There it is again…

I’m not really the type of person who looks for signs or stuff like that.  But I do try to listen to what the universe seems to be telling me.  Since I believe that we, as people, are interconnected in numerous ways, I do subscribe to the idea that synchronicity exists and is at work in our lives.  I’ve written about that before.  When things aren’t going all that great, it’s easy forget that these connections exist so sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get us paying attention again…

January/February is not my favourite time of the year.  In addition to the polar vortices (anyone else getting completely sick of the overuse of that particular hysterical buzz term, or is it just me?) of biblical proportions (it’s freakin’ cold out there again today) and a distinct lack of sunlight, I find that my brain tends to slow into hibernation mode- and likewise isn’t up for much in the way of social interaction or, to be frank, productivity.

Winter blahs to the nth degree.

So, given the usual late-January ick factor, yesterday was an unusual day.  I was productive at work- despite the fact that I needed those fingerless gloves (think Bob Cratchit at work in any theatrical/filmed version of A Christmas Carol) to effectively type the regular daily correspondence (wearing them today, too.  Polar vortex, you suuuuuuck) and feeling like was I getting somewhere with a few things on the new job-search front, so the fact that I have been feeling a little less-than-myself, and not particularly inclined to write stuff lately, was less wearing and seasonal-affective-disorder-triggering than it has been.

Before I left work I got an email from a dear friend regarding an in-the-works CBC radio story on a topic close to my heart.  The one I wrote about here.  This friend gave the producer my name to possibly have a chat about my experience with and perspective on the whole thing.  Interesting, indeed.

I headed home on the TTC, grabbing the first bus that showed up so as to not have to stand in the cold for long.  Mistake there.  That first bus took me not to a nice, warm subway station where I could get on a nice, warm subway, but to a streetcar line.  Which would be fine.  In reasonable weather.  But it seems as though the streetcar lines don’t play nicely with polar vortices, so the connecting streetcar (which was there right when I got off the bus- THAT never happens) was going nowhere.  Which also meant that all the streetcars that showed up after it were also going nowhere (given that they all use the same tracks).  There were lots and lots and lots of people exiting streetcars with nowhere really to go.  Instead of waiting around for shuttle buses to start arriving, I started walking.

Toronto is a great town for walking.  Normally.  The downtown wind tunnels when the wind chill is making it feel like -30+ degrees Celsius?  Nope.  Not fun.  Not great at ALL.

But, once I was committed, I walked.  The rest of the way home.  After a few blocks I could have hopped a subway but I have this stupid stubborn streak that, MetroPass notwithstanding, makes me feel lazy or something if I take public transportation for a minimal distance.  One subway stop?  Silly.  In January with brutal wind chill?  That might have been the more prudent option, actually.

Point of all this?  I was walking past things I wouldn’t normally be walking past- if I’d taken a more sensible route from here to there/there to here.  I stopped in for a coffee partway- it warmed my hands, even if it burned my tongue- that helped make the last few long city blocks survivable.  Liquid warmth clutched in mittened hands, I cut through the courtyards between buildings and found myself beside the venerable CBC MotherShip itself. 

Just as this song came on the Shuffle Daemon:

Followed by:

and then:

Once home and (somewhat) thawed out, I got to thinking about the opportunity to share my two cents (which is what I do hereabouts, after all), having my voice heard by some who might not otherwise hear it, and the potential positive outcomes that such an opportunity might bring.  I’m certainly not counting chickens- opportunities aren’t always realized, after all- but there seem to be some things moving in my little section of the universe.  And even the barest hint of a whisper can sometimes, if properly nurtured, lead to the necessary volume required to affect change.

I also realized that it was six years ago this week that I defended the thesis that earned me the title of PhD.  Achieving that designation has taken me down a number of paths- and none of them are the one on which I thought I’d be traveling.  This, I realized, is okay.  Knowledge and experiences are never wasteful- and should never be wasted.

Even with the lassitude that winter always seems to instill in me, I’ve started 2014 with the intent to bring about change.  For myself in my own life, and in matters that will contribute to changes in my wider community and world.  I’m still working out strategies.

But….

I’m on my way to City Hall tonight to attend a ‘how to become a candidate’ meeting in the Council Chamber (yes, that famous site of so much of the recent press attention our ‘mayor’ has brought upon us.  I can’t even think about the latest escapade.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be ready to talk about it.  Although I’m sure it will be well-covered by Jon Stewart, so not sure I should bother).  Not because I’m thinking of running- at this time, anyway- but because I’m genuinely interested in learning about how the process works and the steps required to declare and then pursue candidacy for municipal office.

Basically, I’m doing things and looking forward.  Which, when it’s cold and dark and the News keeps getting on my nerves (there was that speech the PM gave in Israel too.  Was going to write about that… We’ll see.), is nothing to sneeze at (there is more than enough sneezing going around here, surrounded, as I am, by people who SHOULD be at home, in bed, with the flu).

Well, my soul checked out missing as I sat listening

To the hours and minutes tickin’ away

Yeah, just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin

While it was all just slippin’ away

Well I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come

Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend…

There WILL be better days.  I’m doing what I can to expand the reach of my small voice.

Have to keep that in mind.

Much Ado About Nothing

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find this illustration particularly helpful in explaining why it’s SO FREAKIN COLD OUTSIDE.  And the typo is making me nuts, but I’m too chilly to search for another image.

Well there I was all hunkered down against the c-c-c-cold of the polar vortex- or whatever they’re calling it- getting ready to kill an evening watching some tv or something equally mindless.

Decided to check the WP Reader before turning off the laptop for the night and, what’s there?  A wee little goad by my friend OM- over there at Harsh Reality.

It’s one of the fun things he does- he gets conversations started.  I actually saw the link about the Baphomet statue earlier today.  I read the article, smiled a little and then forgot about it.

Jeepers.  People really don’t have larger concerns?

The constant negative back-and-forth between the atheist and non-atheist groups out there nowadays is inexplicable to me.  I don’t get it at all.  The defensiveness- on both sides- is astonishing.

Back when I had the time- and the interest- to be producing academic articles about new religious movements (including early Christianity- in an historical perspective, and the Church of Satan as a contemporary movement), a sociologist friend and I set the stage for some research into the phenomenon that seems to be overtaking some atheist movements out there.  The atheists are becoming as institutionalized as the institutions they seek to deride at every given opportunity.

I’ve talked about this a bit in passing before.  Our freedoms are supposed to allow us to express the manifestations of our faith- or complete lack thereof- without fear of reprisal or threat.  Regardless of whether they are sourced in a 1st century CE Nazarene carpenter or a horned figure that is assumed (by those unwilling to do a little homework) to be the antithesis of said Nazarene carpenter.

Before y’all go leaping to conclusions about my potential adherence to the Lord of Flies, let me remind you (or let you know if you’re visiting for the first time- a big ‘welcome’, if so) that I don’t believe in the existence of any deity- be it many-armed and elephant-headed; a complicated triumverate that is at once father, son and spirit; a one-eyed, raven-loving northerner; a creator Grandmother Spider; and/or the source of all evil and temptation who is set against the perceived originator of the world.

But I do like, and respect, them all.  I appreciate them as the manifestations of our human need to answer the unanswerable questions and I celebrate the variety and the beauty of these manifestations as representations of both the best and worst that we people can come up with in the recesses of our imaginations and ways of viewing our world and the one(s) that may exist beyond this one we know.

I’ve written about that Devil Dude here at colemining a time or two and it’s therefore unlikely to be a surprise that I personally feel that the guy(s) has gotten a very bad rap.  For lots of politically, sociologically and theologically motivated reasons.  I like him.  He’s an interesting character that has contributed significantly in Western art, culture and literature.

It can even, possibly, be safely said that he is my favourite mythological character.  I do hate to choose- it’s like picking my favourite book or song.  How can you fairly choose with so very many wonderful inventions that span millennia?

I don’t worship him, though.  Or believe in him- as such.

I’m not a satanist.  I don’t worship the flip-side of the coin that is the Christian deity.

You know what?  Neither do Satanists.  Not those folks who want to build the statue, anyway.  One would have to subscribe to the beliefs about the nature, theology and theodicy of the Christian deity in order to revere its opposite.  And they don’t.

They use the terminology based in its foundation: satan as ‘adversary’- and as found in the Hebrew scriptures.  Satanism is mainly an ideological social movement- opposed to things like herd mentality, stupidity, pretentiousness and lack of perspective (okay, maybe I AM a little bit of a satanist…)- and the movement developed its precepts and beliefs based on the examination of human nature and the ‘laws of the jungle’.

Anton LaVey based its core beliefs on things like secular humanism, individualism, religious skepticism and an eye-for-an-eye mentality that is positively Old Testament in flavour.

No sacrificing of babies or virgins to the Devil.  No desecration of Christian churches or symbols.  No black masses.

While some off-shoots of LaVeyan Satanism do envision a deity, it is one that is much more associated with older iterations of the satan/Lucifer/fallen angel who was responsible for bringing wisdom and technology to humanity.  For our benefit.  Like Prometheus.  I talked about that guy before too.

And poor old Baphomet.  Symbol of a doomed Knighthood that was brought down by a corrupt king, jealous of their wealth, power and influence.

His origins are hazy, but he maintains a presence- his likeness is representative of the Devil in many Tarot decks to this day.

Various theories (and accusations, at the time) suggested that the Templars brought the worship of Baphomet back from their adventures (on behalf of Church and Crown) as they attempted to ‘reclaim’ the Holy Land from the ‘infidels’.  Some suggest that Baphomet is a derivation of Mohamet- and that the assumption was that the Muslim infidels worshiped their Prophet as a deity.

That novel about Leonardo and a supposed ‘code’ played with the idea that Baphomet was a creation of a substitution cipher, and meant ‘wisdom’- but arcane- anti-Church and anti-King- wisdom that flew in the face of the social mores of the day.  Hence both the destruction of the Templars, and the equally-heinous development of the cult of Dan Brown.

So we’re back to the symbol of the satanists being all about the imparting of wisdom– that was outside the control of the ruling authorities- and therefore verboten.

How is any of that bad?  Let alone the embodiment of evil?

I say again, ‘Jeepers.’

Baphomet, Satan, Lucifer, Church of Satan?  All victims of bad PR (although, in the case of the Church of Satan, they aren’t all that interested in what others think these days- now that the era of ‘Satanic Panic’ has thankfully passed into sordid memory), nothing more.

Anyhoo.

The intent of OM’s post was to start a discussion about ‘tolerance’ and whether or not people expect tolerance of their worldviews yet remain quick to condemn those of others.

I commented that the statue would bother me not at all.  Just as statues of Jesus or Buddha bother me not at all.  (Although if they are erected in public spaces using public funds… there’s a different argument to be found.  I touched on that here).

I don’t understand the impulse to defensiveness that comes with belief.  I really don’t get the reactionary fall-out of being challenged in belief that causes people to malign the beliefs of others.

We all have things to teach- and we definitely all need a little more learning about certain things in this wide world of ours.  If such lessons can be gleaned by the placement of a statue- representative of the beliefs of a portion of humanity- in close proximity to another statue- also representative of the beliefs of a portion of humanity- where, exactly, is the harm?

That’s not simple rhetoric.  In my own search to understand us people-type-people I welcome all differences of opinion and perspective that are open to discussing such things.

Might help keep us all warm on this chillychilly night.

PS- I have to take issue with the creators of those myths about Hell- much as I do enjoy them.  If they had ever spent any time in a polar vortex, they’d know that such a place- if it existed would be COLD, not hot.  Warming trend can arrive any time now…