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Not Enjoying The Silence

Back in May, a white supremacist touting himself as a Heathen stabbed and killed two young men on a train in Portland, Oregon, when those two young men attempted to protect a pair of Muslim women from the supremacist’s attacks on them.  Members all across the Heathen Community raised their voices in an attempt to educate the rest of the world on what we actually believe and practice, lest we get lumped in with the “bad Heathens”.  I rarely get political, but it was enough to drive me to write a blog post about Declaration 127.

(You can find that blog post here, and Declaration 127 here.)

On August 12, 2017, violence erupted when white nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Ostensibly organized to prevent the removal of yet another remnant of Confederate history–this time, a statue of Robert E. Lee–from a city park, it quickly became apparent that this “march” was more about making history repeat itself, than about defending history so that it doesn’t repeat.  The white nationalists gathered around the site, “defending” it with Viking-styled shields.  Don’t believe me? Check this out:

(You can find that photo here.)

The response of the Heathen community in the wake of what has been described by some as an act of domestic terrorism? Thus far, I’ve seen maybe two posts. And I’m not enjoying the silence….neither is Tyr.

As technically-a-person-of-color (I’m of Asian descent; Chinese, specifically) who happens to be Heathen, and also happens to be spending his afterlife inhabiting a white Southern woman, I find that once again, I cannot keep my mouth shut.  I can’t keep politics off of this blog right now; to do so would go against every fiber of who and what I am. Before I proceed, you might want to thoroughly acquaint yourself with the beginning of that last sentence: I am notwhite guy; repeat: I am notwhite guy. I’m also devoutly Heathen. All set? Okay, that clarification completely out of the way, let’s continue:

As a group of people practicing a Reconstructionist or at least Reconstructionist-derived religion, Heathens, on the whole, are obsessed with history.  We only know what we know about our faith–enough to actually have this faith and have it continue to exist–because of historians, and anthropologists, and archaeologists.  Because we are so needfully well-acquainted with history, most of us are also very well aware of that old adage: 

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. ~Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman–a Dubliner, to be precise–as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who supported the American Revolution.  It’s a great quote, and growing more and more powerful by the day in our modern age, but the truth is, there are absolutely zero corroborating sources proving that Burke ever actually said or wrote those words.  That he said them first is a tradition.  However, we do know of someone else who absolutely said something quite similar:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana

So who the heck was George Santayana?  He was a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who was raised and educated in the United States from the age of eight and identified himself as an American, even though he maintained dual citizenship.  In fact, he spent most of his life not far from where I’m writing this: in Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the very same Revolution that Edmund Burke so firmly supported. 

Why is that so important for this discussion: that Santayana was of Latin/Hispanic descent?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you can likely arrive at that answer easily enough.  A person of color, and specifically, an immigrant person of Spanish descent actually said the words that both sides of the present argument are constantly using against each other in the worst ways imaginable. Chew on that for a minute.

Michelle and I both have written numerous posts here and elsewhere in defense of not tearing down Confederate monuments, and not erasing the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage (not hate!), largely based on the argument of Santayana’s famous quote.  We stand by those arguments. However, on the other side of our arguments, which come from a very genuine place of standing behind that aphorism, there are people like those guys with the viking-style shields in Charlottesville, Virginia who are ostensibly defending the same things for the same reasons, but not really.  And they proved that conclusively on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

Because those people wouldn’t “dirty their mouths” with a quote from a Spanish immigrant, if they had actually known that was who said it.  It would be totally valid and “okay” if it had been said by the white guy from Dublin, but, oh my, the shock and disgust if they realized it had been said by a Spanish immigrant! (Who’s mother, by the way, was raised in the Philippines.)

This brief history of quotes (and the juicy irony involved) aside, the fact remains that the initial vision of those white nationalists (before the “real violence” ensued) is an image of a bunch of white, bearded dudes, standing in solidarity, behind a freaking Viking-style shield wall.  The guy who actually drove the car that killed the one person who perished in this “debacle”–who, incidentally, was white, just like the two young men who lost their lives in Portland, Oregon, back in May (not that that should matter, mind you, but the tragic irony should not be lost on anyone, which is why I point it out)–also stood in that initial wall, holding a shield.

(Don’t believe me? Check out this photo. He’s the second from the left, in front of a poster bearing yet more appropriated Heathen symbols, as well as appropriated Christian symbols: the Algiz rune, and a Chi Rho, respectively.)

And yet the Heathen community stands largely silent this time around, and I would really, very dearly, like to know why? So would Tyr.

For that matter, why aren’t Christians screaming about their symbology being appropriated by these asshats?  Because not all Christians are of the conservative, alt-right variety, anymore than all Heathens are of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi variety….

Plenty of people were out there screaming and yelling and having hissy fits back in 2015, when the outcry against the Confederate flag grew so loud that the General Lee, the car driven by the Dukes of Hazard, legit got a makeover, and resulted in the show (still in syndication) getting banned, even though most of its storylines that even touched on race relations in the South involved inclusiveness, rather than bigotry. (Though I never really cared for the show, I can honestly say it was a bit of a “redneck primer” on inclusivity, and I give it kudos for doing that way back in the 1970s.) Yet when it comes to actual religious symbols from whatever faith being bastardized, everybody’s suddenly mute? What gives?

Instead of an outcry on either side of the religious divide over such important matters, the one thing that everybody seems to be able to agree on is crucifying our current president for his statements in the aftermath of Charlottesville 2017.  I am not a fan of Donald Trump.  I try to largely keep my opinions on such things out of this blog, off of our Facebook page, and generally out of my sphere of discussion in general. Trump gets zero frith in my heart or mind, to the point that he’s so utangardh that he basically doesn’t exist to me.  In other words, I put him so “far away from me” that I don’t let his energy touch my own in any capacity. I find that’s healthier for me.  However, while I can understand people’s outrage that he did not single out the white supremacists involved (further proof, most argue, that he’s “in bed” with those people), that’s not the rhetoric being used by most people in opposition to his reaction to decry what he said.  No, what he’s being crucified for is saying that there was wrong on both sides.  Honestly, this is one of the few times in his presidency that he’s actually said something halfway honest or halfway correct.

So how dare I make such a statement?  How could somebody–anybody–who is against racism and patently against Trump himself deign to say such a thing?  Because we’re living in a world where everybody so desperately wants their side to be right that they’re willing to invoke violence to prove it, no matter how wrong they actually are, and even an imbecile like Trump can see it!

Don’t get it twisted: I am in no way, shape, form or fashion attempting to defend Trump in all this. What I am saying is that if what he actually meant in his statements is that “two wrongs never make a right“, then for one, brief shining moment in his presidency, he’s actually been right about something!  And we should probably all take a moment to bask in the shock of that, before moving on toward cohesion.

Because I don’t know if anybody else has recognized this yet, but our country hasn’t had anything remotely resembling cohesion, when it comes to racial relations, since seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin fell to gunfire on a rainy February day in Florida in 2012.  That was during the Obama administration, folks–long before Trump was even a glimmer in the eye of the American conservative right-wing; back when he was just some orange-haired loudmouth whose primary vocabulary consisted of the words “You’re fired!”.  That was when we actually had a president of color!  That was the tragic death that began both the “Black Lives Matter” and the “Thin Blue Line” movements, and yet, forgotten by most people in the ensuing violence, raging arguments on both sides, and subsequent hate crimes, the dude who actually shot Trayvon Martin was also a person of color, and patently not a cop:  George Zimmerman is a man of Hispanic descent (specifically, Peruvian) who worked as an insurance fraud investigator while working towards an associate degree in criminal justice.  Zimmerman shot Martin while “serving” as the head of the local Neighborhood Watch program: he thought Trayvon “looked suspicious”, pursued the young man, and subsequently shot him.

What color the people involved in a situation–any situation–are ultimately does not matter when innocent lives are being lost. The symbols of my faith and your faith ultimately do not matter when innocent lives are being lost, either.  What ultimately matters is that we are all one family–the human race–and when we lose even one member of that family, we all lose.  There are no sides in that; there shouldn’t be any sides at all!  When someone dies innocently, everybody loses. Period.

If people are going to be building shield-walls around anything–any ideology–it should be that one!  Yet, that isn’t the case, unfortunately.  In fact, in most circles nowadays, if you have the cajones to say the words “all lives matter“, you’re instantly labeled as part of the racist scum! How the hell does that work out?

I became Heathen because faith, folk, and family was an ideal I could get behind: because, for me, treating other people honorably and fairly is the very crux of my faith, and the entire human race is both my folk and my family.  Very quickly, I discovered this was patently not what these words represented to most other Heathens, thanks to the bastardization of that phrase by the white supremacists among us.  To that subset, faith means guarding (white) folk and their (white) family from any outside forces seeking to “muddy” those waters with “other colored blood”.  Gobsmacked really is too small a word to describe how I felt upon said discovery.  I came to this Path because the core of it–that phrase, now bastardized–represented everything to me that I have believed my entire life, and now I am left with the astonishing realization that, like that famous quote from The Princess Bride, that phrase “does not mean what I think it means”.  

And maybe that’s the main reason why people are so gods-damned silent in the wake of Charlottesville 2017, even when the bastardization of the symbols of our faith are so morbidly less hidden in this “debacle”, than they were in the crime committed against those two young men (and the Muslim women they were trying to defend) in Portland, Oregon, three months ago.  Maybe it’s because the very foundation of our faith has become rocky ground on which to stand.  Or maybe it’s because there are far too many would-be Vikings among us, and not enough faithfilled people.  That “us versus them” sentiment was the very thing on which the Viking mindset rested, wasn’t it? I mean, after all? We see the thirst for it–that “us versus them” mentality–every time a member of our community says foul things about “those Christians”, lumping every follower of Christ in with the conservative crap-eaters; every time a member of our community talks about the Christian “weak god” or “dead god”; every time a member of our community types the letters UPG with hate and disdain as an expression of how “non-historically-accurate” true experiences of living faith are or possibly can be. It’s hard to cry out against people taking sides–no matter what those sides might be–when you’re a community divided in upon itself because people are so damned busy creating sides to take!

As a Chinese-American dead guy inhabiting a white Southern woman, I am quickly reaching a point where I am honestly afraid to wear my Thor’s Hammer in public or proudly show off any of the other symbols of my Heathen faith–runes included.  I’m afraid that people will “get the wrong impression” and label me as a racist. I am just as afraid, at this point, of the “inclusivity-championing liberals” as many Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans are of certain factions of the conservative right-wing.  And it patently should not be that way for either side of the equation! Yet, here we are.  And silence by our community in the wake of Charlottesville 2017 only serves to perpetuate that climate of fear.

So I will not join in that silence!

My faith is in a Deity(s) Who looks down upon this human race and sees, without doubt, and for once and for all, that we are all the same family.  My folk are those who will stand with me, against injustice: whether that injustice is due to race, creed, gender, or any other “dividing” factor.  And my family is the human race.  As Bruce Lee once said:

“Under the sky, under the heavens, Man, there is but one family.”

And I raise my own shield, not to defend some statue wrought by human hands in another time or place, or even some distant history which is too easily revised to suit the current political climate, but instead to defend that Truth which has always been with us:

We all matter.  Every man and woman is someone else’s mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child. And every mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, and child matters.

We will never enjoy true peace until we realize this. Hate will continue to grow, no matter how bright and shining the motives of those who decide to take the side of the Right and the Just.  Until everyone is on that same side–so long as sides remain–we’re all living in No Man’s Land. And No Man’s Land is the place of stalemates, not victory.

 

 

 

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Everyday Magick: gods, goddesses, and God: How Does That Work?

As those of you who get the newsletter already know, my Spirit Guides and I have been reading A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru by Patricia M. Lafayllve, and last night, something in one of the chapters (over on page 118) really got us thinking (and arguing with the author from my desk chair), so I thought perhaps it was high time I did a blog post explaining how in our little corner of the world there can be gods, goddesses, and God (the Christian God), all at the same time. Lafayllve writes:

“…the innangardh/utangardh balance….is why heathens consider the gods and goddesses, and those related to them, as part of our innangardh (inner circle).  This is also why those outside of that pantheon are considered utangardh (outsiders; outside our inner circle; strangers).  The other pantheons do exist.  Polytheistic logic suggests that there is more than one everything, so it only makes sense that every other god and goddess exists just as ours do.  That said, heathen worship is for the Norse gods and goddesses, among others, and not generally given to those not in our pantheon.  Does that make another pantheon ‘less than’ or ‘better than’ ours? No–it simply means ‘different.'”

(Additions in parentheses are my own, to make it easier for the non-reader of this book to understand what Lafayllve is saying.)

Certainly, there is both historical and contemporary proof of this innangardh/utungardh “balance” of which she speaks–of insider versus outsider dichotomies between those who follow specific religions and the gods/goddesses/God of other religions.  Honestly, we see it every day in the way both some modern adherents of Islam treat modern Christians, and the way some modern adherents of Christianity treat pretty much everyone who isn’t a Christian (or their definition of what one should be).  If you watch the show Vikings (which is based on the story of Ragnar Lodbrok, a legendary Danish Viking King, as related in several Norse Sagas, Norse and Scottish skaldic poetry, and the Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus, which is considered the first full history of Denmark), you definitely see this insider/outsider dichotomy heavily at work in the relationship between Floki (the Viking healer/warrior, who frequently communes with the gods) and Athelstan (the transplanted Christian priest).  However, I would hardly call this a balance; instead, as you can see from this paragraph (and likely played out in the life around you), it is more of a divisive dichotomy!

To say that such a view doesn’t “make another pantheon ‘less than’ or ‘better than'”, in my opinion, is to live in a misinformed la-la bubble at best, and to attempt to literally support religious bigotry at worst.  If your own faith is regarded as “inside”–as close to you; as part of your extended family; as something worthy of reverence and respect–while all other faiths are regarded as “outside”–as foreign to you; unable or even forbidden to have relationships with; as unworthy of reverence and respect–how can that possibly mean that other pantheons (or faiths) are not “less than” your own?  How can your own not be considered “better than” those others?  Divorce this discussion for a moment from the talk of pantheons, and let’s put it in the perspective of people, and the actual bigotry that we’ve watched unfold in our past history:  at one time, African American human beings were seen by Caucasians as foreign to them, unable or even forbidden to have relationships with; as unworthy of reverence and respect–as outsiders.  (This still happens in some places, mind you, and in some places, the complete opposite is true, with African Americans now viewing Caucasians in this way.)  What happened in those scenarios? (or happens?)  The same thing happens when we view pantheons and faiths through this dichotomy. One need look no further than the current rise of terrorism to see that I’m right.

Reading this section in the book last night, it was a lucky thing our resident Hereditary Heathen, Fenrir, wasn’t the one “driving” (primarily in-body; in control of motor functions), otherwise the book likely would’ve flown across the room!  It was, in fact, difficult for the rest of us to even keep reading, because in our little corner of the world, such dichotomies do not exist, and we certainly don’t view these types of insider/outsider prejudices as balance! No, in our little corner of the world, gods, goddesses, and God coexist just fine! We practice what might be considered polytheistic monolatry or henotheism.

Those big words are just a “nutshell” way of saying that all gods are ultimately one God. The modern practitioners of Kemetic Orthodoxy (another Historical Reconstructionist faith, based on the practices of the Ancient Egyptians) have a particularly apt way of explaining how this works: because God (whom they refer to as Netjer, the Supreme Being) is so much larger than our teeny tiny human brains can fully understand (a good word here would be ineffable), God appears to us in various forms, almost like “deified compartments”, that are small enough for us humans to be able to understand and form close relationships with.  These “deified compartments” may come to us in ways that we are more able to understand from our present cultural perspective (such as Allah for the Muslims, who were originally Bedouin Tribesmen), or Odin (the All-Father of the Norse Pantheon, who was both warrior and wise-man), or they may come to us in ways that encapsulate a certain lesson that we absolutely need to learn right now, but might not learn if it were “dressed up” in typical “God-talk”, such as Arianrhod (from the Welsh Pantheon, who teaches us about Sovereignty, but also about not feeling shame), or Loki (from the Norse Pantheon, who teaches us to laugh at our own mistakes, but also teaches us the grave price to be paid when we do things that harm other people).

I have found, as I have worked hard in my capacity as an ordained minister, that when I talk a lot about Jesus Christ here in this blog or elsewhere, people literally tune out and turn off, but if I talk about things from my Druid-Craft perspective, I get more and more readers, and more and more people actively attempting to learn and better their lives.  I can talk openly about Lleu Llaw Gyffes or Odin–who teach many of the same lessons to us as Jesus–but if I talk about Christ, people effectively “check out”.  Having dealt my whole life with Christians who openly promote the very same “insider/outsider” dichotomy that Lafayllve contends is upheld by modern Heathens, I can’t say that I really blame those folks who “walk away” on the internet when you start the “Christ-Talk” or the “God-Talk”.  While I don’t have an issue with Jesus, about 90% of His supposed followers clearly missed out on pretty much everything He tried to teach them! Because of this, I can easily understand why when you start talking about “JC”, people literally fear that you’re “one of those people”.

I’m not “one of those people”, and neither are my Spirit Guides–not even my resident Hereditary Heathen, Fenrir.  When it comes to gods, goddesses, and God, there is no “inside” or “outside”. Ultimately, they are all expressions of One Big Being that is just too big for us humans to understand when taken all in one big gulp.  I don’t have to work to prove that as a fact: you can see it all around you every day in the way most strict monotheists treat not only other faiths, but also other people.  The information they’ve been fed, through the narrow view of strict monotheism, is just too big for them to understand, much less practice the very good lessons that are often within those specific faiths.  I do my best to try to teach those very same good lessons, only in language (and through gods, goddesses, and, therefore, ultimately God) that people who have been hurt by strict monotheism can fully grasp, understand, and put into practice for themselves (and for Deity).  The only thing that is outside for me (and, by extension, for us) is True Evil: anything, deity or otherwise, that goes against our Values, as defined previously.  I’m sure we can all agree that there is nothing evil about not being a bigot, religious or otherwise.

And that’s how this “works”–having gods, goddesses, and Gods, all at the same time.  If you’re interested in exploring Druid-Craft further, or if you’d just like to become a part of my Tarot and Oracle Card Customer Loyalty Program, please sign up for my newsletter, and join us on Facebook!  I try to live my life in such a way that there are constantly new things both to learn and to teach, and I would love to continue that journey with you!

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Remember How To Play!

In a recent post, I talked about play as one of the “ingredients” of authentic you.  Today, I’d like to elaborate on that a bit further.  Given the current political climate, playing might be the last thing on your list of things to do.  Most of us are too busy worrying or arguing in favor of our personal political opinions to devote time to such a silly thing as play, right?  But the truth of the matter is, playing isn’t a silly thing at all. In fact, it’s precisely what we need more of in our lives right now.

Playing is something that many adults insist they have outgrown, and that most teenagers will tell you is stupid, and yet those same adults and teenagers will, if given the chance, go to a baseball, basketball, or football game in order to watch other people get paid to play, or will sit in front of a video game for hours, or will engage in horseplay with their friends at a pool party or gathering. You are never too old to play! The way we play just changes with age. There’s a song in the Disney version of Mary Poppins called A Spoonful of Sugar. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve probably heard the song. It says:

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun;

You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!

And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake;

A lark; a spree; it’s very clear to see!”

If you think this is a bunch of sweet, sentimental drivel (because the writer of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, certainly did!), let me provide you some proof from real life that it can actually be true. Someone I love very much works two jobs. Her day job is an office job handling very important issues for the company; her second job is at a local fast food restaurant. Her days are exhausting and long. Yet, within both of those jobs—and especially the second—there are moments where something happens, and she finds the fun, and snap! The job’s a game! What if we could make that snap happen? Guess what? We can!

When you are faced with something stressful—any job or activity—you can always turn it into a game, simply by turning it into a personal challenge that you need to win. Now, some would argue that that is setting oneself up for failure, because what if you don’t meet that challenge, and, therefore, lose? That sort of thinking is why we now have Little League Baseball teams where there is no score, and everybody gets a “turn”. There’s a great film with Billy Crystal and Bette Middler called Parental Guidance that demonstrates what I’m talking about. In the film, they play old-school grandparents who are put in charge of their daughter’s three kids for an extended period of time. Billy Crystal’s character is a former sports announcer who really wants to get “back in the saddle”, and he absolutely loves baseball. Imagine his surprise when he attends his youngest grandson’s baseball game and discovers there is no spirit of accomplishment available to these kids, because since the possibility of failure has been eliminated, so has the possibility of success!

You must allow yourself time to play—whether that means turning your present job into a game, or actually taking the time to play in whatever way fills you with joy. Playing for you might mean dragging a toy across the floor for your cat, or it might mean painting your nails, or it might mean cooking a good meal. Whatever takes you to that place where you start to treasure time instead of feeling pressured by it, you need to start doing it now, because when we begin to play, as with the aforementioned Little Leaguers—that’s when we start to open ourselves up to infinite possibilities.

The brilliant martial artist, film star, and philosopher, Bruce Lee understood what I’m talking about. He said:

Water is the softest substance in the world, and yet it can penetrate the hardest rock, or anything—granite, you name it. Water also is insubstantial; by that I mean you cannot grasp hold of it; you cannot punch it and hurt it.”

We should all seek to have the nature of water, for to be like that–to be formless, shapeless, like water–is to fully embrace the infinite possibilities that I’m talking about opening ourselves up to through play.  To be like water means to be both hard and soft at the same time; to accept the possibility of failure at the same time as accepting the possibility of success. It is to believe that anything can happen—and it actually might! When we close ourselves off to either extreme—success or failure—we remove for ourselves any hope of a spirit of accomplishment, just like those aforementioned Little Leaguers. To go through life without the possibility of that—no wonder you might be at breaking point! A three-year-old doesn’t generally go into a game of let’s-pretend considering the outcome—there is no win or lose; it just is what it is. They therefore go through the course of play and come out on the other end with a spirit of accomplishment. They’re fearless. They don’t sit around and dread playing house or fireman or whatever, because they don’t worry about what others are going to think about their performance as they play, and they don’t concern themselves with whether or not they’re going to win or lose. Even if their imaginary fireman falls off the roof in a blaze of glory, or their imaginary cake “falls” because they were jumping up and down in their play kitchen, they’re happy with that outcome because it is how they imagined it; they realize they are the one in control. And they can claim that control precisely because they understand that there are infinite possibilities.

The biggest difference between you and that three-year-old is that the three-year-old doesn’t realize they are opening themselves up to the infinite possibilities; they just do it, whereas you’re obviously going to have to work on it. And that work isn’t going to be easy, more than likely, especially since you might already be at breaking point. Hopefully, if you’ve already started the process by cultivating gratitude and the other “ingredients”, this will be slightly easier than it might have been otherwise.

So how the heck do you do that? How do you go back to being as fearless and worry-free as a three-year-old?  Whatever is breaking you down to the lowest common denominator right now, how would you have looked at that same thing when you were three?  Let’s use the present political climate as our example, since that seems to be on so many people’s minds right now.  People have died and are dying (with possibly a great many more deaths in the future) thanks to the actions of a few people bent on extremist religious views and a subsequent act of terrorism. Now thousands more people are homeless and seeking shelter wherever they can, away from the horrible treatment of their tormentors.  Those people are being treated as if they are the same as those who are making them flee their home country in the first place, and arguments are breaking out everywhere between strangers, friends, and loved ones, most of whom have absolutely zero control over this situation at all.  How would three-year-old you deal with that?

Three-year-old you might be just as frightened–if not even moreso–than grown-up you.  Three-year-old you might run to your parents and ask if the bad people are going to come here and bomb something next.  Three-year-old you might need to sleep with the lights on, and hug their blankie extra close at night.  Three-year-old you might be scared to even go to the grocery store, much less places where large groups of people gather, like subway stations, or airports, or shopping malls. And when the grown-ups try to make three-year-old you go to places like that, three-year-old you might pitch a temper tantrum, the exact same way that adults are pitching temper tantrums all across social media right now!

Another scenario might involve three-year-old you deciding this is a great opportunity for a game of let’s pretend, wherein three-year-old you pretends to be a soldier defending their homeland from the evil terrorists, or a doctor helping the sick and the injured, or a refugee trying desperately to escape by playing hide and seek with their pursuers.  This three-year-old version of you understands that fear and worry are best dispelled through play, because play opens us up to infinite possibilities, instead of leaving us at breaking point.

The three-year-old soldier sees the world in black and white; good guys versus bad guys.  They take a look at who did the bad thing, and those people are the bad guys, and then they take a look at who got hurt by the bad thing, and those are the good guys.  That may seem like an overly-simplistic way of looking at the world to adult eyes, but there is actually a tremendous amount of Truth in that perspective because often children understand what we cannot: when bad things happen to people, those people are victims, and the victim is always the good guy.  This simplistic worldview breeds active compassion: compassion that doesn’t just sit there, but aches to do something about all the horrible things it sees happening in the world.

The three-year-old doctor cannot play without someone to treat; without boo-boos to fix.  Teddy bears become bombing victims, and baby dolls become refugees.  The more victims are sought out and found in the toy box, the longer the child can play.  Once again, three-year-old you arrives at the understanding that victims are the good guys, and the entire foundation of playtime becomes active compassion: compassion that doesn’t just sit there, but aches to do something about the bad things in the world.

The three-year-old refugee casts themself as the good guy, while the people seeking to keep them out of other countries, or driving them away from home are automatically understood as the bad guys.  They understand that they’re the victim in this scenario–they’re the hunted; they’re the prey. I mean, face it: that’s how hide and seek ultimately works, right?  If you’re the one hiding, then your opponent is seeking; they are hunting you.  This, too, breeds a level of active compassion which most adults seem incapable of right now, because it causes us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  We are more likely to practice active compassion if we fully understand what the victims are going through; what they’re enduring.

In the end, all three of these three-year-old versions of you are the ones in control: their situation pans out precisely as they imagined it, so they always win, and there is no possibility of loss or defeat. Why? Because let’s pretend doesn’t work without its inherent infinite possibilities.  But what do these three scenarios teach us to do about the present political climate? How can we, as adults, play our way through that and come out on the other side still feeling like responsible, intelligent adults who didn’t just sit on our hineys, but actually did something?

As adults, we can play through this situation the same way as the aforementioned three-year-olds: in your mind, play out those three scenarios, and see if you arrive at a different place–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually–than where you were before.  When we allow ourselves mental playtime like this, we should find ourselves back in a place of control, where fear and worry no longer hold sway.  Once we find ourselves freed from worry and fear, we no longer need to fight each other, and can instead fight for the good guys, or against the bad guys.

Whatever you are presently facing in your life, apply “three-year-old you” to it, play through it, and see what sorts of possibilities suddenly pop up!

**Portions of this blog post appear in my upcoming book, Start At Zero, which will hopefully be available sometime during the holiday season!