One thing 2017 taught me was this:
Don’t give up on love.
2017 was a hard year. A bewildering year. It was a year when chaos took the reins.
And chaos, when linked to evil, is a terrifying thing.
“Give us the corrosive systems we know and understand!” many of us cried. “Give us back evil that is neutral. Evil that counts numbers. Evil that obeys the rule of law.”
That’s not what we got in 2017. Instead, we got systems that cracked and groaned in the midst of a new maelstrom. We got torches marching in the streets, and gunning people down. We got The Joker, jeering and japing from a big white plantation house.
We got more murder. More oppression.
We got terror for many, and comfort for a decreasing few.
But in 2017? We did not give up on love.
In 2017? We dug deep into our hearts and figured out what was important to us.
In 2017? We retreated, some of us, sure. But we also showed up, side by side, to face jack boots or offer food to our hungry or grieving neighbors.
In 2017? We kissed. We laughed. We danced when we could. We painted pictures and wheeled our ‘chairs into the rain. We baked cookies, fragrant with cinnamon. We crunched our teeth into apples, and let the juice burst in our mouths.
In 2017, every time I felt despair, or an anger so great it threatened to engulf me, I remembered the force of love.
And I looked around…and saw that you did, too. And I loved you for that.
In 2017? I loved you fiercely. And I felt every single one of you who loved each other back.
“An army of lovers shall not fail,” the poet said.
In 2018? In 2020? In 2105? Let us please keep falling back in love.
It is the only force strong enough to prevail.
December 31, 2017
(The poet is Rita Mae Brown. That is the final line of “Sappho’s Reply.”)
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Blessed be these times. Blessed be our communities.
Blessed be the strength in our hearts. Blessed be the power of love.
Don’t let the alt-right/misogynists/fascists/racists/plutocrats/ableists/transphobes/queer bashers/white supremacists/anti-Muslims/anti-Semites/anti-immigrants/jerks/bullies/shamers/oppressors grind you down.
Don’t let the world itself stress and bend you until you finally break.
Seriously. Don’t let it happen.
The process of constant stress and pressure applied repeatedly in cycles until an object finally cracks and breaks.
It’s happening. To bodies, minds, and souls.
Every time you open Twitter. Or Facebook. Or glance at the news. Or for some of you, every time you go to a restaurant, or shop, or a park, or go to work.
There it is! Another terrible thing happening! Another thing attacking you! Another thing you aren’t sure what exactly if anything you can do about. Another thing you are weary of countering.
Rend! Rip! Bend! Press!
Hundreds of tiny injuries are inflicted on your psyche. Repeatedly.
Tiny tugs. Tiny bits of pressure. Here. Then there. Then here again.
These seem inconsequential at first, until your whole being is bowed and bloody with them.*
You begin to collapse from the weakening of your life force. The leeching away of your power.
You crumble into yourself.
Sometimes you look for distraction in the usual ways…only to find that there is little distraction to be had.
This stuff is everywhere you look. Always creating more fissures in your heart.
Fatigue failure happens over time, because of repeated stress cycles. Fatigue failure occurs even when an object has not reached it’s strength limits.
Fatigue failure is caused by consistent stress and pressures that wear an object down.
So what do you do? How do you interrupt a stress cycle? And how do you build in resilience before the stress cycles begin?
One way is to consistently invoke love.
The love that feels like bedrock.
Or the love that feels like interstitial flow.
The love that takes your breath away, and fills your eyes with tears of gratitude.
The love that gives your life back.
Not romance. Not heartbreak. Not selfishness. Not co-dependency. Not limerence. Not…any of the forms love can be shaped into. Invoke the original force.
Love. Connection. Empowerment. Ease. And perhaps a dash of revitalizing lust.
When hundreds of tiny assaults are bending and pressing and bleeding you dry, take a breath. Feel the pain. Tense all the way up with it. Then exhale. And let it go.
Then ask yourself: How can I best invoke love right now?
Then ask: what feels closest to my heart, or most aligned with my abilities?
Focus on that love.
Then do that thing.
Don’t wallow in the awareness of all the things you cannot save.
Don’t continuously batter yourself from the inside with the things that strike at you from the outside.
Offer the help you can.
Receive the help you can.
Offer the help you can.
Receive the help you can.
Offer the help you can.
Invoke more love.
The slices and assaults will still come. But the next time? You’ll be able to say: “I feel you. And today, I’m doing this thing to help build or preserve or protect the things that feel important to me, and I’m calling on love to help me.”
Then remind your friends:
They love something, too.
Love builds. Love repairs. Love is strong.
And a bunch of tiny invocations can increase the strength of love: Art. Music. Laughter. Food. Sharing. Mutual aid.
Supporting acts of love counters our fatigue.
Embracing acts of love increases our endurance.
Help shore up the things that matter to you most, and help your friends and community do the same.
We build from there.
Stay in love. Always. Or for as long as you can.
T. Thorn Coyle, December, 2016
Some practical suggestions in no particular order:
-Unplug from phones and computers for set periods of time.
-If possible, set computers/phones to red tones instead of blue.*
-Get out in trees, or water, or desert, or rain…anyplace outside if you can.
-Talk with friends and loved ones.
-Pay your bills.
-Eat nourishing food.
-Listen to music, look at art.
-Remember to ask for help.
*Thanks to a scientist friend who reminded me of this term when I was casting about for a good descriptor not based on racist idioms (the kernal of this essay began with “death by a thousand cuts” which has racist roots).
*For those who don’t experience it, this is similar to what many marginalized people experience consistently with what are called “micro-agressions.” The tiny insults, slights, and actions that…add up over time, until the person is made sick by them.
*This suggestion comes from a friend trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine
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To my friends and comrades dishing out love in the face of daily pain, I thank you.
I know it feels hard right now. I also know that, though the road may be long, we will continue to walk it, together.
Though today feels like a battle, love will win.
I also want to remind those who think the face of pain should be the face of playing nice: the expression of love takes many forms, including grief and rage.
Love can feel soft or hard.
Love can be a warm embrace or a direct confrontation, soul to soul.
Love is necessary.
I hope that we keep practicing.
Last night, arriving home after doing my civic duty at a public hearing
regarding fourteen activists facing a $70,000 fine for chaining themselves to our local transit system on Black Friday, a friend pointed me to a piece that, among many other things, said that one should not ask Pagan organizations to take stands on racial justice, as it is just a “cause du jour.”
I decided to respond this morning and thought the points I made might be good for many of us to think on and dialog about. Here is my comment, edited so that it applies to the broader situation:
“We must look at our world as it is, and it is a desperate and painful ordeal to undergo. Yet the pain of the world is what we are masking by accepting the false dreams of our fallen empire whose jaws still devour even those in its death throes. Before dream we must open our eyes, and wash them clean.”
That is from Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. In that book, he clearly asks us to work both in the shadow and in full sunlight. He asks us to engage, deeply.
My magic works both in the mysterious realms and in the manifest world. Oftentimes the two overlap. Separating spirit and matter is a trap. And yes, it is a trap often made by certain Christian sects. It seems to me that we can also fall into this trap, in saying that religious organizations should not speak to their members on troubles of the times.
If spirit and matter are conjoined, interpenetrating, not separate, then how should my spirituality not have a care for justice? How should I not care that people get fed, clothed, housed? That Nature of which we are a part is not raped and trampled? How should I not care that together, we’ve built systems of such shocking inequity that government employees regularly beat, harass, rape, and kill members of society with impunity?
Should a religious organization not have a care for the welfare of its members? Isn’t that part of its mandate? For example, Pagan and other religious groups have spoken out in favor of marriage equality. Why shouldn’t Pagan and other religious groups also speak on racial injustice? Both directly affect their members. Choosing to speak on one sets a precedent to speak on the other.
My religion is never about morality. My religion deals with ethics. My religion –like so many Gods and Goddesses do– deals with justice.
Peter Grey wrote: “Love is the war to end all wars, and the war is upon us.”
I know where I’m standing.
How about you? What are your thoughts on the role of your religious or spiritual organization in taking stands? Should religious people or organizations be engaged in civic life? Are you? In what ways?