Tag Archives: Birthday

Two Hundred Posts Later…,

I don’t really enjoy talking about my little blog.

I’d rather just tell the stories.

Stories are powerful.

They can shape the world, if we let them.

For almost five years, I have been telling stories about that time when the gods of the ancient world began to make themselves known among the people again, and when those people rose up and fought for recognition and equal standing among the monotheists and the atheists who had for so long shaped the world in their own image.

When I started this blog, back in April of 2012, there was a certain optimism in the air, a feeling that real progress was being made in this world, and so much of it by those who had previously moved quietly through their lives, without a voice of their own.

This wasn’t a new feeling, mind you.  I’d felt it growing, very slowly at first, yet gaining momentum, for many years.  I know it was growing before I was even aware of it, before I was even around to be aware of it.  We, as a culture and as individuals, are just beginning to wake up, in bits and pieces, to some rather unexpected realities concerning ourselves and our place in the universe.

Such awakenings can be difficult.

We cling to the fantasies we have built up around ourselves.

We hold fast to the familiar and push back when our expectations are threatened.

In 2016, a great many of us pushed back, HARD!

But such reversals are common in stories like ours, and while they may leave deep scars, they serve a deeper purpose in the narrative.

I don’t feel the same optimism in the air that I felt when I started this blog.

I feel determination.  And when it comes to actually getting things done, I’ll take an ounce of dogged perseverance over any amount of simple optimism you can muster.

I have written something on the order of One-Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousand words…,

Including the ones you are reading right now.

There were several times, along the way, when I thought I was done.

Now, I know that I am only getting started.

But I want to do more.

Mine is one small voice in a rising chorus, and if that’s all I am ever able to contribute, I know that I can be satisfied with that.

But in addition to hitting my 200th post, it is my birthday this week, so I’m thinking big.

Here then is my wish list for the years to come.

I’d like to see a free counseling service for people who follow alternative religions, like a crisis hotline, manned by folks from within the pagan community, and geared toward helping those who are drawn toward pagan beliefs to navigate their own emotions, as well as dealing with family and friends who may not understand.

I’d like to see specialized legal counseling and litigation services made available, specifically geared toward helping people from our religious communities deal with issues such as workplace harassment, adoption and custody negotiation.

And finally (and perhaps most ambitiously), I’d like to see a school.  Not some knockoff Cherry Hill Seminary masters program, but instead a continuing education program, focusing upon an array of topics, some of interest to general audiences, but many geared toward our specific faith communities.  Offerings such as: Basic Wilderness Survival, Blacksmithing, Urban Herb Gardening, Aromatherapy, Book Binding, and Geomancy.

It’s a big list and I don’t know how to make any of those things happen.

But I want to try.

And I’m going to need help.

We’re going to have to tap into all that determination that I feel welling up around us.

We’re going to have to push forward, together, to reshape the world in an image we can all be happy with.  And I’m going to be reaching out to many of you.

So don’t be surprised.

Be ready.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Religion, Spiritual Journey

“Roller-Coastering”

‘Tack-tack-tack-tack-tack!’ – the steady clacking sound of the chain-lift vibrates through the metal below us and into our bones.  We are pulled forward, lifted slowly up the steep incline, out of the noise and clutter of the park below and into an open space filled with sky and apprehension. Ahead of us, the length of track shortens, from yards, to feet, to inches.  And then the wait is over.  We reach that tipping point where gravity becomes momentum and any illusions of freedom we may have carried with us into the sky are stripped away in the thunder and the screaming and the heart stopping plummet toward the world below.

And in that last moment before the stomach churning drop into oblivion, we raise our hands into the sky, surrendering ourselves utterly and completely to whatever awaits us.

The Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas.

The Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas.

As part of my birthday celebration last week, a friend treated me to a day at Six Flags Over Texas.  We absolutely love roller coasters, she and I, but we’ve never managed to visit the park together, so it made for a great day.

Of course, after a late start and a long lunch, it was early evening by the time we got there, meaning we’d be hitting most of the rides after dark, which was an all new experience for me.

Me:  “Okay, it’s a little after 4:00, so what’s the agenda?”

Her: “Well, the park closes at ten, so we’ve got a lot of roller-coastering to do before then.”

Me: “Roller-Coastering?  I don’t think that’s a verb.”

Her: “I think it is now.”

****

The roller coaster is a strange creation for a species which seems to focus, more than anything else, on being in control of everything around us.

At some point in the distant past, one of our ancestors picked up a stick, sharpened the end of it, and set us upon a path that would find us reshaping the landscape of the Earth – if not always to our liking.

We are a race, dedicated to the proposition that we will control, the the full extent of our abilities, everything that we come into contact with.  Even in recreation, whether we climb, ski, swim, hike, hunt, or shoot the rapids, we seem to be pitting ourselves against nature in a contest of control.

But a roller coaster is all about giving up control.

Oh sure, you chose to stand in line.  You chose to sit in the car and lock yourself into place.  But once that car starts moving, your ability to make decisions, ANY decisions that will affect your fate, has passed.  From that moment on, you belong to the engineers who designed it, to the workers who built and maintain it, and to the pimply-faced kid running it.  But even those people are mere shadows, because the reality is, the moment that chain engages and begins the draw you haltingly forward, you belong to the wood and steel below you, and the physics that keep it all going, and those things don’t give a damn about you.

So what is it about this reckless abandonment of our hard won control that thrills us so?

I love it, but I don’t profess to understand it.

I have always looked askance upon those religions which demand their followers to surrender themselves completely unto their supreme being.  But I have to wonder if the desire to do so is rooted in the same reckless instinct that makes my blood race when I gaze up at the monstrosity I am about to ride.

I love those brief moments of abandon, but I don’t think I could live that way.

****

It’s the last ride of the night.

Just a few minutes ago we rode in the last car of the ‘Titan’, and now we’re on it again, perched in the front two seats as we are drawn slowly up toward the 255-foot drop.  The sun is long gone, and the wind is gusting heavily through the 57º night.  It’s cold up here, but we don’t really feel it.  Off to our west, there is a huge fireworks display that seems to be located near the Ballpark.  The bursts of light and color are exploding at eye level, lighting up the sky around us as we watch.

Glancing forward, the crest of the great metal hill looms forward.

Fireworks forgotten, the track seems to vanish into the darkness ahead of us, and as the car drops away below us our hands are raised, reaching for nothing at all except for the thrill of letting go.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy, Religion

Let them eat cake!

Birthday Candles

Thanksgiving leftovers have taken over the fridge, and the haphazard stack of holiday catalogs, which I have piled in the corner, threatens to topple over at any moment (at serious risk to life and limb).  A new December is dawning with the same radical shifts between “Where did I put the sunscreen?” and “I stepped outside and my teeth shattered.” that are so familiar to us here in North Texas.

The signs are right and the stars are in alignment — it must be my Birthday.

Last year, when I wrote about my general stance toward birthdays, I really thought that I was done with the topic.  And yet here I am again, a year later, and I find that my typically blasé attitude may have softened, just a bit.

I enjoy holidays, festivals and feast-days of all sorts because they follow a cyclical momentum through the passing of the year.  I appreciate the transitions from one season into the next which these occasions usually celebrate, because in no small part, they speak of a kind of progress, which we can see, share and experience together.

My birthdays, at least once I was old enough for the training wheels to come off, have always seemed to focus on personal progress.  “What have you done in the last year?  What have you accomplished?  You’ve only got so many good years left, so when are you going to make something of yourself?”

As the years pass, this thing that was supposed to be a celebration of living, feels more and more like an indictment on what I haven’t done.

Because we live in a world that revolves around getting things done.

At work, I am judged on how many people I manage help in a day, a week, a month.

And it doesn’t stop when I go home at the end of the day, because every minute of free time represents a choice I must make between household chores, personal projects, leisure activities, and the all too elusive freedom which comes with sleep.

These days, when someone asks me what I do with my spare time, I find myself wanting to deflect attention elsewhere, because my head is filled with a laundry list of unfinished projects, and no one wants to hear about things you haven’t done.

Throwing another birthday into the mix just adds that much more pressure.

“Damn Shaun, seems like that remodeling project will NEVER be done!”
“Hey, didn’t I read that you were building SOMETHING in your backyard?”
“No wife, no children, and you’re HOW old now?!”
“You really should spend MORE time painting/sculpting/writing…,”

Gah!

“So what is it about this birthday that is different?” you may ask.

It’s hard to say for sure, but with certain new influences in my life, I find myself considering things from a fresh perspective.  And if I were to ask myself a question on this birthday, it should not be, “What have I accomplished in the last year?” but rather, “How many good days did I have?”

Now somehow, I doubt that even the most ‘successful’ of us pass from this life with the satisfaction of having accomplished all of their goals.  I could live another forty-something years, or I might die tomorrow.  And what difference would it make how many things I checked off the great ‘to-do’ list, if I was so busy trying to get things done that I didn’t enjoy the time I had – be it days or decades.

We are told, from childhood, that we should aspire to greatness.  And there is nothing wrong with having goals and dreams.  But neither should the attainment of those things be at the expense of the ‘now’.  I think there must something wrong with a culture that rates accomplishment over joy.

So, how many good days did I have in the last year?

Not as many as I would like, to be sure, but some of those good ones were simply amazing, and I’m hopeful that they will lead to still more in the coming year.

And bad days?

Yeah, there were a few more of those than I might have wished for.

However, if I have one regret this birthday, it is not about the few bad days, but rather the vast majority of them that just slipped by, unnoticed and unremembered.

And if I had one wish…, and there is that traditional spell which parents still remember and share with even their smallest children:  Once a year, on the day of your birth, your breath against the candles’ flame, to send your hearts desire aloft in tendrils of smoke…,

…if I had one wish it would be that I finally learn to better appreciate the time as it passes, and to find the joys which may only be found in ‘the now’.

And yes, there are still things I want to accomplish, projects I need to complete, and goals I have yet to reach.  But I will try not to punish myself, if another year finds them still unfulfilled.  And if anyone else wants to judge me for my lack of material accomplishment…,

Well, it’s my Birthday after all — so let them eat cake!

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Holidays, Magic, Modern Life, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

More Candles than Cake

More Candles

It’s my birthday this week.

I’ve got that day off from work, so I’ll probably stay home and catch up on some reading.  Then, in the evening, my girlfriend and I will have a nice dinner somewhere (nothing expensive), followed by a movie.  No big deal.

I’m not making a big fuss about it or anything.  It’s not one of the big even number digits that end in a ‘zero’, and it’s not one of the later ones where everyone is simply amazed (or perhaps a little horrified) that you’ve held on for another year.

It’s just a birthday.

Actually, I’ve never really made a big deal about these things.

Even as a kid, I don’t think I looked forward to ‘em the way other kids did.  Most likely, this was because I realized pretty quickly that my birthday was lost deep within that calendrical “Bermuda Triangle” known as the ‘Holiday Season’.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

When your birthday falls in the month of December (and I suspect within a few weeks on either side of that month) your birthday celebrations and gifts get shuffled neatly into the general holiday hoopla.

“Oh, and this gift,” she said while pulling a random package from under the tree, “was for your birthday.”

>shrug<

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy.

I’m just trying to provide a little context for my perspective on birthdays.

And isn’t that what birthdays are all about?  Putting one’s life in perspective.

What did I do this year?  How did I grow?

Am I better off?

Worse?

Happy?

Sad?

To be honest, there are days when I feel like I’ve got more candles than cake.

Another year rolls past…,

and then another…,

and another…,

and I never seem to have much more to show for any of it.

Oh sure, I’ve got a new assortment of aches and pains, but where’s my damned cake?

****

On the other hand, it takes but a single candle to push back the darkness.

As we add more candles the light glows brighter still, and in that light we see our path more clearly.  If we gather our candles carefully, the glow may even become bright enough to illuminate the way for others.

Yeah, you can keep the cake.  It may taste sweet, but there’s nothing there except empty calories.

I’ll take the candles.

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Filed under Culture, Family, Holidays, Modern Life