Friday, December 25, 2015

Revisiting the Past: My Ethics

As I've mentioned in my previous posts on Ethics, Honor, Justice, and Arete, being an ideal human being means that one is:
  • Emotionally mature
  • Self-aware - living a conscious life, making active choices, taking responsibility for Self
  • Well educated - a broad base of knowledge including but not limited to: other cultures and world history, with an emphasis on lifetime learning
  • Consistent at putting ethical system in practice
  • Possesses a continually evolving system of ethics
My goal is to be an ideal human. Back in my heavy martial arts years, I wanted to be the ideal warrior. This consisted of a range of warrior skills plus a good education in history, strategy, philosophy, art, and music. My focus has changed, but it's not so different. I just train in different disciplines now. No fighting now; instead, I practice Yoga (my own Pagan Yoga system that I'm designing). I hone my teaching skills. Music, always music. Healing work. I think I've posted about it before, how I can't be a physical warrior any longer; instead, you could say I'm a spiritual warrior, working to raise the vibration of the world, one person at a time.

But back to Ethics. As a person who walks the warrior way, even the spiritual version thereof, living an honorable life is central to my identity. It is the light that shows me the way. It is, at times, what shapes my path. I could tell many a story about how my insistence upon the ethical choice has cost me money, relationships or what have you. Other times, it's what has cemented a relationship or gained me a business ally. And I'm totally fine with that.

So in keeping with my philosophy, here begins an examination of my list of values and ethical principles. It's time for a periodic update!
  1. Arete - Excellence above all is still the most important thing to me. Keep this one!
  2. Courtesy - the first of the virtues from my old tae kwon do dojang. Still important.
  3. Integrity - the first of the virtues from my old tae kwon do dojang. Still important.
  4. Perseverance - from my old tae kwon do dojang. Still important.
  5. Self-Control - from my old tae kwon do dojang. Still important.
  6. Indomitable Spirit - from my old tae kwon do dojang. Still important.
  7. Honor - unchanged, truly.
  8. Lifelong Learning - hasn't always been on the list, but is what I've always done.
  9. Creativity - we all have it! Continue to practice and it will strengthen.
  10. Play/humor - don't take yourself or this world or anything else too seriously. "It's sacred, not serious" - adorable hippie child 
  11. Reverence - for every step, every breath, every living thing, always.
  12. Shibumi - the essence of what is, pure simplicity
  13. Tolerance - essential to harmonious living with other beings. It means that you acknowledge the plurality of our world.
  14. Stewardship of the Earth - new - I suppose this was so intrinsic that I never listed it before. But it must be said - take care of our home.
  15. Respect the autonomy of all beings. - new - also intrinsic to my belief system is the acknowledgement that all beings have agency and that must be respected.
As it turns out, not a lot has changed. There's been a bit of evolution and perhaps a bit more clarity in my thinking about my beliefs. I'm happy to say that they have accreted throughout my life, and I value all of these incremental additions. I may not always embody them at every moment. I may fail, like everyone does. Ego, petty annoyances, and other such temporary conditions may supersede my principles. But still, I strive. And to be quite honest, I mostly succeed. I can look myself in the mirror. My relationships are good, and I have a place in the community. These are signs of success, in my book - and an ethical life!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sun Reborn

The miracle has occurred again...the longest night has passed. The Sun is reborn, and now, light begins to return to the Earth!

The sun returns! The light returns!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the birth of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Yule

The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

Here at the Clan of the Wildlings stronghold, a 12 day and 13 night festival begins. We celebrate this turning of the Wheel. We rest and rejoice in this gap between the lunar year just ended and the new solar year not yet begun. We dream and vision what we will create in the year to come. We spend time with loved ones, making precious memories and strengthening family ties. We bring the good news of the returning light to the trees and the forest creatures. We reflect and feel gratitude yet again for all of the lessons, joys, pains, and blessings of this year. We make merry and sit by the fire. Each night, we light one more candle on the sun wheel and say a prayer. Each day, we perform a seasonal task. Today, I'll be gathering cedar, holly, mistletoe, and ivy branches to deck the halls in preparation for tonight's Yule ritual with the Clan.

Merry Yule and Happy Solstice to one and all. May you be blessed with light, love and laughter on this, the shortest day. May you sleep well sheltered by the ancestors on this, the longest night. May your fires be bright and your hearts be full. Blessings of peace, love, and joy be upon you and your family.

Blessed be!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Yule Eve Eve

Tomorrow, we go into the longest night. Solstice is almost here!

This is the long night.
This is the dark night.
This is the cold night.
This is the night of last hope.
This is the night of the little spark.
This is the night of turning from darkness.
This is the night of turning toward light.
This is the night of wonder.
The long night is here:
Come to us, you spirits;
Together let us fill the long night with light,
Calling all beings to warm themselves at our fires.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What are Ethics?

The Pagan Experience - This month the focus is on ETHICS… As a member of the human species we are faced with choices everyday. The responses we make are most often guided by our definition of values, standards and what we consider to be just and ethical behavior.

Add the complexity of walking a spiritual path and he topic of Ethics becomes one that reaches deeply into the fabric of who we wish to be and who we believe ourselves to be. So, use this month’s writing to share, listen and explore your ethical landscape…
Ethics is a timely topic in my life. The Universe has its inscrutable sense of humor, as always...and its timing is impeccable. But what are ethics? I've written here about honor, about justice, and about arete, but not specifically about ethics. As a philosophy major and a person committed to living an honorable life, this topic is near and dear to my heart.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ethics are defined as:

"Moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior."

I have discussed honor, which is essentially a system of personal decision making based on ethics and obligation. I have discussed justice, which is a system of applying ethics to governance. I have discussed excellence (arete), which is a tangentially related concept. Possibly one could argue that the good and true nature of actions containing arete are inherently ethical. But maybe not. Ethics are not only virtuous in and of themselves, but also in how they impact others.

In keeping with my post about justice, I think that ethical principles grow and change as we evolve as human beings. That means that study is important. We must understand ourselves, not only as individuals, but also in relation to our place in the world. We must understand something of world history, of other cultures, of ideas broader than what we may have been taught by our biological families and birth religions.

A broad knowledge base matters if you want to be a well-developed human being. It's easy to simply believe what you were told, and many people do. This unfortunately often leads to provincial, us vs. them systems of thought. Which is a big part of the reason why the US has problems, but that's a separate post. Suffice it to say that considering the highest good of all is a good filter to use when evaluating ethical principles, and knowledge is essential to that process.

So then. Ethics are moral principles, the foundational concepts that guide our behavior. Ethics are the things we consider to be right as opposed to wrong. Ethics are the values that we hold. But what is a value?

Back to the Oxford Dictionary:

"(values) A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life."

Now we're getting to the root of things. Morality is a discussion that involves both ethics and values. The things that we think are right as well as the things that we think are important. Both of these things, ethics and values, guide our behavior in life. Both are relational - they are important in evaluating actions that relate to others. I propose that values also include concepts that are not relational. There are qualities that help us to be good human beings that are also just for us, or that support us in ways that then allow us to have good relationships. But that too is a separate post.

You could say that ethics and values added together are what make an ideal human. Oh, but what, what is ideal?

Back to the Oxford Dictionary:

"A standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at."

So you could say that ethics are principles that guide us in our goal of becoming ideal human beings.

That's a useful definition, but it's important here to note that human beings are already perfect. We are learning creatures. We are experiments, if you will, experiencers of this cosmic dance we call life. Some say our purpose here is to learn. Perhaps that's true, but it's learning with no test at the end. There is no goal, not really. We are perfectly imperfect. No matter what we do, we are performing our purpose, which I propose is simply to exist and experience. The ideal human being is one that grows and changes throughout its life.

Me being me, I also think that we ought to be good to each other along the way. But on a universal level, we need all kinds of experiences to grow, even the painful ones. Even the awful ones. That means somebody has to volunteer to be the villain, at least some of the time. If we were all perfect paragons of love and light, what would ever happen? Change, growth, and evolution are impossible in a state of perfect bliss. Chaos, negativity, disruption, destruction, and randomness are essential to a growing and evolving Universe. But I digress.

What does all this mean to us as Pagans? Obviously, I don't speak for everyone, but I post this here as a sort of impetus to deeper thought. What law do you live by? Are there built-in rules of ethical behavior in your belief system? Do you follow them as is, or do you add in values of your own? What are they based on? Have they changed over time? Do they still fit you now, at this time in your journey?

If you follow the Wiccan Rede, there is an awful lot of room for interpretation. What and who does "do no harm" apply to? How far do you take it? Does it apply to every situation? What do you do in situations where harm is not at issue? What qualities are important to you? I propose that a set of ethical principles and values is helpful in addition to the Rede. In my next post, I'll discuss my own ethical system.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Family of the Heart

Family is not only a matter of genes
The blood does bind, it's true
But another force is at work
Love is the greatest bond of all

Every year, my friends and I have a Pre-Thanksgiving party. We gather to feast, drink and make merry. We're in our 23rd year of amazing food, stimulating conversations, excellent wine and general shenanigans. If you've ever seen Auntie Mame, you have an idea what this party is like.

Folks who know me in the physical world and longtime readers know that my biological family is tricky. The ones who treated me the best are in the Summerlands, and the ones who didn't are here and angry that I don't spend time with them. I have been very lucky to have found a chosen family over the years.

Our reasons for banding together are diverse. I am not the only one with challenges in the biological family department. Some don't have any family. Some are not accepted by their family for reasons of sexual orientation, religion, or lifestyle. Some just have awful families. Some live far away from family. Others just stick around for kicks.

The bonds we share are real. They are strong. They are every bit as valid as biological family ties. We have a shared history rich with stories. We support each other in good times and bad. We stand together even when one or more of us is being bone-headed.

We are all kinds of people - all ages, all cultures, all faiths, all orientations, all genders. Eccentricity and intelligence are the rule. In our midst, we have brewmasters, antique dealers, pipe makers, priestesses, seamstresses, dancers, musicians of all types, artists, gamers, geeks, nerds, athletes, dilettantes, drama queens, cosplayers, re-creationists, fairies, and more. We are colorful. We are wild, wacky, and wonderful.

This year, as every year, I am so thankful for you, my chosen family. Thank you for accepting me as I am, with all of my flaws, failings, and contradictions. Thank you for sticking with me as I grow and mature. Thank you for helping me figure it all out. Thank you for giving me the space to evolve and change. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for your presence in my life. Thank you. Without you, I don't know how I would get through November and December, much less the rest of the year.

Not all of my family was at this gathering. Not all of them are local to this area. In truth, my family is scattered across the miles. To these people, I say - you are in my thoughts and my heart. I miss you. I wish you were here to raise a glass with me. Thank you - all of these gratitudes are meant for you just as much as those who live nearby. Thank you.

There are many things for which I am grateful this year. I am housed, clothed, fed, employed, and loved. I am pursuing my passions and my sacred work. I am healthy. I am strong. Most of the time, I am happy.

But of all these things, my family is the best and brightest, the most important thing. These luminous souls make the journey worthwhile. We inspire each other to be our best selves. Long may it be so.