Once upon a time, there was a planet that we named Pluto, and no, it wasn’t named after Mickey Mouse’s pet dog. No, Pluto, in ancient classical Greek mythology was the god of the Underworld, the keeper and ruler of the dead. He was portrayed as a stern lover who stole his love, Persephone, from the land of the living.
The Greek idea of the next world differs quite a bit from our Westernized Judeo-Christian construct. It has many different places within it for the dead to dwell in, from places of torment, to places of everlasting pleasure, and where you ended up was based on how you lived your life.
You may have noticed that many of the objects in near space have names based on mythology. Jupiter, who was the Roman King of the Gods, Mars was the Roman god of war, etc. If you dig a little, you find that Pluto’s moons are also named after people and places associated with or located in the Greek underworld. Charon was the name of the ferryman who took the dead from the land of the living into Hades and his mother was Nix. Kerberos is the Greek spelling of Cerberus, the three headed dog who stands guard at the gates of Hades to prevent the dead from leaving and the living from entering. Hydra, the remaining moon is a sibling to Cerberus. And no, Hydra didn’t start as the villains in a comic book either. The Hydra was the offspring of Echidna, who was half woman and half serpent, and Typhon, who even the gods feared. Like Cerberus, the Hydra defended a gate to the Underworld, one that was underwater.
Interestingly enough, Pluto was thought to be the ninth planet in our solar system until the planet Eris was discovered, Eris being the goddess of chaos. Eris is said to have tossed a golden apple into the midst of the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite with an inscription stating that it was for “the most beautiful one” causing an uproar as each sought to claim it. Fitting she’d come along to upset the apple cart again, no?
Pluto, the god, lived apart from his fellow gods for the most part, with mostly the dead for company. Fittingly, Pluto, the planet (or dwarf-planet, if you prefer) lives out of sync with the rest of us, it’s orbit off kilter, higher and more elliptical than circular. Of course, we couldn’t have known that when we first found it, just like we couldn’t know most of the details we’ll be finding out as the New Horizons probe sends more data and our earth bound scientists can sort through it all.
It’s a little bit awe inspiring to think about it, about this little man made probe we hurled out into the darkness of space, and it’s nine year journey to get to Pluto, the data and images it has sent back, and will continue to send back providing nothing breaks it or throws it back at us. It’s a little like we’re connecting two dots, the distant, ancient past and the distant, unknowable future, drawing them in a circle around us and trying to tell the story.
Or I’m just a mythology geek and a lover of science and space and couldn’t resist the chance to trot them out for your perusal.
Here’s the thing…there is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are, your heritage, your history, your skin color, your culture, no matter who you are (well, unless that history/culture/etc gives you reason to not be proud, as much of America is doing now). I don’t care what color you are, what gender, what orientation, gender expression, religion, nationality, etc you happen to be. Go ahead, be proud. Go you.
However, when you translate that pride into needing to put all others (or any others really) down in order to maintain that pride, you overstep, you needlessly create the climate of Us vs THEM.
You can be proud of who you are without denigrating others. You can be a proud, straight, white, Christian man without stepping on the proud, gay, black Atheist man. You can be a proud, married Christian woman without denying the same pride to the single mother of mixed race children.
Your happiness, your success, your pride is NOT reliant on someone else’s misery, or failure or abject terror to simply walk out the door. We have to stop casting ourselves in a conflict that shouldn’t exist. That wouldn’t exist if we would walk away from it.
We have real problems right now. We have a race problem. We have a class problem. We have an equality problem. I believe in equality for all. Without exception. I believe we all have a right to be who we are, to not be afraid to go to the pool on a hot summer day or walk through a neighborhood or go to church, to marry whomever we love, to raise our families according to what we believe.
The Declaration of Independence, the document that launched our fight to become the nation we have become says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
All men. It doesn’t say only straight, white Christian men with money. It doesn’t say just the men we like. It doesn’t even say just our citizens or just free men or just anything. It says all. All men are created equal. ALL.
So, go ahead, be proud all you want. But don’t be a racist. Don’t be religionist. Don’t be genderist. Don’t use your pride like a weapon. Your pride is for you. Your pride supports you. It doesn’t have to tear everyone else down.
I want to challenge you to try something new. I challenge you to stop attacking, put down the sword you’ve carved out of fear and hatred and set aside your pride for a moment. Sit down with someone different, someone you feel is attacking your right to pride in who you are. Talk to them, listen to them. Live as they live, feel what they feel. You might discover that what you’ve been mistaking as an attack on you is nothing more than someone trying to stand up under the weight of your pride dressed in bigotry and suppression.
There is room for all of us. Rather than using your pride in who you are to keep others down, use it to create a platform, use it to pull those others up, Remember, we are all created equal at birth. It sin’t birth that divides us, it’s us. And only together can we find our way back to equal.
Twice in recent weeks, I have been told that I am “a very good Christian woman” by people I didn’t know who witnessed something I’d said or done. I just smiled and said thank you and wished them a pleasant day.
Now, I think most of you out there reading this know that I am not a Christian, and I haven’t been one for years. There are still parts of Christianity that ring true to me at times, and funny, but those are the parts that the “Public Face” of Christianity seems to be lacking these days.
I generally don’t like to put labels to what I believe and when pressed I will mumble something about being an eclectic shamanic witch with agnostic or panentheistic leanings (depending on how I’m feeling about the Divine at that moment)…but I can say whatever the label I put on what I believe, the driving impetus of that belief is love and kindness. (From that stems service and the sharing of self, but that isn’t my point for this post so I won’t bend your ear on it).
The love in my heart, in my being, drove me to leave behind a religion I had come to feel was hateful and hurtful and incapable of understanding what love, unconditional, sacred love, actually is. If I were to judge by the world I see around me today, that continues to be true.
If you believe that the Bible is the word of God, and the bible tells you in Matthew that “you will know them by their fruits” and in Galations that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”…even this Pagan can look at Pastors who preach from the pulpit how much they HATE another they have never met, or teaches their congregation to HATE homosexuals or Muslims, or prays that another would die a horrible death…I can look at that and tell you those are some pretty ugly fruits they’re dangling.
It scares me, the level of hatred I see in the world around me…the number of people claiming to know what God thinks, what he wants and inevitably the people screaming these things are wearing the label of Christian and all they seem to want to talk about is everyone else’s “sin” and how God hates.
Taking a step back from religion for a moment, I have to also say that, that kind of hate? It’s exhausting. It’s bad for you physically. It’s bad for you emotionally. It can interfere in your relationships, it can destroy marriages and parental bonds. It can affect your heart and your blood pressure.
Here’s how I look at things these days. When something comes up in politics or news or my daily life that others feel the need to have me judge in some way, I come at it like this: Does it immediately affect me or my family? If yes, in a good way or a bad way? Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Is it any of my business? Does it promote absolute equality? Does it promote love and kindness? More often than not, these questions lead me to judge that it’s none of my concern.
If we look at current events, lets say the chaos in McKinney: Does a racist cop and/or teacher affect me or my family? Not directly. Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Yes, it does. Is it any of my business? Not overtly, but in the general, societal me, it does. Does it promote equality, love and kindness? Not even. Judgment? Cop and Teacher need to be educated and invited to take jobs in positions less likely to cause them to cause harm to others.
How about Caitlyn Jenner? Does her coming out affect me or my family? Not particularly, though some may take more interest in it than others. Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Nope. Is it any of my business? Nope. Does it promote equality, love and kindness? Well, in ways it does…or is a request for them. Either way, live and let live. Her life is her life.
Okay, I’ll climb down off this soap box now and return you to your regularly scheduled perusal of the interwebs and cat videos. I will continue to hope everyone finds a way past the hate in their hearts to find the love that they have buried so deeply within. Unconditional, life changing, unbelievable love. Religion optional.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is to “hold space” and the way the term is sometimes overused in casual ways that I feel marginalizes what I consider to be a very sacred practice.
When I first began studying shamanism, my mentor taught me about sanctifying a space, about creating a vessel in which our work, whatever that work was, could take place. Most Pagan paths have a version of this, a specific script or guidelines for creating sacred space. Often, in those early days, our work involved journey work to teach me, to heal me, to open my eyes. Sometimes it involved spell work or sorts.
The first time I remember really understanding the purpose of that space, was also the first time I sat in with my mentor while he worked with a client. She was a woman going through a divorce, and we sanctified the space before she arrived, welcomed her into it. My job was to “hold space” while they worked. It was my job to keep the space safe, to provide here a place where she could rage and grieve and surrender herself to the process of healing without fear of anything outside intruding. I was to help contain the energy, direct it to whichever vessel had been designated for the purpose. I was to be present and mindful of the needs of those in the space, ready with water or tissues, whatever they might physically need.
By doing my job, I enabled them to do theirs.
In the many years since then, I have held space often. I have held space for they dying, giving them a place to mourn their coming death, to look back on their lives, to make choices that are difficult when they are being bombarded on every side with opinions and demands. I have held space for the grieving, for the sick, for the addicted and the recovering.
I consider it my sacred duty, to give people this safe, attentive space free of judgement, free of fear, free of demands. So much so that I try to carry some of that into my daily life. People have enough judgment, enough people with preconceived ideas of who and what they are. I try to have my presence free of that , to “hold space” in the smallest of ways whenever I interact with others.
I hope that now that I am getting settled into my new home, my living room will once again become sanctified, a place where I can hold space for those in need.
I am a single woman with health issues that impact my mobility. I live alone by choice and I almost always prefer that. There are times, however, when I think it wouldn’t be bad to have someone here with me, someone who could help do the things I can’t do as well any more.
Never is that more true than it is right now, as I prepare to move out of this one bedroom apartment and into a two bedroom duplex. Moving is not a one person task. Particularly when that one person can only “work” in 30 minute intervals and the rest time between those intervals grows ever long as the work continues.
I’m glad i started well before I actually found my new place, otherwise there would be no way I would be even close to ready when I pick up the keys this Wednesday.
It doesn’t help that almost everyone I would turn to for help is broken in some way, from back problems to arthritis to various lifting restrictions for various reasons. Asking is never my first though anyway. I pride myself on my self reliance, on my ability to get done what needs to get done.
This is my last weekend to get it done too. I work in the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and pick up the keys after work on Wednesday. The first loads of stuff to go up I will be handling alone, first in my car and then in my step-father’s truck. I do have some help coming in the evening on Thursday, which is when we will move the things I absolutely can’t do on my own.
I sit here sipping on my last cup of coffee and looking around at this place that has been my home for nearly 6 years, stacks of boxes, plastic bins, suitcases that reflect the collected stuff of my life and I wonder again, as I have since this journey started, …where did it all come from? Why am I holding on to a book report I wrote in 5th grade, or a ticket stub from a movie I didn’t even like? Am I really so sentimental as to need to keep a picture of a friend whose name I can’t even recall?
I’ve probably trashed or donated more than half of the possessions that filled this apartment a month ago,and I still have a ridiculous amount of *stuff* that I am taking with me…and I’m sure it won’t take long before I begin accumulating again.
Well, I’m almost to the end of this cup of coffee, which means it’s time to get myself up and get moving.
It was December of 2013 when I made an observation regarding the casual use of language and how certain words were over used, stretched to the point of meaningless, and yet still managed to creep inside of us and infect us with their real meaning. I challenged myself to stop being lazy with words and start speaking meaningfully again.
I’m a writer and a poet and somehow I had lost sight of the fact that words are powerful. When used properly they have punch, they express emotion and thought and ideas and they come to represent who we are as people. So I told myself to stop being lazy with them.
I focused on the word “hate” for the most part, but really wanted to address the vagueness that had crept into my vocabulary. It’s so easy to throw around a word like “hate” when in fact, what we are attempting to express isn’t anything near hatred. When someone states that something distasteful has happened, like “I swallowed a bug” or “They were out of ice cream,” it is very easy to respond “Oh, I HATE that.” When you don’t care for the taste of something, it’s acceptable to say “I hate peas.” From there it becomes easy to generalize nearly anything and apply the word hate to it. “I hate Republicans” or “I hate Democrats” or “I hate gay people” or “I hate Muslims”….etc, ad infinitum.
I won’t say that I’ve eliminated the word completely from casual usage, but I have worked hard at becoming better about stopping myself before I’ve said it and changing my response from some casual bunch of words that can be dismissed as largely meaningless sounds aimed at expressing sympathy or empathy into actual words of sympathy and empathy.
It’s like throwing flattened pennies into the tip jar, they make a nice noise, but they’re worthless. How much more satisfying is it to pull some real words out of my wallet and put them to use?
But, a funny thing has happened, as I’ve embarked on this journey to improve my communication. Not only do I use the word less and less, and only when I truly mean it…I’ve found that I don’t generally mean it. Not only has the way I speak changed, but something inside me did at the same time.
A famous Jedi once said that “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side.” Strange, but I’ve found that expunging the frivolous use of the word hate has lead me to be less angry, to have less fear. I don’t actually hate anything or anyone. I find myself offering comfort or assistance. I find myself bonding with people I used to only casually interact with.
I also find that I’m more careful about what I say and how I chose to say it. The words in my wallet have power.
I’m living proof. They’ve changed me.