I go through bouts of doubt and despair in my writing, largely because, well, I’m a writer, and we seem to be programmed for for such things. I swear, just about every job I’ve been in has, as one person so aptly put it, had the largest number of unmedicated personalities I’ve seen. …
Like many people on the Interwebs, I read the opinion piece in Forbes, Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money. (Thanks to the magic of the Internet and cached content, you can see what was supposedly “deleted.”) Now, before we get into the discussion whether or not I agree with the piece, let me state emphatically that I think it’s wrong on a multitude of levels. That being said, I also think that Forbes should not have pulled the article in response to the shitstorm that ensued over it. Yeah, it is a form of censorship.
Living in a Land of Confusion
Forbes caved to pressure from the masses, pure and simple. Whether the piece was well-researched or not, was completely immaterial. Why do I say that? Because it is a fucking opinion piece, folks. That article is the opinion of the writer, who may or may not have the same opinions as the Forbes magazine. It may not be a popular opinion; it may not even be a valid opinion. But it is an opinion, nonetheless. It doesn’t mean that the person is right or intelligent.
The opinion piece brought up something unpopular. Oh well. Does that mean that magazines and news outlets should cave when someone objects to something they wrote? Does this mean that they should censor their opinions for fear someone or something is going to call them on it or make such a fuss that they look bad?
The “C” Word
Yeah, I just used the “C” word: censor. Granted, it’s not the government cracking down on free speech, but it might as well could be. You see, just because an idea is unpopular doesn’t mean it should never be talked about. I mean, if this guy wants to talk about shutting down libraries in lieu of coffee shops and Amazon bookstores, who the fuck am I to prevent him from talking about it? It’s his idea and if Forbes thought it was good enough to print, they should just stick with it and take their lumps. They’re not inciting violence, nor are they talking about doing something illegal. The author just put his unpopular opinion out there.
Whether you think Forbes should not have published something like that is immaterial. Forbes published it. They needed to put on their big boy (or girl) pants and deal with the fallout. Because not everything everyone publishes is going to be popular with people.
Where the Line Needs to be Drawn
At this point, you’re probably wondering what I think about other more controversial views, such as racism, Nazism, slavery, or child pornography. Obviously, I’m against those things that exploit innocents, and I am sure as shit against things like slavery, racism, Nazis, and child pornography. That being said, there is a lot of gray when it comes to freedom of speech. Writing a racist blog is one thing; inciting people to riot or to kill other ethnicities because you don’t like the look of that person is another.
I have to draw the line at harm and things that exploit other people. If it causes harm, or intends to cause harm, I have to be against it. If it is just a bunch of trash talk, then while I don’t like it, I certainly tolerate it, because not everyone is going to agree with my point of view.
Destroying Freedom of Speech Destroys Your Right
One thing I have never understood is why people are so quick to give up their freedoms when their own group is in charge as if it will never affect them. In America, at least, nobody’s party is in charge forever. When you deny freedoms for the other groups, you’re denying yourself freedom when the other groups get in charge (which inevitably happens). It’s like you think the good times are going to keep on rolling forever, and you can’t see beyond the next week, let alone four years from now. One thing is for certain: you give up a right, even if you aren’t using it now, and you will regret it.
So the morons who goosestep in their mom’s basement want to march? Okay, let them. If they get out of line and break the law, throw their asses in jail. If you don’t let them march, then when you want to march to promote Heathen awareness or something like that, the Christians may decide you are too controversial to march. After all, you offend them with your pagan gods.
Censorship Doesn’t Make the Ideas Go Away
One of the big problems with censorship is that ideas that are censored simply go underground. In the face of overwhelming opposition, people don’t change their minds, they look for other people to validate their beliefs. When Christianity came into power, the pagans went underground. Eventually, many of them converted just to avoid the consequences, but paganism never went away 100 percent. Many people simply adopted the appearance of being Christian while still keeping with their pagan traditions. We can see that even today.
Being Tolerant of Other’s Ideas
You’re not going to agree with everyone. Some people are going to say things that in your mind are positively stupid and unenlightened. Get over it. Let them say their piece and present a rational argument against them. Don’t turn it into a shouting match, because you’ve lost the argument and the discussion. Why do you think I frown mightily on ad hominem attacks? It’s not because my feelings are hurt — it’s because it is a form of bullying that turns people off to the conversation. When you start attacking the person rather than discussing the idea, it becomes obvious you don’t want a conversation. You just want to shout me down.
That doesn’t work. Never has.
I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Maybe something actually clever. Let me know what you think.
I had reposted an article on Facebook about a “German Stonehenge” that had evidence of human sacrifice. I had a number of responses to the post, no doubt due to the interesting topic, but I did get a few responses that apparently rationalized, if not outright condoned, this gruesome and terrible behavior.
Welcome to the Rational Heathen’s hour of Racist or Not-a-Racist! Here you can win snarky comments backed by science and logic, plus either an overwhelming urge to agree, change your point of view, or fly into an uncontrollable rage and smash your computer all to Hel. Wanna play along?
You’re Not a Racist, Unless You Hate Vulcans
Let me start out with the fact that race is a construct. Unless you’re hating a wight or extraterrestrial sentient species, you’re hating a member of your own race. You see, you’re homo sapiens and the person whom you think is another race is also homo sapiens. The differences between you and that person is just ethnic variation. Some tens of thousands of years and multiple generations cause adaptations for a particular climate. Humans had dark skin when they came out of Africa and their skin became lighter when it became advantageous to have less melanin so they could absorb more sunlight and produce more Vitamin D. This was important in northern climates where the amount of sunlight is less due to the tilt of the earth’s axis.
So, there’s no way you could be a racist, if you hate someone who has a different skin color than you. You are, however, a bigot, and a fucking idiot to boot.
Your Ancestors Were Black Even If You’re White
For those bigots who think their ancestors were lily white from the moment they existed, I’ve got news for you. Your ancestors were dark skinned at one time. You want proof? Check out the Cheddar Man (not named that because he liked cheese, although he could have) who had blue eyes and brown or black skin. And his tribe is responsible for 10 percent of those Brits who live in England today. And yes, those modern day Brits are white even though their ancestors had dark skin 10,000 years ago. This is not a particular aberration either. Archaeologists found the skeletons of two men who lived some 6000 years ago in northwest Spain. Genetic testing proved that they had blue eyes and dark skin. These men are most closely related to Scandinavians and Finns, thus proving that the white skin became an adaptation to the environment and not something that humans had at the moment of their inception.
It’s kind of funny too, because at one time our ancestor hominids most likely all had white skin. Of course, that’s when our ancestors were as hairy as chimpanzees. (Chimps, who are some of our closest relatives have white skin, due to the fur covering.) When our ancestors started losing their fur, the skin had to make up for the protection against the African sun and our ancestors’ skin darkened.
Genetically, We’re All the Same with Some Minor Differences
Humans nearly went extinct not once, but three times. Each time, we were tenacious enough to hang on, but it seriously narrowed our gene pool. Then, we had the stupidity to reduce our gene pool further by having only certain males and their dominant lines mate with women some 7000 years ago when humans switched from hunter-gatherers to agrarian cultures. So, we’re a bunch of hormone-driven, inbred hominids who push the feeder bars to get our shots of dopamine. Yeah, it’s amazing we haven’t gone extinct.
We already know that there is only one women ancestor whom everyone now living has her mitochondrial genetics. Unfortunately, she has been nicknamed Mitochondrial Eve, which has unhappily been associated by Bible thumpers to be the “real” Eve of the Bible. Likewise, there is a male counterpart, which has been nicknamed Y-Chromosomal Adam. (Like we don’t have enough issues with the Bible thumpers already?)
This shows you just how screwed up we are as a species. Sure, we have differences genetically, but we all have the same ancestor somewhere at some point. That makes every single human on this planet related to each other. Talk about banjos.
So, What About Those Who Can’t Figure This Out?
At this stage, if you’re really set on believing your lily-white ass is better than some other ethnic group because of your skin color, you’re a fucking idiot. You’re not even hating someone of a different race. Instead, you’re hating someone who is your not-so-distant cousin just because they look a little different. So, if you’re intent on hating people based on what they look like, you’re what’s wrong with our society.
And for that matter, don’t expect your god to perform a rescue either.
Read on if you want to know why I’ve got my panties in a wad today.
I read the Patheos post, For the Thai Boys: Thanks Be To God! For the Hispanic Refugee Children: Please, God, Bring Deliverance, and I did the typical facepalm.
It’s Hel getting old. As one who is now considered “middle aged” (assuming I live to 100), the quest for Idunn’s apples in the form of immortality, or at least eternal youth, interests me. It probably interests you too, even if you’re young and have many years ahead of you. After all, we can’t enjoy life if we’re dead. Funny, scientists have that very same opinion. I just wish they’d work harder at it, seeing as we’re not getting any younger.
Do We Really Have an End-By Date?
I read a piece in the New York Times recently about a study that suggests that humans haven’t reached the top end of their expiration date. They studied a bunch of really old people (older than me!) who lived in Italy. The researchers found that the death rate increases up to the age of 80 (duh!), decreases until 105 (what?), and then plateaus after 105. This contradicts the announcement made by scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine that the human lifespan is fixed and that the upper level is 115.
The reason why this new study suggests that we have an end-by date further than 115 years, if we indeed have such a date, is the plateau in the death rate after 105. If there was really an expiration date of 115 years, we should see an increase in deaths as people get closer to it. That doesn’t mean that people don’t die; it just means that the percentage is stable.
That Which Does Not Kill Us…
Never mind that the scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine are a bunch of killjoys with their prediction, I tend to think that they may be close to the truth. Human experience suggests that we all have an expiration date of some variety, although what kills us is purely up to conjecture. If tomorrow we were to eliminate all disease, how long people would actually live before they simply fell apart? And then, the question remains is — do we really want to live longer if we’re infirm or decrepit?
Aging and Telomeres
The problem with getting older is that we’re not just “shorter of breath and one day closer to death,” as Pink Floyd so aptly put it. The problem is we’re not as robust as we were when we were younger. We don’t bounce back quite as quickly. Living a long life is great — if you have the youth to live it. Otherwise, you could spend your last years in a nursing home getting fed through a tube.
But could we actually stop aging? Scientists are getting closer every day to unraveling the secrets. We know that at least part of aging is due to the length of the telomeres in our DNA. Telomeres are the little end caps on our chromosomes. The longer the telomeres, the younger our cells remain. The shorter the telomeres, the more aged our bodies become. People can lengthen their telomeres through diet, exercise, and other healthy habits and can shorten them by doing unhealthy things like smoking. Some pills are purported to increase the telomere’s length by increasing telomerase (an enzyme), but there may be some serious side effects. Basically, telomerase may be Idunn’s apples, but like Idunn’s apples, we don’t know if she needs to pick them and hand them to everyone to get the full effect.
Let’s Talk About Idunn’s Story
Everything ages in our world. Our gods would age too, if it weren’t for Idunn (Iðunn) and her apples. Loki the master trickster was tricked by the Jotunn, Thjazi (Þjazi), to steal Idunn and her apples for him. Loki obliges, but also rescues Idunn from Thjazi.
Some experts believe that the apples are the symbols of fertility, given that apples show up elsewhere in Norse and Celtic stories as just that. To add more to this theory, Loki turns Idunn into a nut during his rescue (he’s in falcon form) so he might carry her safely. Nuts were often a symbol of fertility in Anglo-Saxon England. Eternal youth could easily be linked to fertility, because, let’s face it, younger people do fuck like rabbits. So, it’s not a surprise that Idunn would be linked to fertility as much as Freyja is.
So, is this a story about the stealing of fertility and the recovery of it? Or is this the story of the loss of youth and the recovery of it? Maybe it’s both.
I look at Idunn’s apples now as the telomeres in our chromosomes. Thjazi steals them away with time, but maybe, like Loki our scientists will figure out a way to increase our telomerase and get back Idunn and her apples.
It’s been a long time coming: I’ve been working on a novel I need to finish. I supposedly had a finished first draft, but the whole thing had holes and problems with it that I despaired. So, I’ve been getting reminders — some subtle and some not so subtle — that I need to write the damn thing and jumpstart the series again…. …
It’s been about six years since Tyr and Thor first entered my life as Norse gods and I’ve entered Heathenry. (Tyr has been in my life for years, only I didn’t recognize him.) I’ve been thankful they’ve done so because they’ve offered a a new perspective on my life that I had not gotten any other way. I still deal with a number of really stupid issues due to Christianity that I brought with me, but I can feel a certain amount of healing going on that I just didn’t have with the other religions, and lack of religion.
This piece is a reflective piece, but it is also some advice I have for new Heathens and those who are still on the path after a number of years. This is my perspective, as always, and as I often say, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) or, as a professor once tried to guess the acronym, Your Mouse Might Vomit.
Moving into Heathenry from Christianity
Heathenry, and in fact, Paganism, isn’t really about rebelling from Christianity (or another religion), though you may go through a period of comparison and outright hostility toward your previous religion. I know I did. It’s that part of your bruised ego when you finally realize that everything you were told as a child was a lie and there is no Christian god. (Even if you believe there might be a Christian god, you can’t possibly believe it is as powerful as the Christians claim.)
Now that you have your newfound beliefs, it may be tough to not stick them in other people’s faces. But what exactly are you hoping to accomplish? Are you looking to alienate your friends and family, because you’re sure not going to convince them to convert? It’s better to not say anything and keep the peace than it is to rile everyone up. Of my family, only my husband knows I’m a Heathen, and as far as I can tell, he’s good with it. Of course I don’t rub it in his face, either. If he wants to remain an atheist agnostic, that’s his choice, and I respect that.
Heathenry isn’t Christianity with Many Gods
Heathenry isn’t Christianity with many gods instead of one god. While Christianity had adopted many pagan beliefs into their doctrine, it still isn’t what a Heathen believes. Christian states that man was given mastery over the world and all animals. This is clearly hubris, in my not so humble opinion. Heathens look at ourselves and our gods as being part of the natural world. We are just one species in a realm of natural and supernatural creatures. We recognize where we are in the world and how we need to be mindful of those creatures, both seen and unseen.
Whether you are agnostic on the supernatural critters like me, or whether you believe in them is irrelevant. It is part of our lore and deserves at least some attention, if not outright acknowledgment. If anything, our ancestors’ beliefs and stories make for some fascinating reading.
No One Has the Right Answers
I’ll say it right up front that those who claim to “know” how Heathenry should be is full of shit. Sure, we have some good ideas how some of our ancestors practiced Heathenry, but overall, we don’t have a perfect picture how to reconstruct it. The problem is that Heathenry covers at least a thousand years, if not more, and the ways our ancestors practiced Heathenry varied from generation to generation and from region to region.
Although there were gothis and gythias, there were no Asa-popes telling people how to behave, and if there were one or two, they wouldn’t have affected all of Heathendom. While there may have been a major temple in Uppsala, the archaeological evidence for it is scarce. (Even if a Christian church were to be built on top of it, you would think there would be some evidence.)
Moving Forward Instead of Looking Back
Heathenry is an ancient religion with deep traditions. I won’t argue with you there. We don’t know all the traditions, and those that we do know about were written down by people of other religions, who may or may not have had their own agendas. Ancient historians are not infallible.
Even if we somehow magically figured out everything about Heathenry in the ancient times, would we really want to mimic it? If you say “yes” then apparently you want to bring back human sacrifice, and that makes you a total loony tune, crazy person that I want nothing to do with. And yeah, that’s one of my rules: no human sacrifices. There are other behaviors we should not mimic — not if we follow our own version of the ethics of reciprocity.
Heathens need to look forward, not back. Our past can give us guidelines for our future, but they’re just that: guidelines. The past was not only a different time, but humanity saw things differently. We didn’t have the technological advancements, longevity, medical treatment, and overall knowledge about the world then that we do now. It would be foolhardy to live in the past without accounting for the future.
Well, I’ve rambled enough. Let me know what you think.
The muse, I swear, is a bitch. Yeah, yeah, I know the moirae is Greek and we follow the Norse gods, but shit, my muse is a bitch. Half the time I’m floundering for creativity while pumping out thousands of words every day on stuff that will never have my name attached to it. Of course, the gods don’t have any recommendations for me. They’ve got better things to do than hear this human whine about her so-called lack of creativity.
So, I’ve decided to write up my crazy whinings in a weekly post that will (hopefully) show up on Wednesdays so you can really wonder what medications I need to be on.
This spring I had a lesson on why the good old days weren’t that great. Having dealt with the realities of raising livestock, I’ve become far more appreciative of modern medicine, and science, in general. Not that I wasn’t appreciative of science to begin with, but when you see it in action, it changes your worldview. And you start to realize just how tough our ancestors had it then. You also realize how unlikely it was to see 50 years old back then.
You see, I raise goats. This, in and of itself shouldn’t necessarily bring up modern medicine, but if you want to see how science can improve your life, try animal husbandry. And sadly, for the past several years I’ve had a 50 percent attrition rate (or worse) on the kids. This year ended up being different.