Coolest. superpower. ever.

I’m the middle of an extremely good comic series from a few years ago, Mark Waid‘s “Irredeemable” – the story of what happens when a superhero snaps and becomes the world’s greatest villain. Fascinating stuff, but the specific reason I’m sharing it here is because of one of the secondary characters, Kaidan. She’s Japanese, and when she retells Japanese legends and folktales the characters come into existence and fight for her.

I had a link to a scan of a page showing her in action, but I can’t find it now… suffice to say, I thought it was pretty darn cool! :)

[updated to add] Found the link!

Kaidan being awesome

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Here’s an interesting perspective…

A short article in Reform Judaism magazine… this is the core:

What if we examined monotheism from standpoint of God? From his point of view, it would seem, making the lord our God one God is a serious problem, maybe the cruelest blow dealt him by his believers.

It is not good to be a solitary God. Whereas the gods of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon had a rich and stimulating social life, begat children, quarreled and took revenge, fell in love and cheated on each other, made war and had fun, the Lord our God lives alone. And so, beyond our mutual complaints, his and ours, which often resemble the spats of a long-married couple, lurks a deep and ancient rupture: God banished us from the Garden of Eden and sentenced us to lives of toil and pain, and we invented monotheism and sentenced him to a life of barren loneliness.

Posted in around the web, Judaism | 4 Comments

PBP – Belonging (plus books)

[NOTE: This post has NOTHING to do with the current iteration of the perennial “who’s pagan” discussion; I don’t have the energy for it, and I honestly don’t care enough what other people call themselves – or me – to be bothered.]

What I have been thinking about a bit recently is my own personal sense of belongingness (new word!) – where do I put the majority of my time and energy, and where do I go when I need to get my energy back? And what does that say about where I really fit into the world… and is that different from where I *think* I fit?

Looked at more or less objectively, the bulk of my life falls into three main areas – family, church and dojo (plus work, which pays for all the others). There are occasional extras, of course – Temple choir leaps to mind – but on a day to day basis, I am probably spending most of my time in one or more of those three areas. An outsider, looking at my life, would probably conclude that I am – at base – a middle-aged Unitarian family man with a serious martial arts practice and a needlework problem. And he’d be right.

Of course, this reality does conflict a bit with my lingering self-image as a Pagan intellectual and amateur philosopher, but the reality is that I’m not truly that guy anymore. My basic philosophical orientation is still pagan, within the UU framework, but as far as religious practice goes, it’s really just plain UU. I’m on the worship committee, I’m a songleader and – being completely honest – I’m one of the people that gets turned to when something needs to get done. My religious life is, amazingly to me sometimes, once again in a church.

And that’s not the only part of my identity that has been shifting… where I used to haunt the second-hand book stores, now I’m likelier to head to the dojo for a workout as many nights as I can fit it in. I belong there, too – after almost six years I am starting to become a senpai (senior student), and that carries responsibilities to my fellow students as well, not just to my own practice.

Do you see a common thread there? I have jobs to do, actual responsibilities, in all the places I belong: at church and at the dojo – and certainly in my family! In fact, I have a theory – that having responsibilities is one of the markers of truly belonging somewhere. If I spent significant time with a group and nobody ever asked me to contribute in a meaningful way, or really expected much of me, then I would question whether I actually belonged there or was just a glorified visitor.

On another note, as my self-definition shifts and changes – as the Pagan philosopher gives way to the UU martial artist, my relationship with my books is also changing. As I said to my wife recently, I’m starting to realize that being “the guy with all the books” has been an unconscious part of my self-image for… well, most of my life, and certainly for the three decades since I was in high school. And I think it’s a part of my identity that I am ready to trim down, if not part with altogether (I cannot imagine myself without books at all, but I can certainly see myself with a lot less than I have now)… so I have been going through the library and culling, almost two bookcases’ worth so far – a lot of it specialist material that I needed or found useful when I was an active Hellenist, but that is now more or less superfluous – much of it is data I no longer need to be able to access, and the most important bits I have as working knowledge in my head.

So, I may be having a small book sale soon… most of the collection can go to the used book stores for trade credit, but there are a handful of volumes that I think might best go to folks who I know can make proper use of them – books like Jennifer Larson’s outstanding work on Greek Nymphs, Phillipe Borgeaud’s The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece, and so on… I will probably pull together a list in the next week or so and post it. Stay tuned.

Posted in The journey | Tagged | 3 Comments

PBP – A is for Aikido (and Anime)

I haven’t been doing a lot of writing lately, or really any creative mental work… although I have been doing a lot of handcraft stuff, so that counts for something! But while I haven’t been feeling the itch to blog per se, I do feel like getting back into a little more regular writing practice… and since I actually seem to still have a reader or two (thanks, my friends!), the Pagan Blog Project seemed like a pretty low-stress way to do that (I expect I’ll be on the every-other-week schedule).

So – this week’s prompt is “A”. When I think of “A” related things in terms of my spiritual practice, the most important has to be Aikido. I have been training for almost six years now, and it has come to be possibly the most spiritual thing that I do; it keeps me grounded in my body and its connection to the physical world, as well as to some of my more strictly spiritual aspirations (re-grounding was, in fact, the most prominent of these, but my desire to be a peacemaker is also reinforced and facilitated by my Aikido practice).

Aikido has also given me both the impetus and the tools to finally undertake a significant transformation in my relationship to my body and to food, to the tune of about 70 pounds lost in the last two years (with more to go, of course). Given my history, I think it highly unlikely that I would have taken these important life steps without the quasi-external driver of wanting to improve my aikido to a level that would never have been possible with all that extra weight, and the lack of fitness that went with it.

On a somewhat related note, I am an anime/manga fan (although hardly to the extent my daughter is, and certainly not otaku*-level); anime and manga don’t really play a part in my spiritual life as such, but there are a few decidedly pagan-friendly titles that *feel* similar to how my spirituality has evolved over the last couple of years, and I thought I’d share them here.

Note that I am not talking about just the Shinto or Buddhist “trappings” that are everywhere in anime (miko, monks, battle spells, and so on…) – I’m limiting this list to that handful of titles I’ve found that actually seem to have a spiritual message that I find resonant.

(NB: if the following looks familiar, it’s lifted from a post on my old blog that’s so old I assume everyone has forgotten about it :)

Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro – There’s not much to say about the spiritual aspects of Spirited Away that hasn’t already been said… and while Totoro works on a much simpler level, the underlying Shinto-based message that the Divine is present, accessible and local in nature as well as manifesting as (what we in the West think of as) Gods speaks to and reinforces an important aspect of my spirituality. (There are moments in the anime series Kamichu that do this as well.)

*otaku = obsessive fan

Posted in The journey | Tagged | 3 Comments

How not to lose weight this winter

Winter is coming, and that means one thing – food is becoming scarce and if we’re not careful, starvation is sure to follow. In the spirit of helping my reader survive the coming season of cold and deprivation, I would like to offer the following suggestions for a happy and healthy winter.

1. Gorge now, while the food is still around. I know what you’re thinking, this is easier said than done – but this first step is vital in your race against the reaper. Fortunately, our ancestors in their wisdom devised a little thing called the Christmas party to help with this. Also, if you work in an office it’s a good idea to take full advantage of the high-calorie, high-fat treats floating around the room right now – in a week or two they will vanish like snow in summer, but if you grab them now they can be valuable allies in the coming struggle.

2. Hibernate. This one is just common sense, but I feel I have to include it since so many people these days seems to feel that they are “supposed” to exercise around the beginning of the year. This is ridiculous on the face of it – how are you going to maintain that protective layer of fat that will keep you warm and feed you over the winter if you start burning it off with pointless movement? The secret to keeping the weight on is to take in more calories than you use – and besides, baby, it’s cold outside! This is the time to huddle in front of the fire drinking cocoa and eggnog and watching reruns of Big Bang Theory, not running around like a gazelle on speed.

3. That’s it, really… eat and sleep. Happy solstice to one and all!

Posted in just for fun | 4 Comments

Scholarly podcast on Druidry

From The Religious Studies Podcast series, “Suzanne Owen on Druidry and the Definition of Religion“.

(They also have episodes on Rudolf Otto, Bron Taylor (author of “Dark Green Religion”), fiction-based religions (CAW, Jedi, Tolkien…), Graham Harvey, and invented religions – among others that may interest you.

Posted in around the web, Druidry | Leave a comment

The Vegetable at the Feast

Just for you, a little post-Thanksgiving silliness…

The holidays had come again,
The way they always do;
Thanksgiving, and then Christmas –
What feasting was in view!

Upon dear Great-Aunt Ida’s home
The relatives descended,
In every hand a covered dish;
The sweet aromas blended

Into one great, amorphous smell
Of “Holidays” entire –
If I could bottle that somehow,
I surely could retire!

The dining table quickly groaned
Beneath the weight of dishes
(In number and variety
Far beyond a glutton’s wishes!)

Arranged with loving care and taste
By Great-Aunt Ida’s hand;
The door did op’n at last to our
Gastronomic wonderland.

First came the turkey, goose and ham –
God’s tastiest creations –
The one thing that was sure, was that
We’d eat to satiation.

And beyond the animals, the shining
Carbohydrates beckoned:
Potatoes, stuffing, rice and bread
In multitudes unreckoned…

And on the sideboard – oh, the sight!
There must have been fifteen
Types of puddings, pies and cakes;
And in the corner, something… green?

Confused, uncertain, full of doubt
I made my way along
The line until I thought that, no,
I surely must be wrong;

No food that color could be here
On this great festal day
To spoil the carefully designed
Monochrome array:

The shades of white, and cream, and beige
and tawny golden-brown
So artfully arranged to calm
The mind and spirit down.

And yet, I caught a fleeting glimpse
Of that disturbing green
Again as I dipped gravy
From the gallon-sized tureen…

Convinced at last that something wrong
Was truly in the air,
I navigated carefully
Past cousins stout and fair;

Determined now to find the source
Of that unsettling shade
And banish it, I ventured on
With spirit undismayed.

Mere minutes passed, I know, before
I reached the table’s end –
Though it seemed an hour, squeezing past
My relatives and friends –

But duty called, and no amount
Of pain, or bitter tears
(The trodden toes, the elbowed ribs
I would recall for years)

Could steer me from my course, or long
Deter me from my goal:
That verdant interloper
Whose presence seared my soul.

At last, at last I came upon
The villian of the scene
Huddled ‘midst the pastries –
A saucer of green beans!

No butter, sauce or breading
Adorned their nakedness.
Alone and lonely, shivering
On a bed of watercress,

They seemed, not vile, but helpless
And far from friend or kin;
Moved by a strange compassion,
I resolved to take them in.

I made a space upon my plate
By removing several rolls,
And then performed the deed that in
Our family still is told

In tones of hushed and reverent awe,
Repeated every year verbatim:
“He put those green beans on his plate,
And then he sat down, and he ate ’em!”

Many years have passed now
Since that great and fateful day,
But the echoes of my eating
Have yet to fade away.

Aunt Ida’s gone, God rest her,
To that banquet in the sky
Where the gravy flows in rivers
And the clouds are pumpkin pie…

And so the hosting of the feast
Has descended now to me,
And I try to do some justice
To her blessed memory.

The meats we have, and starches still,
Though no longer quite as much –
And of desserts we have our pick,
Of cakes and pies and such –

But another table stands as well,
And to it people bring
Containers full of vegetables,
Of green and growing things!

Spinach, peas and broccoli
Now have a home within;
No longer do we flee the thought
Of consuming vitamins.

Carrots, sprouts and mushrooms
Now adorn our dining hall –
And the lowly green bean, proud now,
Is the master of them all.

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