I’ve been working my way through a twenty-seven night runic initiation. The first nine nights consisted of working through Freyja’s aett (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo), but I have now begun working with Heimdall’s aett (Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perdhro, Algiz, Sowilo). Some would consider nine nights working with those particular runes to be a weighty–possibly even a profoundly negative–exercise. However, I am finding a peace within Heimdall’s runes that I never might have expected.
My ultimate guideline for the study of each rune has been stanza 143 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”; the sayings of Odin, Codex Regius, 13th century):
Do you know how to carve them?
Do you know how to use them to advise?
Do you know how to paint them?
Do you know how to prove them?
Do you know how to pray them?
Do you know how to blot them?
Do you know how to send them?
Do you know how to destroy them?
And within those first four runes of Heimdall’s aett, I have found a “recipe”, if you will, for getting through the more stressful times in life:
Rune of destruction and controlled chaos; of testing and trial which lead to harmony.
Advises against catastrophe, stagnation, suffering, and pain.
Proven by accepting those things which are beyond one’s control.
Sent forth as harmony in the face of opposition
Rune of resistance leading to strength; of delays and restrictions; of endurance, survival, determination, self-reliance, and the will to overcome.
Advises against deprivation, imprisonment, and distress.
Proven by standing fast in the face of trials and via innovation born of strength of will.
Sent forth as strength and compassionate endurance.
Rune of challenges and frustrations; of standstills and times for introspection and/or turning inward; of holding fast.
Advises against treachery, illusion, deceit, and betrayal.
Proven by standing still and seeking clarity.
Prayed: Be Still.
Sent forth as stillness and the ability to hold fast.
Rune of reaped rewards and fruitful seasons; of peace and happiness; of cycles and of change; of hopes, expectations, and successes earned.
Advises against bad timing, conflict, and reversals of fortune.
Proven by hoping and dreaming; by accepting and understanding the cycles of life in the Universe; by working hard to manifest one’s dreams.
Sent forth as peace and good seasons.
When faced with the stresses of life, it is all too easy to get caught up in them; to cling needlessly to the suffering and pain that they cause (Hagalaz). However, if we follow the example inherent in the runes Nauthiz and Isa, we may learn to turn tragedy into triumph by quieting our minds and hearts, and, as we endure, using the force of our will to fuel innovation. Jera promises that if we do this–accept and understand the cycles of the Universe–we will be gifted with reaped rewards and fruitful seasons.
Last night, as I sang the galdr for Heimdall’s aett, I was gifted with the bind-rune, depicted in the upper left of the image above, as well as the accompanying galdr and prayer. For those among our audience who are not working from a Norse base, I have also included Christian and Celtic-based cognates for the prayer. I hope it will help others have a little less-Monday Monday.
Sigyn, show me how to Overcome;
Gerdha, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Skadi may show me how to Be Still.
Rhiannon, show me how to Overcome;
Taillte, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That the Cailleach may show me now to Be Still.
Archangel Gabriel, Help;
Mother Mary, show me how to Overcome;
Saint Ruth, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Saint Elizabeth may show me how to Be Still.
It’s that time of year again: the time of year when even the Muggles don’t have troubles talking about the Beloved Dead and actively seeking them out. Halloween (Samhain) has been my favorite time of year since I was a child because it is the one and only time of the year where I, Michelle Iacona, get to “put my crazy on the front porch”, as they say down South. It’s the one and only time of the year when people like me, who can do what I do, are even semi-accepted by the Muggles. It’s the one and only time of the year when I feel like I can be completely myself. The rest of the year, I have, for most of my life, been forced to live inside the shell of a firestorm of lies, and so have my Beloved Dead. You see, I bring most of mine with me, everywhere I go.
For the past twenty-four years, I have literally given over my life to being a shamanic trans-medium. When you say the word medium to most people, it either conjures images of some wizened old gypsy-woman, sitting in a trance in a very controlled environment, while the dead speak through her in her voice, or of some young, hip whipper-snapper who is constantly spot-on, but defines mediumship simply as relaying the messages of the dead to the seeker(s) (ala Hollywood Medium). Neither of those is what I do. I’m not that kind of medium. There is very little that is “controlled” about my environment–sure, we have wards on our house, and I have wards on my person, and I have a few in my “ranks” who actively act as guardian or warrior figures; that’s pretty much where any of the normal definitions of “controlled environment” begin and end. I can literally “switch off” with any of the members of my “ranks” at the drop of a hat, and with some of them, most Muggles would have zero clue that “Mishy has left the building”. I patently do not “channel on cue”; I don’t “take requests”; I’m not a deejay. What I do is not a “parlour trick”, nor is it a service I perform for the living. No, this is a service I perform strictly for the Dead. And these Dead have, over the past twenty-four years, become Beloved.
I’ve often been asked by those who actually understand what I do–such people are few and far between–precisely why I do it. I give up a lot of my time to do this; I have literally risked my life, my livelihood, and my relationships with other living people to do this. It would be so much easier simply to be the priestess, the Druid, the writer, than to do this. In fact, because I do this, I actually have very little time for all of those other things that I can do, and do well. So why would anyone choose this life? Because I love them. I love them with a love that is completely selfless, and very few people ever get to know love like that, much less express it themselves.
I certainly don’t do it because of what the Dead might teach me. Trust me, I’ve been “at this” long enough to know that just because they’re dead, doesn’t mean they’re smart! Contrary to apparent popular belief, death is not the sort of spiritual awakening most people seem to think it is. Does it clue you in, often quite suddenly, to what’s really going on in the Universe? Sure. It’s definitely a crash course in cosmology, not unlike being thrown into the deep end of the largest swimming pool imaginable. Most of the Dead I know and have met have been shocked by that, most of them to the point that they honestly need therapy: someone who can actively listen to what they’ve just experienced, and then help them make some sense of it. In fact, the “cosmic newsflash from the Great Beyond” that is that sudden dip in the “cosmological pool” is often so overwhelming that the Dead actually need a break from it. Luckily, I’m here, to give them that break.
Which works out nicely, because given my disability, I could also really use a break from my own body. Lots of people have psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis, and live with it every day. Very few people have psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis on the level that I have it. That’s not just my opinion: that is the very informed official diagnosis of the former head of Pediatric Dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). If you are not actively living in my skin–as my Dead do–you cannot fully understand what I live with, on a day-to-day basis. Imagine your own body attacking you. Pretend your skin breaks open and secretes acid whenever it takes a notion to do so, while at the same time your bones are eating themselves and erroding. That is what I experience every day. So, yeah, I need a break. Thankfully, my Dead love me back with that same selfless love, and are willing to step in and give it to me.
It’s rare that I get to use the personal pronoun “I”; most of the time, you will hear me refer to myself with what my Dead and some of my dearest live friends, relatives, and lovers have jokingly come to refer to as “the royal we”. That’s because the instant I stepped foot on this path, my life ceased to be merely about me. Suzanne jokingly referred to me today as the MDTA–Mass Dead Transit Authority–and she’s not wrong! My life has become the paragon of that famous quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Wherever I go, whatever I do, the Dead are not far behind. What happens in my life reverberates in their afterlives, and vice versa, when they are here on the physical plane, “riding” me, or “horsing” me, or however you want to describe them inhabiting my flesh and blood person. I have a responsibility to my Dead, and my Dead also have a responsibility to me. We keep each other safe; we work to better each other’s welfare. If you ever needed a real definition of what a symbiotic relationship actually is, take a look at our life, and you will find it.
Experiencing life (and death) in this way has taught me lessons in loyalty that most people never get to learn. The quickest way to end up on my shit list is to hurt or offend one of my Dead. I have both ended relationships with the living and had relationships ended for me by the living due to my ardent defense of my Dead. The Celtic Value of Loyalty informs everything I do in my life, and everything my Dead do in their afterlives, in relation to me, and this has been the case for twenty-four years between myself and Connla, twenty-two years between myself and Taliesin, and soon-to-be twenty years between myself and Michael. “Newcomers” (whom we lovingly refer to as “Newlydeads”) quickly learn the value of loyalty within the scope of this relationship, too. In the end, I don’t care if one of my Dead has been with me for two years or twenty: they’re already dead, they’ve been through enough; hurt or offend them at your own peril. I will become the protective mother (think: Kali-ma), when it comes to them, and that is a side of me nobody wants to see! They reciprocate that loyalty: hurt or offend me, their “vessel” or “conduit” (and also, more importantly, their new family), and be prepared for a reaction equal to someone defending their child, spouse, or mother from an arsonist.
These lessons in loyalty that I have learned in relationship to my Beloved Dead have often made it very hard for me to socialize with the living. In fact, for the most part, up until four years ago, I had reached a point where, apart from a very few live people, I honestly preferred the company of the Dead. The Dead don’t tend to stab you in the back as often as the living. Perhaps that’s because they can more clearly see all they stand to lose by doing so. The Dead don’t take a look at this particular situation and decide “oh, wait, I don’t believe in that”, or “I don’t believe in you”, or “I don’t believe this is actually happening”. The Dead don’t point their fingers at me and call me a devil worshipper or a fake. No, they are quite aware of what they are experiencing and what we are going through. The Dead don’t demand “prove its”. Live people tend to do all of that and more.
Which is why, when we moved North four years ago, and suddenly found ourselves in a whole new world (cue that song from Disney’s Aladdin), surrounded by people who actually understand what I can do, and what we are doing, we still didn’t tell those people what’s actually “going on” here. We finally found ourselves in a position where we were meeting people who we honestly wanted to keep in our lives, which is rare for all of us, myself included. We’ve lost more people than I care to count over the past twenty-four years because we were honest: because we told them what was “going on”, and they either:
Decided they needed a “prove it” (in other words, they wanted us to treat our lives like some damnable dog and pony show and somehow prove to them that this is actually “real” or authentic)
Decided they could dictate to me and my Dead who is in-body when (I’ve actually had at least one person turn to me, sitting here, spending time with them, as a friend, in my own body, and ask “when is Michael coming back, because I miss him, and really want to spend time with him instead”)
Stated they “believed in” all of this, until such time as said “belief” became somehow inconvenient to them (this one most often happens when the person in question has definite pre-conceived notions about precisely what kind of personality the specific Dead person involved ought to have, according to them. I often wonder what would happen in the world if we treated living people that way? It’s because of this one that every singly one of my Dead now introduce themselves under their taken names, and to most people never reveal their actual given name–and, therefore, their true identity–from birth and in life.)
Challenged me and my Dead to a face-off over afterlife cosmology, based on their own personal gnosis as a living person who has never actually been dead (Yeah, this one happens often, yet it never ceases to boggle my mind and theirs. I mean, if you’ve only read books and seen movies about Iceland, for example, you wouldn’t try to tell a native of Iceland that either a) Iceland doesn’t exist, b) is nothing like what they say it’s like, or c) that they are the tourist, and you’re the aficionado, would you? This is genuinely the exact same thing! Yet it happens to us. Regularly.)
Refused to obey our rules. (Look: our rules are simple, and really the same as in any other friendship with any other live person. Things told in confidence should remain in confidence. If you wouldn’t go around spouting to everyone within shouting distance a secret told to you by a live friend, then why the hell would you feel motivated to betray the confidences of the Dead? If you treat other live people with respect, not expecting them to jump through hoops or otherwise “perform”, why the hell would you do that to the Dead?)
It is still terrifying, every single time we “come out of the coffin” to someone we care about. It’s one thing, to be “out and proud”, here on this blog, where we’re speaking largely to strangers who we hope will become customers who we hope might become friends. It is another thing entirely to be face-to-face with someone you’ve come to know and love and worked hard to build relationship with and have to finally say “oh, by the way, all of the time that we’ve been growing attached to each other? Yeah, some of that time it was one of my Dead, not me, and they really care about you a lot, so please, don’t be one more person that we lose because of this….”
Inevitably, in the sorts of circles in which we now travel, there will be those people who will ask “but I, myself, am psychically aware, so how is it that I couldn’t tell this is what’s happening, if this is really what’s happening”? My response to those people is two-fold. First, if you have actually spent time around me, and then around Connla, Taliesin, or especially Michael, how could you not tell the difference between me and them? I am a girly girl with a fairly strong Southern accent (especially if you are hearing me for the first time and are not from the South), who enjoys dripping with jewelry and wearing long, flow-y skirts, and generally “being a chick”, versus Connla, who speaks with a deep voice (although he has, admittedly, and much to his chagrin, picked up a Southern lilt courtesy of living in the South for twenty years), dresses in a very masculine style, and saunters everywhere he goes like some action hero who just got kicked out of the comic books? Or Michael, who is obviously Australian. Second, after a decade or so of scaring the holy bejeesus out of small children who can most definitely see who is in here, whether they want to or not, my Dead have grown very skilled at cloaking themselves from “prying eyes”, willing or otherwise. The first hundred or so times that you have to turn to the parent of a suddenly-screaming child and say “I don’t know what I did to frighten your child, but I’m really sorry” teaches you to keep your guard up, and never let it down. Those first few hundred times when a kid calls the person in-body out as a dude, in an otherwise apparently female physical form, in the middle of Walmart also quickly puts the kibosh on not putting up a protective shield, lemme tell ya! Finally, and perhaps a bit too simplistically, my response to such people would be: “They’re people inhabiting a person. Do your psychic bells and whistles always go off, every time you’re around people inhabiting people? If so, that has got to suck for you!”
Most live people fear the Dead, and fear Death even more. I feel profoundly blessed that I no longer do. The Dead are just people. If you aren’t afraid of other live people, you shouldn’t fear them, either. Sure, over the years, I have had encounters with the angry dead, too. I don’t enjoy the company of live angry people–they, quite frankly, scare me–so it’s pretty natural to feel the same way when it comes to dead angry people. My solution, when it comes to them, is simple: they aren’t invited to “hang out”. Most people feel a certain sadness when it comes to speaking of the Dead, or dealing with Death. I’m not a stranger to grief, even though I know in my heart of hearts that it’s not like we “can’t keep in touch”. I’ve seen what the Dead themselves go through upon crossing over–how they miss their living friends, relatives, spouses, children the same way those living friends, relatives, spouses, children no doubt miss them. The Dead grieve the living, the same way we grieve the Dead. And that is painful to know and to watch. If I can afford them a momentary happiness, by letting them briefly “live” again, in the midst of all of that, I am honored to do so. But they are absolutely not allowed to ever make contact with those living friends, relatives, spouses, children, because I understand, and they have to come to understand, that the pain of such encounters would be debilitating for both parties involved. Why? Because of “prove it“. Because this is not the “Mishy Dead On Demand Network”. Because pre-conceived notions define belief in existence too often when it comes to this. Because the absolutely unavoidable debate on cosmology that is destined to ensue will do more to build sadness and anger than it will to quell it. Because, quite simply, these are our rules.
Long before Samhain became a time for me to honor the Beloved Dead, Halloween was a time when this little Southern girl could actually whip out the Ouija board and the Tarot cards and dress the way she wanted to, without anybody threatening to burn her at the stake (which actually happened to me in high school: a group of boys decided that because I was actively doing spellwork for my friends and reading Tarot that I should burn for that, and they meant it. While they never actually went through with attempting to carry out their threats, that did not make them any less real, nor any less terrifying). Over the past twenty-four years, Halloween also became a time when I could “let my Dead out in public”: they could actually go to the “redneck bar” dressed and behaving as themselves, without fearing any sort of backlash apart from “wow, Michelle always has the coolest and most authentic costumes! She even acts the part!”
As an ordained Druid and medium, however, Samhain has brought a much larger view of this time of year into my life. It is the Celtic New Year: a time when we let go of the old, and welcome in the new. It is also, obviously, the time when we Pagans pause to actively honor our Beloved Dead. Three-thousand-words-into this blog post (and thank you for sticking with me this far), that is why I am writing here today, rather than Connla or Frances or Taliesin or Tobias, or any of the others of my “possee”. I am here, writing this, because I am sick and tired of having to live behind a veil of lies, and so are they. Being forced to live our lives that way does not honor my Beloved Dead; it lessens them. So this is my “New Year’s Resolution”, of sorts:
Believe whatever you choose to believe; my Dead and I will continue to know what we know.
This is who we are. This is who I am, and what I can do. I love and honor my Dead, for I know that my Dead love and honor me. And for all of you out there who have loved and honored us in the same way:
For those of you who are unfamiliar with any sort of Asian spirituality, Samsarameans “the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.” It’s a Sanskrit word, having its roots in Vedic traditions (read: India), which is fully explored as a spiritual practice not only in Hinduism, but in Buddhism as well. Samsara is viewed as a cyclical wheel, from which we desperately need to be liberated: the ultimate spiritual ideal is to achieve Nirvana (Buddhism) or Moksha (Hinduism), essentially breaking the wheel of Samsara. This is accomplished by finding one’s True Self, knowing one’s own Soul, thereby ending the suffering of ignorance, empty desire, and the unethical actions to which both of those things lead. For those of you familiar with my other work, and with my daily spiritual practices (Druidic Heathen), it may come off as a bit odd that I’m suddenly creating art with a Buddhist-Hindu “backbeat”. For those who know me best, however, it comes as no shock at all that I needed to “get this art out”, or that I needed these assets myself, to be able to fully express the depth and breadth of my spirituality fully.
Regardless of the shell I’m wearing (I artist journaled about that yesterday; see below), on the inside of all of that, I’m a Chinese-American, with a heavy influx of Norwegian and German bloodlines. My first faiths, as a child, were Buddhism, Taoism, and Episcopalian. When I first began my journey down this Druidic Heathen Path on which I’m presently travelling, it gave me great comfort knowing that the Celts, Germanic Tribesmen, and even the original Norsemen all shared an Indo-European cultural root: the same cultural root which also gave us Buddhism (and Hinduism). That sort of let me know I was “in the right neighborhood”. Truth is, there is a large amount of my Buddhist/Taoist root that I’m just never going to “shake”, nor do I wish to. It’s perfectly congruent with everything in which I so deeply believe.
As a Chinese-American, my artistic roots also lie in Asia: my first forays into art were with traditional Chinese Watercolor (to which I desperately need to return at some point!), and most of my earliest pen and ink drawings were of dragons and martial artists. As I’ve evolved into a digital artist, I haven’t left those aesthetics behind. Taking the leap into the world of creating digital assets that enable others to express themselves artistically through digi-scrap and digital (and hybrid!) artist journaling was a bit of a rude awakening to my cultural sensibilities: almost everything that is out there on the market that is supposed to have “Asian flair” has a tendency to be non-Asians’ idea of what Asian art looks like, rather than authentic. You wind up with a lot of cartoon pandas, and fortune cookies, and Chinese takeaway boxes. While I hate the term “cultural theft”, because I think it leads to a certain level of pomposity, and most of the time only serves to further divide and segregate what should be a globally multicultural society, what I found “out there”, in the “digi-scrap/AJ world” was stereotypical at best, and offensive at its worst. I needed to do something to make that right.
While all of this was floating around in my fevered brain, in November of 2016, panic struck America. I don’t like to get political in this blog (or anywhere else), because generally in the wake of the last election, I’ve found being political only breeds firestorms, and firestorms only breed a certain vapid level of hatred, rather than the peace I’m oathbound to promote, but regardless of which side of the aisle you or I are on, I think we can all agree that in November 2016, something on the level of meteoric catastrophe hit the world’s psyche, and pushed it off of some previously undefined edge. I was immediately reminded of the history of the Cultural Revolution in China (which, for those unfamiliar with the term, was decidedly not a revolution, in the positive sense of that word, but actually a cultural apocalypse), and I knew: Samsara‘s time had come.
Samsara’s time had come, but unfortunately, so had Christmas/Yule, which meant “holiday selections” needed to be our primary focus at Iaconagraphy, and my “passion project” would need to temporarily take a backseat. So I bided my time, finding things that were suitable for extraction, and made the first draft of the artist papers that would eventually become the ones you find in the Collection today. Then January rolled around, and it was time for the first Gathering of 2017, and I was forced to continue to bide my time, eeking out an element or a piece of word art in between, as I needed them while I was creating pages to help us make the shift from strictly digi-scrap to an artist journaling focus. Finally, here we are in February–almost four months later–and I can finally show Samsara to the world.
But this set is about far more than digital do-lollies that will make your pages look pretty; ultimately, this set is about breaking the wheel. Now, more than ever, the oath I took in March of 2016 as Rigfenneidh of this Grove are important, and I find they suddenly aren’t just important to me, as one individual: they are important to all, that everyone might learn to live that way, and perhaps fix this world in the process, and get it offthe wheel, for once and for all. It’s so easy for me to sit here and type that, but how does one live that way, when they aren’t Rigfenneidh of some teeny, tiny Grove who considers themselves responsible for the welfare of other people?
Newsflash: we are all responsible for the welfare of other people!
And we’re all living in a time when everybody is itching for a fight, but few are willing to fight the right way, or for the right things, or sometimes neither know nor care what that means. That old adage of “the best defense is a good offense” is leaving the whole world blind, and scratching and gnawing at each other in its blindness. The best defense is love and kindness. Admittedly, that sounds very tra-la-la. But let’s face it: if love were easy, we’d all be in it; we’d all have it; it would be everywhere, and it’s not. Likewise, if kindness were easy, we’d all be doing it. The modern ideals of love and kindness are sanitized concepts that have more to do with rainbows and unicorn farts than with the actual concepts of what love and kindness really are! Love is not chocolates and flowers and romantic sweet-nothings whispered in some lovely’s ear, and kindness is not smiling blankly and saying “have a nice day”. No, love–real love–is a willingness to put yourself between something dear to you and danger, no matter what that might ultimately mean for your welfare. Love says because, not despite, even when all of the becauses suck out loud. And kindness–real kindness–is an inner will to do what is best for others especially when the other person doesn’t deserve it. It’s a form of practiced grace, for all of you out there with Christian backgrounds who actually understand the New Testament implications of that word. Neither love nor kindness has a single thing to do with being nice. Nice is just a very benevolent way of saying “clueless”. Both real love and real kindness can call us to fight with righteous fury, but the keyword in this sentence is righteous, not fight….
Peace is another one of those words that we have over-sanitized; we can mostly thank the Flower Children of the 1960s for that. In our society, we tend to have this vision of what that word means that includes some idyllic setting, with everyone “making love not war”, amidst enormous clouds of vaporous smoke (possibly of an intoxicating variety). But that is no more real peace than our over-sanitized view of love and kindness are real love or real kindness. Real peace is Truth. Not my truth, not your truth; The Truth. Real peace is freedom from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, and obsession. How do we break free of all that? By learning The Truth: that all things (including people, even the unpleasant ones) are connected, and deserve to be treated with compassion. There’s another word we’ve over-sanitized: compassion. We tend to view it in modern society as a sort of “pet-pet-pet” mentality, when in reality, it is something far deeper (and somewhat darker) than that. Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering”. That’s right, folks: compassion demands more of us than band-aids and kissed boo-boos; it requires us to actually feel something, and then, beyond that, to actually do something about our feelings! While that may not sound terribly peaceful by our modern standards of that word, it’s the only way to bring peace. If we could ever stop to realize that everyone is going through the same thing–the same suffering–just on different levels and in different ways, through different things, we would be much less apt to get annoyed by others. We wouldn’t be as easily distracted from The Truth by all the shiny bells and whistles that society tries to throw at us in an effort to get us not to feel such things. Our anxiety levels would diminish (because there really is something to that old Southern saying that “misery loves company”), and we would become far less obsessed with chasing after the things we think are going to make us happy, and instead focus on what actually will: doing the right thing by other people and ourselves.
Which brings us to the doing of all of this: teaching those who need teaching and helping those who need help.
In our society, we’ve so often cast the teacher as the “know-it-all” with the loud mouth and the striking ruler who bases everything on logic and reason and their overabundance of mental capacity that the very words teach and teacher have become near-synonymous with forcing knowledge down someone’s throat or into someone’s brain. But in the earliest societies–some of which I draw from in my Druidic Heathen practice–one could not teach unless one was also a poet, an artist, or a storyteller. In those societies, it was understood that it was the heart, not the head, which needed to learn lessons. Former priest and spiritual author Matthew Fox made a beautiful statement about this:
“The Celtic peoples, for example, insisted that only poets could be teachers. Why? I think it is because knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous; it may lack wisdom; it may be a power trip; it may squelch life out of the learners. What if our educational systems were to insist that teachers be poets and storytellers and artists? What transformations would follow?”
“Knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous.” That aforementioned view of the teacher as a pompous force-feeder of knowledge (whether we like it or want it or not!) is born largely out of our tendency to teach from the head, not from the heart. When we stay caught up in our own brains, we gravitate towards a facts-and-figures way of living that leaves little room for the compassion that is required, if we want to have peace, love, and kindness. In other words, it leaves little room for The Truth. There is also absolutely nothing whatsoever compassionate about force-feeding anyone anything, knowledge or otherwise. Force-feeding is, in fact, in and of itself, a form of power trip, and such power trips can be soul-crushing. It’s important that we move from such force-feeding toward teaching those who actively need teaching, rather than teaching the ones we think need to learn a lesson. There’s a very big difference between those two things! People who actively need teaching are those who have already shown, through their actions, words, and deeds, that their heart is “operating on the same wavelength” as your heart, whereas those we think need teaching tend to be the exact opposite: they’re the ones we have unceasing wars-of-words with, who never seem to come out on the other side of those conversations one bit wiser than when they first strolled in. But why teach those who actively need teaching, if they’re already “on the right track”, so to speak? For that matter, what does one teach such people, if they already know the basics enough to be on the same wavelength in the first place? Shouldn’t we instead be exerting all of our energies on the people who clearly don’t have a clue, even if we have to hold them down if necessary? No! At its best, true teaching is an exchange of ideas–a process of questions and answers which goes all the way back to Ancient Greece, and the Socratic Method. It requires a dialogue. Those who are unwilling to engage in true dialogue cannot learn a blessed thing! For those people, we have a different teaching method: teaching through example. And that doesn’t just mean setting a good example in the way that you behave and speak, that also means employing the simplest form of education known to humanity: teaching through symbology. Why do you think pre-school children respond best when taught through play, or through picture books? Because those methods of teaching use symbology to get the point across when language fails us. Symbols communicate to the heart in a way that sometimes words cannot. This requires a return to the artist, the poet, and the storyteller–lofty goals by modern standards for many of us. But there is a poet within all of us; an artist; a storyteller. Every human being is a collection of stories; every doodle or artist journal page or bit of digi-scrap is the work of the artist within. We are all forced to become poets when something is so wondrous it defies normal words, whether at the birth of a child, or at first falling in love, or when the sky turns to porcelain after a February snow.
Everyone needs help. Those who trouble us most need it most of all. That person who makes you so angry that your blood boils just thinking about them: that is a desperate cry for help. Again, this teeters woefully on the edge of tra-la-la. When we say “help others” in our modern society, we get caught up in images of “hands across America” (or wherever else); “hands touching hands”…it very quickly becomes a Neil Diamond song, and we’re all swaying with our own hands in the air at a Red Sox game in Fenway Park. Yet again, that is not the true meaning of the words to help:
help: to save, rescue, or give succor; to make something less difficult or easier; to contribute to; to facilitate; to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means; render assistance to; aid; cooperate effectively with; assist; to be useful or profitable to; to refrain from; to avoid (usually preceded by cannot); to relieve or break the uniformity of; to correct or remedy.
Yes, that “hands touching hands” sense of the word is in there, but what most find surprising are the last bits of the true definition: to refrain from; to avoid; to relieve or break the uniformity of; to correct or remedy. Sometimes the best help for someone is not a loving pat on the back, but instead a swift kick in the rear! Continual allowance of letting a person make you so angry that just thinking about them makes your blood boil isn’t helping you, or them. Chances are, it’s not hurting them, either, though it is hurting you. When I say that their continued behavior is a desperate cry for help, I don’t mean help of the “pat on the back” variety; I mean that second kind. Perhaps if someone refrained from being in their presence, or avoided their attitude, or maybe even went out on a limb and relieved or broke the uniformity of their behavior, by calling them on it–by correcting them–it would remedy the situation, and help them become a better human! Certainly, such forms of help need to be undertaken from the viewpoint of the heart, not the head, so that they do not become dangerous power trips of their own, but correction is a form of help. Just sitting around “bitching about it” isn’t helping anyone, however: it’s not helping you, it’s not helping the person who listens consolingly as you complain, and it’s definitely not helping the person or situation causing you to feel this way in the first place! One can only accomplish this “second sort of help” if one is also actively living a lifestyle that promotes that more “traditional sort of help”, however: you need to correct yourself, by living a compassionate life, before you go off correcting others.
This is the only way we can break the wheel:
Understand The Truth: we are all connected, and everyone and everything deserves to be treated with compassion.
Defend The Truth through love and kindness, with vehemence when necessary.
Understand that Peace is Truth. Spread it accordingly.
Teach those who need teaching through dialogue; teach everyone else via life-example and symbology.
Help everyone, including your Self.
I invite all of you to grab some digital assets (that freebie we released yesterday comes with a 30% off coupon for your next total purchase!), and create an artist journal page (or even a Facebook Meme–Canva can help you out with that!), and come on over and post it to our Facebook Page (or even to your own profile with the hashtag #Iaconagraphy). Spread The Truth; break the wheel!