No, Virginia. Intolerance of intolerance isn’t the same as intolerance of human beings.
When it became public that recently appointed Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had donated to the controversial anti-gay rights Prop 8 initiative in California back in 2008, things – as we used to say back home – blowed up. Rarebit yanked an app from the Mozilla marketplace and in a highly visible move, dating site OK Cupid asked its users not to access the site with Mozilla’s Firefox browser.
Eich fought back, and we witnessed a couple of days of textbook crisis management as the company (and its under-fire CEO) worked to convince the world that a person’s official and personal beliefs can be compartmentalized – that is, you can be anti-equality in your private life but suitably inclusive at work.
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I was raised in the Presbyterian Church with additions from my Grandmother in the "family traditions". But Mom was in the big adult choir and we kids all started in the kid’s choir and progressed through all the choirs at least until my brother and I reached the adult choir and both quit because we both came out and found spiritual paths that suited us better. It was a progression from Carol Choir until 7th grade and then the boys and girls split into the Crusader and Lyric choirs and then if you were good enough you also were in the Wylie Chapel Choir that sang during second service in Junior Church which was a church service just for kids when the adults were in big church. Then we progressed to High school choir and after that we could audition for the Cathedral Choir. If you weren’t quite good enough you ended up in Chancel or the college choir. That didn’t count the bell choirs a lot of us were also in, so music was important in our house and to me.
I miss it and because paganism hasn’t been around writing music for a couple of thousand years, we don’t have what I miss most of which happens to be all the simple hymns we sang every Sunday along with all the other music. The only bunch that sings more than the Presbyterians/Church of Scotland are the Welsh.
It wasn’t hard for the baby Druid in me not to love the hymns like “This is my Father’s World” or “For the Beauty of the Earth” or “Be Thou my Vision”. I hated “Onward Christian Soldiers”. My secret is that I still sing them and change the pronouns. Some hymns have snuck into paganism like “Heretic Heart” which I grew singing the tune to as “I Sing the Almighty Power of God”. I love “Heretic Heart” but I have a hard time not reverting to the hymn’s words sometimes. I really look forward to the day we have our own real hymns.
Hymn singing is different than just singing a song or chant together. When the whole large congregation can raise their voice together there is a specific sort of magic that most pagans have never felt unless they were raised in a church that sang. The closest we come is when we have pagan carol singing at Yule before ritual.
I can still find a hymn for any occasion in the Presbyterian hymnal without even thinking I did it so long and UU’s aren’t usually large enough to make the magic the way a thousand or so people can. When I was a kid, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood had 1,300 people in 2 services plus overflow in the gym every Sunday. 3 on Easter. Big music. Maybe someday we will have it too.
The picking of hymns and poems is second nature in church which was how my mother’s funeral ended up pleasing the Pagans and the Christians and only the pagans knew it.
So for Poetry month you may be stuck with some of my favourites that I miss.
Brighid, I light your flame for those who are in pain
Those who are in surgery
Those who need healing.
Brighid, I light your flame for those who need you to walk with them in the dark
Those who walk a path only they can walk
Those who need company on their journey.
Brighid, I light your flame for those who worry about the ones walking alone
For those who want to help and cannot because it isn’t their burden
Those who love and hurt for the ones who are ill.
Brighid, I light your flame for healing
Brighid, I light your flame.
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral
A bookcase isn’t merely a storage unit. It’s an expression of self, belief and ideals, a daily reminder of who we think we are, and a little information for our visitors. Many people in the UK do not own books, so being one of the ones who does have a shelf or bookcase automatically sets you aside. People who read tend to favour the company of other people who read, and will scan your books to check you out.
It’s not just about the reading. I own a lot of books that I probably won’t read, or won’t read again. They have stories about where they came from; when, why, who bought them, or bequeathed them. I had, during the first thirty or so years of my life, accumulated a lot of books and I lived in a house that clearly marked me out as a book person. There was…
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Through adversity or the process of rebalancing in life, we often find courage within ourselves that flows from an unknown source. Sometimes that courage has to do with facing an unpleasant but unavoidable truth or dealing with a person or problem that no amount of physical confrontation or emotional bravery will resolve. That is when the true, patient and resolute attributes of Strength come into play. Strength, drawn from nature’s inherent power to renew and overcome all manner of disaster and climatic change, is what we must also have to foresee outcomes and wait upon the turning of the seasons. Sometimes when faced with a challenging situation we must find our own inner back-stop, the point from which we will not retreat or from which we can move forward with quiet confidence. The Greenwood ethos has much to teach humanity about calm, resolute Strength.
The Strength card concerns following what you feel is right for you, doing your true will. Society is not supportive of individual dedication to an unusual path, and incredible strength of heart is needed to stay on it. If one’s initial impulse to follow your heart (Ancestor and Archer) has been lost by the pressures and attractions of everyday living, i.e. Lovers, Greenman/Woman, then Strength calls to your heart to rededicate your life. At this stage this might require sacrificing some aspect of it, which leads to the tensions in The Blasted Oak. The spear of power (air) is balanced by the cup of compassion. This balance cannot be held for long. It is a card of fullness seeking release, a build up of energy that needs grounding, a thundery sky needing rain, passion, anger, pre-menstrual tension, pregnancy about to birth, ecstatic dance or trance that could become oracular, a harvest ready for picking. It is not an easy energy to utilise yet when surrendered to produces ecstatic liberation that is both tenderness and wildness, a powerful creativity that can be used to transform your life into a dance of the heart.