Spiritual Awakenings

Hold on to your hard hats, this post is pretty bumpy…

And it’s late, I know, but I’m turning into a Shaman here, cut me some slack.

Did you laugh? Yeah, I’m not entirely sure I’m joking anymore. See, it’s kind of been a running thing for me this past year to toss off that Shaman thing every time someone looks at me with that tired, old ‘you’re sick again?’ expression. Some of them have said it to my face.

“It’s always something with you, isn’t it?”

Or my personal favorite: “You’re a hypochondriac.”

That may be, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and the people in my life have seen me, face to face, in real time. In actuality.

They’ve told me I look like a zombie. They told me I was pale. They thought I was pregnant because my abdomen had become so swollen. They’ve seen me in tears because something hurt too badly to stand up straight. They’ve seen me lose my breath as some cramp or another tears through me. I’ve lost consciousness from headaches.

All the doctors say I’m fine. And, since I don’t have medical insurance and had to pay them out of pocket, I’m going to have to agree with them. I can’t afford to not take their ‘No’ for an answer, anymore.

I used to live overseas, in a country where old traditions still thrived. The scientist in me even understood some of the hoo-doo that was done. Endorphins are a powerful thing, herbs truly do have healing properties, and I’ve seen miracles occur after proper nutrition was introduced to a sickly body.

So.

Yeah, so.

I did what any other, terrified, poor woman would do in that situation. I changed my diet. I turned to an all-soup diet, in fact, and it worked wonders. No, it wasn’t cabbage, either—I now have nearly a hundred soup recipes that I’m putting together into my own little Book of Shadows/Cookbook thing.

Noticed the Book of Shadows thing? Well, as would any other terrified, poor woman in my situation, I turned to more holistic treatments. Nutrition and herbal teas, meditation, warm baths…and a lot of research.

Look up strange symptoms and you’ll notice a pattern (I suppose. I mean, IDK, maybe it’s not your path?) I kept find posts on Shamanistic practices. I don’t feel like a Shaman, though. I don’t feel like a Reiki healer, a witch doctor, a medicine man… Then I looked up so many recipes that I started looking at kitchen witches…and witchcraft in general. But I’m not really a witch (long line of uncanny ancestors, but I don’t feel witchy enough to call myself a witch). Look through a few of the posts on this site and you’ll see references to the feminine divine. Goddesses. That came up a lot, too.

A lot.

But I was still sick, just managing it better than I had in 2016, a year I’m convinced I almost died in. I was sick, really sick, and my doctor gave me a card for a psychologist. I’m not the only woman this has happened too. We have some ‘mysterious illness’ that must be in our head. My thyroid tested way high once. But that couldn’t be it. Heart palpitations were in my imagination, in spite of the fact that I almost passed out. (That’s probably hormonal, BTW. Apparently, lots of women have the same ‘mysterious illness’ which suggests…I dunno, mass hysteria?).

But I started reading, and really paying attention, to the Shaman stuff. I still don’t think that’s what’s happening with me, but I definitely feel like something is trying to tell me something. In fact, sometimes something does tell me something—like a random, powerful thought of a female snake. I look up female snake, and lo and behold—tons of stuff I’d never even heard about. In a lot of cultures, the Mother Goddess is represented by snakes in some way.

And before I learned that, I kept think of an ouroboros, for some reason.

 

I started relaxing in a full bath. It’s nice, it makes me feel good and helps my stomach stop hurting. Thoughts just come to me then, and every time I look up whatever I thought of in the bath, I find a tremendous amount of info on it. Things I never knew, things I’ve never heard of. Mythology from other cultures I had never studied. I’ve been visited by foxes, I literally see them everywhere now, and owls. Various insects…and it’s winter. Random knowledge, visions of Anubis, my own brain whispering don’t be scared (or is it?), waking in the middle of the night, music, bells. I have chest pain, and when that happens, someone I know has a heart attack, or is diagnosed with heart disease. That last symptom is most unpleasant.

So what is happening? I spied a yoga class on a flyer and thought I should do that. Then, in the bath, I had a vision of a snake unwinding up my spine, stretching and healing me as it went. I hadn’t heard of kundalini yoga until I saw that flyer, I certainly had no idea that it featured snake symbolism or that the energy was considered by many to be feminine.

So what does it mean?

Either I really do need that psychologist, or I’m meeting the feminine divine. I’m finding Her, the Mother, the Goddess, The Maiden, the Crone…I don’t know. Her.

Her.

The other day, my father said something about the ‘Man Upstairs’ and I immediately said, ‘why do you think it’s a man?’

And the question felt right.

Here we are, in the middle of a new feminist revolution. Women are finding their voices and their power, or remembering that we’ve wielded power all along and we just let men borrow it. We are standing up to be heard and stepping up to lead and guide and teach. I think the goddesses are driving us, and I think they’re pleased. They’re excited that they will finally get to return to their positions, so many centuries after men pushed them out. And the Creator must be happy too, as balance will be restored when women have become equal.

It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, you know. Into the new, the next evolution.

My evolution began two years ago, and it hurt. Our evolution, the female evolution, began centuries ago, and it hurt. Women have been hurt, but we can heal.

I think the Mother, the Goddess, HER, is pushing us forward, telling us to be strong in the way only women can be and take our rightful place in society. I think she’s speaking to me about embracing my own strength, my true self, about becoming a person worthy of the next phase of humanity, and I’m trying.

I, for one, will be embracing Her, whether that makes me crazy, or not.

Baltimore

Baltimore.

Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager, it was called The City that Bleeds. A rip on the ‘City that Reads’ slogan we used to boast, and an indicator of the level of violence back in those days.

Today, Yahoo had a story on Baltimore, and though I knew better than to read the comments, I did read a few. And I got angry, of course. Too many people that can’t even find my city on a map have opinions on the liberal government, calling the people here entitled, blaming black leadership when this problem began under white leadership and has carried over from centuries of economic inequality.

I’ll tell you now, the problem isn’t specifically racial. Most people in Baltimore will tell you the same thing, and I even saw several try to tell the national news media when they were here for our ‘riots’ only to be shut down because it didn’t fit the narrative people were trying to tell. Or sell, as the case may be.

I hate when you start talking about my city without knowing a thing about it. I hate when you develop a misinformed opinion based on what you think you know. Just because you watched The Wire doesn’t mean you know anything about this city. You’ve got to live here to understand.

I’ll give a run-down, though. Just to help a little.

  1. We’re way more diverse than the media would have you believe. We’re also way more integrated in most neighborhoods…except the very poorest where the majority of residents are people of color and brown immigrants. That’s a problem that’s echoed in every city in this nation. So…if you live in a city, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb thanks to the lack of opportunities for the poorest people.
  2. We haven’t had youth programs in this city since the early 90s, when the Police Athletic League was done away with. BTW, that was not done under black leadership, either. When you deprive the youth of safe entertainment and socialization outlets, they will create their own or fall into alternative opportunities that may result in high crimes and/or death. Spend some money on youth programs and I guarantee the crime rates will fall. Idle hands, and whatnot—you know that saying?
  3. There is no future, no community investment, no opportunities for growth and mobility. That leaves limited options. If you’re trying to support your family, where will you go for money? Gangs, when there are no legitimate means. And that goes back to youth programs because gangs recruit early and they foster a sense of loyalty and family the government and your grandma can’t compete with. Oh, and we’re currently working on the second or third generation of this, so kids learned what their parents learned…
  4. Food deserts exist in cities. We have Arabers who carry food into the communities, but we need more. We need more smaller groceries and farmer’s markets, more local produce options and community gardens. Neighborhoods don’t always have good access to markets and grocery stores because space is limited. You won’t find a Walmart close by and lots of people have to buy only what they can carry on the bus, so no savings on bulk like the suburbanites and their wholesale clubs. It’s a problem for nutrition and health, energy and output and has educational ramifications, as well. Kids don’t have enough food to concentrate on daily studies, so we need to be feeding them better in school. Don’t tell me how your kid hated the healthy food Michelle Obama chose for the education system. Don’t tell me how they threw it away and don’t be smug about it when there are legitimate cases of severe malnourishment in poor neighborhoods.
  5. The education is for shit here. They restructured thanks to George W. Bush’s (not liberal, BTW) No Child Left Behind policy, which may have had good intentions, but resulted in children being pushed through the system no matter if they could read or not. America’s literacy rate has fallen, and continues to fall, drastically, dramatically and alarmingly. Wake up, people. Start wondering what your own kids are being taught, and start questioning what the school system may have hidden from you. In my city and the surrounding counties, we are now learning some terrible truths and if you start digging, I’ll bet you’ll find some too.
  6. Entrepreneurship was turned into a dirty word, or just made impossible. Unless you want to open a liquor store, of course. How about spending some money on grants for small businesses? How about broadly advertising SBA programs and workshops to help budding businessmen and women learn about their options and what’s needed to open a business. Get more small boutiques, stores and services into every community to help lift everyone, to create a stable micro-economy that feeds into the larger city revenues. Focus on small and work up, because trickle down really, really doesn’t work.
  7. Which brings me to the politicians. It’s human nature to be greedy and grasping—and don’t try to sputter a defense of yourself, we all have those moments. Unfortunately, too many in power are allowed to have those moments too frequently, and it doesn’t matter if they’re liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, black or white. They are people, so things universal to human nature hold true regardless of whatever box you’d like to shove them into. Yes they get reelected—what do you expect of a population that has a lowering literacy rate? What do you expect of a population that is told repeatedly that they are worthless and their voice doesn’t matter?

 

And, BTW, why are any elected officials allowed to vote themselves a raise? (Revenue from the speed cameras, I suppose?) A public servant’s pay increase should be a matter of public referendum. How dare you believe you deserve more money for a job well done when we can bury the dead in all the potholes and your own detectives are being killed on the job? How dare you think you should get more money when our kids are graduating with zero proficiency in their school subjects? You think you’re doing well? Let’s take a vote. If we agree, you get your raise, if not, you don’t. It’s called accountability…or theft, the way you do it.

 

Jesus preserve us, for the second time in as many weeks I find myself repeating the words of an evil madman who doesn’t deserve the fame the world afforded him. People are reflections of the society around them. They are what we made them.

You don’t want violence in your cities? Invest in the people. Don’t give them things, teach them things. Provide opportunities and you won’t have to give them hand-outs. They’re not entitled, they’re appeased in the most negligent way the white patriarchy could come up with. And yes, I blame white patriarchy in particular even though many white people are caught in the same system with the same limitations because—from the outset—our system was set up to  accommodate the rich.

Most poor people are white, but most black people are poor.

Think about that.

Honestly, at the end of the day, this is all classist, not specifically racist, but we are appeased by racist thinking because then we of the lower 50% turn on each other rather than put our considerably energy and talents toward rectifying the true problem. The hoarding of resources.

So, the next time you want to form an opinion on a place you’ve never been based on something you saw in the media, but you’ve never heard a single truth from someone who lives there…just bite your tongue and, instead, start thinking about all the ways we could improve the lives of the clearly downtrodden.

Better schools, business loan programs, good nutrition and a focus on the youth to teach them how to be productive citizens. That kind of knowledge doesn’t result on its own, you know. Someone taught you how to tie your shoes, right? Hands-on approach rather than through observation.

Also, you with your opinions, what are doing to make your own community better?

 

That’s my bone to pick…

Is it human nature to isolate?

Is it human nature to isolate? To put yourself into a box, to put all others into a box, to create many boxes and make someone fit somewhere?

Us versus them.

I understand the importance of this concept evolutionarily speaking. Your tribe might have been in direct competition with another tribe for various resources… And we all know we’ve got to take care of our own first, right?

But human society has evolved faster than human brains have. Humans are still hardwired toward selfishness because that greed could have meant the difference between survival and a horrendous death. Those with resources hoarded them in case they ever faced a time when those resources were scarce.

Fuck everybody else.

But we’ve come so far. As a society, as a technologically advancing series of societies, as a global tribe with a greater understanding of each other every day…we’ve come so far. Do you really want to be great? Then you have to lift everyone to greatness.

A rising tide floats all boats.

I don’t believe communism is the answer. I think it’s a terrible system, in fact, because humans are hardwired to be selfish hoarders. Why would I do the work when I’ll get what I need anyway? And if you’re not doing the work and you’re still getting what I’m getting, why would I continue to do the work? Society breaks down.

We definitely need a merit system. But we need a system where we are all accountable to each other, invested in each other and our communities. We need our governments to be accountable too, because that is the purpose of being a tribe. A tribe has to have accountable leaders who care about their people, or at least cares about a people’s revolution enough to work in the community’s interests rather than their own.

This holiday season, let’s try to look at things from a different perspective. Let’s find some compassion, some understanding. Stop the isolationism, work together and break out of those boxes…and maybe then we truly can be great.

Characteristics of a Cult

I’ll just leave this here…

  • Zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader or its ‘Truth’
  • The leader is above the law
  • Leaders dictate how members should think, act and feel
  • Doubt and dissent have harsh consequences
  • The ends justify the means
  • Submission/subservience is demanded
  • Guilt and shame or fear and intimidation are used to influence

 

  • The group is somehow better than all others and only those who are special enough may join
  • Us versus Them mentality
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group
  • True believers feel there is no life outside the group
  • Gender roles are strictly defined and adhered to by the group
  • Group-think (due to harsh consequences of dissent)

There is a great list and breakdown of various characteristics on Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Matt Slick)

And here’s an interesting (partial list) created in 2009 The Guardian (Rick Ross) I only used the points directly concerned with the leader, rather than points concerning the group and/or its members

Warning signs of a potential cult leader:

  • Absolute power with no accountability
  • No tolerance for questions or criticism
  • No meaningful financial disclosure
  • Feeling/Instilling feelings of persecution from the outside world

 

There have been many organizations considered to be cults that later evolved into society-recognized religions/movements/what-have-you. So, where is the fine line that separates a ‘real’ religion/movement/etc. from a drinking-the-juice-aid/only-the-crazies-do-it cult? What do you think?

 

 

Trickling down takes a certain gravity

Drip, drip, drip…does it ever become a flood?

What do the people who think they’re in charge mean by trickle-down economics? They mean that they pass laws that benefit the wealthiest pocketbooks and, in return, the money trickles down…to them. They get money to pass more laws to benefit the wealthiest and the money trickles down again…to them.

We’ll call this the Money Wheel. No, the Economic Cycle… Ooh, no, The Price is Right.

My education focused on social and political developmental issues, things like education (and a rant on that is coming soon) the need for safe roads and youth programs, and also free elections and a multiple party electoral system where no one ideology can gain the majority and those who are supposed to be representing the people are no longer able to represent their own economic interests instead.

We have entered a truly capitalist age in the United States. Currently, we are seeing a massive expansion of corporate interests and protections, but this comes at the cost of resources our country has long valued. These economic changes come at the cost of blessings that we have taken for granted…

Clean drinking water, for example. Silt, oil and god-only-knows-what-else can pollute the ground water to the point that our water treatment facilities are unable to adequately clean it. If they shut down, we’ll have to hope the microscopic organisms don’t kill us first. (Ask around any area flooded after a hurricane, they’ll tell you how nightmarish ‘no water’ can be.) That means, we’ll either poison ourselves with chemical agents trying to disinfect the water, or we’ll get used to the taste of petroleum. Either way, it’s a remarkable change from what we have now, with enough clean water access that we can dig massive holes, fill them up with water that won’t kill us via some awful flesh-eating bacteria, and play in it.

For comparison: I used to live in Africa. If I wanted to play in water, I had to take my chances next to the sharp-toothed wildlife. To drink the water, I walked a half-kilometer, pumped the water into a bucket I then carried home on my head, boiled it and put it through a filter. There are some families over there who must designate one member to nearly exclusive water duty, and it takes hours to get enough to supply the family for the day. Would you like to switch over to that system? Because that might be coming…

The majority of us value our resources and understand that our society is not just capitalist. If so, we’d all be registered as corporations. We wouldn’t care about education, healthcare, food or water. We’d be in the ring every day, fighting for own survival…

A society has other concerns than money, and those concerns must be met. Just look at Maslow’s Hierarchy (and consider where we might be on this scale):

We must balance the things we need to survive into the future with the economic interests of today. Clear air, so we can breathe, clean water, so we can live. The bees are already in danger because of human actions, and they are extremely important to the environment and the way life lives. If you’re not concerned, if you’re skeptical of a need to protect the environment, then you don’t understand the consequences.

Side note: if you’re a Christian arguing against things like climate change and the importance of forest preservation and species conservation, I suggest you take a look back at Genesis, where God creates Adam to be a caretaker of the earth and all things in it. Are you doing your part? When you stand before the Creator on judgment day, neither ignorance nor disbelief will be a proper defense for the way you, personally, probably treated the environment around you.

All right, all right. I’ll put that particular soap box away and come to my point. Trickle down economics is a myth. They’ve been trying to rationalize this lie for decades now, and it still doesn’t pan out. Do you really think that the richest people who have stockpiles of money don’t have enough to hire more people for their corporations? They can invest in everything but people, we’ve got computers and robots and advanced research & development happening every single day, and you think they can’t afford to pay somebody $10 an hour to…what are you going to do for them, anyway? Sweep the floor? They got a Roomba.

It’s a pyramid scheme, and you’ve been taken. Quite frankly, we’ve all been taken—hostage, that is. There is no trickle down, and no, there is no real trickle up, either. There is a small benefit to giving more money to poor people, because they will actually spend the money in their local economies, unlike rich people, who only buy designer brands and fly to foreign countries for handmade specialty items.

We need a radiate out program, instead. (Historically, people in charge don’t like that idea.) Pump the money into the middle class and you suddenly create upward mobility. They will both spend in their local economies and invest in large corporations. We need entrepreneurial programs to help ordinary folks with a vision open their own businesses. We really do need a return to Main Street, and I can see this country clamoring for it.

I saw a comment on a forum the other day about the death of Mom & Pop stores, and how they’ll never come back. But that’s not true. The comment focused on bigger businesses, like Walmart and Target, and the importation of cheaper, foreign-made objects. That has their place, and it’s a valuable one to our society. Everyone should have the right to affordable soap and underwear, right?

But raise your hand if you’d rather shop for something special at a local boutique. Raise your hand if you’d like to buy a handmade piece of jewelry that no one else has—all for a good price from a local artist. Raise your hand if you have a favorite independent coffee shop that suits your personality exactly. How about fresh bread, yummy pastries? Tell me why Farmer’s Markets do so well if Mom & Pop’s have gone the way of the dodo.

This country isn’t all about big business, that’s just what the baby boomers focused on. And, to be brutally honest, I’m getting tired of them deciding our future, when they won’t have to pay the consequences for their bad decisions and tunnel vision.

We are a people. A tribe, a nation. In spite of our differences, we’re all supposed to be on the same side, one team. That’s a functioning society, where we all contribute, are allowed to contribute and respect each other’s differences and opinions and unique perspectives. But, for too long, we’ve been treated like a corporation, with clear favoritism, cut-throat hiring practices and little opportunity for advancement. Now, they’re turning us into cage-match fighters, looking for survival.

So, take a minute to think… Let’s pretend rich people and corporations really do hire more people when they get a kick back from the government. Do you think they’ll hire you? Are you close enough to get a job with them? Are you qualified for a job with them? How do you think the current economic plan that’s making its way through the Senate and the House will benefit you? You, personally. If your answer has a ‘but’ in there, it doesn’t. It won’t help you at all.

Our society needs to balance the economy with other interests. How about healthcare, education, saving our national treasures and reducing crime. All the things we have issues with today are a direct result of poor and/or nefarious financial decisions. We need to stop walking party lines in this country and start remembering that we’re all in the same boat. And the people we trusted with our oars are steering us toward a waterfall.

~~~

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know?

Cream Will Rise

The world is in flux right now. All over the planet, various governments, nation-states and peoples are…well I could make a list, but we all know, the issues have dominated world headlines for a long time already, and I have limited space. Besides, this is about books, not world affairs.

Except…

Authors play a really important role in society. Throughout history, we’ve written truth in a way people found relatable, we’ve fought for change in ways people could empathize with and we’ve warned of factors detrimental to society, whether or not the message was received. We’ve been banned and exalted, we’ve been mocked and admired. We’ve been limited, and we’ve been given free rein to expand however we wanted.

We’ve come through a golden age of literature, and are now hurtling into a faux-competitive unenlightenment period where prices are lowering and trolls are increasing. There might even be new limits on what we can write soon—new censorship. I suppose there’s always backlash against an economic revolution, and that’s exactly what we’ve been experiencing, in terms of authorship and literature. The evolution from traditional publishing to self-publishing. We’ve gone from too few books in the marketplace to too many, both limiting in their own ways, and with new regimes coming to power, who knows what other restrictions may soon apply.

And where am I going with this? Most people consider books a luxury item, and technically they are. Food, water, shelter—those are the necessities. Books, toilet paper, soap—those are luxury items. So why are we paying more money than ever for certain luxury items, and yet book prices continue to fall?

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If you’re reading this, you’re probably a person willing to pay a fair price for a good story. It might even surprise you to know that some people out there refuse to pay for a book, and they never have to, thanks to various programs, author incentives, etc. But plenty of other people have posted on this topic already, so what is my point?

 

In the First World, which is where most of us reading this live, we are moving toward a new era. Everybody has their own theories, and God knows I’m no economist, but I see a trend toward artisanship, a return to personal touches and fantastic customer service. Big chain stores are great for some things, but we’re willing to pay more for something special, something handcrafted, something of quality.

With the world in flux, truth becomes its own commodity, as does fiction, entertainment and escapism. Everything you find in a book. This is why authors are so important—in every genre—and many of us are crafting quality items to serve a grand role and not getting much in return, and not just financially. Books push us past our boundaries, they give us the world, a new understanding of ourselves, they help us empathize…the list goes on.

And yes, I believe this is true of erotica, as well. Erotica, which has always been under attack, digs into the human psyche in ways that make many people uncomfortable, laying bare secrets and desires, needs we’re too afraid to admit to. That’s why this genre has always been as censored as it has—not because of nakedness and sex, but because ‘obscene’ has always secretly included ‘things that make you ashamed of yourself.’ With the explosion of Erotica into the light, people finally understand that their ‘deviance’ probably isn’t so deviant, after all.

With all these changes in the world—political, social and economic, we must adapt, as artisans and businessmen. So, my point is, predictions have been made that prices will now begin to race to the bottom, and to some degree, they will. But the cream will rise, as it always does. If you, as a reader, want quality books, you will pay for them, and we, as authors committed to giving you quality books will work ever harder to provide you with entertainment worthy of your time and money. Not every book will be for every person, but the craftsmanship inside the covers will excel to new heights.

A very smart woman I know recently pointed out the difference between a writer and an author. Her definition has to do with honing your craft, and that goes hand-in-hand with my point above, that authors play a very important role in society. I plan to accept that challenge, and I think the majority of readers will, too.