Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This I Believe

I spoke about this recently at the UU in my area and thought other folks might find it insightful.

Have you ever been asked what you believe? It's not a very easy question answer. Before I came to this church a year and a half ago, I identified as a pagan and Wiccan, and I was asked about it frequently. People are generally curious because they've seen too many bad movies and TV shows about teen witches; many of these use pagan terminology like "rule of three" and "craft of the wise." It's also difficult for many people to imagine a religious life outside of their Christian upbringing, an upbringing I lacked. The most common question was, "SO, do you believe in God?"

I developed a rehearsed sort of answer that explained what paganism isn't (for example, not Satanism). Or I explained traditional pagan holidays and rituals, and that, YES, I do believe in god (just not with a capital "G"), and that to me, god is female and male, named in ten thousand ways across cultures, and present in all matter in the universe. That god is present within me, and that salvation, heaven and hell don't make a lot of sense to me. I explain that I think the gods love us and they're waiting for us to express our own divinity. That WE are the creators, who create ourselves in the world, everyday, and we are always evolving, whether we realize it or not.

Now I've become a UU because its principles align with my beliefs. This is also confusing to people, so I have to explain THAT, especially since I can be a UU and a pagan at the same time. But these explanations I give are pretty much everything a person could just as readily obtain by searching for the terms on the internet, if they cared to.

So I don't want to talk about what paganism is, because the definition of a faith or an explanation of its practices is not the same as what the individual practitioner feels inside.

And I feel connected, I feel alive, I feel joy. Most of the time, I feel the absence of fear. When I came to it, paganism was a homecoming. Wonder, if we welcome it, is a revelation, and the natural world presents so many opportunities for wonder. Scientific understanding of nature doesn't dampen my sense of spirituality, it heightens it. Matter is in motion, from the spiraling of the galaxy, to the revolution of our planet around a life-giving sun, right down to the motion of cells of our bodies. It's thrilling to know I'm a part of that.

We also have so many everyday gifts and wonders. I've read somewhere that Benjamin Franklin said that existence of "beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy." Well, I would amend that to say that the existence of bananas, black beans and avocados is proof that the gods want us to be happy. We've evolved in conjunction with so many delicious things.

I don't have to believe a literal truth like explicit creationism to appreciate it and learn an important lesson. I guess you could say I believe in conscious evolution. We call the earth our mother, and we call the goddess our mother, we call the sun our god, but we know it's a ball of hot gas. Without it, we would not be, and that is enough reason for reverence.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Making the Cut

This post is not about writing, and really, it's a rant about my inner life. But it could make my writing life better, so maybe it is about writing.

With me, it takes a crisis point to realize something's wrong. Or better stated, "nature has a way of restoring balance." Usually, I stress so hard that I make myself sick and have to spend a week in bed with a cold or something worse. Then, I realize that the world doesn't stop turning if I take a break from all my responsibilities.

Well, I got a big shove in that direction on Sunday. I was nearly frantic trying to fulfill all my obligations, and I just broke. I know my life is out of balance: the things I most want to devote my time to (writing, spirituality, family) are the ones I give the least to, in favor of activities that satisfy the least and best serve others. SO, I'm done!

A little prayer, to the Goddess: "Mother, help me. Mother, heal me. Please release me from all things worldly that do not serve me."

I know what needs to be cut. I need to be at peace in myself to do the work I most desire.

So mote it be!

Friday, July 17, 2009


As a teacher, this sale item from Publix supermarket (photo taken yesterday) strikes me as odd.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crittin' Helps!

I am very pleased to say that I got a fresh eye on "The Conduit" yesterday, and it really helped. This story had been hashed over by yours truly so many times that it felt dead. I couldn't even read it anymore, but this reader helped me see some obvious places that needed strengthening. Many thanks to Aika, and all the other readers who've helped with this story so far. The revision effort I put into it today made me feel more confident about sending it out again to face another possible rejection.

Advantages of critique demonstrated! However, I still haven't decided whether or not to join an online writing group. Some of the candidates on my shortlist are getting mixed reviews from other writers. I think I need to focus on discipline at the moment, to get more viable pieces closer to completion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ah, rejection!

I just happened to check my spam box and guess what I found? A submission rejection dated June 10th! Nothing good comes from the spam folder, I guess.

I've submitted this story, "The Conduit," to three places so far, and garnered three rejections : the Anspaugh Science Fiction Contest, Clarion Writers' Workshop, and recently, Strange Horizons. Not a particularly good record, but at least I'm getting the story out there instead of sitting on it.

Am I supposed to get the message that this story stinks? There are plenty of examples of authors who stacked up multiple rejections before selling a particular story. Then the story won an award, once it got into print where folks could read it. Sure, that's probably not me, but I still don't have to give up. Maybe just not quit my day job.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

What should I read now?

What should I read next? I'm a picky reader, but I've taken some risks this summer and tried books and authors that I knew little about.

I've recently put a few down after struggling through four or five chapters, notably Greg Bear's City at the End of Time. Feel free to chastise if you liked this book, but I can't get into a novel that deliberately keeps the reader in the dark about almost everything. I like a puzzle, but this was too convoluted for my tastes.

I just finished S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire, and I was pleasantly surprised. A good post-apocalyptic yarn hooks me every time, and while some of his dialogue falls flat, the man can write some action scenes. Sword fights, brawls, archery and battles were nuanced and knowledgeable. I may have actually learned a bit reading it. The big surprise was Stirling's interesting attempt to use Wiccan culture as a major part of his story. He doesn't always succeed (characters say things like "Well, Goddess bless me!" far too much), but it's one of the more even-handed and realistic depictions of pagans I've read in fiction. Nobody pulls out a fireball or some "secret knowledge," talks to animals, or anything like that. He also demonstrates some insider knowledge of the pagan community (lingo, religious activities) although I'm unsure if he's pagan himself. Anyhoo, I liked it well enough, but not necessarily for that reason. I'll resist the urge to read the sequels, at least for now.

Help me decide what to read now! Pick a random unread from my bookcase or suggest something different (I tend toward "classic" sci-fi, the post-apocalyptic, first contact novels, and "sociological" sci-fi such as Ursula K. LeGuin).

Any thoughts on this greatly appreciated. Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

News from the Front

You know it's bad when I get too busy to write. I'm sure "lifestuff" is the death of many a blog, but not this one, thank goodness.

Major developments include new responsibilities as co-chair of worship at the UU, and the realignment of my entire house to accommodate new housemate. Between these two, I've been a little pre-occupied.

Maybe I was also avoiding the blogosphere so as to shield myself from the amazing good-times stories of folks who are at this very moment blogging the writing life at Clarion Writer's Workshop. I want to know, but I don't. I got over the politely worded rejection I received a few months ago, and I've trained my brain on next year's possibilities and this year's publication efforts. Reading about the adventures of the "got-ins" may send me in the wrong mental direction.

I've also been logging lots of gaming time, which takes me out of my world and problems for a while and translates as quality time with friends and spouse. Big-time, late-night fun playing Spirit of the Century and Arkham Horror, eating junk food and laughing. On the downside, I've been driven insane and devoured by Yog-Sothoth.