Oregon. My fourth Autumn. My fourth Samhain grows nigh. Samhain. How many Samhains have I observed someplace. After working a bar in Souther Cal I spent Samhain with some tarot cards on the beach listening to the Pacific Ocean crash upon the shore. Samhain in Arkansas and a cold snap and I was out in the woods under a silver moon. Samhain, the time of the dead.
Samhain is also the beginning. With the passing of the horned god into the underworld thus begins the season of hibernation, the retreat into one’s self. The beginning of the butterfly is not the emergence from the caccoon, but the spinning of the caccoon.
Autumn. My favorite season. Every season holds something about it that I love, yet it is Autumn that I cherish the most. Autumn is that season most like my personality, where I feel the most comfortable in. The colors, the scent of leaves on the ground, the harvest of pumpkins and corn, the dry grasses, the crisp clear nights.
Today found me at the apartment with Eliza. Not doing much of anything save handle several phone calls from dancers. It was in the latter part of the day when, after meditating in the bedroom for a short bit, I discerned a very real need to be out in the woods. I told Eliza I was going out to Mt Pisgah and asked if she wanted to go. She declined but understood my need to go as well. With daylight waning I headed out to the arboretum with a journal, water, a walking stick, and a book on paganism. Paganism?
Walking through a stand of maples and oaks I wondered as to the nature of the Goddess. It is hard for me not to do so while walking through a stand of trees on a gorgeous Autumn day. Instantly my mind fired with logic, skepticism, science, and philosophy. Why would a philosopher be asking himself on the nature of the Goddess? I cannot begin to recreate the thought forms that entered my mind at the time, there were no linear progression. I’ve tried to diagram such thinking before with the result appearing like a mixed up flowchart. When I first saw a graphical representation of the parallel distributive processing model of cognition a few years back I said to myself “a-ha… that looks familiar.”
Kierkegaard came to mind. While questions as to how do we know what reality is and rehashed arguments with people over existence (the disciple of Kant rings loudly in my memories) and last night’s reading in the latest issue of Scientific American on String Theory, Kierkegaard was behind it all. What difference does knowledge of String Theory make to a man buttering his breakfast toast? Looming behind all the reasons why I should not believe in a god at all was the voice of Kierkegaard… when he said that he wanted a Truth by which he could live and die. As I read a few days ago in the book “The Future of Life” by Edward Wilson,
“It is exquisitely human to search for wholeness and richness of experience. When these qualities are lost among the distracting schedules of everyday life, we seek them elsewhere. You [Thoreau] discovered the human proclivity to embrace the natural world.”
Again, it must be noted that the human mind is biologically dispositioned to finding patterns… even creating patterns… creating patterns when there were none (but are now). It was said by someone who’s name escapes me at the moment that “if God did not exist then we would have to create him”. And another thought was that if horses had a mythology, their god would be a horse, and cats would have cats… so it is likewise no wonder that the human mind imagines that God (if such a being exists) is one with human characteristics. This has been used, by myself, as an argument against God.
In the distance I could hear many scrub jays yelling about. Perhaps they had found an owl or a hawk and were badgering it. Jays and crows are my favorite means of locating owls whereas I take a walk in the woods and await my unknowing scouts to locate my subject for me.
But suppose God is not as orginally imagined as in my childhood. I used to imagine God to be a being, seperate from everything, apart from it all, who snaps his fingers and creates the universe. Before the holy snapping of fingers… nothing, afterward… everything. This notion of a god does not fit in my thinking at all any more and in such a belief I consider myself an atheist.
I cannot grasp the notions of the universe in my mind. I see animations on the t.v. about galaxies, read bits of Spinoza on the nature of infinity… and I cannot wrap my mind around them all. Yet within the infinite there are patterns and directions which I, as a human, take more meaning and experience from than others. Humans are nothing if they are not creative, cognitive entities. It is, therefore, not a downfall that our gods be human as well, for it is this essence of humanity that defines us. Without it we cease to be human and are instead a type of ape.
It is the recommendations of drug therapists that when a person tries to kick an addiction said person likewise cease visiting the locales and people they were accustomed to visiting. When a person goes to such an location, where drugs were generally taken, the brain learns that a chemical is about to enter its system and it begins to prepare itself for it by producing neurotransmitters. If the person does not take the drug then there is an imbalance in chemicals in the brain and the person feels the need for the drug. The more the person take the drug, the more these biological habits, the addictions, are reinforced. Likewise, habits of ritual can preclude habits of thought. For instance, after all these years it occaisionally crosses my mind to say grace when I am sitting at a dinner table with more than one person. If I am alone, or eating a lunch in the car or such I have no such thought cross my mind. Yet if it is a dinner with one or more people with place settings, the thought generally crosses my mind to say grace before the meal. Such is the result of years of my father saying grace at the table before meals during my childhood.
The air is crisp, the sounds of a squirrel chewing on a pine comb nearby reaches my ears. There is not much daylight left.
Take the daily images and interactions with people. Money and fame are shown on the t.v. over and over. Eliza had watched a show on MTV called “Cribs”. To me it was not a celebration of fantasic homes, but instead of a loss of self. At least in my own world. I am unable to truly know the mental events in the lives of the people on the t.v. Yet the thought which enters my mind is that we reinforce petty gods every day. The god of money, of popularity, of the status quo, of a hip-hop culture, of a conservative culture, of mindless sex and drug escapism, of the fantasy worlds of movies, and where are the deeper gods, the more meaningful ones? In reference to the movies, most movies are crap and yet I love to watch them because I do love to live in a fantasy world from time to time. It is enjoyable to plug into another world and out of my own world. Yet the best movies are the ones of art, of a truer meaning, a relation to things human and personal experience. This is what “The Core” lacked completely… and to me what “Gladiator” had. It would be interesting to note what a horror movie could do if instead of relying on gore and shadows they delievered the story with an existentialist manner.
Goddess… are you there?
In thinking of Chaos Theory it seems to me that even though the central tenent is that there is always an unknowable element of chance, of unpredictability, common images produced are one of fractals… and a pattern is readily recognizable by many. We seek order out of chao with our minds.
In the infinity of the universe, which patterns do I seek? Which gods to I give service to on a day to day basis? Money? Politics? The Goddess lives within me and is everywhere I look. When I die, the Goddess of my heart dies too… but she lives on in the hearts of others, shaped by their own lives. Such a mental phenomenon then begins to transcend the individual. Jung wrote of this and such is the topic of research in social psychology, sociology and I/O psychology. But I mean to keep this personal. The Christ that lives is that within your own heart. Christ is dead in mine, replaced by the image of the Goddess and she has, it seems, a cyclic life of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. It appears that in this time of the Mother, nearing the Crone, the Goddess in my heart is the Maiden.
Passing near a stone monument to the biologist Mr Douglas who looked around the Willamette Valley for Sugar Pine in the 1800’s, it had a note of how he was one day shooting down pine combs from the tops of trees too tall to climb and how the Native American who came to investigate the noise considered killing him but didn’t because they consider crazy people to be sacred.
A clearing. How many hours have I spent in this clearing? Sunrise, sunset, mid day, night time. I’ve watched deer and turkey, rain and grass, and this time I found a spot and sat down. Across the meadow were two trees, oak, with brilliant orange foliage. Below their boughs were fallen leaves. It seemed as though a giant hand had painted the trees with too much color and some had fallen from the tree onto the ground below. The sun was nearing the Coastal Mountains and the western sky was a rust-colored belt on the horizon. Above me was blue deepening into purple. I watched as the brilliant orange of the trees deepened… deepened into darker orange and finally out of color and stars lit up on the sky above. During the time it took for the sun to set I just sat and watched. My mind would be peaceful one moment and the next it would travel some obscur path of meaningless garble. I even rehashed movie scenes and t.v. episodes as well as other mundane thoughts. Then all of the sudden I’d realized that I’d wasted precious moments of sunlight, that the orange of the tree were deeper than before and I would awaken to the beauty around me, admiring the needles of the douglasfir tree, the sound of the coming night forest, the scent of the meadow and the wood beyond. Again I’d slip, unknowingly, into another series of meaningless thinking before I’d realize it and would bring myself back to awareness.
What meaningless days do I live. Our days are the products of our thoughts and our thoughts are so very easily carried by the currents around us. Before one realizes it a day, a week, a month, a decade is over and we are left standing on a river bank wondering where it all went.
Samhain. I can remember Samhains of the past. Standing in a room of fellow pagans celebrating Samhain, drinking wine and beer and mead and eating and having fun. Of lighting candles and incense in the hills SE of Irvine, California. Perhaps it is not so bad for me, an atheist, to give attention to human aspects of the Infinite. For we seek patterns where there sometimes are none and perhaps if we do not seek out or create benefitial patterns, we fall into the patterns that happen to be around us, whether they are negative or positive. What gods do I visit during the day? What rituals do I keep?