Tag Archives: Freedom

Fear of Falling

It is the first unreasonable fear of every child…,

Before the boogie man and whatever waits under the bed…,

Before the cluttered darkness of the open closet…,

Before the things hot and the things sharp…,

Before stranger danger or scarlet fever…,

It is the first gift that our parents give us, after the fear of being alone.

“Don’t fall.”  “Don’t Fall!”  “DON’T FALL!!”

“You’ll hurt yourself.”

And we do.

But most of us get up again.

Only to fall again.

That’s okay.

And maybe, somewhere along the way, we might learn to enjoy the falling, just a bit.

We tuck into a ball as we plummet back into the soft spring of the mattress.  We crave the momentum in the downward arc of the playground swing, the stomach-knotting lurch of the rollercoaster car as it crests that first big drop, those precious seconds before the bungee cord snaps us back, the dizzy spin of the earth below as we wait for the parachute to deploy.

Most of us don’t go that far, of course.

We stay on the ground where we are safe.  And that voice in the back of our minds, our parents voice, and their parents, and the whole of society contained in a single strident whisper, telling us that it’s too dangerous, that we’ll hurt ourselves, that we will fall down.

Because falling is bad.

Falling means that we have lost control.

Did you ever wonder at the words certain people use to explain the human condition.

We are “fallen” my christian friends are so eager to remind me.

There is a story they tell, about the first two people: They lived in a garden where everything was perfect and (almost) everything was safe.  This couple had none of the worries that we face, on a daily basis, because their creator had not given them a moral compass with which to guide their actions.  What he did give them, was a free will, independent of his own.  This, one must assume, was a design flaw, because the very first time they exercised this ability, they were punished.  They were forced out of their perfect protected garden.

They fell.

And, we are told, they took the whole lot of us along for the ride.

As that story has spread, as it has been accepted as the root of all truth by so many, we have built a culture that is infected with a desperate fear of falling, a fear that stands in complete opposition to the most basic urge of our species.  A desire that is imprinted into our DNA as surely as it has been woven into the fabric of our spirit.

We are born with the desire to hurl ourselves out of our perfectly safe little nests and into the unknown.

Falling, we are told again and again, is bad, is terrible and dangerous.

But that, my friends, is a lie.

falling alice

The fall is an act of discovery.  Falling is how we open our minds to possibilities we have never known or imagined.  Falling is at the heart of the human experience.

Why else do we call it ‘Falling in Love’, if not for the simple fact that our perceptions of the world are changed and opened, even as our former illusions of control slip away?

There IS danger there, of course.

No journey worth taking is without risk.

But, I suspect, the more desperately we cling to our fears and our misguided perceptions of safety and control, the more perilous our eventual landing.

Better to take the leap running.

Falling is not punishment.

Falling is not failure.

Falling is Freedom!

Little Alice fell
d
o
w
n
the hOle,
bumped her head
and bruised her soul.

—Lewis Carroll

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, 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

A Question: Fear, Anger or the Cross?

A few days ago I noticed a few of my more conservative friends posting links to this story on Facebook and Twitter. Initially, I paid it little mind. Then, when I noticed it making it’s merry way around the blogosphere and the various news feeds, inciting outrage along the way, I decided to give it a second read. What, I wondered, was it that I missed the first time around, and why all the protest?

Let’s see…,

“…working student orientation fair for incoming freshmen … supervisor told her to remove the two-inch-long cross necklace … chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items … make incoming students feel unwelcome … as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like … so upset she left her student worker job early … state employees may wear crosses while they are performing their duties as long as the wearing does not interfere with the employees’ duties … are trying to contact Jarvis so they can apologize … Our faith was attacked … We need to band together as Christians and fight back…”

Okay, yeah, I think I’ve got it now.

A Christian was treated like everyone else and her reaction was to find a lawyer.

So, did I miss anything?

-sigh-

Now to be fair, I’d like to start out by saying that I do not agree with the stated policy (whether it was an official school policy or a personal guideline of the faculty supervisor) of hiding or removing religious symbols.

That being said, I think the reactions, on the part of Ms. Jarvis and many of the others involved are over-the-top, to say the least. In the first place, where is the evidence that only Christians were asked to remove their symbols of faith? Certainly, none of the stories I have read on this incident, betray a specifically anti-Christian bias. So by what standard then, is this to be considered ‘Unequal Treatment’?

Of course, in the age of the internet, we don’t need actual facts to know that there was discrimination. If you have any questions on that score, you need only look through the comments section of that same linked commentary. There you will see all manner of warrantless condemnation and hate directed at peoples and belief-systems that were not even involved in this incident.

All of which brings me to the question that I really want to ask today:

Can the Christians live, as the rest of us do, in a world that is not shaped and molded to satisfy their particular wants and expectations?

Just a couple months ago, I wrote here about how many of my fellow Pagans (and others) choose to hide the symbols of their faith from view rather than face condemnation (or worse) from friends, family and workplace supervisors. In the same post, I noted how the Wiccans, and more lately, the Asatru have finally won the right to have the symbols of their faith placed on the headstones of their fallen service members. Where then is all the outrage for the many thousands who face the same discrimination that Ms. Jarvis felt – every single day?!

“Christianity is being attacked,” Jarvis says.

Really? Because, I’ve got to tell you, most of us non-Christians just take that sort of casual discrimination for granted. When I hear statements like this, it becomes painfully obvious how little you understand the sheer depth of Christian Privilege in this country.

I am forced to wonder, Audrey, how you will react, when and if you ever feel the sting of true equality.

Yet, it is not as if I do not understand the reaction.

After all, when Christianity rose up and vanquished the ancient religion of Rome, it was not what anyone could describe as a friendly exchange of power. Given the fact that they have only their own example to go by, is it any wonder that, when things do not go their way, the Christians always seem to smell persecution and bloodshed in the wind?

The world is changing, and it may be that, in time, as the west becomes more secular in it’s outlook, the Christian will not be held up above the Pagan, the Buddhist, the Jew or the Atheist.

I understand that this potential loss of status and the corresponding reassurance that Christianity is right and everyone else is wrong, must be terrifying to those unaccustomed to such feelings.

Hey look, it's Yoda.

Am I painting with too broad a brush here?

Then allow me to add some detail.

Christianity does not comprise a singular monoculture and I know many moderate Christians who are friendly to our cause and do not condone the reactionary fears of their more fervent co-religionists.

Still, I am forced to wonder, if push should come to shove, will they be true to the words of their Christ and stand with us against imposed tyranny? Or will they instead remain silent as their brethren seek to tear down that which we are trying, in fits and starts, to build for ourselves and the generations to follow.

It will take many voices from people of many beliefs to calm the rising tide of hate.

If that cross were any bigger, it would be wearing her.

That’s a HUGE cross!
I guess, in matters of faith, size really does matter.

In the meantime, someone should explain to Audrey Jarvis, and to those like her, that her faith is neither contained in her cross pendant, nor is it to be found in the weeping of a spoiled child who shirks her responsibilities and goes running home to mommy and daddy when things don’t go her way.

If Ms. Jarvis is looking for an outward expression of her faith, she would do better to comport herself with humility and honor. If she so needs for others to see her faith, she could choose to display it through her kindness, her generosity of spirit, and her willingness to share the fruits of her own advantage with those less fortunate.

Faith is not something that can be taken away, but is all too easily surrendered by those who choose instead to grasp and claw at some imagined worldly privilege or superiority of the spirit.

And for our own part, for those of us who believe in different gods and creeds, we must stop hiding in the shadows. If we are to have any chance of quieting the fears of the dwindling majority, it is vital that they see us, not as some nebulous “other”, but as their co-workers and neighbors, their classmates, friends and family. We must show them, through the example of our own lives, that true faith will flourish without any of the special privileges or advantages that they have grown to expect.

Our experience will be the answer to the question they have not yet begun to ask.

It has to be. History reminds of the consequences, should we give in to fear.

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Religion

Seeking my inner patriot.

Perhaps you have heard of “Christmas Depression”.

It’s a fairly well known condition that seems to be caused by a combination of lowering winter daylight levels and increased social pressures associated with the holiday season.  In other words: you already feel miserable and everyone’s expectation that you should feel “jolly” only manages to make things worse.

I’ve seen polls that show almost half of the population has experienced these “holiday doldrums” to some degree.

Typically, as the holiday season recedes, and the days grow longer through the seasonal shift from winter to spring to summer, the depression also dulls, replaced by a happier attitude.

In rare cases, this cycle seems to be reversed and longer days bring darker moods.

So here it is…,

I have a hard time with Independence Day.

There, I admitted it, and it’s not an easy admission to make.

There are so many pressures to get out there and furiously wave our little flags and declare for all to hear our unabashed love of country.

Are you not grateful for the many freedoms you possess?

Have you no honor for the thousands who have died to defend your liberty?

Have you no national pride?

And I do feel some measure of pride to be sure, but it is a pride more focused on the individual than on the institution.  I am proud of those who have, over the years, stood up and fought against a system that seems hell-bent on denying liberty and equal-rights to all.  Yet, for every measure of pride I feel, there is a much greater quantity of sorrow and shame that these battles must be fought at all.

And then fought again, and again, and again.

As I sit up through the late hours of the evening to watch a woman filibuster the Texas legislature, whatever pride I feel in her efforts is overwhelmed by disgust as I watch lawmakers breaking their own rules and then falsifying their own records in an attempt to ram through a law that their constituents never asked for and which is itself, a lie of the worst order.

When, on the following morning, I hear the happy news that DOMA has been struck down by the Supreme Court, my pleasure is tempered as scores of religious demagogues begin to shout and bluster that the end-times must truly be upon us.

Sorry folks, the combination of dirty, religion soaked politics and blistering Texas heat, do not put me in the mood for a heaping slice of apple pie.

And yet, I know that my spirits should be lifted in these days.

The forces arrayed against us may curse and cheat and wave their flags in our faces until the fabric begins to shred, but the smell coming off of them in these hot Summer days is not one of conviction.

It is the stink of fear.

As they begin to see more clearly that the tides turned are against them, that fear will only grow, and like our friends in Austin, they will do all they can to turn back the clock.

July 4th Parade

And so I say to all those who love the Summer sun, and who are roused by parades and picnics and the red, the white, and the blue, to you I wish a happy and peaceful Independence Day.

I will keep to myself in a nice shady spot, away from the crowds and the bluster.  Perhaps I will watch the fireworks from a distance, (it’s the one tradition associated with this time of year that I have always enjoyed) and I will do my best not to rain on anyone’s parade.

Oh, but gods, what I wouldn’t give for a nice refreshing rain, just about now!

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Filed under Holidays, Modern Life, Politics