- A number of years ago, a friend turned me on to Spacemen 3. My first impression was that they were on a lot of drugs. Then I realized they were singing about Jesus, which I thought was a joke. After a dozen or so songs, I realized they were sincere, which made me love them that much more. Massive drug abuse and metaphysical devotion go together like cornbread and beans. And the Spacemen know how to drive a fuzzbox.
- I had a conversation with Ira Kaplan once, when I was eighteen, during the course of which I asked him for his thoughts on distortion pedals. Mr. Kaplan advised me to get a Rat. I took his advice and purchased a Rat distortion pedal, which proved to be perfectly adequate, though not spectacular. I don’t know what happened to that pedal. I assume I sold it for drug money.
I find it amazing that the guitar-destroying, feedbacking maniac whose opinion I sought regarding distortion pedals devolved into the gutless, twee pantywaist he is now.
- I have a young, female friend who I regularly refer to as “my taxidermist”. I am, of course, capable of doing my own tanning and such, but I have numerous demands on my time and she really enjoys working on the various specimens I take to her, mostly roadkill. I pay her with doe skulls, which are very easy for me to obtain and which she sells via the internet to people who want animal skulls but who are too lazy or stupid to go out to the country and find a place where poachers dump their carcasses after cutting out the loins.
I’ve known her for several years. For most of that time, she seemed to be kinda drifting, in the beery way that people in their twenties often do, just sorta stumbling through life with no real drive or direction. Then, she got into roller derby which gave her some motivation and purpose. More recently, she discovered her love of working with dead animals. She isn’t licensed to practice taxidermy, but she’s working on that and getting practical experience on anything she can get hold of – mice, rabbits, raccoons, deer. I took her a fox t’other day, which she’s going to pelt for me. She showed me her basement workspace. She’s got skulls in various stages – bear, coyote, the biggest buck ever taken in Rockingham County.
It’s wonderful to see someone find their thing, their passion. Especially when it benefits me so directly.
- I know this guy. He’s a big galoot, lotta tattoos, shaved head, red laces in his Docs. I didn’t say we were friends. We were talking recently, about spiritual matters. I was not at all surprised when he mentioned his interest in Odin, Thor and the rest of the Norse pantheon. I can understand why racists are so into Norse mythology – it’s pretty fuckin’ badass and the Vikings were pretty fuckin’ white. It’s too bad though – means that the rest of us have to avoid getting tattoos of Mjollnir. Also, the swastika is an ancient and wonderful symbol which has been usurped by Nazi assholes, although the Buddhists and Hindus continue to use it. Actually, we should all start using swastikas and valknuts to decorate our bodies and homes. Fuck Nazis. They shouldn’t get anything.
- There is, somewhere on the internet, a review of My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush, the first in the “Crazy Bush” compilation series. It is a generally positive review. The only track the reviewer didn’t like was BDSR’s “Prayer To Humankind (Medicine Story)” which consisted of a looped sample from Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” under this Espresso Shaman reading “Prayer To Humankind” by Medicine Story. It is the simplest, most direct track BDSR has ever done and is 100% sincere. The reviewer said it was like “Beck reading New Age Scientology”, or something like that. I don’t recall his exact words. I didn’t address it because the review of the comp was positive, but I would like to state here, for the record, that if anyone calls BDSR “New Age” or suggests that I am in any way like Beck to my face, I will stomp a mudhole in their ass.
- It’s a well-known fact that I am a devotee of distortion. There is no logic or rational underlying my love of fuzz – it’s purely emotional, visceral, perhaps animal, sometimes physical. That’s the case with the guitar on certain tracks, by Zambian psych outfit WITCH. I experience the lead in “Home Town”, for example, in about the same way I experience nipple stimulation – so overwhelmingly pleasurable that my body recoils from it.
- There are a number of BDSR tracks that have the word “brown” in the title – “Brown Sabbath”, “Brown Wadada”, “Sweet Brown Angel ‘N Heavy Syrup”. That comes from my nom de guerre, Brown Hat, but also from brown as the color of dirt, trees, many animals and general earthiness. Brown is also the color of shit – the phrase “brown hat” can refer to the poo that is on the head of a penis when it is removed from an asshole – which dovetails with the BDSR tenet that all natural things are sacred, even poo.
(This is as good a place as any to state that we of The Big Drum In The Sky Religion hold and affirm that the Absolute, Infinite and Eternal, Ineffable and Inconceivable, Divine Mystery which created, supports, infuses and is the entirety of all that is and more, is not offended or harmed by, nor is in any way concerned about, whether or not somebody fucks somebody in the ass. It really doesn’t matter that much. Have at it. Obviously, we as mere humans are stoutly in favor of all the standard consenting adults, not scaring the horses kinda jazz, but otherwise, do it in the ass all you want. There is, by the way, no good reason to brag about it, post pics to the internet or start a porno-grind band dedicated to it and we really wish you wouldn’t because all that does is reinforce the dominant paradigm and encourage people to pay any attention whatsoever to porno-grind, which is a completely useless and puerile form of expression. It may seem that this Espresso Shaman, by assuming the nom de guerre “Brown Hat”, is bragging about it, but that is not the case. The name “Brown Hat” properly derives from the fact that said individual frequently wears a somewhat battered, broad-brimmed, leather hat which is brown. It is true that we are amused by the fact that the phrase “brown hat” also refers to the poo that may be on a dick after ass-fucking, but that’s incidental and kinda punk in a way.)
As any artist knows, colors are frequently shown on a color wheel. The colors that are opposite each other on the wheel – red/green, yellow/purple &c – when mixed together always make brown. So brown can also stand for the mixture, or integration, of opposites – male/female, good/evil, yin/yang.
And it hearkens back to a minor epiphany I had as a teenage dishwasher in one of my many restaurant jobs. A server set down a bunch of coffee cups, each one partially full and each one containing a different ratio of coffee to milk, ranging from off-white to black, which in the case of coffee is actually very dark brown. When I looked at the coffee in the cups, I saw the full range of skin colors from albino to Ivory Coast. Obviously, Asians and Native Americans were not represented in the coffee/milk, but my brain automatically included them. I knew before then that all people are of the same substance regardless of their hue, but that illustration slammed it home. Coffee is, as you may know by now, a sacrament of The Big Drum In The Sky Religion, which had not yet been conceived when I was a teenage dishwasher, but which nevertheless existed in potentiality, so having the races of humanity vividly portrayed in the tones of this divine substance was a real eye-opener. All human beings are some shade of brown.
Great quotes by me:
“Knowing isn’t half the battle. Killing half your enemies is half the battle.”
“’Pessimism’ is what idiots call realism.”
“Coffee is proof that God loves us and wants us to be awake.”
The Way of Negativity* is a method for talking about God developed by some Sufi mystics in the tenth century. The basic premise is that you can’t really talk about God because God is transcendent. And what is God transcendent of? Concepts. God transcends conceptualization because God is eternal and infinite. Human beings are temporal and finite. There is nothing in our experience that is not temporal and finite and we can’t imagine the meanings of those words. You can say “Oh, ‘infinity’ means it goes on and on forever, like outer space”, but you can’t imagine what that is really like.
Further, if you say “God is good”, you are limiting God to that which you – or your society – defines as “good”. “Goodness” is a concept and a mighty flimsy one at that. Machine-gunning people is good if you happen to be a Marine and the people you’re mowing down are enemy combatants. This was no problem for the early Jews. Their God was a Warrior God. When they weren’t praising him for smiting their enemies, they were begging him to stop smiting them and to smite their enemies instead (cf. the entire Old Testament). That’s all well and good for a warrior tribe, but not so much. One quickly starts wondering why, if God is good, does He allow so much suffering, pain and anguish. Why doesn’t he cure kids’ leukemia? If I had the power to cure a kid who had leukemia and I didn’t do it, I’d be a fuckin’ asshole. There’s a lot of word-wrangling and victim-blaming that goes on with that, or people say that God is testing the poor little kid, or that He has strange ways Hi
His wonders to perform. It’s true – God does have mighty strange ways and we do see as through a glass darkly, but c’mon. The Jews did embrace the Way of Negativity and developed Kabbalah, which has a lot to do with the numerical values of Hebrew letters and such.
Obviously, God is not “good” as we define it. Nor is God “wise” as we define it. Or “just”, “merciful”, “powerful” or any other word that anybody has used to describe God. It isn’t even accurate to say that God “is”, because that implies that God exists in the same way everything else in the universe exists.
That isn’t accurate. God transcends all words, concepts and inklings. No one can ever actually talk about God. But people want to talk about God.
The Way of Negativity is an attempt to talk about God with less inaccuracy. Instead of saying “God is good”, one would say “God is not evil”, which is certainly true because if God was evil, things would be a lot worse for us than they are. And God is not “evil” as humans can be “evil”. Nor is God “ignorant”, “weak”, “cruel” or “small”. The Way goes on to add more “not”s: “God is not not-good”, but that’s more of a way of hammering home the paradoxical nature of the subject at hand and really only useful for meditative purposes. I think one “not” is sufficient. But it is important to remember that God transcends all pairs of opposites so “God is not male” must be balanced with “God is not female”. “God is not dead” must go with “God is not alive” because God is not “alive” in the same way that trees and people and slugs are “alive”.
We’re getting away from the Way of Negativity and into my own personal belief. I would say that God is not “alive” because God is life. The very fact that there is such a thing as life, when there is absolutely no reason why there should be, is enough for me. Actually, I don’t generally use the capital G because it implies a specific conception of the Divine which I don’t cotton to. I’m using it here for simplicity.
God is life. God is energy. Physics has shown that energy and matter are actually the same – energy is matter sped up; matter is energy slowed down. So God is also matter. God is being, but God is also not being. God is all that is and more. This is called “panentheism”, by the way. “Pantheism” is the belief that God is everything. “Panentheism” is the belief that God is more than everything. But at the same time, God is not a thing, so God is nothing, or no-thing. It’s all pretty paradoxical, which is bothersome for some people which is why they dumb it down for themselves and make God a combination of Santa Claus and Superman. Feh,
Here’s another “not”: God is not personal. God is not sitting around waiting for you to ask for the immutable laws of the universe to be altered so that you can have a nice day. God, in fact, is the immutable laws of the universe, while also being the universe. And more.
You can, of course, have a relationship with God. Prayer is affective, but it works a helluva lot better when the person praying prays for the ability to align her/himself with God’s will, which is also known as Dharma and Tao. Make no bones, God’s will is what’s going to happen. If you’re aligned with God’s will, things are going to go smoother for you. That’s not the same as predestination, by the by. God does not predetermine our actions. We are all operating with as much free will as the limitations of our bodies and the laws of our society allow (heh heh). We do, absolutely, co-create reality in real time, but we do so within a specific framework and God is that framework. Every individual has the exact same amount of power to determine the course that reality will take, so the world we inhabit is a product of the collective efforts of all people.
How’s that for a kick in the teeth? All of us, working together, have co-created the swirling shitstorm of war, famine, economic injustice, bigotry, greed, corruption, environmental destruction, pornography, pop culture, rape, waste and general shittiness that we ignore in the headlines every day. The assholes at the top of the capitalist pyramid scheme, who control the media, love it and want to keep it the way it is, which is why they promote it so hard. Obviously, they’re succeeding.
But anyway, The whole point of the thing is to help us remember that God is something vague and mysterious. The Oglala phrase for God is “Wakan Tanka”, which is frequently translated “Great Spirit”. I read somewhere – I think it was something by John Lame Deer – that “wakan” refers to the mysterious spirit-power that exists, to more or less obvious degree, in all things and “tanka” is an absolute. “Wakan Tanka”, then, is the absolute Mysterious Spirit-Power that is in all things, but which can be addressed as if separate from all things. That is very much like the Hindu Brahman/Atman concept and also very much like what I personally believe. Some people, myself included, find it desirable to personify the Great Mysterious Whatever, and that is a fine thing to do if it helps, but it is important to remember that that’s what you’re doing.
I used the phrase “as if” in the last paragraph. All mythology should be addressed within the context of “it is as if”, because it is. Especially when the topic is God. God is as if, but God is also not as if. It all seems like gibberish sometimes, but it does somehow add up to something that a person can hang their hat on. I know, it’s the framework of my life.
*Actually, it’s the Way of Negation, or Via Negativa, or apophatic theology, but I think “the Way of Negativity” is funny.
Fifteenish years ago, I got a bike – a chrome-finish, Ross mountain bike. I was still fairly new to the clean/sober lifestyle and still had five years to wait before I was eligible to petition the court for reinstatement of my driver’s license. The bike – which at some point acquired the moniker SMF, for “Silver MotherFucker” – was my primary mode of transport and, as so often happens, I became quite attached to it.
The Commonwealth of Virginia eventually decided to let me drive. I got a ’78 Ford F-150, which was breaking down faster than I could repair it and a motorcycle. I kept the SMF, of course. The Ford threw a rod. I sold the motorcycle when the Spotted Opossum was a wee babe – couldn’t justify keeping a vehicle that I couldn’t use with a baby.
The SMF was stolen. Some asshole stole it off the back porch. I couldn’t believe it. I’d had that bike for eight years or so, logged hundreds of miles on it, jumped thousands of curbs. I searched all over for it, keeping an eye always out for a silver Ross, for years. Five years or thereabouts. I did get a Giant Iguana at one point, but I didn’t really care about it. When the Iguana got stolen, I didn’t care. It was never the SMF.
I knew I had to let it go. I knew the bike was gone, gone , gone, beyond any hope of recall. I knew that – and yet, I just kept looking, kept thinking I’d spot it somewhere.
And then I did. I came in to work at the collectively owned restaurant where I work one Saturday morning. Upon arrival, I learned that the compost bins were full. We throw all of our food waste into bins which are then picked up by Christian hippies on bikes who take them to their compost field, which is in the backyard of the communal house they have about a block north of the restaurant. The Christian hippies have a farm someplace out in the county. They take in homeless people, put ‘em to work on the farm,. help ‘em kick meth, preach at ‘em. I have some quibbles with some Christian shelter-type organizations, and I don’t agree completely with the ones up the street, but I do vaguely believe they’re doing good work and are nice folks.
Anyway, when the compost bins get full, the dishers throw the food waste in the trash which I find objectionable. Whatever can be composted should be composted. And I am apparently the only person in the joint who is capable of walking a block up the street and snagging a bin or two out of the yard at the Christian hippie commune or whatever they call it. So I went up there, snagged a couple bins and as I was leaving, walked past the hanging bike rack and there was the SMF. Hanging on the rack. At the far right end of the rack. I walked over and checked the logo and yes, it was a Ross. I stood there for a couple moments staring at it. There it was, five years later.
I had to go back to work so I did and spent way too much of the day running around in my head about the SMF. I decided I’d go back, find whoever had the bike and trade them for the Trek that I got last month. The Trek is a good mountain bike. I got it used and it even came with toe clips. Looking at it objectively, the Trek is a better bike than the Ross, but the Ross was my bike. I was sure I could convince whoever had it to take the trade. And if they wouldn’t take the trade, then I could mention that when the Ross was stolen I filed a report at the police station (not because I thought the cops would get my bike back, but because I thought I might find it and there could be a confrontation when I stole it back), implying that I could bring some heat down on their little Christian hippie, stolen-bike-powered operation, which I wouldn’t actually do, but they don’t know that.
I did go back after work and spoke with a nice Christian hippie mom named Grace, who told me I had to talk with a guy named Daniel, who is the resident Christian hippie bike mechanic. During the next couple days, I returned to the commune several times without finding Daniel. Someone sent me to the Christian hippie community center on Sunday, on the theory that Daniel would be at Christian hippie church there. He wasn’t, but I ran into Grace, who told me Daniel said I had to talk to a guy named Tomahawk, who has been using the Ross. Tomahawk wasn’t there, but was expected to be around the following day, so I went home.
The tailpipe on the little red truck had rusted through and was hanging loose so I spent a bit of Sunday afternoon splicing it back together with a square of aluminum (Coke can), a hose clamp and some gasket sealant. I had a can of hunter green oil paint on the porch that I had been thinking about using to make the Trek green and less attractive to thieves before I spotted the Ross. After I fixed the tailpipe, I still felt like being outside, doing some kind of work on something.
And then I knew that I was going to let Tomahawk keep the Ross. I’m sure he didn’t steal it – the Christian hippies get their bikes through a local shop that rehabs found/donated bikes and gives them away. Whoever did steal it probably abandoned it somewhere and it somehow got to the commune.
I had a bike, a perfectly good Trek. Tomahawk had a bike, a battered, but still good Ross.
Why not just leave it as it was? So I opened the can and painted the Trek. Everyone who’s seen it has agreed that it’s less attractive (to thieves). I haven’t gotten around to wiring a small mammal skull to the center of the handlebars, but I will. The Trek is my bike and will doubtlessly acquire a name in time.
The next day, I ran into Grace and told her that I had experienced a change of heart about the whole situation and that I hoped Tomahawk enjoyed the bike. She seemed pleased that the whole thing had a happy ending.
This story is about letting go, moving on and being okay with it. It’s also got somewhat to do with living in a small world, where people are interconnected and things that are lost come back around. And I suppose there’s something here about the importance of knowing what matters and what doesn’t.
The Big Drum In The Sky Religion has always had a shifting line-up. That’s deliberate and will always be so. The semi-open nature of it allows things to happen that would not otherwise be possible. There are some drawbacks to it though. Most of the people who have been involved were also in other bands which were more traditionally structured and required more commitment. And everybody who has been involved has had relationships, jobs and other activities which took priority over BDSR.
It’s also true that the style of music BDSR makes – which I recently described as “neo-noise free crustfolk punkedelic” or some similar nonsensical mash-up – is not exactly popular. Maybe they dig this shit in some distant clime, but ‘round these parts there ain’t much love. If I was twenty years younger, had a handlebar moustache and went to all the cool kid parties, I’d have no trouble assembling a combo, but I’m old, I don’t drink or share out lines and I am allergic to the type of conceited self-promotion that one needs to convince other people that one’s rhymey couplets are pure fuckin’ genius and you guys should join my band because it’ll be like Billy Bragg fronting Exile-era Stones and it’ll be really cool.
At this writing, BDSR doesn’t have - hasn’t had for a while – a solid performance line-up. Which is why we haven’t performed for a while. I have, at times, set up shows and trusted the universe to provide people to play, but the universe doesn’t always feel like doing my job for me. I’ve gotten more than enough promises from people that they’d play with me at a show to believe that those promises mean anything.
But BDSR is a band and bands play shows at least once in a while. Drummer Boy is always fired up to play, never gives a shit about any of the logistics or who else may or may not be there. That guy would be happy to throw down a twenty-minute drum solo in a church parking lot for his aunt and two of her friends. He enjoys a privileged status, above the fray and free from the concerns of the world.
Anyway, I was thinking recently about getting a group together for some shows, possibly a mini-tour of some sort. There are several people who I’d like to take on the road, but they’re unavailable. Joshu Mu is in Chicago; Italian Ice is in Taiwan or someplace – I can’t always remember what corner of the globe she’s having a mental breakdown in. There is one guy who lives up the valley who I’ve jammed with a few times and done some shows with. He is his own band, of the table-top noise variety and he plays bass occasionally. We have common musical tastes and philosophy. He’s more than capable of grooving a three-chord garage-punk riff and switching to blasted, senseless cacophony on a dime. I sent him an email asking if he’d be interested in coming to town occasionally to hold down the bottom end.
He got back to me and said that he was sorely tempted, but could not join BDSR because he didn’t agree with BDSR’s “(non-musical) philosophy and ideals”, by which he meant the religious stuff. He’s a Christian. I knew that, of course. The fact that he’s a Christian was really a bonus to me – I like people who have some degree of spirituality in their lives, even if we don’t agree on the details. I am, very sincerely, promoting religion as a positive force. Following my own path, I give greater emphasis to certain forms of religion, but I’d be quite happy to have a dedicated Christian bring their influence to the mix.
Unfortunately, my Christian friend does not have the same leeway I have. My religion is inclusive – I recognize all paths as equally good and right. His religion is exclusive – he believes that his religion is the only good and right one, which is exactly what his religion says. I am able to invite him to bring his beliefs and influence to BDSR, but he is not able to accept the invitation because doing so would violate his moral code. I’m kinda bummed about it, but I certainly don’t hold it against him that he’s acting out of his conscience in accordance with the dictates of his faith. Actually, the fact that he’s taking a stand based on his religious conviction is one more reason for me to respect him and appreciate his friendship. He certainly has never held it against me that I’m an unwashed heathen. (I was washed once, baptized that is, but I got dirty again.)
I value and respect Christianity as much as all other forms of spirituality. It might seem like I’m attacking Christianity once in a while – over at the Bandcamp there are tracks titled “Emmanual Transmission”, which has a dayglo portrait of Jesus, and “Holy Ghost Bitch”, which has a picture of a woman on a crucifix, but those are less attacks and more attempts to draw attention to certain aspects of religion, in these examples Christianity, and to use puns which I especially enjoy for their ability to convey multiple meanings. There are other tracks on the Bandcamp, i.e. “Matthew 6:6” and several Psalms, that refer to Christianity, but which don’t have anything about them that seems critical or controversial. Nevertheless, to a devout Christian, who believes that Jesus Christ is the single earthly incarnation of the God of Abraham, everything about The Big Drum In The Sky Religion’s “(non-musical philosophy and ideals” is blasphemy.
So, in the interest of clarity, I’ll clarify: BDSR holds that all religions, including Christianity, are right and good and true as metaphor. All are ways to live good and authentic lives here and now, and of achieving and maintaining a relationship with the Great Mystery. BDSR respects and supports all religions. BDSR may make fun of any and all religions at any time, but that is in the spirit of the Trickster, pointing out that religions are human constructs that cannot possibly, due to the inherent limitations of our puny minds, limited as they are to the merely finite and temporal, actually touch or truly convey any real sense of that which is infinite and eternal. Human attempts to define or describe Divinity will always fail. The purpose of the Trickster is to remind us of this truth, lest we believe that our metaphors are facts and thus become idolaters. With regard to Christianity in particular, BDSR does not deny that Jesus of Nazareth was a Son of God, but does deny his exclusive claim to that title. We are all Children of the Living God, whatever name we call Him/Her. With any form of religion, the most important thing by far is the experience. Doctrines, scriptures, sutras and rituals are fine and dandy, but only as they serve the individual to experience a relationship with the Divine.
My friend won’t be playing bass. I’m sure we’ll do shows together, perhaps release that split cassette we’ve talked about. Maybe we’ll have some conversations about religion that will yield insights to one or both of us. These are all fine and good things. Still, I do need somebody to hold down the bottom.
Sometime in the near future, we’ll be announcing the release of a cd titled Turning Trickster, from the young, fresh cannibals at HysM?. The reading featured in the title track comes from The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, by Paul Radin, an anthropologist whose works we have praised in this space several times before.
Trickster is a universal mythological figure appearing in various forms all over the world. To the big three monotheistic religions, Trickster is the Devil, the Archenemy, to be fought and resisted. Among other, less uptight peoples, Trickster represents the fuzzy line between Creation and Destruction, Chaos and Cosmos. The world that we live in, the physical, is a tiny island in a vast sea of unknowableness, the metaphysical – Trickster is an invader from that sea. Oddly enough, he was/is/will be sent here by the Creator to set things in place.
Trickster is an id, constantly seeking food, sex and ease. He is vain and easily offended, stupid and utterly without scruple. To satisfy his incessant urges, he won’t even pause before using deceit, murder and rape. Certainly, he is thwarted in his plans and punished for his crimes in many ways. He is humiliated, injured, even killed, though he springs back to life after every death, learning nothing from his experiences. Trickster tales abound with the basest of humor – fart and poop jokes, the mishaps of Tricksters enormous and self-acting penis, his ongoing arguments with his own anus. Nothing is too coarse or loathsome to factor in. And it must be remembered that this Trickster is a Deity, an emissary of the Great God, sent to Earth to establish the forms of the world, the ways that people should live.
There are many examples of Trickster making some physical feature of the landscape. His interactions with various animals end with the establishment of their particular characteristics, i.e. the skunk’s coloring or the turkey vulture’s bald head. The beaver’s flat tail, or the opossum’s hairless one, is certainly explained by stories of those animals’ encounters with Trickster. This aspect of the character, which this Shaman’s daughter finds so intriguing – “Is that really why the beaver has a flat tail? Is that really true?” – should not be overemphasized. Trickster is less about the length of the rabbit’s ears than the Nature of the Universe.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a question that no one who lives with Trickster would ever ask. Only in a monotheistic, merit-based philosophy, fundamentally corrupted by capitalism, could such a thought occur. In such a system, the world created by God must be just and good deeds must be rewarded, in the here and now. Calamity and ruin visited upon any individual or group must therefore be explained by their wickedness or by the choice of God to use disaster as a teaching or testing tool. It’s as if I were to fling my daughter into the Shenandoah during the heavy springtime flow to punish her for wiping a booger on the sofa or to test her faith in my ability to rescue her from the same. Every time there’s a hurricane or drought, some whackjob preacher steps up to proclaim that God is angry about gay marriage or abortion and is showing His displeasure by punishing the community afflicted, whether they deserve it or not.
Feh. Those who live with Trickster – and it should be obvious that The Big Drum In The Sky Religion soundly embraces him – have no need or desire to cast blame on victims of misfortune. We live by certain principles, the principles that were established in Trickster’s wake, but we know that the world we live in is governed by an anarchist. Disasters and destruction happen because it is the very nature of the world that they should. Obviously, crimes will be punished, but many misfortunes happen because that’s just the fuckin’ way it is and there’s little to be done about it. And that’s okay. In fact, looked at from a certain angle, it can be rather amusing.
Life is brutal and ugly at times. Horrible things happen to good people. Get used to it.
And life is astonishingly beautiful at other times. Right now, spring is springing in the beautiful Valley of the Shenandoah. The birds are raising quite a ruckus, the grass is greening and the animals are frisking about. We’ve survived another winter – most of us anyway, pour one out for R.R. and the other homies who ain’t with us anymore – and it is a fine time to be alive. Trickster is surely whistling as he walks on this day, looking for something to eat and someone to fuck. Methinks I’ll do the same, after another cup of coffee.
But actually, I won’t, because I am not Trickster. Today is a day for me to fast and my spiritual path no longer includes random sexual encounters. The thoughts and desires are surely still present, but I have the power to choose not to act on them, because I live just over the line from chaos, in the ordered and human zone. Chaos is a fun place to visit, but I don’t live there anymore.
The guy from HysM?, Stefano, contacted me about possible cover art for the cd. I was little help. It’s nigh impossible to accurately portray Trickster because he is of a time before the establishment of forms, neither human nor animal, or maybe both and a Spirit as well. Usually, he is shown as a man with a coyote’s head, but he can be a bird as well. Or anything else the story calls for. Stefano threw some images together which I heartily approved.
So that thing will come out. In the meantime, I think I’m gonna go out and fuck some shit up. It is certainly a day to fast, but I may have to reconsider that bit about finding someone to fuck. It is spring, after all.
In case you didn’t see the smoke signals, My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush 2: Escape From The Fallen Planet has been released. It was the smoothest, easiest and fastest comp this Espresso Shaman has ever been involved with. Thanks to all who participated.
Now, enough of that. Onward and upward: Announcing the next two installments! Maybe the next two, definitely one of the next two. The other that I’m announcing now might be the next one or it might be the eighth or something, due to the fact that participation in it is somewhat limited. The other that I’m announcing now is open to all, so I suspect it’ll fill up first. And the full title of that one will be:
My Goddess Has A Crazy Bush (#): All Natural. This one is the standard premise of the series – women’s bodies correlate with nature in nearly all known myth systems, past or present. Our modern world tends to objectify, denigrate and exploit both. Strip-mining and rape are two obvious examples of the violent extremes. Mostly, the objectification, denigration and exploitation take on subtler forms and are presented not as violent, but as benign, if not benevolent.
Someone chose not to participate in this project on the grounds that women defibulate for a plethora of reasons, including beauty and hygiene. I didn’t bother to enter into a debate – he didn’t want to contribute a track, so be it. But it’s pretty clear to anybody who thinks it through that beauty is always socially conditioned and that if a hairless crotch is somehow more “hygienic”, then shouldn’t men shave too? The reality is that women are bombarded constantly with messages about their bodies – that they’re too fat, wrinkly, smelly, hairy &c. As a man, I wear a beard or don’t and it matters not a whit. Let a qualified female applicant show up for a job interview wearing a skirt that reveals hairy legs and that fact alone will disqualify her. Meanwhile, coal and oil companies continue to destroy the planet.
Full disclosure: I believe in man-made global warming, but if it turns out that I’m wrong about that, I don’t care. Whether climate change is the result of human actions or not, I’m still a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. I don’t need climate change to convince me that coal mining is fucking wrong. The poisoning of rivers in Virginia is enough. (Last time the US government had to send truckloads of bottled water to southwest Virginia because the ground water, and therefore the tap water, was contaminated by toxic waste from coal mining was January ’14).
As of this writing, this writer does not participate in any form of direct action. I don’t blow up mining machinery, block logging roads or set fire to oil companies’ office buildings (though I certainly appreciate it when others do). Art and music are my weapons of choice, as ineffectual as they are. I do not believe for a moment that some insignificant V/A compilation of unpopular music made by malcontents is going to change anything, even if said malcontents are truly sincere and internationally dispersed. This comp series is not going to solve anything. I do it because I have to do something. As a person of faith, I am compelled by my conscience to pursue the right, no matter how hopeless it may seem. And I have a daughter. I was an eco-feminist before the Spotted Opossum came along, but she really made it seem more important. Worst case scenario: I’ll be able to tell her I tried.
So, All Natural is open to anyone who wants to send in a track or two. Nobody gets more than ten minutes. All songs remain the property of the artists. Distro must be free. I really like the method of distro for Escape From The Fallen Planet – everybody puts the full comp up on their own Bandcamp or whatever site they use to make their music available. There might be problems with it, but at this moment it seems right for this project. I expect it’ll continue. I’ll probably decide to impose a deadline at some point, but for now it’s open-ended. Think on it a while. See what ya come up with.
The other thing, the one that will take longer to put together, will be Mad Pride Goeth Before A Fall, which title refers, obviously, to the “Mad Pride” movement. This one continues the eco-feminist theme, but adds a layer: crazy people. Participation is limited to artists/bands that have some direct involvement with some form of madness, either temporary or permanent and who are willing to be public about it. The diagnoses of participants will go in the “About this track” section on Bandcamp. For example, if the BDSR track is made by this Espresso Shaman alone, it would say “Dysthemia, reoccurring major depression, psychotic features, alcoholism/addiction”, because that’s what I have. If someone else participates in the BDSR track, their diagnoses, if any, would be added. Some of the other participants in BDSR have been diagnosed with something, some haven’t. This seems pretty clear to me, but I’m insane so it might not make sense. I’d be glad to clarify if anyone has questions.
Basically, if you’ve ever been crazy, even if, like myself, you’re doing pretty good now, and you’re willing to own up to it, you can contribute.
The reason for the exclusionary nature of Mad Pride Goeth Before A Fall is that mental disorders are about the most marginalized fuckers in any population. Right now, people of color are struggling with police violence and discrimination in the USA. LGBT&c. people are making some progress toward equality under the law. Women are not on the same level of social power as men, but the gap is narrowing. All these are good and righteous causes, well worthy of the support of those who, like me, are not of color, queer or female. Keep up the good fight. But there are crazy people too. I think it’s pretty fuckin’ plain that there will be a black lesbian president before there’s a schizophrenic one and that’s fine. Christ knows, four days without my meds and I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the nuke button. I’m not saying there should be crazy, drugged-out Senators or anything stupid like that, but we do exist. Some of us are suffering terribly. I haven’t seen any city-wide marches for depressed people or Youtube fads of idiots pouring ice water over their heads for bi-polar disorder.
It’s really just a way of saying “Hey. We’re here. We make music. Angels talk to us. We care about women and the planet.” Obviously, the marketing will be a bit different.
Obviously, if you’re mad, you can contribute to both of the above.
And again, no deadline; ten minutes max; prob’ly distro through Bandcamp.
Hope to hear from you.
I told a therapist once that I saw myself as an ideological revolutionaire dropping drops of figurative LSD into the collective thought pool. I was batshit crazy then, stewed to the gills, nihilistic and utterly powerless to have any sort of influence on anyone other than making them want to avoid my presence. Still, it was a good metaphor and my therapist was suitably amused. She deserves credit for her patience and tolerance. Sometime later, she made the arrangements for the taxpayer-funded, twenty-eight-day rehab retreat, where/when I began my spiritual journey, which has, so far, been weirder and more pleasurable than anything I experienced as a result of chemicals or psychosis.
The internet existed then, but I wasn’t plugged in. Gaining some measurable of mental stability and spiritual consciousness, I engaged in the world around me, physically and virtually, clumsily trying to communicate my seemingly profound insights about the worlds of form and spirit. At first, I was frustrated that no one seemed to be listening, but gradually, the desire for an audience dissipated and it became enough for me to just fling the ideas out there, willy-nilly, entheogens cast into the stream of collective unconsciousness. Surprisingly enough, some souls responded.
The internet is so easy, so accessible to anyone in a tin-foil medicine hat. Every one of us has the ability to blog about whatever random bullshit we think about while folding our laundry. Every fool with a Casio or a bucket to bang on can have their very own Bandcamp. Every raving maniac can set up their own website, free of charge, to broadcast their gibberish to the entire human race or to no one if no one clicks, but somebody will because no matter how ridiculous, malevolent or unhinged you might be, there is someone who agrees with you. The internet makes it finally possible to find and commune with those losers.
The bookkeeper at the restaurant where I work asked me to find a way for us to avoid paying licensing fees for the music we play in the dining room. I came up with a few solutions, some more unrealistic than others. We could, for example, download a years’ worth of music by musicians on Bandcamp who have offered their songs for free and waived their intellectual property rights – my own band is but one of many who have done such – and play that music in the dining room, thus exposing ourselves and our customers to all manner of new music by artists who are less motivated by the love of money than by the desire to communicate and share their sounds. Not for one moment did I think that was a viable alternative, but it is possible.
Certainly, a massive amount of what gets posted is garbage. There are the misguided and talentless, the bedroom imitators and the plain old malcontents. Misogyny, racism, homophobia and incoherent rage abound on Bandcamp, Tumblr and everywhere. Countless singer-songwriters upload their plaintive and insipid paeans to lost loves. Endless teenage pop-punk bands cover Green Day. Armies of friendless miscreants channel their petty gripes through stompboxes and call it power-violence. That’s the nature of democracy. Idiots and ne’er-do-well’s have equal access to soapboxes.
And what about intellectual property rights? Does the fact that somebody wrote or recorded a piece of music really give them the right to be paid for that act again and again? It’s worth thinking about, I suppose, but I’m not terribly interested in that debate. Some friends of mine once released a single that was a mash-up of Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause” and some Herb Alpert song. It was well-done, hilarious and arguably made a statement. They were sweating bullets, worried that Mr. Alpert was going to sue them into the fires of Hell, but they got away with it. I think they sold three-thousand copies – three full runs of a thousand each – before they decided they’d pushed it as far as they could. Another friend was caught selling bootleg cd’s by an agent of some band of millionaires and subsequently forced to close his record store. He was guilty, sure, guilty of selling music that he didn’t like, but which would help him to pay his rent and put food on the table. He had not in any way harmed the musicians who were bootlegged, didn’t impair their ability to gold-plate the toilets on their yachts or pack cocaine up their nostrils, but he lost his shop and had to go work in a factory. Phuck those rock stars.
So, debate it if ya wanna. I know where I stand. Most of what I steal falls into the “fair use” category, or so I’ll claim if I get sued. Fortunately, there are so many people jacking samples and posting them that the chances of me getting caught are slim to none unless I do something stupid to attract attention. Pussy Riot probably wouldn’t care that I used a piece of one their songs. Buffalo Springfield, or their label, might have issues with my use of “For What It’s Worth”, but as we learned from Negativland, being sued can be good publicity.
Really though, I’m much more intrigued by the opportunity the internet gives me to find out about shit that would never otherwise enter my little corner of the world. I have been able to reach people all over God’s green Earth, make friends, share music freely and discover all kinds of crazy stuff, music certainly – Zamrock, obscure inter-war blues and gospel, Sixto Rodriguez, middle-Eastern psych, Tuvanese throat-singing, countless hordes of outsiders flailing at guitars in their basements – as well as movies – the films of Estus Pirkle, Klaus Kinski’s spaghetti westerns and megalomaniacal rants, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Begotten and Slaves Of The Cannibal Queen, the early works of William Shatner, Finis Hominis, hours of ephemeral films, B-horror and sci-fi, dystopian futures, the entire “Billy Jack” series, fucking Manos: Hands Of Fate, for Christ’s sake. It’s all there, the collected works of humanity, readily available for perusal, good bad or indifferent. Whatever you want.
Do what thou will with the internet. As for me, I’ll be recording whatever comes to hand, running it through a fuzzbox and putting it out there. It’s always pleasurable when I get a notice from Bandcamp saying that I’m running out of free download credits, but it makes no difference. I will continue to fling metaphorical soma into the thought pool because I enjoy doing so. The restaurant work pays the bills so I don’t need to get paid for the music. If someone is inspired, entertained or comforted by my output, as I have so been by the works of others, works that I did not pay for, that’s wonderful, but not important. I do what I do because I love to do it. The internet has freed me from the need to buy cd-r’s or blank cassettes to spread my gospel. I am the voice of one crying out in the World Wide Wilderness and I have been shocked to find fellow travelers, like-minded spirits and collaborators where I expected to find a Void.
The Reason For The Season Of The Witch
For a thousand years or so, the official position of the Catholic Church was that there was no such thing as witchcraft. Occasionally, the Vatican would get a report about some villager who claimed a witch had spoiled his milk or caused his mule to come up lame. These reports were simply ignored.
After the Black Death wiped out a third of Christendom, people started looking for someone to blame. During the fourteenth century, belief in black magic became widespread. Those accused of witchcraft were tried and when convicted, made to spent a day or so in the stocks and then repent, a relatively light punishment. Farting in church was treated more severely.
Then in 1487, a book was published: Malleus Maleficarum, “the Hammer of Witches”, was a lengthy and laborious tome dedicated to the idea that witches, most of whom were female, were everywhere, corrupting society, defiling all that was sacred and fucking the Devil in the forests on a nightly basis. No lurid detail of the nocturnal liaisons between Satan and his whores was omitted. Pope Innocent VII issued a papal bull declaring the Malleus to be the absolute truth and ordering the secular powers to cooperate fully with the Church in rooting out and destroying all witches or face excommunication. What followed was an orgy of witch-burning that lasted two centuries.
All over the European continent, people accused their neighbors of having direct, very carnal, knowledge of the Devil, and of being his servants. The accused were tortured until they confessed and then tortured until they named other witches, a process that completely depopulated some villages. Witches who had spilled their guts and condemned everyone they knew were burned at the stake. In areas of the Rhineland, all firewood was dedicated to the burning of witches, requiring more to be carted in.
Eventually, the craze for witch-burning ran its course. People found other things to do. But why did it happen in the first place?
Any fool with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (Human Services) can tell you that it’s dang nigh impossible to successfully repress anything. You may be able to keep some unpleasant aspects of your psyche in the dark, out of your consciousness, but they’re still there and whether you know it or not, they’re sneaking out. I can think of several people right off the top of my head, people I know, who have all kinds of allergies, ailments and chronic disorders that don’t respond to treatment and I can see from across the room that those people are suffering the consequences of choosing not to recognize certain truths about themselves and then take the necessary steps to change how they live. I used to be one of those people. All the shit that I tried to push down just kept coming out in weird ways, so I tried harder, piling up more chemicals and defenses and avoidances until I was backed up in a hole and realized that I was gonna have to face up and do some serious work or die. Actually, I was so fucked up that I’m still working on it.
So what happens when an entire civilization tries to repress a major portion of its collective psyche? That society goes off the beam, that’s what. Under the heavy hand of the Church, Europe struggled to believe “facts” that contradicted the evidence of the senses, dehumanize humans, break nature, unfeel emotions, subjugate the best parts of their creativity and deny the pleasures of their own bodies. Add to that the fact that the institution that was selling them protection from God’s wrath was failing to protect them from God’s wrath again and again - Europe was wracked with pandemics of bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, cholera, &c over and over – and then telling them that it was their own fault. Fuggin’ A, those poor bastards couldn’t even rub one out without the certainty of eternal damnation. It’s no wonder they were all so barking mad they were ready to accuse, condemn, torture and burn everybody in town the moment they got the chance.
What is a witch? A witch is a person – almost always a woman – who has sex with the Devil and gains powers greater than other people. In a misogynistic, Christian society, where sex was only for procreation and only those born to noble lineages had power, witches represented the ultimate in rebellion. They were everything that was anti-. From our enlightened perspective, it’s obvious that not one of the countless people tortured and burned for witchcraft ever fucked the Devil. I bet none of ‘em even played footsie with the Devil, but they burned anyway.
Would you wish you could be a witch if you lived in medieval Europe? I would. I would wish for the freedom that being a witch would provide. Sure, it came at a cost, but not a bigger one than what the Church demanded.
Still, the Church provided stability. Look around sometime; ask yourself how many of the people around you have chosen stability over freedom. If you can find one person who has made the other choice, let me know ‘cause I’d like to meet ‘em. Stability wins over freedom every time and it sure did in Europe after 1487. The Church had to be supported – it was beginning to crumble – and if people had to burn, so be it.
The witch-burning craze didn’t just fizzle out. The Church finally figured out that the strangle-hold method wasn’t working. Educated men all over Europe were making discoveries that contradicted the most basic premises of Catholicism: the Earth orbits the Sun! Jupiter has moons! Diseases are caused by tiny bugs, not daemons! The Church realized that it had to yield some ground or lose the entire field. With that loosening, the general population was able to stop burning each other.
The presenting problem went away, but the underlying issues continued on and still do. As western society became more and more secular, as the power of the One, True Church diminished, the image of the witch changed. Now, witches are Halloween decorations unless they’re naked. Either way they still represent female powers – untamed, unpredictable, magical, potentially dangerous, wantonly sexual – that are less repressed in our society, but still somewhat marginalized. We may have convinced ourselves that there is no horny Devil waiting in the shadows to leap out and drag us off to Hell, but we have not yet integrated the shadow-side of our collective Self. We have not accepted that the Earth was not created for our exploitation. We have not accepted that there are some among us who, though they are not heterosexual, are capable of love and loving relationships. We have not begun to ensure that the poorest members of society are able to get the most basic needs. We have not learned to refrain from violence. We have not stopped acting as if women were something not quite fully human. We have not stopped looking for someone else to blame. We have not even faced up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong.
We do have a lot of drugs, both prescription and street. We have mind-boggling porn. We have mass-shootings two or three times per week with the occasional mass-stabbing for variety. We have bigger, brighter wars and “God hates fags”-Baptists protesting the funerals of dead soldiers. We have Glen Beck urging us to carry concealed weapons to church. We have hydraulic fracking and radiation leaks. We have smart phone apps.
The word “witch” comes from Old English “wicce”, wise. A “wiccan” was a “wise one”; wise in her knowledge of healing.
Witches are among us, whether we recognize them or not. They can be scary old hags in pointy hats or lascivious Devil-fuckers or they can be healers. Every “we” is made up of individuals so how we choose to interpret our witches will depend on how each individual in our “we” chooses to interpret his or her own inner shadow.
The Season of the Witch is now. The Reason for the Season of the Witch is us.
Today is Monday and on Mondays, I fast. Fasting is widely recommended by various religions as a way of developing one’s relationship with the Divine and I have certainly found it to be a beneficial practice. I used to fast randomly, spontaneously deciding to not eat for a day when it occurred to me to so do. I didn’t do it very often. A month or so ago, I decided to be more regular and deliberate about it and Monday was the obvious day to establish as my fast day. The restaurant where I work is closed on Mondays so I don’t have to work with food, which would create temptation and make work difficult because cooks do have to taste their work occasionally. Also, I don’t have my daughter on Mondays. The wee grrrl is nearly six. She needs plenty of fuel for growing and playing, but is a picky eater. I regularly have to employ strong-arm tactics to get her to eat enough food to sustain life and that would be all the harder if I wasn’t eating. She would notice immediately, demand an explanation and insist on joining me in fasting, except she would decide that applesauce didn’t count as food so she could eat an entire jar. And chocolate. I’m not going to get into that conundrum.
For me, when I fast, I do not eat from midnight to midnight. I do drink – water, coffee, tea with honey. One day is not a long fast. When I was drinking and drugging, I would go three or four days without eating and not even notice. Since I got clean and sober, I have experienced periods of poverty when I was unable to get food. I’m accustomed to hunger. It doesn’t negatively affect me. I am aware of the sensation of hunger, the message that my body sends to my brain, but I am able to experience it without judging it. If I fasted for a longer period – three days, for example – I would have physical and mental affects. I don’t do that often because it would interfere with my ability to work and/or take care of my rotten kid. Right now, it’s colder than Hell, here in the valley of the Shenandoah and not much warmer inside the Hollar House, so I’m using energy to keep my blood warm and fight off the various viruses and bugs the people around me are sneezing into the air. When it gets warmer, I’ll undertake some two-day fasts.
Fasting for short periods helps a person develop self-discipline. It also reinforces the idea that the body is not the Self. I am not this animated collection of meat, bone and muscle. I am something other than my body, which will age and lose power, eventually ceasing to live. Already, at forty-five, I have begun to experience my body’s limitations. I don’t need glasses to read – my arms are long enough – but I do need them to thread a sewing needle. There’s something wrong with the middle finger on my left hand – the end joint doesn’t respond right. I can bend it down, but can’t straighten it. This is fine for guitar playing, but not the way that finger is supposed to function. As I age, my vision will get worse, my hands will become weaker and less dexterous and my knees will go. I will have some hearing loss. I will be inconvenienced by these things, but not distressed because I expect them to happen and because I know that my body is not me. I try to take care of it, but I am not its servant.
Long fasts induce altered states. This is well documented. Short fasts do not cause major shifts in one’s perceptions, but they do reveal ideas and awarenesses that were just below the surface. As I write, I am listening to a seventy-seven minute sound piece that I’ve been working on for a month or so and hearing it differently than I would if I had a bellyful of beans’n’rice. The sounds are a bit sharper, the mix more distinct. I’m fairly informal about short pieces, but a thing of this length and complexity warrants greater attention. I wouldn’t consider releasing something like this to the world until I had listened to in the context of a fast. (It’s done, by the way. The mix is right. I’ll convert it to wav and start shopping it around in the next few days.)
Fasting also raises my awareness of how truly fucking blessed I am. A friend of mine recently said “If you were born in the United States, you’ve already won the lottery.” This is as true as it can be. I have another friend who was born in Germany in 1936. When she was two, her father was drafted. He didn’t come back for ten years – the war years plus three years in a Russian prison camp. She grew up with constant food shortage and occasional aerial attacks by American planes. When she was my daughter’s age, she knew to flatten herself against the walls of buildings to avoid strafing machinegun fire. Bombs killed sixteen of her classmates in one day. I have never had those experiences, nor am I likely to. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever have to endure life in a war zone, famine or drought. Even if the direst predictions about global warming do occur, I will be protected from the worst because of where I live. The southwest states will be parched and Indonesia will be under water, but the mountains of Virginia will be fine for my lifetime. I have the privilege of choosing not to eat for a day. At one minute after midnight, when I break my fast, I will appreciate the food I eat more than usual.
I’ll also appreciate it when this fucking cold spell is over. I am truly looking forward to going out to the George Washington National Forest, climbing a mountain and sitting naked on a rock with no food and only one bottle of water for twenty-four hours, crying for a vision and feeling the sunshine on my body. Hell, I might be so happy that it isn’t cold that I’ll pierce my flesh and hang weights from the hooks to show my gratitude.
Fasting is not for everyone. Some people have physical conditions that would be exacerbated by fasting and those folks shouldn’t do it. For those who are able and so inclined, fasting can have many benefits. I recommend looking into it, experimenting with it. The least that can happen is you reduce your carbon footprint which would help to make the direst global warming predictions slightly less likely to occur. The Indonesians would appreciate that.
First weekend of February, I took a look at the pile of envelopes on the hall table – the ones with little windows – and came to the conclusion that I was in dire straits as regards my personal finances. Rent had taken the lion’s share of my paycheck, which was smaller than usual, leaving fuck all for food, gas and sundry tobacco products. And there were bills yet due.
On Monday, I got an advance on my next check, which allowed me to get the little red truck inspected* and pay the most immediate bills. That was really just kicking the can two weeks out, since I was borrowing from myself. With no other recourse, I prayed about it.
I pray twice daily, morning and night. Sometimes, I throw in an extra if there’s reason. It’s a habit I deliberately developed and now seems natural and necessary. Not praying before leaving the house in the morning would be weirder than going out with no pants.
My prayer regarding my financial situation was a general expression of concern – I have no money and I need some – and a request – Please, help me see a way to get the money I need. I didn’t specifically state that I was looking for a legal way to get the money because I figured that was implied. I finished in the usual manner – Thy will be done – and went to sleep. And I mean I went to sleep. I did not toss and turn all night fretting uselessly about how broke I was or scheming illegal ways to get money. I let the whole thing go and slept like a baby.
Tuesday presented no immediate windfall, so I repeated the prayer and again, slept peacefully, without worry. This continued all week. There was one day in there – I went in to work and somebody told me that a key had broken off in one of the locks. We have freezers outside which we secure with padlocks. The bread freezer was inaccessible and bread was wonted. I got the angle grinder and cut the lock off. As I was cutting, I thought “Wow, breaking and entering would be easy with this tool”, but felt no need to pursue that line of thought. So the week went. Each day, I went to work, kept my eyes open and turned the whole issue over to my Divinity of choice at the end of the day.
I was happy, but not surprised, when I got a call from my father on Friday about work. He had been waiting for a call and that call came and another besides. We have a couple weeks worth of work, which is exactly the money I was needing. And the weather changed, making outside work really fucking nice. I do so enjoy working outside when the weather is warm and sunny, but not hellishly hot, even if it does mean listening to the wackjob conservative talk radio bullshit my dad listens to.
So, the financial situation is all but resolved. And this little tale is a fine example of the usefulness and value of prayer. I am not claiming that my Higher Power sent a band of angels to appear in dreams to homeowners and tell them to get their houses painted, to hire my dad to do the job, and then tweaked the global weather patterns so we’d have a few really nice days to scrape and paint gutters, though I do believe the Author of Creation is capable of doing those things. I am stating, with all sincerity, conviction and full awareness of how uncool it is, that my prayers allowed me to enjoy peace of mind during the days when I was waiting for some solution to my problem, a solution I knew would come in its own time. I live in accord with dharma/tao/God’s will to the best of my ability. I am certain that when one lives in such a manner, when one aligns oneself with the Cosmic Flow, one gains access to courses of development outside of oneself that guarantee the basic needs and the resources to carry on with the works of the Divine, and one is able to rest in the assurance that everything is going to be fine. This is a very different attitude than what I had before I undertook my spiritual path. Back then, I was a fucked up atheist, strung out, insane, depressed, stressed and generally not right. I struggled from one crisis to the next, mentally disturbed and incapable of doing fuck all to improve my situation. I did not transform instantly into the mostly serene and confident person I now am the instant that I first uttered a prayer. It took years of practice and right living. But the change did take place.
Skeptics will say that the work would’ve come whether I prayed or not and that is certainly true. I’m not saying my prayers changed reality. I’m saying my prayers changed my own experience of reality. And I’m saying it because The Big Drum In The Sky Religion is evangelical. I am proclaiming the good news that prayer works, that the disturbed mind can be comforted , that the mentally and/or spiritually afflicted can be healed. (Medication certainly helps in some cases.) The possibility that the result I achieved was a product of self-induced mental conditioning, requiring no action on the part of any Celestial Entity is one that I am cognizant of and has no relevance whatsoever. The act of continued, repeated prayer yielded a result. Belief in a Deity is not required.
So, prayer works.
*Virginia requires all vehicles to be inspected annually. You get a sticker on your windshield that says “1/15”, for example, which means your inspection is good and you don’t have to think about it until the first month of ’15, at which point you’re supposed to get your vehicle inspected again. I always take my vehicle in for inspection on the first day of the next month, so this year I waited until 1 February, which means my inspection sticker says “2/16”. Next year, I’ll go on 1 March. Doing it this way means that I get thirteen months for the price of twelve.
I share that information so that others who live in states that require annual inspection can game the system the same way and to show that a spiritual life need not mean a life of squeaky clean adherence to every single rule. Some mild chicanery is allowed and some major acts of property destruction may be required when and if they serve the purpose of one’s Higher Power. I’m thinking of certain direct actions taken by the ELF, ALF and other radical organizations that work to undo the destruction caused by capitalism, actions which are right and good and which I have no specific knowledge of, nor do I participate in them. Do not contact me about any direct actions you are planning. I want no part in it. I do, however, pray for your success.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.