Monday, October 25, 2010

The November plans

The plan was to write double-posts during October so that I could cruise through November without care.

I've failed that pretty severely -- as one week I even forgot to write anything. (I got a post out that day, but it was an "Oops, I forgot." post, so it doesn't really count.)

I think I'm going to accept what many bloggers accept: I'm going on hiatus for the month of November for NaNoWriMo. As this is the last Monday in October, this means my next post will be December 6th.

At this point, my planned story is a YA Fantasy. The basic premise is that magic is a consumable resource that was all used up during the early days of mankind. An eccentric hermit finds a way to replenish magic in the world. He hires a family of four, and madness unfolds. Well, not madness, exactly, but certainly excitement.

It is a variation of the idea that things were somehow more magical in the past and that for some reason all of the magical creatures went elsewhere. It is nice to think that they could just go elsewhere, but it is also possible they all died off.

For the story, it means it can start off like an urban fantasy -- totally real-world with just a promise of something magical -- and as the magic unfolds around them the limits of it are less confined to the "and no one else is the wiser" thing you generally see with urban fantasy.

The core idea is one that is backed up with stories like "Sleeping Beauty" where once the spell is broken the castle itself disappeared. To last that long, it laid waste to the area where the castle once stood. As the magic dried up and disappeared from the region it drew with it the very firmament itself.

While there are fewer restrictions on what magic can do, there are still restrictions. This is a world where magic has near limitless potential, but it can't reach the potential if it gets used up on vulgar affairs. Using magic for cleaning house? It will take longer to restore the magic used than it would to just clean it up by hand. Flashy transformations are extremely ostentatious, as after you transform there may not be any magic in the area to do anything else with.

This means that in the story world, magic needs to cause the least amount of change to produce the desired results. That said, since scrying works without a particular abundance of magic, in an area with more magic it works much better.

The device I'm using to restore magic in the world is essentially an orgone transformer. It takes "orgone energy" and transforms it in to magical energy. Instead of an orgone accumulator shaped like a box and designed to focus the orgone energy inside, we have a board composed of layers of different substances. It gathers the orgone energy, transforms it, and the magical energy exits. I call these boards "magic doors" -- which is also where the (current) title for the book comes from.

So that's what I'll be doing with my November. I'm excited. It will be my first novel, so I'm going in to it as a learning experience -- I know the quality only gets better with practice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tis the Season (of death and heartache)

One of the things that marks a person as belonging to a modern faith is having modern concerns.

What counts as a modern concern?

Premarital sex? Back in the fabled Puritan beginnings of the United States some towns had more than 90% of their children get pregnant before marriage. The modern US tends to do a lot better than that these days. Premarital sex is clearly not a modern concern. In fact, I don't consider premarital sex a concern at all, but then this probably doesn't surprise any of my readers.

Homosexuality? This is even less of a modern concern, being that some of our nearest genetic relatives also engage in homosexual acts it seems this is something that actually predates humanity. Don't believe me? Check out some of the antics of the bonobos. Check your local zoo to see if they have them, though be warned that a lot of zoos do not have bonobos as they embarrass the zoo patrons.

Automobiles are clearly a modern concern. Some might say that all of the common well-established religions predate the automobile.

Now, this week, I'm not going somewhere weird here. This has nothing to do with whether or not cars have souls or deities. This is just the modern phenomena of driving vehicles about.

I got a driver's license specifically because I knew driving would be required living where I do. This is the case for an unfortunate vast part of the US. I was in my mid-twenties before I got my license.

This is to say, by the time I got my license, I had done a lot of work on myself. I had become the sort of person that was prone to crying both when sad as well as when happy. I think of it as being tender-hearted.

Now, my family got together (as they continue to do) several times in the fall and winter. I always had a nice quiet drive for much of the way, but what struck me was always how much roadkill I passed. It pulled and tugged on my heart to the point where at times I would be risking my ability to see the road, due to the tears.

I had to do something about it. So I prepared to pray to the dead. It is heart-breaking to see the dead. Sometimes you'll see a friend or family member to the corpse, walk up, as if to ask if the animal is alright. While I prayed, I wept. I wept for the dead, left beside the road to rot or to be gathered up to be discarded like any other detritus. No one gains with roadkill. It isn't part of some grand circle of life, with everyone eating someone else. It is a life, cut short and abandoned, to feed nothing but bacteria.

Now, I'm not a vegetarian. I understand that animals eat other animals, and you can bet most of the roadkill (except, alas for some of the poor pets) know this quite well. It's a world filled with the hunt, prey and hunters abound. This is, after all, normal and natural when it comes to the natural world. Those we kill with our cars are not part of this natural cycle. They are not killed for food, they're not even killed for pleasure. We take nothing from them but their lives. We give back nothing but pain and loss.

My compromise -- since I can't quit driving -- is to acknowledge the dead as I pass them. I say "Bless its soul." I say this anytime I see anything that could be roadkill. I say this sometimes when I think I see trash or leaves. I say this when there are animals too close to the street -- bless them and protect them so they don't wind up as more corpses on our roads.

I'm freer than perhaps I need to be with my blessings. In truth, I do this so I don't need to look closely. I've seen what I thought was a leaf in the road (that I blessed -- and avoided hitting) turn out to be a live animal. It is enough to know that it has been blessed, if I don't see it clearly then perhaps I am lucky.

How many people talk about peace and love and nature without acknowledging the pain and heartache we bring in our wake?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Remember the linden and the oak

The story of the linden and the oak is one that is retold in various cultures.

The basic premise is simple: At the time traveling was dangerous, and it was common for travelers to need a place of rest after traveling a great distance. Without hotel in a small area, the travelers would need to stay in someone's home. Culturally it was polite to accept the travelers, and it was impolite to refuse them.

So, the travelers are refused at every house in a town, and on the outskirts of town there is an elderly couple. They have very little, but they offer what they have. They are kind and polite.

The travelers, however, were not simple run-of-the-mill people. They were deities, angels, or other super-powerful forces specifically setting out to check on folks in this area.

As a reward, when the years run out for the elderly couple, instead of either one needing to bury the other, they are both transformed in to trees. However, more immediately, the rude town is destroyed. I recall reading an African variation which stated the teller of the tale would actually point out houses beneath a local lake where the doomed village once was.

Now, I never really took this as a warning until I met a disquieting individual at a pagan conference many years back.

The man was disheveled, unshaven, and unkempt. He looked like a homeless man had snuck in. I found myself in a room with snacks, and the man ate in the manner you would expect, with his fingers, leaving a smattering of crumbs.

He was, to put it lightly, the sort of person that could easily push a person's buttons.

But the real kicker was the buttons he pushed were only on the surface. He was polite and friendly. While he looked homeless, he didn't have an odor. Nothing about his attitude or his actions were objectionable to any meaningful extent.

Is it likely that he was a deity, made manifest, specifically to check out the local pagan convention? Well, that seems less than likely, given that most folks do not believe in deities with such powers. Also, most folks go to such conventions already believing in a narrow set of deities. While folks there may be warmer to the idea of a new deity, chances are few are actively looking for more.

However, could he be favored by a deity? That seems quite possible. To be favored by a deity, that deity would watch out for you. It wouldn't be the deity the folks would see or interact with directly, but if a surface excuse is used to violate a person's ethics... that deity could either directly take action or otherwise set things up so that consequences are felt.

This led me to the idea that someone that annoys you -- but does so without actually doing anything wrong -- may actually be specially looked after by a deity, and that deity is actively waiting for someone to slip up.

Would it be more or less annoying if the deity behind the test was one of the ones you consider part of your personal pantheon? Would it even matter, though? If it was a test of ethics, and you fail the test, then you get what you deserve. Hopefully, you don't deserve your entire community to be destroyed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Reason for Life, the Universe, and Everything (part 3): Finding personal meaning

In my previous two posts, I covered the reason for life, the universe, and everything, then explained that you really don't have many limits on what you do with it.

As for a universal meaning, it is simple and works well for both mundane and sublime lifestyles. Anything beyond that is purely personal. You're not really limited to anything. You could dedicate your life to exploring the delights of the most exotic McDonald's locations on the planet. You could dedicate your life to proclaiming the glories of a deity. You could dedicate your life to exotic encounters of food or flesh.

The Ethic of Reciprocity: This is a commonly known in Western cultures as "The Golden Rule". Treat others as you would like to be treated. Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated. This is a near universal idea. It is a good guiding principle when searching for your own personal meaning. If your personal meaning wouldn't be something you enjoyed if someone else took it up, perhaps you should try to find another one.

The Meek may have Mighty Friends: This is a simple variation of the ethic of reciprocity. Ignoring any thoughts of karma, or mystical energies finding their way back to you, there is the simple fact that folks have friends. Even folks that may seem worthless in your eyes, may have powerful allies. It pays to expect everyone to have mighty friends. More than that, if you want to increase your friends, it pays to become a mighty friend to those that currently appear meek. You just may become friends not only with the meek person, but indirectly with that person's mighty friends.

Here's something I try to live by: We start with an egocentric universe, then twist it. With an egocentric personal meaning the world, the universe, even all of existence exists for you, to test you, to support you, to add to your own personal greatness. But, what if there was a single person that was the reason for the universe, but instead of that person being you, you were a minor character in that person's life... You would encounter that person perhaps once in your entire life. What kind of character would you be in that story? Would you be the surprising caring hand, reaching out to the person just when things looked darkest? Would you be a simple manifestation of an uncaring universe, ready to say "no" and close doors just because you can?

Do I have a personal meaning? Yes. I advocate the worship of small deities. I also like to create things with my mind. I've had dreams of creating universes, and have current aspirations to be an author.

Next week, I'm going to tell a true story relating to my "the meek may have mighty friends" comment.