In-Between Places: A New Story for These Times

In-Between Places: A New Story for These Times July 6, 2022

The original title of this post was “NOW Do You Believe Tower Time Is Here?” But the more I worked on it, the more I realized the important thing isn’t to convince people that my explanation for what’s going on is right. The important thing – and what I desperately need myself – is to figure out what to do about it.

I’ve written about Tower Time at length. Go read some of it if you like – I’m not going to repeat it all here. I taught a class on Tower Time – it’s still available on-demand if you want to take it.

There is one thing I want to add. Tower Time is based on the The Tower card in the Tarot. It’s a card of sudden, dramatic, and irreversible change. I think everyone can see how our current world – certainly here in the United States – lines up closely with that.

But when The Tower comes up in a reading, we often soften it. We say “yes, this is difficult, but it’s clearing away the old to make room for something new and better.” Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s wishful thinking. And sometimes it’s true, but the “new and better” is many years away.

Right now the only thing worse than despair is expecting that good times are just around the corner. Because that just brings one disappointment after another.

We’re never going back to 2015… not that 2015 was a perfect world. But it was a world where things were getting better, and we expected that things would continue to get better.

I don’t know about you, but “do what you need to do to survive” isn’t enough anymore. I’m tired of just surviving, of just staying safe, of just waiting for things to “go back to normal.” Because they aren’t.

We need a new narrative. We need a new story.

We need a story that helps us find our place in this world of decline. We need a story that accepts reality and that also refuses to “go along quietly.”

I think we can find such a story in the in-between places.

Magic is found in in-between places

A Google search for “in-between places” turns up any number of books and websites that use the phrase in very different ways. Here I’m using it to mean liminal zones – places where magic is found.

In-between places include doorways and sea shores, dusk and dawn, Beltane and Samhain. All those times and places that are neither within nor without, neither day nor night, neither Summer nor Winter. They’re places where anything can happen, and so our magic has a way to work.

They’re also dangerous places. Adolescence is an in-between time when you’re neither a child nor an adult. When you’re an adolescent you can still become anything you want. But you’re also vulnerable – make a mistake or run afoul of the law (including unfair and unjust laws) and your life can be ruined before it even gets started.

In-between places are full of chaos. Those of you know who know me well know I’m not fond of chaos. I strongly prefer order. But chaos brings opportunities. And when the choice is between orderly oppression or chaotic freedom, I say bring on the chaos.

And start looking for the in-beween places.

I’m not speaking to everyone

As the bumper sticker says, if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention. I’m outraged. But I can’t live in a state of permanent outrage. I have to do what I can do, here and now, to make my life better in these outrageous conditions.

If your identity is tied up in rage, so be it. If fighting political battles non-stop is your calling, I wish you well and I’ll do what I can to be of assistance. We’re on the same team and I’m not surrendering to those who want to take this country back to the 1850s. But I can’t do this anymore. I need a different approach.

If this different approach isn’t for you, then this post isn’t for you. You do what you need to do and what you’re called to do. I’ll support you as best I can.

This is what I’m called to do.

No more denials

All the “unprecedented times” in this country and around the world since 2016 or so have a tangible, this-world cause. In most cases, multiple causes. Dealing with them and remedying them requires tangible, this-world actions.

And if you think that’s all there is to it, you’re on the wrong blog.

There is a spiritual, Otherworldly element to this as well. Part of this is what I call the cycles of magic. Part is people working magic for nefarious purposes (i.e. – in support of empire and dictatorship). And part is Otherworldly conflicts that I can only speculate about in the vaguest of terms.

In this world, I’ve had enough of “it can’t happen here” and “it’s not that bad.” It can and it is. The most important election of our lifetime was 2016 and it went the wrong way and now we’re living with the aftermath.

I’m beyond caring about who’s to blame. I want to focus on what we do moving forward – in this world and between the worlds.

No more waiting for a savior

I campaigned harder for Joe Biden than I ever campaigned for anyone before. This despite the fact that he was my last choice in the primaries. And I made it clear over and over again: Joe Biden isn’t a savior. Electing him was never going to immediately undo all of the problems Trump caused, or the problems that were already developing before Trump. It just stopped the bleeding.

I’m seeing various proposals to restore reproductive rights immediately. I’d love it if the Democrats could keep the House, flip four Senate seats, make an exception to the filibuster, and encode Roe v. Wade into federal law. But that’s a long shot, and I’m not going to count on it only to be disappointed again.

No one is coming to save us. We can’t elect someone to save us. We can make the world a better place by electing better people over and over again (elections matter and voting is necessary but not sufficient) but that’s not going to help us here and now.

We have to take care of our communities, our families of blood and our families of choice, and we especially have to take care of ourselves.

No more all or nothing

I appreciate the spirit of “none of us are free until all of us are free.” But if there are 20 people clinging to the wreckage of a sinking ship and the lifeboat only holds 10, you don’t say “we can’t save everyone so we won’t save anyone.” You don’t say “everyone get in” and then the lifeboat sinks too. You save 10 and then you come back for the other 10.

The metaphor isn’t perfect but it still fits. Politically, we stop letting the desire for perfection get in the way of making incremental improvement. We take what we can get now, and then we come back next year or next term and get some more. And then we do it all over again. That’s now conservatives have taken over the country, and that’s the only way we’ll take it back.

Individually, too many of us are waiting until everything is “just right” before we start living our lives the way we want to live them. No more. We do what we can now, and when things are better then we do more.

Beyond that, we can do more than one thing at a time. We can do our part to be engaged citizens and we can also live the non-political lives we want to live. We can vote and we can work magic. We can call our legislators in this world and we can talk to our ancestors in the Otherworld.

No more all or nothing. We do both, and in doing so we make it easier for us to find the in-between places… or to create them.

In between acceptance and resistance

I can’t tell you what to do and I wouldn’t if I could. But this is where I’m going.

I have to accept that the current situation is bad and it’s not going to get better any time soon. Odds are good it will get worse. I hope I’m wrong. I’m going to work to make myself wrong. But I would rather be prepared for what’s coming than cling to hope only to be disappointed on November 8 or in the next Supreme Court term or in the 2023 Texas legislative session.

Because by accepting what is, I can prepare myself to deal with it. If you can’t overturn bad laws you can find ways to work around them, ways to ignore them, ways to make them irrelevant. As long as you’re not dead or in jail, you have many options. Some options are easier than others. Some are riskier than others. Some involve magic and some involve mundane action. The best involve both.

Accept that Tower Time is here and it’s going to be here for a long time.

And also resolve to live your life to its fullest, here and now, regardless of what any court says.

Find your place in between acceptance and resistance.

In between the ordinary world and the world of spirit

My Baptist father used to rant against people who were “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” I’m sure there’s a Pagan equivalent of that somewhere. But right now I’m seeing the opposite problem – people who are so concerned with what’s going on in the ordinary world they forget there’s also a spirit world – a world of Gods and ancestors.

On one hand, I get it – it’s hard to be spiritual when your roof is leaking. And our collective roof is full of holes. On the other hand, regular spiritual practice is the foundation of a good life – it’s one of the reasons I can keep going right now.

Beyond that, it really helps me to remember that I follow Gods who are active in this world. This isn’t “all part of Their plan” and They don’t “have everything under control” (and neither does the God of the Christians who say these foolish things). But They have vision and wisdom that far exceed mine. I don’t know what They’re doing (transparency is not one of Their virtues) but They’ve never steered me wrong. I’m honored to be on Their side, and I’m thankful They’re at my side.

It also helps to remember that we have skills others do not. As long as we have will, we can open a way to create what we need. We can’t save everyone, but we can save some – including ourselves.

In between our obligations to the future and our obligations to ourselves

One of my daily prayers is that I live so as to be worthy of the honor of those who come after me. I want to be a good ancestor. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. Right now that’s looking rather iffy.

But I also want to enjoy this life while I’m here. I’m not young anymore, and there are things I want to do before I get too old to do them – I have a sense of urgency I didn’t have even ten years ago. More than that, I want to live in peace – the kind of peace that’s not possible when you’re filled with rage every waking moment.

There’s a place in between building a better future and enjoying life here and now.

And sometimes, we build the first by doing the second. Our Pagan and magical ancestors of the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries lived in a world far more restrictive than ours. What we take as a right was risky for them.

Remember that the Witchcraft Act in Britain wasn’t repealed until 1951, and the last successful prosecution for witchcraft took place in 1944. Aleister Crowley was kicked out of Italy by the fascists. Jack Parsons lost his security clearance – and with it, his income – in the Red Scare. He was still one of the most influential occultists of the 20th century.

We don’t need martyrs. If you can avoid trouble, avoid it. But let’s do what we’re called to do, live the way we’re called to live, and to hell with any court.

Find your in-between places

I don’t want to live in Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito’s world, but I do. I don’t want to live in Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz’s world, but I do. But their world is not the only world.

A better world is possible. We were on our way to it before Tower Time – before “all this” started. Perhaps we can find our way back onto that path… though more likely we’ll need to find a new and different path that goes in the same general direction.

But even if we don’t, we can still find those in-between places, where magic is strong and where we can be and do and live the way we’re called to be and do and live.

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