Semi-Public Conversations: The Bar Exam

I find myself at a familiar bar.  If the bar has a name, I don’t particularly need to know it.  The address and part of town the bar is in are, similarly, inconsequential.  All I know is I’m not drinking anything with a kick; I don’t avoid alcohol all together, but it doesn’t always agree with me…so I usually don’t drink unless it is a special occasion.

Wait, is this a special occasion?  I doubt it somehow.

Well, anything is a special occasion if you want it to be.” he says, reading my mind as he hops up onto the stool beside me.  “Haven’t seen you here for a while.

“I would think you haven’t seen me much of anywhere at all.” I reply, somewhat gloomily, into my coffee.  Coffee, as a term, could be used loosely in this instance; the liquid in my cup was probably more milk than coffee.

Feh,” he says dismissively, with a gesture to match, “You don’t need to see me for me to see you.  That’s not particularly complicated and you know better…so why submit to guilt that you don’t need?

“Does anyone need guilt?”

He shrugs, “I’m not sure Catholics would be able to operate without it.”  A grin crosses his face as the words escape his lips.  He look at me as he takes a sip from a wine glass filled with an amber color liquid.

“With or without the ‘U’?” I ask with a smirk that I don’t quite feel, but I can’t quite stop.

Both!” he says, and the chuckle bleeds into his words a bit.

“So you’re trying to tell me that my lack of spirituality isn’t a problem?”

When did I say that?  Of course it’s a problem!” he retorts, his tone now a bit more acidic, “Shame and guilt aren’t going to get a lick of anything done however.  Pondering is all well and good, but an excess is just putting a boat on dry land and wondering why you aren’t getting anywhere.” A hand that edges between gentle and firm slaps the back of my head.  “You know that…but you aren’t acting on it.  That is a problem.

I pause.  “So you aren’t offended?”

A bit, just not by any ‘attendance’ issues.”  he says, in a tone that suggests irritation, but doesn’t quite commit.

“Okay, than by what?”

He turns on his stool after setting the cup down.  The look is firm, though not unkind.  “You’re back tracking.  You’re writing less.  Your praying less.  You center is, ironically, anywhere but you actual center.  You can do better than this…and you’re not.  Ennui isn’t the problem…it’s when you roll over to it and accept it.  That is…that’s offensive.  That’s distasteful.” he faces forward.  “Pray or do not pray…your heart and soul cast that nature of your devotion even when your thoughts do not.  It bothers you far more when you fail; when you do nothing about that is when it begins to bother me.

“Seems like an easy system to abuse.” I quip.  He gives me a look.

Try it.” he replies, in an extremely even tone.

I clear my throat a bit.  “I’m not intending to…I just.” I pause, collecting my words.  He sips at the mead absently.  The sentiment is hard to even put to thought, much less to language.

This…is still new territory to you.  I get that.  You’re learning how to sort your thoughts, your heart, and your soul in entirely new directions.  Your entire being, for that matter.  The discoveries aren’t exclusively spiritual; they’re coming from every corner of your identity.” he swirls the drink in its glass absently as he speaks. “There is nothing wrong with that.  Any of that.  There isn’t even anything truly wrong with being unable to understand it all of the time…especially at this point.  However…what is wrong is being satisfied with how unsatisfied you feel.

I nod, absently.  I sip my coffee, and then look at the ceiling.  “It’s just hard balancing out everything…coming to a proper understanding of things…”

He shrugs.  “Let me help with that.” he says, casually, “What are the issues?

“Well, where does working for a better more inclusive Heathenry stop being spiritual and start being selfish?”

He looks at me.  “When you start doing it for yourself and your own reputation you idiot.

I pause.  “That was a dumb question.”, I concede.

It won’t make my top ten, but it’s closer than you’d probably be happy with” he says with a thin smile.

“Okay…what happens if I write too much about subjects of social justice?”

He sighs.  “Why on Earth are you pretending you’d give a shit about any of their stupid opinions…anyone who would actually be bothered by that isn’t someone you’re apt to care about.”

I pause again.  “Top ten?”

His expression is blank, but his eyes are dancing at some private joke. “Stop taking yourself so damn seriously…it’s preventing you from doing anything worth being serious about.

I nod to myself.  It’s the best advice I’ve gotten in quite a while, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at that.

He finishes the glass and stands up to leave. “I’ve got work to do…and so do you.” he says simply.

I pause.  “Then…where are you going?” I ask.

He turns around to look back at me.  My smile is still rough around the edges, but it’s not so forced as it was before.  He grins. “See…now was that so difficult to grasp?”

Why I Am Not an Heathen (Though I Kind of Wish That I Could Be)

Harrison K. Hall:

Truth be told, I feel quite the same way about the Heathen spectrum of faiths as the author does…and I have for some time. Interested to see where Part 2 goes.

Originally posted on Pagan Church Lady:

This (long) post has been a long time coming.  I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry.  Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity.  I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.

Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood.  I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them.  Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…

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I have a face, and Vice.com has an article.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the bigger mess.

Self deprecating humor aside, a Vlog has been something I’ve want to do for quite some time.  I didn’t have some of the right equipment and software however, and my real life has been busy as all get out….so it hadn’t been a high priority for quite some time.

Then Vice.com published an article so hideously poor in quality, that all denominations seem to be in agreement of how absolutely unprofessional the piece is.  The author, Rick Paulus*, has apparently made some really douchey tweets in response to the suggestion that maybe he should have a vague clue about a topic before writing an article about it**.

In short, the whole thing is just a wreck.

The problem is that some of this stuff has happened so fast and so quickly, it may be hard to decipher what’s going on.  So, here is a 15 minute overview that should cover the basics.  I don’t know how often I’ll use this, but it’s certainly possible that it’ll be easier to find time to record video and crop off the garbage then it is for me to sit down and write when my work schedule is what it is.


*He has a twitter…but I don’t want to give him the traffic.  You can Google him if you really want, but you’re not missing much.
**Mr. Paulus is apparently not a regular contributor to Vice.com and is a freelance writer.  Let me say that this makes it difficult to criticize him to a degree…because I’ve done freelance writing and it’s a freaking miserable job.  It sucks, and I’m usually VERY apt to take the author’s side in any sort of matter, because it’s a rough and thankless sort of gig.  So imagine how bad the quality has to be to say that I find it appalling both as a writer and as a Heathen….then realize it’s even worse than that.

White Pride, White Shame

TMIMITW - Click Bait
TMIMITW - Click Bait

This one is going to be a serious one; buckle up. (I’ll try to be funnier next time)

There is a talking point that says being Anti-Racist is just a phrase to indicate that someone is, actually, Anti-White.  The conceit hidden within that statement is that White Pride must obviously be this super healthy thing to have.  It’s time we take this conceit head on, because there is a lot wrong with White Pride and how it functions in today’s society.  Usually, this is where someone opens up the connections with the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other White Supremacists groups.  They talk about the evil, violence, and terrorism these groups have committed (and continue to commit) against others, and how these are bad things.  They are of course, bad things, but that’s pretty well trodden ground; at this point, you’re either on board with how history has recorded these groups or you have some pet conspiracy theory in order to explain why these groups are just hateful sacks of malevolence.

Let us, however, take up the road less traveled in regards to this dialogue.  When it comes to the damage that White Pride has done to other cultures and races, opinions are already firmly entrenched.  How many have asked truly hard pressing questions about how good White Pride is for White People themselves?  I have seen very few good, hard, looks at this central conceit, divorced from the question of whom it hurts within other communities.  Some will address it, but usually as an afterthought or a post script to some greater issue.

Let’s take a moment to change that, shall we?  I think there are some very troubling thoughts with White Pride, with extremely negative implications for the people upholding the belief themselves, so it is high time we give this issue some air.  After all, Heathenry has no shortage of adherents who are proud of their “White Heritage”, and will loudly and angrily contest being any other way in regards to the topic.   This is where we have to dig a bit because, if you are proud of your “White Heritage”, I have to point out that you are wearing a form of shame on your sleeve.

There is no Whiteania, Whiteany, or Whiteland…and therein lies the problem.  So many people commit to apologia over “being proud of their ancestry”, yet they perch that precarious pride under a homogenous mass that cares nothing for the infinite diversity in infinite combinations of European ancestry that they so lauded mere moments before.

It doesn’t work; it is a flawed perspective from it’s very core.

European pride is a phrase that is…well, it is better….but it still suffers from that same homogenization of the infinitely separate.  It also makes no damn sense.  When France does something awesome, you can better be sure that Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Sweden…probably don’t give much of a damn.  The favor, I suspect, is returned.  Europe, despite what some modern day pride-mongers would like to assert, is not “as One”.  It has never been one!  There have been hundreds of years of wars dotting every decade of European history, except those periods of time where they needed to stop killing each other so they could get back to making food and babies before they starved and depopulated themselves into oblivion.

For the sake of the Gods it’s not even one in a geographical sense!  The British Isles, as the name suggests, are islands.  You know, those things which are separate land masses by definition?  Sarcasm aside, it’s just another reason that this entire line of thinking is completely without substance or structure; anyone who wants to tell you that European pride is a thing is either trying to sell you something or has already been sold.

I am against White Pride, and I am thoroughly Anti-White…because I love my ancestors.  I have no hatred for my origins.  Quote the opposite, honestly.  I love my German heritage, and I love my Polish heritage, and I love my British Isles heritage…and whatever has been missed by record keepers?  I love that too.  I don’t love them because they are white, but because they are legitimately amazing irregardless of some superficial features.  I love my grandfather, the craftsmen and World War II veteran.   I love my grandmother who was a nurse, and her mother before her that taught loving kindness and acceptance even in the lowest lows of the depression.  I love my Great-Grandfather Sylvester, and my Great-Granduncle Ambrose…either/both of whom may have been spiritual workers themselves.  I love them, and all that came before them…even though I might not know the names or the deeds.

They aren’t worthy of that adoration because they’re white…and every time someone talks about being “proud of their White Ancestors”, they are putting a toxic and acidic graffiti on their heritage.  Suddenly the details that make our fore-bearers great are white washed (pun intended) into a hazy stew of bland uniformity.

Annoy A Liberal

You can’t possibly be annoying me enough with this nonsense to cover for the amount of damage you have to do to your own self esteem…

As I’ve been pondering this, I’ve been thinking of stories of my friends who talked about their European Grandfathers and Grandmothers….who tried not to speak their native languages, and tried not to teach the next generation as much about the land they were born in.  Why?  It, usually, is the same reason; cultural pressures to fit in with the dominant, American, culture.  White culture.  How many myths, practices, and traditions were sandblasted into dust by this “Whiteness”?   How many linguistic idiosyncrasies, ancestral triumphs, and familial holidays were lost forever because of “Whiteness”?  Because of this uniforming beast which demanded so much and gave nothing in return.

Too many.  I am not proud of that monster, and I will not celebrate my honored dead in it’s name.

Folkists are gonna read this and be pissed; good.  Think about what makes you angry.  Ask yourselves some damn hard questions, because I want you to explain to yourself how you can be proud of your ancestors for the color of their skin before you are proud of them as people.  There is little good that can be said for your self-esteem and self-worth when Whiteness is the preface to all other things, indicating that your identity is based on nothing you could have controlled, nothing you’ve ever done, and nothing that has any true meaning in any objective sense.

There are plenty of external racist connections of course; I have YET to see a group that loudly “celebrates” White Pride who also doesn’t engage in copious amounts of “criticism” in regards to People of Color.  You see, all that “I’m not a racist” talk is just bullshit the moment you have to shove that damnable “but” in as part of the preface.  It is never a disclaimer, but an alibi…one only accepted by others who deal in the same illogical refuse.  However…before we get into how nasty, vile, and hateful all of that stuff is, you need to realized that you are being vile and hateful against yourself first and foremost.  Your ancestry should matter to you regardless of the pigmentation of it’s members.

If anything I’ve said here bothers you…then you’ve only shown your own doubts.  No one who truly believes the philosophy is going to be shaken by my words here; they have found their truth and they are riding it as we speak.  If you are angry, however, it can only be because I’ve shaken your resolve some how.

Why do you think that is?

My Own Worst Enemy

Have I shared this one before?  I can’t recall.

Yilmaz, who may just be one of my favorite creative personalities on YouTube, went on to create another piece of work that covered creative crises.  The two sort of form up a personal form of first aid for writer’s block. The funny thing was that while I remembered the first video, I forgot a few lines from the second video until I just watched it a few moments ago, and I think I found some of the problem.

Rewind back a few years for a moment.

I was just over here, minding my own business, writing a bunch of stuff that very few people paid any attention to.  I was writing particularly poor work whenever I had the time, and I wasn’t really worried about much more then just having a self-important outlet.  Then I wrote somethings about Loki, gathered an actual readership beyond my wife and three friends, and that was awesome.  I started paying more attention to what I wrote, how I wrote, and what those words meant to me in the first damn place.  This was a very good thing because, prior to this, I wanted to be a writer but strongly suspected I didn’t have the ability to be recognized as one.  I just wrote a bunch of pretentious garbage on whatever the blog du jour was, and basically stroked the hell out of my own ego constantly.  I needed a good kick in the ass to remind myself that my writing was only going to be worth a damn when I made it worth a damn.

So I had some readers, and I had a new sense of purpose and intellectual ethic…but I also found myself getting more and more conflicted and anxious about writing.  The Loki debate, while somewhat eternal, is pretty damn easy to talk about; it’s not difficult to debunk most of the “con” arguments, the people against Loki’s veneration have nothing really invested in their viewpoint other then some idiotic desire to police the spirituality of others, and the entire debate itself is just a bad joke and I suspect it will always remain one.  So when I delivered the punchline to the appreciation of some, it felt like I had found my niche as a writer; break down various stalemated arguments with a bit of wit.

The problem is that the Loki arguement is very simple; we can talk all day about which scholar said what about Loki…but at the end of the day there is no Asapope, and all of those arguments are just pissing contests, and no one from any national organization has the authority or the right to say differently.  Anyone telling you differently is just trying to sell you something.

Every other issue in Heathenry is vastly more complicated, and as they conversations around American  Heathenry turn more and more towards our nation’s history of prejudice, it becomes harder and harder to say anything.  Not for lack of certainty, but for the certainty of dissension.  You see, the way I write some of my work is I look at the argument as objectively as I can, I find where my own philosophy lies, and then I write about that philosophy while keeping in mind of all if it’s weak points.  By addressing those weak points in my own work within the work itself, I give my dissenters less ground.  This is why it took so long to write about Meta-Folkism; there are an infinite number of loops and pitfalls that need to be addressed before you go live with that material.  Being accurate and correct demands a lot of research, and countering your own shortfalls requires exponentially more.  Now imagine trying to breakdown the absolute tangle that is racism in the United States of America, and my problem becomes quite clear.  As the conversation has deepened, so did my work load.  To write material I was satisfied with was taking months and months of just working through all the details, all the while the narrative was continuing and changing the nature of what I wanted to write.

And, also, it was breaking my heart.  There is that too.

I’m well aware of the stereotypes that guide how many Folkish persons view “Heathens United Against Racism” and anyone who thinks like us; that we are a loose confederation of witch hunts, eager to find racism in anything and everything as we giggle to ourselves and while looking to pursue some ineffable high score…when we aren’t each others throats.  The truth is far more somber, of course.  I speak only for myself but I gain no joy from calling people out and, to be quite honest, it makes me pretty nauscious most of the time.  I don’t savor looking at and listening to the ethnic based biled I see on a daily basis.  I don’t savor affixing people with some label of racism.   I’ve spent the last year and a half parsing the sources of Circle Ansuz as I try to discover how accurate their findings are, and I’ve hated every minute of it; I would rather do just about anything else.

The very real truth of it is this work is grating, painful, and heart-wrenching because even at this very meager, shallow water level I’ve seen more amoral, banal hate then I ever wanted to know existed.  Then I see some people defend this very bigoted, very hateful material….defend their ability to be racially excluding for little reason that has anything to do with someone’s UPG….and say that I’m just doing this to harass them.  Or to cause trouble.  Or to attack famous names in Heathenry for giggles.  Trust me folks…there are more enjoyable hobbies out there to pursue.

The only mirth I have when talking about racism is a very dark humor, ripped strait from the gallows.  I’m not here because it’s funny to call people a racist; I’m here because I would think less of myself for backing down because it go to hard to go on.  Because I know that, no matter how much it bothers me,….that it bothers those it targets far worse, and what kind of human being would I be if I turned my back on those so marginalized?  My Grandmother was a women who taught me racism was bullshit despite growing up in a depression era coal town, and my Grandfather help secure a German concentration camp in World War II.  If the actions of my ancestors are supposed to drive my own, how the hell can I back down just because I’m uncomfortable?

So I stick with it.  I’m not going anywhere…but, somewhere in the middle, I ran out of gas and I tried to write material in mind of my audience and my philosophies and…I stopped actually writing from my heart.  Every sentence I wrote was being weighed against all of the other things I should be writing, Every idea I wanted to express was held as better or worse then every other idea, and I got nowhere.  I had completely throttled myself and I was hating every minute.

And….I’m done with that.  This has to end somewhere and it ends here.

I’m going back to writing what I feel is important and just going with that.  Sometimes that’ll be very Heathen.  Sometimes it’ll be philosophical.  Sometimes I’ll be doing a Let’s Play because I’m tired of big important things, and all I want to do is talk random nonsense while playing Skyrim.  I’m not pulling punches, mind you…but I’ve been so worried with saying big important things that I’ve I stopped saying anything at all…and I’m done with that.

many felt unsafe walking alone

Harrison K. Hall:

I did not attend Pantheacon, though not from a lack of desire. It was more of a lack of…being on the West coast with a great excess of money and and time off.

However, many of my friends and peers did go…and I’ve heard some accounts of things that were quite disturbing.

Thanks for shining a light on some of the problematic things that went on there.

Originally posted on The House of Vines:

While a lot of the post-Pantheacon racial discussion has centered on a satirical publication that was distributed over the weekend, I’m glad to see that folks are finally getting around to discussing something of far greater importance that happened – and I don’t mean Sam Webster’s very public meltdown, which is shortly going to have a pretty serious ripple effect if the rumor mill is to be trusted. (As full of delicious schadenfreude as that may be.)

No, what I’m talking about is this:

IMG_06131-300x225

It’s a photo Stephanie Del Kjer (courtesy of Crystal Blanton) took of the honor guard that arranged itself in front of the People of Color hospitality suite.

Attendee Courtney Weber explains why this was deemed necessary:

Several white Pagans shouted “Racist!” at the People of Color Caucus hospitality suite door. Others barged into the suite, wanting confrontation. In the numerous panels on the subject, participants of Color mentioned…

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