The turning of the wheel of life is especially evident these days. All the classic signs are there; shorter days, cooler nights, inflatable skeletons and cheap candy prominently displayed at your local godless corporate superstore... I bow in recognition of the ancient harbingers of All Hallows Eve.

This post was going to be a rambling treatise on how the venerable pagan celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sah-win" please) was mutated into the annual festival of tooth decay and binge drinking in bad costumes that we all know as Halloween. Instead, I have settled on a more positive approach for the Flock (plus, all that historical research seemed too much like work...).

Instead of waiting until the very last moment, slapping together a lame-ass costume and killing brain cells with the rest of the pirates, devils, and kitty cats downtown, I propose that we all go to an activity together. Maybe one of the big haunted houses in Denver, or one of the corn mazes, or possibly even to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Alternatively, we could do something more spirituial in nature - the Cowboy Pagan Association (yes, there is a Pagan RSO on campus) might have ideas for us, or the Pagan organizations in Fort Collins and Denver might be a good source of info on activities.

We could also pick a theme for our costumes - I personally think it would be awesome if the whole Flock all dressed in a "weird catholic" theme; nuns in short skirts, latex and vinyl priests, and myself in an inverted color version of the papal vestments - but I'm sure you all have fabulous ideas too.

So - the floor is open to all suggestions. Now is the time to put forth your best Halloween ideas, themes, and fantasies (keep it moderately clean please, Mandy). Perhaps with this much lead time, we can have a memorable Halloween this year...

Sunday Sermon

The universe has a great sense of irony.

Earlier this weeek, a "Christian" evangelist was out in front of the Wyoming Union here in Laramie (I put that in quotes because I don't think Christ would claim him as one of his own). He was displaying a sign that said "Fear God" and spewing a message of hate and bigotry, complete with a catchy song called "It's Not OK to be Gay". He basically bashed everyone who walked by. My personal favorite was a cute little freshman girl - he told her that she was going to hell because she was made up like a harlot. Apparently eye shadow offends the Lord...

At the same time inside the Union, Tibetan monks were creating a sand mandala for peace and the healing of the world. I scanned the crowd and saw folks I know to be Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists and a half-dozen kinds of Pagans in attendance. The irony wasn't lost on anyone - while chatting with friends after the opening ceremony, I overheard several people around us say that they much preferred the religious message inside the Union to that presented outside.

Although some Christians won't agree with this statement, most evangelicals hold that the world is completely doomed. They see no point in trying to improve this world because their focus is solely on getting out of it and into the next. Their negative, fear-filled message is based on this apocalyptic view, and they feel that the saving of souls is so important that they must get their message out, regardless of who they trample along the way. Those folks who don't agree are sinners, and they are to be opposed ("rebuked") at every turn. It's a case of "Us vs Them" on a grand scale.

I'm not willing to accept that. I don't see this world as doomed, nor do I think that any spiritual "truth" is so important that those who disagree or don't match the paradigm should be crushed for it. While I support the rights of evangelicals to express their views, I also think it's important to stand up for those they so arbitrarily categorize as sinners.

Many other spiritual traditions do just that. The Tibetan monks who constructed the mandala below are representative of one such faith, and there are many other traditions that teach a similar message of unity. As you look at the pictures below, remember that it was constructed by people who believe in the possibility of a better world, for the purpose of healing the divisions between all mankind. It's not "Us vs Them" - it's just "Us."

In the following clip, you can see one of the monks "breaking" the mandala along the eight directions.

This destruction of the beautiful handiwork of the monks is done in observance of the impermanence of all things - a recognition that all things pass away, and the beauty of the moment is what's vital. The sand was swept into small plastic bags and offered to all who observed the ceremony - to help each person take a bit of the intent of the mandala with them.

Go in Peace.

Tasteful Celebration Ordered

On this day twenty-five years ago, the earth did shake and the heavens were split asusunder. The animals were silent and the oceans did rage, for on this day was born the mighty Raksha, most feared of the BCPs, revered X-Men continuity wonk, and consort of His Sinfulness the Black Pope. The Dark Pontiff declares that the Flock should give forth a mighty cyber-shout in her honor!

Ok, seriously - she hates her birthday, so leave her a tasteful message here. She will, no doubt, swear eternal fiery vengeance upon me for mentioning this on the blog, but some well-placed chocolate should defuse that problem...

Something To Do...

If you are on the UW Campus in Laramie, come see the Mandala in the Skylight Lounge.
-Opening ceremony, Tuesday, Sept. 19, noon.
-Closing ceremony, Friday, Sept. 22, noon.
They're free, and I'll be at both - come get your Buddhist on...
Here are bad pics taken with my phone - better pics to come.

Sunday Sermon

Due to an as yet unexplained outage of the wireless signal I've been pirating at the Black Vatican, I am turning today's sermon over to a virtual preacher. Please direct your attention to the cyber-pulpit... and click here

Go in Peace.


This is what I call a "morant". It's part mope, part rant...

Do you remember that weird guy? The one you used to always see at the laundromat/computer lab/library/random public place? I was thinking about him today.

(Warning - unfiltered stream of consciousness - Warning)

I wondered how he got weird. Was he always weird? When did he first start talking to himself, and does he know he's doing it out loud? Is he stuck being weird, or can he leave the weird path he has chosen? Did he, in fact, choose it? Although he is usually alone, I hope he has weird friends he hangs with when we're not around... well, I tried to believe that, but I can't. Is it possible that it's simply loneliness that made him weird? Hmm... Nah. So what if he doesn't have any friends? I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and there were lots of times when I didn't have any friends, and I survived. Sure, being the new kid was rough, but I made it through without talking to myself, or wearing a parka on an 80 degree day...but, I do recall that it really sucked. And, of course, I eventually made friends and that loneliness went away... but what if it hadn't? What if I still felt like I did the first day of third grade at Brunson Elementary, when that kid named Wade tipped me in the cafeteria? I wanted to make a good impression, wanted to be cool, wanted to be liked... but when I got up from the floor I had fishsticks and macaroni on my shirt - no one is cool enough to play that off... it took until almost Thanksgiving for me to feel ok in that school. (By the way, you're an asshole, Wade.) What if that feeling had never gone away? What if that wave of embarrassment and hurt and rage had kept surging and boiling in me for all these years? Wouldn't I be talking to myself and wandering around in public places? I suppose technically, I'm talking to myself right now...

(End stream End stream End stream)

And then, I found this... Seriously - click the damn link; it's reallly worth it. I'm too tired to argue with you - just do it. If it doesn't work, just cut and paste this into your browser:

After seeing it, I just know that all the weird people, all the people who feel like they're from another planet (and who doesn't at some point?) are quietly holding up little signs that say "Hello".

So now I'm torn. Part of me wants to go out and talk to as many weird people as I can find, while the rest of me wants to just crawl into bed and sleep until my walls are rebuilt.

Connect with someone for no reason today. Talk to someone that no one talks to, even if it scares you and makes you feel like you need a shower. They need you. The world needs you to just say "hi."

I'm guessing that "morants" won't catch on...

Bitch Session

Since a lojong post is always guaranteed to silence commentors, I am following it up with this handy widget I swiped off of Brendon's blog. This should give us all ample opportunity to bitch. Feel free to bitch about Bush, bitch about Cheney, bitch about Rove, bitch about countdown clocks - hell, bitch about your mom if you like...

Eight years is a long time, but it could be worse... Tony Blair is shooting for ten years before resigning!

Who should be the democratic nominee? Barack Obama? John Kerry? Would you vote for Hillary if Bill was her VP? Should Al Gore run again? Is Joe Lieberman still a democrat? Is another four years of Republican rule a sign of the apocalypse?

Sunday Sermon

Lojong Refresher

Since school is back in session, I think it is time for us to continue with our series of lojong slogans. I thought I'd use the Sunday Sermon this week as a way of doing a refresher on this Tibetan practice. (Ok, ok, I admit that this is a cop-out post. I've got no burning issue to sermonize about right now... or rather there are too many things I'd like to rant about to make a coherent sermon.)

My man B-Money, looking most serene...

In the 12th Century, a Tibetan monk named Chekawa strung together some existing proverbs and aphorisms into a list of 57 slogans called lojong ("mind training"). Meditating on these sayings is called tonglen (in Tibetan 'tong' means 'sending out' or 'letting go' and 'len' means 'receiving' or 'accepting') and it is a way to take full responsibility for your experience of the world. Some members of the Flock have found these slogans useful to them, and I hope you will all give them a chance to work on your mind.

Here are the preceding posts:
Lojong #1 First, train in the preliminaries.
Lojong #2 Regard all dharmas as dreams.
Lojong #3 Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
Lojong #4 Self-liberate even the antidote.
Lojong #5 Rest in the Nature of alaya, the Essence.
Lojong #6 In Postmeditation, Be a Child of Illusion.
Lojong #7 Sending and Taking Should Be Practiced Alternately.
Lojong #8 Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue.
Lojong #9 In all activities, train with slogans.

Now that we are caught up, we turn to:

#10) Begin the Sequence of Sending and Taking With Yourself.

Pema Chodron:
"What you do for yourself - any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself - will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you're doing for others, and what you do for others, you're doing for yourself. When you exchange self for others in the practice of tonglen, it becomes increasingly uncertain what is out there and what is in here.

Start where you are. This is very important. Tonglen practice (and all meditation practice) is not about later, when you get it all together and you're this person you really respect. You may be the most violent person in the world - that's a fine place to start. That's a very rich place to start - juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are - that's the place to start."

Geshe Dhargyey & Geshe Rabten:
"Until now, our sole consideration has been for our own benefit and happiness, and this has prevented our feeling genuine concern for others. Therefore, at first we may experience some difficulty in imagining or thinking about taking on the suffering of all other beings. We should begin the meditation by accepting all the difficulties that may happen to us today, tomorrow, and on into the next life. Although the prime object of giving and taking is to accept the misery of others, we train our mind by imagining our own immediate suffering. Only after our mind has become accustomed to this do we begin to take suffering from others. Just as a person who wishes to scale Mount Everest will first train on the lesser peaks, so should we practice on our own selves first."

Linus Furious:
"This seems a bit obvious on first glance. We might think, "Of course you should start with yourself - who else could you start with?" but I think what this slogan points at is our tendency to see the external much more clearly than we see the internal. We cannot take on the misery of the world until we face our own misery - and sometimes that is a huge task. Be kind to yourself, and you will begin to feel a kindness toward others. (Note that being kind is not the same thing as being indulgent...)"

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Go in Peace.

Incredible Balls

This is the follow up to a sermon that I did some time ago...

A while back, I ranted at some length about the various believers who were trying to convert me, without a shred of knowledge about their own faiths, and a pack of misconceptions about mine. One of these fundie asshats - the one who said that Christianity was never the state religion of Rome, who told me that Christianity has never caused any suffering in the world, and who was convinced that the Buddha had proclaimed himself god incarnate - was proselytizing via the chat function of an on-line chess service that I play on.

He began the game by making a Christian reference - probably spurred on by my screen name, "Reverend Linus." I explained that I'm not a Christian. He responded, "You are making the biggest mistake possible! Having a relationship with Jesus is the most important decision one can make." I told him, very directly, that I was not interested in being converted - but he was off and running.

Because his pitch was so hackneyed, so baseless, and soooo ignorant of other traditions, I got sucked in. I addressed (with links and references) his lack of knowledge of the origins and history of his faith, his misconceptions about the history of Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, his lack of understanding of his faith's theology, and a host of other "points" he brought up. He gave up trying to convert me by midgame. Well, to be fair, I bludgeoned him into silence by midgame. His last bit of preaching was something to the effect of "It doesn't matter what you think about God or the Bible - you are free to go to hell."

Unfortunately, the game has been crawling along ever since (I'm playing Black, naturally...)

Although It began July 1st, the time limit per move was 14 days, so it was finally winding down tonight. I had a significant material advantage (I was up by a rook and pawn) and sound position. He had been silent for the last 30 moves or so, when out of the blue, he asks if I've ever heard of Melaleuca, Inc.

Melaleuca, Inc. is a multi-level marketing company that sells products made with "tea tree oil." They pitch their products as being environmentally sound and free of harmful additives. It is similar to Amway, Herbalife, and a host of other companies that are essentially mercantile pyramid scams. Some people in the organization get very, very wealthy while everyone else involved ends up with a garage full of product. I had heard of Melaleuca back in my State Patrol days, when a fellow officer tried to get me involved.

I wasn't interested then, and I'm not interested now. And I told the chess fundie that I had heard of the company and that I was not interested. Three moves from mate, and he persists. I told him again that I was not interested. And once again, he persisted. Finally, he ended with, "if you want to go on buying poisonous products at retail prices, feel free."

That's right - his Melaleuca pitch was exactly the same as his Christianity pitch.

To paraphrase the late great Bill Hicks, "Where does a guy get such balls?!" After failing to impress me, in the earlier debate or in the game, where did this asshat with a chinstrap get balls so enormously large that he thinks this is a good time to try to sell me a multi-level marketing scheme? He thinks to himself, "Now that I've insulted his faith and proven myself an irritating, ignorant boob, it's time to bring him into my marketing tree!"

In a rare blending of the powers of His Sinfulness the Black Pope with those of Darth Furious, I excommunicated him AND crushed his windpipe with the Dark Side of the Force...

My New Boyfriend

I will confess to having some issues about cleanliness. Now that it's just Ajax and me, I have been reveling in the lack of dirt in my life. In particular, I have been enjoying my sparkly white bathroom. There is a certain comfort in knowing that any soap scum and crud you may find in the tub was left there by you and you alone.

Not that there is any there right now, mind you; I have been taking a perverse joy in cleaning of late. Since I received a gift card in the mail today, I decided to feed my OCD. I needed a little mop for the bathroom and kitchen - the rest of the house has hardwood floors, which require a different kind of mop and completely different product - so, I went to Kmart and sifted through all the Swiffer clones. That's where I met him...

Maybe it was the clean white shirt. Maybe it was the earring. Maybe it was the two different kinds of cleaning pads he offered me (one for mopping, one for scrubbing). Whatever it was, I'm glad that Raksha has said that I can have as many boyfriends as I want. I was weak, but he was so persuasive... About half of my gift card went to buying the "MagicReach", pictured on the right. (I wonder if the good folks at Proctor and Gamble are aware that there are several sex toys with very similar names...)

At any rate, it kicks ass. I was able to render my bathroom clean enough for surgery in about 10 minutes. The mopping pad is good for the sink, the outside of the toilet, and floors, while the scrubbing pad worked very well on the tub and shower walls. You can also detach the head and use it as a hand scrubber - handy for cleaning the faucets.

Best of all, when I went to the P&G site for these pics, I also found this hilarious demo (make sure your sound is on - the music is the best part). Brini Maxwell would be proud...

Sunday Sermon

Blogger ate my post.

I worked on it for about 45 minutes, adding pictures and linking various bits of text to web pages, then I hit "Publish Post." After 5 seconds or so, I got the dreaded "cannot open page" message. I hit the back arrow, hoping to recover the post - nothing. I tried all of the tricks that 400+ posts have taught me about the ins and out of Blogger, but it was no use; those 1200 words are lost to the ether, never to be found again.

I could recreate the post. I have most of the pics on hand and the webpages are in my history file, but I have discovered in myself an odd resistance to doing that. It's not the wasted time; I have no other pressing time constraints at the moment. It's not that I'm angry about losing it; I was a bit pissed off for a few minutes, but what's done is done. It's just GONE.

I had a pressing topic to talk about - getting prepared for the coming Winter. I've got great plans to overcome the raging hate-on I have for the cold, dark months, and I explained them fully in the post. I even couched it all in a metaphor, equating my struggle with Winter to warfare (hey, if Bush can declare war on an abstract concept like terror, I can declare war on a season...).

But now that it has been lost, I feel no drive to redo it. I think I have finally glimpsed that state of writing nirvana in which the audience is of no consequence to the writer. I wrote it, and it was good. Only I know that it was good, and in this particular case, that is all that matters.

I suppose that it must not be all that good, or I'd be dying for someone to read it and congratulate me, but it honestly feels like I don't need to rebuild it because it was good enough for me. I needed to write it, but I don't need you to read it. The writing was enough - the doing was enough.

So there is your sermon topic. Examine the things that you work at, and ask yourself if you'd still do them if there was no audience. With no one to see and judge your work, how would you do things differently? And once you think that over for a bit, ask yourself why you care about audience in the first place. It may uncover some things about your motivations that you never noticed before...

Go in Peace.