belief


Because I have an abiding love for folklore and all things odd, because I create art out of the liminal aspects of the world in which we live, I can’t very well be in the business of passing judgment on stories of the strange. Folklore is a living, breathing thing, a constant new creation from the imaginations and the deep psyche. So if someone tells me a story of a personal encounter with fairies, or about the ghost they saw, or the strange lights in the sky, I treasure these stories as a peek into the spontaneous eruption of spirit and imagination in the world. As long as human beings roam the earth, new beliefs and tales of the marvelous will erupt from the aether. This is the wellspring of creativity, the fundamental food of imagination.

By necessity, this food is always going to come at us from the fringes of society. It will never be found in the dead heart of academia because by its very nature it is the antithesis of academia. Academia is about cataloguing and studying that which is; folklore and the folk imagination is about creating new from old and old from new, and it is a rich source of spiritual replenishment. Academia has many important functions and I demand that it stay rigorous because we need the rigorous walking hand in hand with the fanciful. Both functions make society cohere.

I don’t buy into everything with one hundred percent credulity. Healthy skepticism is a necessary function of living in both complex societies and less complex. I grow impatient, however, with those who have taken up skepticism as a replacement for religious belief. Their skepticism is as sweeping and dogmatic as ever any organized religion. Theirs is an unhealthy skepticism. The marginal, the liminal, the odd, and the fanciful enrich the world. The more skeptics try to suppress it, the more creative ways the underworld finds to rise to the surface. One of the best analyses of the liminal I have ever seen is The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen. Mr. Hansen uses exhaustive detail and thorough analysis to show why it will never be possible the suppress this underworld.

Yes, we all know about the excesses that beliefs of any kind are prone to, the persecutions that arise from the bonfires of unquestioning faith. That is not what I’m supporting here, what I’m cherishing, because that is not about the spirit. That is dogma—and I do judge dogma. If academia is the antithesis of the creative upwellings of the psyche, dogma is the antithesis of the spiritual. The silly stuff, the stuff that stretches credulity is as necessary to the health of any society as skepticism; it is the breath inside the lungs of culture. The danger comes from the other side of society’s fringe, the extremes of belief, the codifying of the spirit, the hardening of the arteries of fancy.

Judge not lest ye be judged. Judgment, sorting out the good from the chaff is healthy; judgment, the trumpeting of one belief system over another, is a form of societal death. I open my arms to extreme possibility, not to the extremes of judgment.

I would say to my pagan friends the same thing I would say to my friends of any religion: beware thinking your way is the One True Faith. There are many paths back to the Source, but judgement and rigidity are not amongst them.
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I’d start calling him President Cthulhu but that’s an insult to Cthulhu.
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You know, I’ve supported Nancy Pelosi all this time but mostly kept quiet because I didn’t want to fight with people, often people I liked and admired. I’m a little ashamed of that, but oh well. I knew, you see, that Pelosi is one of the canniest and most experienced politicians in Washington and I knew she was holding fire for a good reason. Last week that reason became eminently clear: she was waiting for a smoking gun. One that these cretins couldn’t wiggle out of, one that the general American public could readily understand. It may be argued that the Mueller report was a smoking gun, but even Mueller himself obfuscated and demurred so much that it wasn’t something that could be easily conveyed to the larger public. But everybody understands the kind of brutish and heavy-handed strong-arming Trump attempted with Ukraine. It was schoolyard bully stuff and illegal and immoral as hell. It’s enough to start changing minds–except for his rabid believers, of course. Trump said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and no one would hold him responsible. What he was too stupid or arrogant to realize was that when he did give Nancy Pelosi an easy-to-hold gun of her own, she would have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. Good work, Madame Speaker. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you.
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You know that overworked and ridiculous phrase in writing: “She (he) released a breath she didn’t know she was holding”? I’ve always loathed it in a work of fiction, but when the Ukraine news broke and with all the revelations that came out… I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
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I used this deck quite a lot at one point in my life. Can you tell?

Fortunately, the cards don’t look as disreputable as the box. And after literally decades of using this deck, I just discovered that I had two Knights of Swords. I’m not sure what that means. I would probably have never known if they both hadn’t come up in the same reading. Reversed. And yes, I guess the day of that reading had been about being, “indiscreet, extravagant, and foolish.” I’ve been through the entire deck now and there are no other duplications and no missing cards. But I guess I’d better pay attention to that Knight, hadn’t I?
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I was born in the last six hours of Virgo, just seven hours shy of the Autumn Equinox (West Coast time), so I have a hella amount of Libra in my chart. I was really feeling the effects of the new moon in Libra at the end of September. I tried to use that energy well. Balance and rectification. Throwing off the shackles of old bad habits that are holding me back.
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One of the best parts of living alone is that when I’m not feeling well I can sit around and groan and not worry about driving anyone crazy with my drama queen ways.
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I was watching one of those ghost shows on TV and the house owner was talking about how a ghost threw her cat across the kitchen. And there’s the cat sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor with its leg up cleaning its nether regions. He seemed very unconcerned in general. She took the ghost hunters into the bedroom to talk about what happened in there and here comes the cat to sprawl on the bed. “I ain’t afraid a no ghosts.” In fact, I kind of regard cats as a reverse ghost monitor. If they are there and not concerned they ain’t no ghost there.
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Every time I watch the science channel I wonder if the people who came up with the SciGo acronym realized how close it sounds to “psycho.”
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When the estimable Dr. Lucy Jones, eminent geologist, says that she fears climate change more than earthquakes one should really pay attention. I saw her state just that in a recent interview.
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I may have finished writing something that seemed very much like the denouement of my current novel. Only the coda left, and that’s already half written. But it’s been a couple of weeks now and I still haven’t finished it. I can’t help wondering if this resistance is a way of preventing myself from moving on. Or knowing that once I finish that coda, I’m done with this world for the foreseeable future. I can’t see writing any more Dos Lunas stories any time soon–and I’ve lived there on and off for so long (since 2000), I may be reluctant to let go.
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I’ve come to the conclusion that I like having mindless tasks to do, things that most people would never have the patience for. I suspect it’s a Virgo thing.
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Oh yeah, that probably explains a lot about the last few months. I forgot until just last week that I have summer SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Somehow I manage to forget that every freaking year.

Random quote of the day:

“What people believe prevails over the truth.”

—Sophocles, The Sons of Aleus, Fragment 86

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“There’s a fine line between believing what’s true and turning into a person who’s talking to the toaster.”

—Anne Gehman, psychic, quoted in Christine Wicker, Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

When I was young I had a traumatic experience. And no, I’m not going to talk about it here because it’s my experience and deeply personal. I kept it to myself for three decades until after years of therapy I finally built up enough trust to speak of it. This was not a repressed memory, it was one I had always had, I just didn’t tell anyone about it because of a toxic mix of shame and fear. After telling my therapist, I told the people I was closest to and they helped me heal, but I’m done talking about it. Because if I am allowed to speak of it if I want to, to whomever I choose, then I am surely allowed to keep silent about it.

I only bring it up now because I want to talk about false memory syndrome. You see, there are things about my traumatic event that I know absolutely happened. But the tricky part is, there are other things surrounding this event that I know absolutely never happened. The insidious part is, in my mind and in my spirit, when those images and memories pop up, they are as real as the stuff that really did happen, even though I’ve proven to myself they are false. Because I’ve lived with this for a long time, when they pop up I can tell them firmly, “You’re not real.” I try to “gray them out” in my mind’s eye—but I accept that they will be there for as long as I live. Or at least until this current configuration of my brain exists.

It’s pathetically easy to plant false memories into almost anyone’s mind. The younger a person is when the attempt is made, the stronger and more tenacious the false memory will be—but even adults are not immune to false memory creation.

I hate it. It calls everything I’ve ever experienced into question. That’s why, whenever I have an incident, I go over it again and again, obsessively. I return to the place where it happened to make sure I was seeing the terrain correctly. If possible, I call in other people to either verify or deny, confirm or shrug helplessly. I pick everything apart, endlessly.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more accepting. I accept that the human mind has more in common with a hall of mirrors than a straight look into a glass. As far as I know, I only have the one false memory—but that’s the tricky part about them, isn’t it? Still, I try not to live in denial of all my experiences because that way lies madness. These days I accept, verify if possible, and move on.

Yes, I know I’ve spoken of having a number of extraordinary experiences, and admitting to having even one false memory calls them all into question, even to myself. Fortunately, I’ve had a number of these experiences in the company of others, or confirmed by others outside my own head, or confirmed by subsequent events, to know that sometimes weird stuff just happens to me.

But there will always be that niggling kernel of doubt, that gray area in my mind and spirit, that says this happened when it most assuredly did not. It’s a peculiar agony. It’s also my hedge against being a true believer in anything. Or anyone. I have yet to figure out if that’s a tragedy or a fail safe.

Random quote of the day:

“Even when believers earnestly explain how things are and disbelievers earnestly listen, disbelievers go away unchanged because facts are the least of their differences. It’s perception that separates them. That’s how it is, and that’s how it has always been. Those who must see to believe don’t believe enough to see. And those who believe enough to see won’t stop believing, no matter what they see.”

—Christine Wicker, Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I was having a very interesting conversation over on Dreamwidth with my friend notasupervillain in the Comments section of my last Musings post (July 24, 2019). It grew into a post-long exchange. I have taken my part of the conversation and reproduced it here, cleaned it up, and expanded a bit. I’ve left the original exchange as is in the Dreamwidth Comments.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not young enough to be absolutely certain I know the truth. The shades of grey multiply with each year. But that’s okay. The things that are important are beyond those kinds of thought processes. We can feel around their edges, if we try real hard and remember they’re always changing shape anyway.

—from my original Musings post of July 24

I’ve known many truths, but they keep shifting as time passes. So, I’ve stopped trying to hold onto them and I certainly don’t try to convince anyone of their validity. Not like I used to when I was young. Whatever works for as long as it works.

This shiftingness of truth applies even to (or especially to) religious faith. I’ve long maintained that faith is experiential, not received wisdom. I don’t reject received wisdom out of hand—often it is quite valuable—but if all you have is that received wisdom, faith is never going to withstand the rigors of living. Once you’ve crossed that boundary of experience, though, faith has the ability to adapt and change. If you let it. Some people are so wedded to a single interpretation of spiritual experience they can’t see beyond it and try bending all of life to their rigid mold…until it breaks. Adapt or die.

I’ve never been religious, but I consider myself spiritual. That spirituality is fostered and sustained by numerous experiences I’ve had that convince me there is something in the universe besides materiality. Some of these experiences I’ve had alone, some with others, some have been creepy, some have given me great comfort. But they are the basis of my faith.

Now, because I am who I am and always questioning, I’ve long-since reconciled myself to the fact that they may be illusion, “mistaken identity,” brain chemistry, etc., etc. As I have more and more experiences, though, it gets harder to deny that something weird is going on. But I try to stay flexible with it, not confine it. I let it seep inside me, grow and change—I stay mindful.

If I was a strict Baptist or a Catholic, for instance (and as I understand it from some strict Baptists and Catholics of my acquaintance), I might have to consider some of these experiences as manifestations of the devil (because they believe all ghosts and other things are evil spirits trying to fool us into thinking we’ve been contacted by our deceased loved ones, etc., etc. ad nauseam). If I believed there was one God who was just and righteous and ruled over everything, I might ask myself, “So why did He allow the Holocaust to happen?” and it might shatter (or at least erode) my faith.

But the one thing that I know absolutely is that I don’t know what rules the universe. It may be nothing, it may be a lot of somethings, it may be one something in many aspects, it may be something I can’t even conceive of in with my limited human POV. I don’t even know if it’s a just universe. I know what I feel and what I’ve come to believe, but that hardly constitutes proof that someone else can take to the bank of faith. All I can really count on are my experiences, not the received wisdom of a religion or religions—which are always filtered through limited human perception anyway. That wisdom may point me down a path, but I am always going to have to be the one who walks that path and decides for myself what I see. Those experiences are not something you can hand off to someone and say, “Here, this happened to me so you should believe as I do.” If they haven’t had their own experiences, it’s not going to stick. But that hasn’t stopped many people trying to do just that through the centuries.

I know that I do not know, and I have my experiences, which allow me to feel comforted—if not always comfortable—in the midst of a vast uncertainty. They allow me to adapt and change, and to keep seeking answers, following paths, being surprised when new things occur to me that I hadn’t considered before, and moving forward.

Random quote of the day:

“Believe, and you shall be right, for you shall save yourself. Doubt, and you shall be right, for you will perish. The only difference is that to believe is greatly to your advantage.”

—William James, “Rationality, Activity and Faith”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: ‘What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?’ I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the ‘you’re another’ type.”

—George Orwell, “Reflections on Gandhi”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Belief cannot be transferred, for it is a function of experience.”

—Dennis Gaffin, Running with the Fairies

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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