Nine Things I Think

Nine Things I Think is an irregular feature whenever I have a list of things I want to talk about that aren’t long enough for their own individual posts. There’s no theme, just nine things I want to bring to your attention. Feel free to expand on any of these topics in the comments section.

PPD 2013 11

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

1) Pagan Pride Days will be starting soon – the day-long mini-festivals designed to promote cooperation between the various forms of modern Paganism and to tell the general public we’re here. For the celebration near you, check the national Pagan Pride Day website.

Last year’s DFW Pagan Pride Day at White Rock Lake was wonderful. This year it’s moving to the west side of the Metroplex.

The DFW Pagan Pride Day will be Saturday, September 27 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Arlington UU Church, 2001 California Lane in Arlington. There will be rituals, workshops, music, and a blood drive. I’m not part of the planning committee this year, but I will be leading a workshop on Daily Spiritual Practice for Pagans.

2) I’ll be speaking this Sunday at the Denton UU Fellowship. The service title is “Pilgrimage and Convocation.” For almost 2000 years, Greeks from all over the Mediterranean traveled to Eleusis for initiation in the Mysteries. Jews traveled to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE. A pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is set on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. This service will explore the nature of religious travel and how it can be meaningful to us today.

And on August 31 I’ll be speaking at the Arlington UU Church on “The Art of Wild Wisdom.” The title comes from Thea Worthington, who holds the office of Modron in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Thea defined Druidry as “the art of wild wisdom” – the spirituality Nature teaches us, if only we’ll slow down, go outside, and listen.

If you’re in the North Texas area, come by and say hello.

3) On Tuesday night, the CUUPS National Board of Trustees voted to begin a revisioning process. This will be a series of surveys, discussions, and analysis designed to identify our common principles and values, create a shared sense of identity and purpose among Pagan-friendly UUs and UU-friendly Pagans, and develop a mission and vision for CUUPS for the next ten years.

I volunteered to lead the process – there will be three or four other CUUPS members on the team that will lead the discussions and distill the results. Over the coming months you’ll see multiple surveys, open-ended questions with opportunities for both private responses and public discussion, and presentations of findings. Once the process is complete, the mission and vision will be presented for a vote and the Board has committed to issuing an implementation plan two months later.

We will be soliciting input from all CUUPS stakeholders: not just members of CUUPS National and participants in local chapters, but all Pagan-friendly UUs and UU-friendly Pagans. If you have an opinion on what CUUPS is and what it should be we want to hear from you.

More details to come when our Revisioning Team is assembled and the initial survey is prepared.

the Rio Grande river

the Rio Grande river

4) Three weeks ago I wrote about the complicated situation with refugees who’ve come across our southern border. I’m no closer to finding a grand solution to advocate than I was then. I’m not sure there is one, other than to remind everyone that all people – including refugees – are people who possesses inherent dignity and worth. It matters if they live or die.

The facts remain what they were. Thousands of children are here, now, and they’re in need. Solar Cross Temple is raising funds to send to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. If you can give, please do so.

5) What can I say about the situation in Gaza? The Israelis and the Palestinians both have valid complaints. They both have engaged in unjustified acts of violence.

And there the equivalence ends. According to the Washington Post, as of August 6 the death toll stands at 1890 Palestinians and 68 Israelis. Living conditions in Gaza are somewhere between bad and horrible.

The Jewish people’s desire to return to their traditional homeland was and is valid, but not at the cost of displacing the people who were and are already there. And when has an attempt by colonial powers to redraw national boundaries ever turned out well? Still, Israel has been here long enough – and it’s well-armed enough – that it’s not going away. Neither are the Palestinians… as though they had any place to go. Both sides will figure out how to live together, or they’ll keep killing each other.

And while the same nations that created this situation wring our collective hands, people are suffering and dying. I’m not optimistic.

6) I was never a Robin Williams fan – his humor veered too much toward the absurd for my tastes. I liked him in Hook and in Dead Poets Society, and I thought he was a great fit in Good Morning, Vietnam. Other than that I didn’t watch him much.

Clearly, though, I’m in a distinct minority, and his death earlier this week is a terrible loss, as well as a reminder that money and success are no surety against depression.

I’m not a psychologist, but I know more about depression and suicide than I wish I did. I doubt I’m particularly unique in that regard. But clearly I know more than the people who are calling his death a “bad choice” (no, I won’t link to them – I’m not giving them the traffic).

Choice is when you decide that dying now is better than continuing to live with suffering that cannot be relieved – or when you decide you’d rather live on with the pain. Choice is when you decide that dying while you still can choose is better than living with a disease that will rob you of your mind, or your body, or both – or when you decide to live on until your body expires on its own.

Depression steals your ability to make rational choices. Depression tells you things are worse than they really are. Depression tells you things will never get better, and that it’s your fault they won’t.

Depression lies.

Sometimes the cause is chemical. Sometimes it’s spiritual. Sometimes it’s circumstantial. All of those can be treated. Not always easily and not always as completely as we’d like, but things can get better.

Trying to get better? That’s a choice.

adopt a spot sign7) Last Sunday Denton CUUPS conducted our bi-monthly Adopt-a-Spot roadside cleanup. We adopted a stretch of road near the Denton UU Fellowship in 2005 and we’ve been cleaning it regularly ever since. It’s a small but meaningful way we can take this-world action to make the world a better place here and now.

August is Polytheist Community Outreach Month. While not all members of Denton CUUPS are polytheists, we can attest to the value of these activities. We’ve never gotten much feedback from our cleanups, but the signs are there for all to see, all day every day. The streets of our town are cleaner. And we see the tangible difference we made.

What can you do in your community?

8) It’s August – that means football is back. NFL training camps opened in late July and preseason games started last week. I know a lot of Pagans are too cool for sports (and certainly too cool for something as popular with the mainstream as football), but I enjoy it. There is no other game that has football’s combination of athleticism, teamwork and strategy. I follow baseball and basketball, and I’ll watch soccer at the Olympics and the World Cup, but football is the only game I’ll actually sit down and watch an ordinary matchup – I even watched half of the Cleveland – Detroit game last week, and if you know anything about the first week’s preseason games, you know that’s saying something.

It’s not looking good for my favorite teams. The Cowboys have gone 8-8 the last three years and I’m not seeing anything to make me think they’ll be any better this year. I’ll always be a Tennessee fan when it comes to college football, but the Volunteers haven’t had a winning season since 2009 and haven’t had a good season since 2007. I like what I’ve seen from second-year head coach Butch Jones, but they play in the toughest conference in all of college sports.

Maybe I can enjoy the Jacksonville State – Michigan State game on the 29th. It won’t be much of a contest, but I can drink some cider and try to guess what Jason Mankey is yelling at the TV when the Spartans do something amazing… or something stupid.

9) Notice things running faster around here the last few weeks? Patheos made some major technical upgrades last month (including a big jump with their WordPress installation) that have resulted in significantly faster page loads and far less downtime.

Patheos hosts such a wide variety of religions and religious viewpoints that it’s easy to forget it’s still basically a small company with small company resources. When they do manage to make a big upgrade the change is dramatic.

There are some bloggers who feel the need for their own standalone website. I respect that, but I’m happy to be a part of the multi-religion community that is Patheos.

That’s what I’m thinking – what about you?

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.


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