLUTELY pertinent to the arts. To any artist — or to anyone who even thinks about themselves as an artist (or writer, or painter, or what have you, bearing in mind that the most true definition of a REAL POET is a writer with a day job). The commercial goes like this:

A bunch of people are in a communal lockerroom. A faucet is running. People look at it running, comment on how horrible it is, look askance at the flowing tap, shrug their shoulders. They do nothing. Then, in the midst of the milling crowd surrounding the offending faucet, a person enters, calmly, and in a quick motion turns off the tap, then goes about their business. The complaining, wondering, apathetic, bitching, kvetching, confused, and otherwise useless masses are amazed.

Of course, the commercial is about voting.

But it is really about ART. Like the grunge movement, which was obviously very able to acutely document the evil, dark, and wrongness that everyone with half a brain could begin to grok, but obviously unable to come to any kind of consensus (collectively or individually) on how to proceed to solve that wrongness, the arts are a self-aggrandizing, self-promoting, self-serving, self-absorbed pursuit of self-pleasure.

No wonder we have no FUCKING culture. We’ve been satisfied with canned tuna — Andy Warhol, Britney Spears, Thomas Kincaide, Jessica Simpson, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Wham, Madonna, wow the list goes on — for so long that not only can we not fish, but we don’t know anyone still alive whose willing to teach us how.

Bah. Enough ranting. Go to sleep now, John.

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Physician, Heal Thyself

for Jim Morrison, who I very liberally paraphrase and augment: Why are songs and poems important? Because songs and poems are the basis by which culture is passed from generation to generation. No one sits at their child’s bedside and reads them War and Peace; they teach in rhyme, in meter, in short works. In the building blocks of culture.

There is no spokesperson for your generation;
it is a hoax that you want to believe —
that someone else will speak for you,
explain those crazy thoughts of yours
that keep you awake late in the night
questioning first, your sanity,
then next, the sanity of those who judge sanity.

There is no great role model for your age;
just another media frenzy led by old, tired sharks
who want to find a way to package
some elixir of youth, then age you before your time
and hook you on the stuff, too.

There is no voice crying out from the wild,
no magic bullet or single dosage
no seer sage poet priest politician messiah.

There is just you.

And the dreams you don’t express.
And the others you let speak for you.

Throw away your radio,
your Billboard and Rolling Stone,
your solid gold subscription
to someone else’s Top Ten List.

Speak your own words.
Speak your own mind.
Teach yourself how.

20 JUL 2004

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Coming of Age … an ongoing diatribe … LOL

In the most recent issue of American Poet, the journal of the American Academy of Poets, there is an advertisement for a book, Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath, written by Helen Vendler, who seems to have written a great number of books on poetry.
The blurb in the ad, which probably comes straight from the jacket sleeve (although having not read the book, I can neither confirm or deny this), starts with the following sentence, which I found most intriguing:

To find a personal style is, for a writer, to become adult; and to write one’s first “perfect” poem — a poem that wholly and successfully embodies that style — is to come of age as a poet.

To come of age, to reach maturity as a poet. Hmmmm … I wonder if that achievement is self-measured, or if its length is drawn against the yardstick of others. Which brings me to my current train of thought: as a Druid, I am more than a poet. I am a poet, musician, historian, philosopher, teacher, and priest. How does one come of age in a single discipline if one’s life path is multi-disciplinary? Does not maturity (or immaturity) in one area affect one’s level of achievement in all others? And what is the purpose of that maturity? For me, the ultimate goal of poetry is not simply to influence other poets; neither is the goal of any preacher or priest to influence only other preachers. At least, not that alone.

My audience is humanity. My goal, I suppose then would be to assist humanity in the recognition of that humanity. Or something like that.

Perhaps my self-questing is the result of having recently started rereading Plato’s Republic. Resulting in the question, what is the ultimate purpose of performing any action?

What is the reason a musician plays? A poet writes? A preacher preaches? A philosopher ponders? A teacher educates? Who is really their audience?
It boils down to a quip that I made several years ago when I contemplated writing music reviews. In order to change the way people think about music, first they must be thinking about music in the first place. So how to ensure that prerequisite dependency of thinking on a subject before launching into said dissertation? Who really cares if people who are on your wavelength are already listening? Aren’t words on their subject extraneous, like coals to Newcastle? Dr. Gene Scott, a Los Angeles based preacher, once said that there are two kinds of people in any congregation … there are saints in the making, and there are preachers. If you’re not a saint in the making, and you don’t like what the preacher in front is saying, you are obligated to form your own church. How that relates, I leave you to decide, dear readers.

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No Critique Requested

So many poets trace, or seek to trace the root
of their art back in time, but just so far;
and would attempt to judge all verse to suit
their own agendas. Doing this, they scar

just the veneer, the surface of our craft,
by quoting others’ rules, like “show, don’t tell”;
throughout the ages, true poets have laughed
at limitations that disdain the well

of inspiration that knows not of schools,
of petty squabbles that divide with scorn
the select few from all the rest. What fools
think they decide what makes good form?

The work of poets starts first with the tale,
spoken aloud, and then put down in books;
to show, not tell, like television, pales
its gift for message, and relies on looks

to transmit to a world that cannot see
beyond its own small, self-enamored frame;
into this setting, the false sense of free
expression is not proud and strong, but lame.

For poetry is far more ancient than
the movement touting art for just art’s sake;
it must encompass all that is human
experience, or it is a mistake.

And it must tell a story, even though
there is no audience that seeks to learn,
and stand its ground, despite foul winds that blow,
to keep alight what flame in us still burns.

As for the countless journals, zines and such
that would critique using a focused knife:
To poetry, they do not matter much;
They represent its corpse, and not its life.

16 JUL 2004

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Thoughts on Writing

To be a cynical writer is to never have been in love…well, to never have been in love and have it endly up other than badly, I suppose.

To be a romantic writer is to forever be in love – not so much with a person, or even an ideal, but more or less with the “idea” of love.

To be a “political” writer, one need only suppose that the ideal of love, while perfectly described in the theoretical world of legislation, has never been capable of reaching its ivory tower notions.

To write action and adventure, the required modus operandi for the scribe is to capture the impossibility of eternity, save through a well-placed legend or two.

To contemplate science fiction is to see love for what it is, a means to a more harmonious future, or the chaos that engulfs the order of probability.

To be an historical writer, one need only remember, with love, the periods of time with which you have no natural connection, or have imagined a connection of such magnitude that it engulfs any such intellectual advancement that may have occurred between the idealized era and the current one.

To be a motivational writer is to disregard the spirit of the times, to insist that love is to be found and described as you find and describe it, that it is to entertain your minds and not your hearts, to make by the “power of positive thinking” the lessons to be learned by losing seem the source of all true evil.

To be a nihilist writer is to never see love at all. It is to experience rejection, but not hope. Fear, but no courage. Reason, but no faith. Grounding, but no earth.

1991

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