Friday, October 28, 2011

Sorting it All Out

New Sorting Moon

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Oh you may not think me pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.

There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in H
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!

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It is the new Sorting Moon, the time just before the end of the cycle when we reflect, analyze and decide what to do with what we have learned. One of the amazing things about the cycles Annette Hinshaw has tapped into with this calendar is that they happen at different scales, from micro moment to moment decisions all the way to macro life and civilization scale systems, all at the same time. I feel like I am currently dealing with issues at many different levels of experience these days ranging from family and friends, church community and larger community all the way up to my global community. It feels overwhelming and thrilling and difficult and useful. How can I even begin to evaluate my experiences?

I love astrology, tarot, oracle decks, personality indexes, temperament systems and all other forms of archetypal sorting systems. I love thinking about how a person or an event has "Scorpio" elements or "is so 4 of cups, right now." I find these short hand notations for a whole slew of images, thoughts and stories to be immensely helpful in sorting through my experiences. This is very much one of the reasons I was drawn to Annette Hinshaw's calendar. After following it for as many years as I have, I can totally say "this issue is totally a Sorting moon issue, isn't it?"

I finally saw the last
Harry Potter movie the other week and it reminded me of how I view the Hogwarts house system in this same way. Like some other archetypal sorting methods, it is a rather crude system of polar elements that does not reflect the spectrum of humanity that actually exists, but it can be helpful in categorizing experiences. As the Sorting Hat song quoted above notes, students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry belong to one of four houses. They live in dormitories with their housemates, have classes with other members of their house, play sports together and generally form close social and friendship bonds. Each of the four houses have their own traits, colors, insignia and stereotypes. The song here is from Harry's first year at Hogwarts and gives a basic introduction to the four houses.

Interestingly, as you read the stories you see very clearly that the four houses align with the four ancient elements of Fire, Air, Earth and Water and thus with all kinds of other archetype systems (four humors, four temperaments, tarot suits, astrology elements, etc). There are online quizzes to find out which house you belong in, but for many people it is so self evident that the Sorting Hat would hardly have to touch your head before shouting out your new home. Wanna guess which house I belong it? It's not really hard, is it? We hufflepuffs, loyal and true, patient and kind are very good finders ;)

Hufflepuff, the Hogwarts house associated with the earth element (like my sun sign, Virgo, and my favorite tarot suit, pentacles) and is symbolized by a badger rampart on a black and yellow field. This badger has actually been a real help for me in sorting through some of the issues I have been facing lately. Badgers, and other burrowing mammals, look cuddly and lumbering but they really can be quite stubborn and tenacious when
they need to. I think of Badger from The Wind in the Willows as an excellent example of this. During the winter he was quite sedate, napping and giving young hedgehogs all the warm food they needed, but when spring came, woe be unto the weasel that got between Badger and justice for his friend, Mr. Toad.

The other day I had a tiff with someone close to me and realized that my reactions in the situation were a classic badger move. I saw the straight line to my just cause and I barreled right towards it. When my friend blocked my way with her own needs and preferences I snarled and swatted and continued barreling right through. It was not a terribly effective way of getting what I wanted, which included not damaging my relationship with my friend. Both of us were able to talk about our situation and work out both our actual needs and our relationship needs. And people think Hufflepuffs are pushovers. Hah!

How is your autumn going? What are you sorting out these days and what systems really help you with that task? Have you made any pumpkin desserts yet or gone to the pumpkin patch? What Hogwarts house would you be sorted into?

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New Sorting Moon 2009: New Sorting Moon

New Sorting Moon 2010: Useful, Beautiful or Loved

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Ill Harvest

Full Harvest Moon

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You've been following the Occupy Wall Street movement, haven't you? Maybe you've read some articles, seen John Stewart's take on the protests or forwarded along photos, videos and other information on Facebook. Maybe you even joined the a march, rally or protest in your local area. Or maybe, like me, you've felt some kind of way about the whole thing and didn't.

I've been very curious with myself trying to understand my ambivalence. I am in support of the movement, at least in many ways and as I see it. I believe that our political and economic systems funnel wealth and power to an elite few while disadvantaging a majority of people. I believe that citizen should protest when their government doesn't support their rights and needs and believe that government should play a roll in redistributing wealth, creating social safety nets and limiting the power of the wealthy. I believe we should be spending money on schools, public infrastructure and health care so that no one in this, the richest nation on earth, would be without the basics for survival and the ability to make their lives better. I really do believe all of that, and still, I didn't go down to Occupy Portland last week.

One of my concerns, valid or not, is that a rally and a protest are not going to change things. My organizer friends remind me that the point of a rally is not to change policy (though that does appear to be one aim of the Tahrir square-like Occupy Wall Street protest), but to show the public how much support there is for change and give activists time and space to talk, share ideas and boost morale. I guess those are good goals, but I wonder if it is the best way for me to spend my energy.

Ultimately, I see that our unjust system of politics and economics are the results of generations of decisions, very few of which had the explicit goal of giving some people advantage at the expense of others (some people will argue with me on that, I really don't believe in a group of old white guys sitting around trying to screw the rest of us [with the exception of women's fashion, they really are trying to screw us there]). We are currently reaping the harvest of short sightedness, putting personal material gain above all else and general unintended consequences. It is an ill harvest, but I don't really think we can put the apples back on the tree and hope for new ones before winter.

I am glad there are people who want to brave bad weather, giant crowds and pissed off, power drunk cops to protest. I am also glad there are people who want to counsel prisoners and volunteer in African refugee camps. I just don't think these are my ways of doing the work to fix things. The world needs all of us to do what we can to make it a better place but we need to discern where our efforts are best used, what we can sow to reap the best harvest. Maybe I was being lazy or scared or just crowd averse when I didn't go downtown last week. I spent the day reading about critical pedagogy and integrated curriculum in middle schools, cooking food from my garden and resting my body that wasn't feeling at the top of it's game. I don't have a witty sign to show for my efforts on October 6th, 2011 but I think I sowed some seeds that I will be able to harvest in the future. I hope my actions on that day, and all others, ripple out into the universe. And I hope the rain holds off on the Occupy folks, at least for another week or so.

How are you feeling about Occupy? Are there rallies and camp ins happening where you are? Are you forwarding stuff on social media or talking about it with your friends and family? How are you planting seeds of peace, justice and goodwill in your life? What harvests, good or ill, are you taking in these days? Has it started raining in your neck of the woods?

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Full Harvest Moon 2009: The Moon When Squirrels Throw Acorns at You (Inexplicably, my most viewed post. Ir has been viewed over 500 times, more than two hundred times more than my second most viewed post. Curiouser and curiouser.)

Full Harvest Moon 2010: Harvest Moon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Praise

New Harvest Moon

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Before the loaf, the snowy white flour
Before the flour the mill.
Before the mill the wheat and the shower,
The sun and Our Father's will.

I have been reading a collection of C.S. Lewis essays called Reflections on the Psalms. I've read a few other pieces of Lewis' non-fiction work, letters and essays, and greatly enjoy them all. He and I may differ quite significantly in some aspects but I do love reading him. I would love to have him as a neighbor or great uncle to visit with, drink tea and listen to him ramble on about God and life and such.

In his rambling on about the Psalms he comes to the issue of praise of God. He says that he never used to understand the commandment to praise God or the way some people seems to be bargaining with God through praise. He finally came to a realization that praising god is the scaled up version of the praising we do of all good things in our lives. "It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch. " We express our delight and enjoyment because that expression makes the enjoyment full. We delight and enjoy God and so can't help but exclaim that joy in words, songs and actions of praise.

Lewis makes the point that this praise is not only natural, but it is evidence of health. "The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all." A healthy attitude towards life leads to praising earthly experiences so a healthy attitude towards the divine would equally lead to robust and genuine praise of God. The question I have, though, in light of this current Harvest Moon, is which is the seed and which is the harvest? The healthy attitude or the genuine praise?

For our daily bread we thank the Father
We thank the sun and the moon and the stars
We thank the wind and the frost and the rain
We thank the earth, we thank the grain
The thank the beasts and all farming men.

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude, complaining, cynicism and acceptance lately. I've been more and more annoyed by negativity I see in people around I have been making an effort to not take part in that talk or thinking myself. I made a New Water Year resolution to not complain about the weather, a resolution I joke will lead me to an abnormally high level of complaining about my clothes. But then I think, clothes are something I can change so it's OK to critique them, the weather is not. Many great thinkers from Gautama Buddha to Viktor Frankl to Thomas Jefferson have said that attitude is the key to a fulfilled life. There is a space between what happens to us and how we react and in that space we make a decision about how we will react and what we will believe about the action. This is a space for optimism, for gratitude and for god.

I still wonder, though, which is the seed and which is the harvest? Do we have a steady bearing in the world because we make space for gratitude and praise in between events and reactions, or does a good attitude cause the space to open up? Maybe, like so many other complex systems, it is a matter of both elements playing a part. We nudge the system from whatever part of it we happen to be standing at in the moment - giving thanks when we want to complain, or inserting praise into the space we feel at the moment in between.

The seed and root beneath the earth,
The willful growing shoot,
The hopeful bud and flow'ring blossom
Turned to glowing fruit.
We thank the earth who grew this food from little bursting seeds,
And the keepers of the earth whose gifts fulfill our needs.

What harvests are you celebrating this month? Are you seeing a harvest in attitude, thanksgiving or relationship with god or is that a future harvest you are sowing for now? How is your garden winding up? Have you found any fruit trees in the neighborhood or great deals at the green grocer? How do you give thanks when you really just want to complain?

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New Harvest Moon 2009: The Harvest Moon is New

Apparently I didn't post a New Harvest Moon post in 2010, but I did post Harvest Moon during that month.