Friday, December 20, 2013

Yuletide Greetings!

While the darkness can be comforting, quiet, and insightful, the child who brings light to the world has been born again, so we celebrate the return of the light.

Even though it seems like the darkness will never end on the longest night, remember that you can have more light when you share it with others. Happy Yule.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Pope will be Televised

Just a wee bit of silliness. Mystery Hunters was a kids-teens science show that appeared on YTV and other places. In this excerpt, Christina is searching for vampires and discovers a group of Pagans in ritual. Little did she know that she was witness the birth of a Pagan Pope in progress. That's me in the robe answering her questions. The connection between vampires and Pagans was shakey and weird, granted.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crossing the Line Online

Note: I updated this post a few days after the original posting. The updates are in Green.

In the past couple of years, I have had to unfriend about five people for various reasons on Facebook (two of those people were just in the past month!). Sometimes this is a heart-wrenching decision, sometimes it is very easily-made decision. After the last one, it was suggested to me that I do some soul-searching.

After said soul-search, I realized that there was a common denominator in all the unfriendings I've had to do. As it turns out, there aren't a variety of reasons: there's just one main reason.

As many of you know, I like to explore ideas on my Facebook page. Some are silly, some are deep, and some are controversial. Fortunately, most of my Facebook friends are highly intelligent and opinionated people, so most of the time, I get valuable feedback. I have absolutely no problem with being disagreed with. In fact, I'm hoping someone will have an opposite view so that we can discuss it and I can either get a new perspective or have the chance to win them over to my side. Sometimes, neither of those two things happen and we just have to agree to disagree, as frustrating as that can be. It's rarely a wasted effort.

However, sometimes these disagreements can cross the line and become personal and this is not acceptable.  If I have posted something that you feel to be offensive, you can call me on it and explain your position. I may debate you on this issue if I feel you have misunderstood, but you're not going to win me over by personally attacking me on it. State your position and keep it on topic and I will listen. You'll may convince me, I may convince you, or we'll have to agree to disagree. Unless I posted something that was directed at you specifically, you cannot expect to use your own personal sense of offense as a launching pad to attack me personally and think I'll just give you a free pass. 

If the basis of your argument depends on a flaw in my personality, my intelligence, my nationality, my upbringing, my religion, my gender, my profession, etc. (you get the idea), our social media relationship (and maybe our friendship) is now officially in jeopardy. 

This is not to say that you cannot try to call me on White/Male privilege. Playing this card is frustrating to me, but it's not a deal killer. I find this tactic to be an offensive generalization that is sexist and racist by definition, but it's also an ad-hominem way to try and end the discussion. I have rarely seen it applied in a way that actually convinces me to change my position (it has happened, but it's rare). 

Also, bringing your own race/gender into the discussion is not a problem necessarily. I won't shut you out because you say something like "You can't understand because you're not a woman like me!" While it may be true that I cannot appreciate the realities of being a woman, I don't take this as a personal attack. The personal attack version would be "You can't understand because you're just a man and men are just stupid!", but even then, that's just such a weak rebuttal, I would probably just dismiss it as being irrelevant.

If you were really concerned about my personal flaws, you would probably address them with me in person, by phone, or by private message. No friend of mine would use my flaws (whether they valid flaws or perceived flaws) as a weapon to discredit me or my opinion. Nor would my friends use my flaws to make me look foolish or to humiliate me publicly. I don't care if you think this flaw is real, your concern is genuine, or if you only have my best interests at heart. I also don't care if there are many people that are too polite to address this issue with me directly, but they have asked you to be their representative in this matter.

A personal attack would be something like (these are mostly realistic quotes I've received, although I may be paraphrasing at time for context):
"Your parents obviously abused you as a child. If they didn't, maybe they should have."
"You would understand this if you had a real job."
"Everyone knows that you just crave attention and you'll do anything to score points with your posse."

"You would know what to do in this situation if you weren't such a coward."
"Only a a racist bigot who hates women would ever say stuff like you've just said."

If you and I have an established friendship that is based on history of positive, constructive experiences, I can let certain things slide. If I'm really hurt by your statements, I'll address the issue with you directly, give you a chance to explain yourself, and we can come to some kind of mutual understanding. Maybe there's an issue between us that needs to be addressed and this is moment where it flared up. If you and I have a reality-based friendship, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

But if we barely know each other, we've only met a couple of times, and we haven't had any real-world experiences together, I am less inclined to take shit from you. If we have invested in each other in some way, I'll honor that investment by following-up. But if you cannot be bothered to take the time to know me outside of social media, don't pretend you can speak on who I was, who I am now, and who I should be if only I had the proper values. I am happy to debate issues with anyone, but if your position requires you to launch into some kind of dime-store psychoanalysis of my "true" feelings on the matter, I'm out.

Some people have commented that I am way too patient with some people. It's true that I sometimes suffer fools gladly because the optimist in me believes that everyone has something to bring to the table. However, as I get older, I've been finding the my patience to suffer these fools is beginning to wane and wear thin.

My friend Rebecca wisely stated that if I have a friendship that is based mostly on aggravation, then it may not be a friendship worth maintaining. I don't enjoy having to unfriend people on Facebook, but when I begin to notice that a social media relationship is dominated by disrespectful chatter or a consistent need to tear me down, it's time to decide that I don't need to include that voice in my conversations.

I'm not sure I really need to expound on this subject at length. It's my Social Media and I don't need to explain of justify it to anyone. But this is the cool thing about writing: it forces you to apply a critical eye to your thoughts and ensure you are making the right decisions for the right reasons. With the unfriendings I've had to do in the past year (some people needed to be Blocked), I would wonder if I was being too harsh in these decisions. Writing this article has proven to me that it was what I had to do.

I'm hoping that these decisions can be respected, but since the people I had to unfriend were being disrespectful in the first place, I doubt that they will. Hopefully, the rest of you can understand. If you want to discuss it, please leave a comment!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Clothing Optional" Etiquette

The Pagan Festing season generally runs from May until October and usually takes place in campgrounds that are reserved for this purpose for anywhere from a weekend to a week. In Ontario, notable campgrounds that host Pagan Festivals include Raven's Knoll, Mythwood, and Whispering Pines.

Some of these festivals feature Clothing Optional areas so that people have the option to be naked if they so wish (while others restrict nudity completely). This is because some Pagans like to cast-off their wrappers and be caressed by the sun and the wind, while others consider their nudity to be part of their sacred relationship with the Gods and a Pagan event is a place where they can feel comfortable enough to explore that relationship.

However, because not everyone is comfortable with that, Clothing Optional areas can be restricted to certain areas, including:
  • campsites
  • the beach
  • the firepit area after 10pm
The important word in "Clothing Optional" is the term "Optional". A Clothing Optional area is not zoned as a Strip Club. You have the option to be as naked, clothed, or a variety of both as you wish and it's nobody else's business.

I cannot believe I must state this so blatantly, but this is also means that no one has the right to pressure you to be clothed or naked. No one has the right to tell you how naked or dressed you must be based on other people's decisions to be naked or dressed. No one has the right to express opinions about your character, your values, or your sexual identity. No one. No exceptions.

Now I know that sometimes people can unintentionally cross the line. In their minds, they want you to know that you are beautiful and valued and they want you to know that they are not judging you for any reason, so if you want to strip down, they are ready to support you in this decision. The problem is that it's very difficult to express this idea without it sounding like they are pressuring you into coming to this conclusion.

Update: Clothing Optional also knows no gender identity. If an area is Clothing Optional, this is an option that is available to everyone regardless of their gender or their genitalia. Women of all types, men of all types, and every variation in-between and beyond holds the same right to exercise their Clothing Optional freedom that has been set by the event. No one has the right to set a double-standard based on your gender identity ("She can be naked, but you should cover up fella."). 

A person's state of nudity is NEVER an invitation for people to touch, stare, be critical, or make sexual references about. EVER. A person's nudity can be an expression of their relationship with the Gods, but it is not meant to be a show for other people to ogle, be critical, or make snide remarks upon. However, if you want to quietly appreciate the beauty of the human body, that can be okay, but you need to be subtle in your appreciation.

Unwanted, unwarranted, unasked, uninvited contact with a person in a state of undress can constitute assault or sexual assault. The fact that the person is naked does not justify anyone's actions without EXPLICIT permission being given. It also does not give you the right to pressure anyone into being more naked or less naked, for any reason, even in jest. If you think you have accidentally crossed this line, take the person aside (probably better when they are dressed), apologize sincerely, and then learn from it.

Whether it is intentional or unintentional, here are some statements you should NEVER make to someone about their state of dress or undress:
  • This is a Clothing Optional area, so you should be naked.
  • Everyone else here is naked, so you should be naked.
  • You were naked yesterday, so you should be naked today.
  • If you were truly Pagan, you would be naked.
  • You have beautiful body, so you should be naked.
  • You need to get over your insecurities, so you should get naked.
  • Wouldn't you be more comfortable without all those clothes on?
  • *untying straps without permission* C'mon now... show us your boobs. Don't be a prude.
  • In the good old days, everybody used to get naked all the time at Pagan events. Don't be such a prude. You should get over your insecurities and get naked.
  • Don't conform to the mundane life! This is a sacred, magical place! You need to prove that you love the Goddess and "be naked in your rites!"
  • You're diminishing the Pagan experience for everyone by being so self-judgmental. You should liberate yourself and be naked.
  • You're too fat to be naked. Lose some weight or cover yourself up. Nobody wants to see that.
  • You're too skinny to be naked. Get dressed and have a sandwich. Nobody wants to see your bones.
  • Only women can get naked. Guys should not get completely naked.
  • You have scars! They are so ugly!
Repeated attempts to pressure someone to dress or undress constitutes harassment and needs to be reported to the Festival Staff or Security. This can result in the aggressor being removed from the premises, either for that event or permanently. If you are being inappropriate, aggressive, or just plain creepy, people will notice and they will report it to the Festival Staff. Even if a situation is not acted upon immediately, people are always watching, especially Security.

Lastly, be careful of what you say around people who are naked. Words have a huge impact on people, especially when their nudity is on public display. For some, being naked is not a big deal and takes virtually no effort. But for others, public nudity can be the result of a great amount of personal courage. A careless snide remark can destroy that moment of vulnerability in an instant, tearing the person down into an even deeper hole of insecurity. The sounds of this type of destruction is deafeningly silent, so you may never know its true impact.

Pagan spaces are supposed to be sacred, loving, and safe places where we can strip away our mental and emotion outer shells that we project to the outside world, allowing us to build stronger relationships with our spiritual cores and share those experiences with our spiritual families. But we also need to take extra care and apply extra awareness in these places because we never know where people are coming from and how fragile they are. Our desire to create and share in our spiritual freedom must be tempered with compassion for each person's spiritual and personal realities without judgement, but with support and respect.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nothing to hide/Nothing to fear

When it comes to the issue of domestic spying, the standard line is "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Most people may think that they live such inconsequential lives, why should they fear the government spying on them? It's not like we're doing anything to warrant suspicion.

And while this may be true, the underlying layer of "nothing to hide/nothing to fear" is that you will be held responsible for not only your own actions, but the actions of anyone and everyone else you communicate with. If you have a friend or acquaintance that is secretly a member of an organization that the government fears, and you communicate with that person regularly, then the government will also suspect you as being a threat by association.

Thanks to movies and pop culture, people don't realize that "people of interest" to a government spy agency also have kids and hobbies that have nothing to do with their political activities. Until that guy who planted that bomb took that action, he probably chatted happily with you at the arena as you both watched your kids playing hockey. Maybe you both planned on organizing a local street hockey tournament, which meant that you spoke and texted often.

If the government only looks at the meta-data of your exchange, even though you knew nothing of this guy's secret plans, you will look guilty as hell by association. Trying to prove your innocence to a suspicious government will turn your life upside down and hopefully you will land on your feet. Hopefully.

"Nothing to hide/nothing to fear" only makes you responsible for everyone else's actions. Are we really willing to buy this government line at our own expense?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Star Wars Day: Part 2

Again, not Pagan or Philosophical. Just more nerdery. It's my birthday... indulge me.

Lines That Sound Dirty In "Star Wars"

* "Get in there you big furry oaf, I don't care what you smell!"
* "Luke, at that speed do you think you'll be able to pull out in time?"
* "Put that thing away before you get us all killed."
* "You've got something jammed in here real good."
* "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?"
* "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought."
* "Sorry about the mess..."
* "Look at the size of that thing!"
* "Curse my metal body, I wasn"t fast enough!"
* "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid."
* "I thought that hairy beast would be the end of me."
* "Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?"
* "There's an awful lot of moisture in here."
* "That"s okay, I'd like to keep it on manual control for a while."
* "Hurry up, golden-rod..."
* "I must've hit it pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh kid?"
* "It's possible he came in through the south entrance."
* "And I thought they smelled bad on the outside!"
* "Control, control! You must learn control!"
* "Hey, point that thing someplace else."
* "I look forward to completing your training. In time you will call me master."
* "I never knew I had it in me."
* "There is good in him, I've felt it."
* "Hey, Luke, thanks for coming after me -- now I owe you one."
* "Back door, huh? Good idea!"
* "She's gonna blow!"
* "I think you"ll fit in nicely."
* "Rise, my friend."
* "I'm sure he wasn't on that thing when it blew..."
* "Wedge! Pull out! You"re not doing any good back there!"
* "Again you come before us, your highness."
* "At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi."
* "My Lord, is that, legal?" "I will make it legal."
* "Ani? My goodness, you've grown."
* "My Jedi protector will have to prove how good he is."
* "We don't want to make a mess of things in front of the Chancellor."
* "You remember what you told me... about your mother and the sand people?"
* "General Grievous, you're shorter than I expected."
* "Good relations with the Wookiees, I have."
* "I have waited a looooooong time for this moment, my little green friend..."
* "Lord Vader...rise."

Star Wars Day: Part 1

Not really Pagan or Philosophical, but I wanted to post this here for International Star Wars Day (and my birthday):

Lines from Star Wars that are improved by substituting the word "pants"

1. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.
2. You are unwise to lower your pants.
3. We've got to be able to get some reading on those pants, up or down.
4. She must have hidden the plans in her pants. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally Commander.
5. These pants may not look like much, kid, but they've got it where it counts.
6. I find your lack of pants disturbing.
7. These pants contain the ultimate power in the Universe. I suggest we use it.
8. Han will have those pants down. We've got to give him more time!
9. General Veers, prepare your pants for a surface assault.
10. I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my pants back home.
11. TK-421. . . Why aren't you in your pants?
12. Lock the door. And hope they don't have pants.
13. Governor Tarkin. I recognized your foul pants when I was brought on board.
14. You look strong enough to pull the pants off of a Gundark.
15. Luke. . . Help me take...these pants off.
16. Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your pants.
17. That blast came from those pants. That thing's operational!
18. Don't worry. Chewie and I have gotten into a lot of pants more heavily guarded than this.
19. Maybe you'd like it back in your pants, your highness.
20. Your pants betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially one. Your sister!
21. Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their pants at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.
22. Yeah, well short pants is better than no pants at all, Chewie.
23. Attention. This is Lando Calrissean. The Empire has taken control of my pants, I advise everyone to leave before more troops arrive.
24. I cannot teach him. The boy has no pants.
25. You came in those pants? You're braver than I thought
26. We have no choice, our pants can't repel firepower of that magnitude.
27. Great pants kid! Don't get cocky!
28. I happen to like nice pants.
29. A tremor in the Pants. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master.
30. Don't try to frighten us with your scorcerer's pants, Lord Vader.
31. Emperor: You have paid the price for your lack of pants!
32. "You know of the rebellion?" "That's how we came to be in your pants sir"
33. Yeah, I just got a funny feeling. Like I'm never gonna see my pants again.
34. I have altered the pants, pray that I don't alter them further.
35. Yahoo! You're all clear kid. Now let's blow these pants and go home!
36. The pants are down! Commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor.
37. Put Captain Solo in the cargo pants.
38. Fear will keep the other systems in line--fear of these pants.
39. Phew! And I thought pants smelled bad... on ... the outside...!
40. Tell them if they don't do as you ask you will becom angry and use your pants.
41. But I was gonna' go down to Toshi Station to pick up some power pants!
42. Sir, my first job was programming binary pants lifters.
43. This little one's not worth the effort. Come, let me get you some pants.
44. I am a Toydarian! Pants do not work on me!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Simple ideas, spiritual discoveries

I know this presentation is about science, but I also found it to be pertinent to exploring spirituality and how we express and relate to the Truths we find in it.

The following points I found to be spiritually relevant. Also, Adam Savage rocks.
  • The simplest questions can lead you to the edge of human knowledge.
  • We discover things with our eyes, our ears, and our minds. We learn via real-world experience.
  • When you are struggling with a concept, read up on its mythology and you'll discover the hidden truths about it from a variety of cultures. This is because we are all bags of meat and water, living in different parts of the world, and in very different circumstances. And yet, we struggle with the same ideas, but we reveal different layers of the same Truth.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Some people ask me why I would dare call myself the Pagan Pope, or even that the very idea of a Pagan Pope is ludicrous at best and offensive at worst. Anyone claiming to be Pagan Pope would only do so as a blatant attempt at power. Pagans would never submit themselves to such a hierarchy, so what can a Pagan Pope ever hope to achieve if he can never claim any power over the community?

To this idea, I ask this question: if I, as the Pagan Pope, write an article or make a statement, will you agree/disagree with it because of my self-imposed title, or will you agree/disagree based on your own information, reasoning, and feelings on the matter.

I believe the answer to be the latter and that is why I lay claim to the title. I don't want to be right or wrong, but I'm hoping to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion.

And I've always wanted to be Pope. I can't lie: it's a factor. The hat rawks.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Valuing Heroism

I've been pondering a recent news piece in the States about a couple of football players who are being charged with kidnapping and sexual assault of a drunk and passed-out girl. They allegedly found her unconscious from too much alcohol, picked her up, and dragged her to various parties unconscious while sexually assaulting her. Personally, I hope that they rot in prison for their crimes.

Many people have expressed disgust with the people who witnessed this event and did nothing to prevent it. "If I had been there, I would've stopped those horrible people," is a paraphrasing of a popular statement. I question the sincerity of that declaration because Heroism is not valued in our society.

How is that possible, you say? After all, our media and culture celebrate the Hero. Every movie, TV show, and piece of music sing the praises of the Hero who swoops in and saves the day from the Evil Doers and their Henchmen. Everybody *loves* the Hero and wants to be the Hero. The problem is that being the Hero is only fun after the challenge is over and the success is ensured. While the challenge is happening, being the Hero sucks.

When an event takes place where you could step in and prevent it, stop it, or take a stand against it, most of us will freeze, not knowing what to do. It might also be that you just don't understand what is happening and you are unsure what action to take, and by the time you figure it out, the moment is passed and there's nothing you can do. There is also an unwritten rule, especially in urban areas, to not get involved. It's not your business, you don't want that kind of trouble, and you might get hurt, so just move on and let someone else take the risk.

Also, being the Hero is lonely. Unless you can get some support, it's usually the Hero against the world. The Hero needs to be confident that his position is the right one and that he is willing to put himself at risk (both personally and socially) to secure that position.

Remember the hockey riots that took place in Vancouver in 2011? People went on a mad, violent spree in downtown Vancouver. There were instances where Heroes tried to stand up against it and were met with violent resistance, sometimes resulting in hospital care. Watch what happens when these guys try to take stand against the destruction:

It's scary being the Hero. It puts you in harm's way and occasionally, you will get hurt or even killed. Most people don't want that kind of trouble, they stand idly by and hope someone else will do the right thing.

When I think about that incident in Texas, what would have happened if someone had taken a hard stance to defend the unconscious girl? I can see at least a violent confrontation between the Hero and the other football players and their supporters. And if the Hero decided to call for police intervention, I can see that there would be social backlash against the Hero, both privately and publicly.

I have a friend in Northern Ontario (let's call her Bora) who is being actively shunned by her community for being the Hero. She was at a party where a friend, who drives truck in the military, was intoxicated when he tried to get behind the wheel of his car. Bora tried to stop him, but he drove off anyway. He crashed his car into a tree, but miraculously, walked away from the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises. He returned to the party, but when he tried to leave again, Bora again tried to stop him. He shook her off and borrowed a friend's car and subsequently wrapped it around another tree. Bora then called the police and the ambulance to deal with the person, despite her friends insistence that she shouldn't. Now Bora is being shunned socially because her community sees her heroic act as irresponsible because the public record of his DUI put the guy's job in danger (I forget if he did lose his truck-driving job or not).

Bora did the right thing, but her Heroic action was not valued by her immediate community. Would she do it again? Knowing her, absolutely, and Gods love her for it. Does she regret her Heroic action? Knowing her, probably not. Did any of this make it easier to do the right thing? Definitely not, but we're all safer knowing that Heroes like her are out there and they should inspire us to be Heroes when we get the call.

The Good News

It's within all of us to be these Heroes, but we need to practice Heroism. You don't need to jump into a hail of bullets to be a Hero, but walking away in fear not only weakens you, but it also weakens others. It doesn't need to be dramatic Heroism all the time: it starts with small actions, inconsequential gestures that can have huge impacts, not only on the people you help, but on yourself as well. You can take your stand, make your mark, and know that you did your part to make the world a better place.

The good news is that feels great to be kind, to be generous, and to know that your small gesture helped someone else. It can even be as small and personal as taking the time to notice and share beauty. In social media, it's trendy to share pictures. video, and commentary that exploit the worst of humanity. Your Heroism can express itself in simply not indulging in that kind of negative pornography, but rather sharing moments of positive and beauteous inspiration.

Your small acts of Heroism can also be contagious and inspire others to act on their Heroism. With enough practice, when the big moment comes for you to be a bigger Hero, it won't seem so impossible, so daunting.

Go on: give a little Love and get a little Love in return.