Monday, August 23, 2010

When sociology students visit Creation Museum - CSMonitor.com

When sociology students visit Creation Museum - CSMonitor.com


Somehow, I actually want to visit this museum. I just wouldn't want to do anything to contribute to its funding.

I hope to have more deeper entries soon. Getting settled into my internship and class.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fear

"You have nothing to fear but fear itself."

This is a concept I have been trying to remember a lot more lately. Although I hide it well from most people, those who really know me well, know that I can be kind of a high anxiety person. New situations make me nervous, sometimes even to the point of feeling sick to my stomach. Both in my current job and the former part-time job, I had to call in sick within a couple of weeks of starting due to stomach bugs, and I'm sure that my nervousness of a new job was a contributing factor as well. I have anxiety about a lot of things. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday it was over working part of first shift in addition to part of my usual second shift(Saturday I worked 11:00am-11:30pm, Sunday I worked 8:30am-9:00pm, Monday I worked 1:00pm-9:30pm - a big part of why I haven't updated in a week); yesterday it was nervous about student orientation for interns, which further overwhelmed me and made me more nervous than I already was - a 30 page paper involving our internship? A biopsychosocial assessment? A checklist of things we should look at involving the organization we're interning at? I don't know how much of this my field supervisor at the agency knows about what I'll have to do this semester, considering when I got accepted she simply said I would "be in charge of 2 or 3 clients", whatever that means. And considering I start Thursday, but somehow she thought I was supposed to start on way back on the 6th, I'm a little apprehensive.

But why do we have fear? It can be a great thing when it's protecting us from something dangerous, like our prehistoric predators or jumping off of a building without a parachute. But a lot of times it just gets in the way, it seems. Keeping us from finishing school, applying for that job we want, walking up to that cute stranger who could or could not become our soulmate. What's the point of feeling things that hold us back from our potential? In my case, why does having had a stressful childhood that led to high anxiety, have to affect me now? Where's the faith?

Maybe someday these questions will be answered. If not, there's always Xanax.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pastor sticks up for modern view of God - Religion - NewsObserver.com

Pastor sticks up for modern view of God - Religion - NewsObserver.com


All I really have to say on this one, is that it's good to see Christian leaders sticking up for their more progressive views. If more of them did so(and this article seems to imply that there are many "closet liberals" who don't see God in the traditional sense, that are pastoring churches), maybe the rest of the religion would follow suit and become at least a little more tolerant.


Sad to say I return home, and therefore back to work, tomorrow. NOT looking forward to going back to the craziness!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: The Circular Church

My most recent completed book is The Circular Church: Three Centuries of Charleston History, by Joanne Calhoun, one of the members of the church I attend. The church truly has experienced a lot in its lifetime. It was begun in 1681, and has been housed in four different buildings, which have at various times been decimated due to:

-The Revolutionary War
-The Civil War
- a fire that was pretty much Charleston's equivalent of the Great Chicago Fire
-a major earthquake in the mid-1800s.

The church has always been the equivalent of a "liberal church" throughout the various eras it has been functioning in. While most of its members were slaveowners, slavery was an issue they constantly struggled with. They were the first church that allowed blacks into their services in slave days, and black churchmembers were given a great deal of responsibility within church operations compared to others in the day. It is even speculated that at least one minister may have been involved in helping slaves to read, which of course was a big issue of the day. Several other churches in the area are splits from Circular, including the local French Hugenot church and the Unitarian church(there is actually still a lot of interaction between my church and the Unitarian church today - the current minister at the Unitarian church is a member of Circular, and the former Unitarian minister has visited Circular on occasion since his resignation). During the Civil Rights movement, they were one of the first(if not the first) church to openly invite blacks to visit the church, when other churches were actually posting guards at the doors to keep blacks out. Today, they advertise their welcoming attitudes towards LGBTs as part of the UCC's "Open and Affirming" campaign, and have a "green" addition to Lance Hall(their "Sunday School" building, which was built to house the  congregation during one of the renovations made to a previous churchbuilding) which is one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the South(if I remember correctly), and was made by one of the top eco-friendly  architects in the country.

Overall, a good read about a good church, which also gives a lot of insight into the local history of one of the oldest cities in the country.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nature Walk


I think one of the highlights of the vacation turned out to be when we visited Cades Cove. Cades Cove is this little nature preserve area that you can drive through to see various nature scenery. There are several stopping points where you can pull over to take pictures, etc. There are also hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. There is also a visitor's center/gift shop, where I bought a poster of a waterfall and a book on Cherokee mythology and history. As I learned this year, there are also several historic buildings near the far end of the property - an empty house; a mill(waterwheel shown left) where a man demonstrated old ways of making corn meal; a little river; a barn. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to embrace my inner photographer and take pictures with my digital camera, some of which are showcased throughout this entry. Consequently, there is not as much spiritual "talk" in this entry, but the scenes I photographed definitely bring spiritual matters to my mind.

It started out as a very cool, foggy morning. The fog in these mountains are beautiful - and the reason that they are called the "Smoky Mountains". Although where we went in Tennessee was about four hours away from my parents' house, I grew up just a couple of hours away from a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember many times as a kid, our family getting KFC after church and driving up the parkway for a picnic. Some of my favorite childhood memories took place in Blowing Rock, NC, Grandfather Mountain, and Linville Caverns. I don't think I really, truly appreciated their beauty, power, and inspiration until I moved away. Such is life.





 Throughout our trip to Cades Cove, we saw a total of four wild turkeys, thirty-four deer, and two bears. I personally only saw one bear, but my grandma did see the other one. We've seen quite a few deer before on other trips, but this was certainly the most I had seen in one trip.










 The river running through the cove was quiet, secluded, and peaceful. While my family went on ahead, I took the opportunity to stand by the river for a minute, thanking the water spirits for their inspiration, and just talking with Pleroma for a bit.









Near one of the houses that were open for touring, were some beautiful white flowers. I'm not exactly sure what kind they were. White flowers I find especially pretty. They seem to represent peace and purity to me. My favorites are the white roses. Of the flowers next to the house, I took two pictures - one is my default picture now, the other one is on the left.








This has turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the trip. This little butterfly happened to land, and I was fortunate enough to figure out the extreme close-up features on my digital camera before it flew away. If it had happened to land on a flower rather than an open window of one of the buildings open for touring, it would have been even more perfect.
 I also experimented with my camera's (no sound) video feature, and I will close the entry with that video, hopefully it will work.

Coming back to North Carolina today was difficult. Along the way we stopped by Cherokee, NC for a little bit. We went into a couple of shops, where I bought a small medicine bag, which will probably be more decoration until I decide if I feel drawn to it for any particular spiritual purpose. 

In a way, the visit to Cherokee also made me kind of sad. Native Americans are the most poverty-stricken ethnicity in the country, and have the highest mortality, alcoholism, etc. rates. As a white person, I don't have to show off aspects of my culture to make money - it's just kind of there, everybody knows about it. On the other hand, I am glad to see that people are working hard to maintain native cultures and pass it on to others, and educate people on how we're really not all that different from each other.

I am now back in North Carolina with the family until Thursday, at which point I will have to make the dreaded return to "the real world".  I hope that this vacation will come to mind when I need to re-center myself in the midst of the craziness of life.

video

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rainy Days and Museums

 I'm once again sitting outside on our screened-in porch. It is peaceful, in spite of the loud rain and thunder I am hearing. I used to hate rain. It meant I couldn't go outside, and my mother was so paranoid about having electricity on during a storm that I often wasn't allowed to bathe or even watch television until the storm subsided. But I've come to love rain. It's very cleansing. Even the sound of it invokes images of washing away sadness and negativity, watering the seeds of hope and life within. As long as I'm not driving in it, I've become very appreciative of rain. We were planning on going into Gatlinburg tonight for some shopping, but if this rain stops us from going, I'm okay with that. I really am starting to feel more balanced.

Today we visited one of Pigeon Forge's newest attractions, the Titanic Museum. It's one of the largest in the world, and holds not only antiques recovered from the wreckage, but photos of victims, survivors, their families, newspaper articles, and the history around the making - and sinking - of the Titanic. If anyone is ever in Tennessee, I definitely recommend it. It was a very somber experience for me, almost on par with the time I visited the Holocaust Museum, and heard a Holocaust survivor speak in a Raleigh, NC, synagogue with my high school English class.

To catch a glimpse of the passengers' lives and what they went through really affected me. Seeing handwritten letters and postcards that were written by passengers just prior to boarding, telling their families how they would be seeing them soon, I wondered what was going through their heads as they realized they would not be seeing their families alive. What could have possibly gone through their heads? There was an exhibit telling the story of a 47-year old woman offering her space in a life raft to a young cabin boy, stating that she had lived her life, and it was his turn. He subsequently placed her in the boat and stayed behind on the ship. Upon entering the museum, you are given a "boarding pass", a ticket with the story of an actual passenger. The one I received  was that of a Daniel Marvin, I believe(I don't have it with me right this moment), a 19year old newlywed who was returning from his honeymoon with his wife. He guided her onto a lifeboat and stayed behind himself, saying his last goodbyes.  There were photo albums and jewelry, donated to the museum by various historians, historical societies, and descendants of passengers. The only thing I didn't really like was the gift shop had some things within that I felt were a little disrespectful. And they had this woman who took a picture, similar to some other attractions - where they take your picture, put it against a background showcasing whatever the attraction was about, and then you could buy it. I thought those were a little bit irreverent of the people who suffered on the ship, and their surviving relatives, but I digress.

I think there were two exhibits that just really struck me. I was already in a deep, somber mood by what I had already seen, but what almost brought me to tears was the exhibit that contained actual pictures of sailors on the McKay-Bennet, the ship charged with searching for bodies in the following weeks of the sinking. These pictures were actual pictures of an embalmed body, and sailors pulling bodies out of the water. To have seen that firsthand, I can't even imagine.

The second exhibit was this very cold room that was intended to show the visitor what it was actually like on the deck on the night the Titanic hit the iceberg. It was dark, with lights in the ceiling portraying stars. There was a large slab of ice on the wall that you could touch to feel what the ice would have felt like. The room was at the temperature that it would have been on that April night. There was a stream of saltwater that was kept at the temperature of the water of that night(about 28degrees), so that you could feel just how cold the water actually would've been to the people as they fell into the water. My hand felt tingly and had that "pins and needles" feeling in it after just a few seconds in the water. Anyone who actually survived the actual sinking was in the water for four hours, the length of time it took for the Carpathia to reach the site. A display, and a tour guide, explained the symptoms of hypothermia. Most of the people in the water would have been dead within 40 minutes of going in the water.

Maybe it's my own empathic nature. Maybe I've become even more connected to previous generations, since my practice of Druidry includes the honoring of my spiritual and physical ancestors. Or maybe I feel a connection because of my own draw to the sea. But somehow, this museum experience affected me far more than any other I've been to, outside the aforementioned Holocaust Museum. And I think I will end this entry with that. Because I can't even begin to put into words the depth of what this museum experience brought to me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life's Lullaby

So after getting to bed at around 12:30am, I woke up at around 4:10am, at which point my parents, sister, and I packed into my parents' minivan and went to the mountains of Tennessee to join my grandparents in a cabin in the wooded mountains of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. It was actually a decent ride, for the most part. I finished the book I was reading, which will be reviewed soon in an upcoming book review. We arrived at our cabin at around 10:00am - pictures to come soon, hopefully. The only real incident was when my sister had a temper tantrum, crying and giving me the silent treatment for almost an hour because I grew tired of hearing her talk about the music group Hanson. Don't get me wrong, I like Hanson myself. I have their latest CD, and have posted a video or two of them on my facebook. They are very involved in some humanitarian efforts that I support. But I don't want to hear about them every five minutes. I guess I should mention at this point that my sister is 22 years old! The only other frustration today has been general fatigue and difficulties getting this mobile broadband to work. Now that I have it going(hopefully), it's great. I'm not on the computer as much as I normally am, I mainly got it in case I needed to check email or email my professors or field placement instructor. But it's also great to blog while out in nature.


Like right now. I'm sitting on the back porch of our cabin, tucked away in a mountainous forest, listening to crickets and cicadas singing to each other. The sun will likely set soon. What a great way to celebrate life, to renew yourself, to get to know Pleroma! Though Pleroma didn't exactly have a direct hand in this worldly creation, I feel Its life within it all. I feel anger and sadness over some of the bears that are kept caged up and made into local tourist traps around here. I feel a connection with the trees in front of me and all the miniscule, yet infinitely important, insects, rodents, reptiles.... everything. They all have a place. Without one, the others would not be able to exist either. Only humans seem to have truly been able to, at least momentarily, break away from this connection, at least superficially. Too bad we don't realize yet just what that disconnect has done to everything else on the planet.

It is in this respect that I feel like I am truly beginning to understand Abraxas more clearly as well. I already know that he is the Aeon of balance, the Gnostic version of the yin and yang. But what is more balancing than an evening out in nature? In nature, something dies so that something else can live. Others work together for mutual survival. They live day in and day out, eating, sleeping, mating, giving no thought to the past or the future. The forces of nature threaten life, and life gets right back up and survives anyways, in one form or another. Life seems to seek balance.

And for now, I feel balanced. Even cooped up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a family that is crazier than I've ever known, for this second, with the crickets and cicadas, I feel at home.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Billboard Spirituality

"Abstinence Works!"

"America Bless God"


 On my drive to North Carolina to visit family for my vacation, those are just a couple of billboards I saw. Living in the Bible Belt really is sad sometimes. That last one really had me annoyed. "America Bless God?" I thought, "What the hell is that even supposed to mean?" It seems very arrogant. If God does indeed exist in one form or another, why would said God need America's blessing? Sometimes, I feel like evidence of Pleroma's all-encompassing love for us is found by the simple fact that he hasn't smitten us all for blasphemy like the fundies seem to expect him to. I remember one that used to be up, that was very derogatory of Muslims. I guess someone finally got the ACLU on those people, because I didn't see it coming up this time.

That's all I really wanted to say for today. We're leaving for the mountains of Tennessee tomorrow. I really need the time in nature. Not too sure about being in a cabin that long with the family, though - we're already grinding each others' nerves a bit, and I just got here today. I may post some while I'm there, as contemplation strikes me, if I can manage to get my mobile broadband to work. If not, I'll see you all when I get back!

Sixx:A.M. - "Life Is Beautiful" Eleven Seven Music

This song has been one of my favorites ever since I heard it. It really is quite a spiritual song to me - you really do sometimes have to go through the worst, to really appreciate the beauty in life.

You can't quit until you try
You can't live until you die
You can't learn to tell the truth
Until you learn to lie

You can't breathe until you choke
You gotta laugh when you're the joke
There's nothing like a funeral to make you feel alive

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

I know some things that you don't
I've done things that you won't
There's nothing like a trail of blood to find your way back home

I was waiting for my hearse
What came next was so much worse
It took a funeral to make me feel alive

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Alive...
Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?


Monday, August 2, 2010

Anne Rice asks us, 'What does it mean to be Christian anyway?'

Anne Rice asks us, 'What does it mean to be Christian anyway?'


As some may know, recently famed author Anne Rice renounced her Christian faith because she could no longer tolerate their views concerning womens' rights, LGBT issues, birth control, etc. The mistake she(and many others) makes, is taking the denomination she was part of(Roman Catholicism) and lumping all Christians in that category. There are many mainline/liberal denominations that are very much on the liberal end of many social issues. Here is an article my denomination, the United Church of Christ, published on the matter.

Lughnasadh

August 1 marked the holiday of Lughnasadh in the Pagan/earth-centered holiday calendar. It is the halfway point between summer and autumn. The first harvest.

There is a ritual outlined in one of my Druidry books that I adapted for the holiday, but I didn't do it this year, due to fatigue and packing for a much needed vacation, which is coming up on Tuesday. But I've tried to focus on the meaning of the holiday in modern times, in any case - for me, a non-agrarian-yet-naturecentric-spiritual person, it's about looking at what you've accomplished this year, and how that is coming to fruition. And in spite of two months of bronchitis, a reaction to the accompanying antibiotics, a bad stomach virus, and pretty much exhaustion, I have accomplished quite a bit. I worked two jobs the first half of the year, in addition to school. This took a toll on my academics, so I ended up on academic probation. I quit one job and re-took a class, bringing up my GPA back to a 3.0. I'm really going to have to bust my ass off to keep it though, and I'm still not sure how I'm going to juggle it all. I'm now part-time at the current workplace, so that I can basically make my own schedule. I still have to work enough to pay the bills, though, and I'll have Saturday classes and my first internship to balance as well. I'm nervous, but today's(well, technically yesterday) holiday serves to remind me that it's all going somewhere in the end.