Truth

I have talked about truth before, in my essay on developing the ability to see the truth in all matters. In it, I talk about the different truths that we perceive- subjective and objective truths- that are often very different. As Knights, we offer ourselves to stand in the way of danger, to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. In order to do so, we must perceive accurately the nature of that danger.

I should at this point be clear that part of my bias as a therapist is not to feed into distorted realities. There is a balance that must be found, however, between subjective and objective realities. I’m reminded of a client whose boyfriend had hidden drugs in her belongings, and she got caught with them. It delayed her possible discharge by a couple of years, and she was understandably not so happy about it. The boyfriend, to be fair, did work to turn it around, got serious about his substance abuse treatment, etc. But when she talked about getting back together with him, she said “He lied to me, and that cost me two years of my freedom. I can’t trust him.”

I knew the boyfriend, and I think that he was sincere, that he loved her, and that he’d changed. But her reality was that she couldn’t trust him, ever. And while that was technically a distortion of reality (probably!), it was a reality that we couldn’t change. The relationship was not repaired, even though that’s what she came to therapy to work on. And at the end of our time, I had to say “I can’t help you achieve that goal. I can help you accept that the relationship is over, to grieve the loss of it and to learn from it. But I can’t help you repair the relationship because your truth won’t allow it.”

When I think about truth and Magick, I am often reminded of the section in Modern Knighthood that talks about those who believe they’re under attack, and “fire off energistic salvos” because they see themselves as being under siege. This brings to mind several people that I’ve worked with who claim that they can’t ground negative energy. They’re not happy when I tell them that this inability has nothing to do with the energy and everything to do with their perception of it. Somehow, they have the idea that “dark” or “bad” energy is… I don’t know, sticky, I guess.

It is not my responsibility to convince these people that they are wrong. It’s not my job to make them understand. I know, however, that I am a Knight in part because I want to help others, and I need to resist the urge to try and help those who don’t really want help. Those who seek an external source for their problems, regardless of the evidence to the contrary, don’t want help- they want excuses. I would suspect that many Knights could fall easily into the trap of wanting to help those who don’t really want help.

It is for this reason that we must be able to see Truth, and to speak it- but let us not in speaking the truth succumb to the desire to force it upon another. Consider the symbology of the sword, the edge that cuts away illusions. There are, in most western examples of swords, two edges, and that double-edged sword is used in our Magickal tradition for a reason. Every story has two sides to it, and so does every truth. As pagans, it is not our mission to force our truth upon another. As Knights, it is not our responsibility to accept another’s truth if it does not agree with our own, nor are we obligated to allow ourselves to be drawn into another’s dysfunctional reality. At some point, then, we needed to develop the ability to say “No. I can’t support your truth. It may be true for you, but I don’t see it, and I can’t contribute to it.”

In other words, we have develop the ability to say “I can’t help you.” That’s not something we’re good at, acknowledging that we can’t help- especially to ourselves! However, as Knights serving our community, we need to be aware that saying “I can’t help you” is part of self-care, and that’s true regardless of whether the reason is that the person is wrong about the cause or because the situation is beyond our capabilities to handle.

Truth is not always pleasant- in fact, it’s often unpleasant. The ability to accept the truth, regardless of whether or not we like it, is an essential quality of a Knight, and one which our Code of Chivalry says we must learn to cultivate “in all matters.”

Not just the ones we like.

Sir Seosaidh

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Perseverance

By now, it’s probably apparent from my essays that I take little at face value and rarely take the direct approach to any issue. The discussion of perseverance is no different, I’m afraid! It is important to understand that any part of our Code of Chivalry has a converse.

Without perseverance, it is rather difficult to accomplish anything. Rarely is there anything worth doing that does not require some effort on our part, and if a skill is something that can be improved, it will require sustained effort to accomplish that task. Anyone who attains the rank of Knight within our Order has demonstrated the principle of perseverance, as this is a journey which inevitably incurs obstacles (if only those of daily life’s demands).

Closely related to this virtue is that of self-discipline. Perseverance, however, represents the ability to return again and again, despite obstacles, to the focus of the self-discipline. Though your body may scream at you to quit, though your spirit may beg for rest, perseverance enables you to push through to the goal at the end. It is the ability to sit one more time in meditation, to recite the Warrior’s Admonition again and again until it is known perfectly, or to practice the Zwerchau until it is perfect.

There is, however, the shadow side of perseverance, and it isn’t sloth, or indifference, or giving up. Those are merely opposites. Perseverance has a side to it that hurts us and those around us.

It’s stubbornness.

You may ask, how can a Scotsman decry stubbornness as a failure of perseverance? And it is true, there is a certain amount of the pot looking at the kettle and saying “your ass is all covered in soot.” Because I understand my shadow self, I recognize that the potential for unreasoning, unrelenting stubbornness exists within me.

Stubborn doesn’t know when to quit. It does not understand that discretion is the better part of valour. And it can get you killed.

My daughter was recently allowed the opportunity to play on her school’s football team. After one practice, she hated it. She hated the drills. She hated the coach’s way of running practice. She hated that she was the smallest, least experienced person on the team, and hated the fact that because she was the least experienced person on the team she got to play a total of two minutes.

But she wouldn’t quit. She wanted to, but she would not quit. I know that she wanted to quit, because when my wife said “no way, there are boys out there twice your size and you’re going to get hurt” she put up only a token resistance. But my Scottish/Dutch child has some difficulty with the concept of “surrender.” Go figure.

The line between perseverance and stubbornness is a fine one. It’s not always clear when one should “shut up and soldier”, and when discretion is indeed the better part of valour. As Knights, it behoves us to consider this idea carefully, because we will be called upon- by the community, by the Gods- to persevere in the face of adversity. It’s sort of our thing. At the same time, we must learn to temper our stubbornness and understand when it can hurt us or others around us.

Being a Knight isn’t about being stupid, and if we are to avoid the failings of our spiritual ancestors with regards to being hidebound traditionalists we must be prepared to persevere and when to withdraw and regroup to engage once again at a time and place of our choosing, as Sun Tzu enjoins us to do.

Sir Seosaidh

(Joseph H. Greene, L.C.S.W., Clinical Social Worker)

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Compassion

Seosaidh Blackwolf

July 29, 2014

There are many words that the general public gets wrong. Ambivalence, for example. Most people think that “ambivalence” means “I don’t know what I’m feeling.” In fact, it means “feeling two separate emotions at the same time.” Often, this leads to not being able to separate the two, but that uncertainty is not an inherent part of the meaning of the word. Likewise, “empathy” is often described as the ability to feel what another person is feeling, an idea supported by science fiction (Star Trek is one major culprit here!). In fact, empathy is the ability to understand what another is feeling, and to some extent comprehend what the experience is like.

Compassion is another word that I think many people misunderstand. Some see it as a force, driving behaviour. “If you had any compassion you would…” But compassion is simply having concern for others, especially those having misfortunes. It’s an emotion. It does not direct our behaviour. No matter how strong that emotion is, it does not choose the behaviour.

I do not give money to panhandlers or people collecting money in front of stores. “Would you like to help feed the homeless?” they say, with their bucket for donations placed conveniently for my contribution.  When I continue on my way, they say “God bless you,” and don’t realize that I can, in fact, hear the unspoken “asshole” that they repress. “Pardon me, do you have some money so I can ride the bus home?” says the man in the parking lot who was trying to get bus fare home this morning when I stopped at the same Starbucks. Or he has a story- “I ran out of gas, I’m just trying to get to Bakersfield, I forgot my ATM card at home.” And I do not give them money.

At some point, someone who knows me will ask “why don’t you give them money? You’re a Social Worker, I thought you’d have some compassion.” And it is at that point that I must explain that compassionate doesn’t mean stupid. The company that put that guy out in front of the store spends pennies on the dollar on the homeless. I’ll give my money- or my time- to the city mission to feed the homeless, or get a list and go shop for them. The guy in the parking lot has been trying to get to Bakersfield for three weeks, and is wearing long sleeves in the 100+ heat so I can’t see his track marks. And when I look at his arms and meet his eyes, he knows that I haven’t fallen for it.

I have compassion for him. Being an addict is hard. His life is a misery and he doesn’t know how to fix it. I want to help him. But I will not help him by giving him money to get his fix. I will only delay the inevitable. “Hey, bring your gas can over, I’ll throw ten bucks worth into it.” “Uh… I don’t have a gas can.” “Okay, I’ll buy you one.” “No, I don’t want to hassle you.”  Sometimes, if they’re asking for money for food, one of them will take me up on an offer to buy them something. Yes, he’s still an addict- and he will use someone else’s money to buy his drugs- but he’s not using mine.

One of my patients has a voice that tells him horrible things about himself, things that make him, literally, cry during therapy sessions. He has no control over it, and he’s on Clozaril, which is our biggest, baddest gun. He’s never going to leave our facility, and I don’t know that he should. Because he’s so crazy that there is no way that if his voice tells him to do something dangerous for long enough that he won’t eventually do it. He’s going to die here. Underneath the crazy, though, he’s a really sweet guy, who doesn’t mean harm to anyone. He built a fire in the wrong place and didn’t consider that anyone might get hurt- fortunately, no one did- and for that he’s going to die here.

I don’t think that’s right. But unless someone is willing to take him under supervision out there in the community, I can’t tell the court that he should go. He really just is that crazy, and someone is going to get hurt if he’s not watched, because he doesn’t have the ability to make good decisions. That saddens me greatly, because no human being should be in such a situation. But- despite my compassion- I will not support letting him go until he can be supervised, because I also have compassion for his potential victims.

It is good to be concerned about the welfare of others, in my opinion. To allow that concern to dictate your decisions when you may not have all the facts isn’t compassion, however. As warriors, as Knights, we will often see people in bad situations of their own making. To decide to swoop in and rescue them won’t help them, will hurt us, and may leave us unable to help others who really need our help when they need us most.seosaidh

Sincerity

Seosaidh Blackwolf

Sincerity Essay

 

Del took a deep breath. She let it out. Her voice was gentle. “That’s insane,” she said.

“Maybe,” agreed Lewis as Foss lunged at him yet again, “but it’s sincere as hell!” -John Steakley, “Armor”

 

The Code of Chivalry always needs to be considered in context. In my last essay, I discussed the idea that honor is not nor can it ever be an absolute construct imposed from without. It is equally valid to propose that sincerity untempered is not inherently a desirable quality. As with the rest of the Code, it behooves us to take a moment to consider our sincerity and how we should express it.

The example above is taken from John Steakley’s “Armor”, a book which has been described as “Starship Troopers for adults.” Foss is angry at Lewis, who is wealthy, because he believes the Lewis is the reason Del will not pay attention to him. He tries to assault Lewis in order to gain favor with Del I suspect this sounded far more intelligent with the addition of several beers… That notwithstanding, it does seem as though, in his drunken state, Foss truly thinks that trying to beat up a former special operator to impress a woman is a great idea. To be fair, he doesn’t know that Lewis is a former special operator, but a little thought probably could have brought him to the realization that women rarely are impressed by men beating the hell out of each other.

Terrorists are sincere. Jared Loughner was sincere. So were Timothy McVeigh, James Holmes, and Elliot Rodgers. That they were sincere does not mitigate the fact that their behaviors were contemptible. The Militant Orders that we consider our spiritual ancestors were almost certainly sincere when they committed violence against those who had the temerity to believe differently than they did. It is clear that sincerity alone is insufficient.

How then are we to judge when to apply sincerity? The rest of the Code of Chivalry guides us. Sincerity without humility, courtesy, compassion, or justice could easily go awry or be misapplied. If we Develop a Sense of Right Action, if we think of the consequences of our actions, if we follow the Wiccan Rede and only do what we will if it harms none, than our sincerity is tempered and is not used to harm others.

I was talking with a friend about this, and he said “Well, at least your sincerity about your Code of Chivalry doesn’t have to be examined.” My response was “You know, Kerr wrote our Code of Chivalry, and as far as I know, he’s still human. I don’t think he wants me to blindly follow anything, especially him.” I am sincere about my belief in the Code. I try to live it every day. I try to use it in my life on a daily basis. But I also try to examine it, to test it, to see if it fits. Because to be sincere about the Code of Chivalry means to take it seriously, and that means one has to be reflective.

Sincere belief in the Code means all of it. The problem is that there is no code that isn’t self-contradictory at some point. Thoughtful reflection is required to ensure that our sincere desire to fulfill one part of the Code isn’t leading us to violate another part. So, I sez to myself, exactly how do I do that?

We can be guided by this in the Wiccan Rede. “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” Would our action- no matter how sincere- harm another? If so, then the action is to be avoided. The same is true for honesty, truth, etc- if to follow the Code violates the Wiccan Rede, then we do not move forward, regardless of whether or not we are sincere.

In that sense we can consider that the Wiccan Rede is the focus of the Code of Chivalry. The Code tells us to value sincerity and to be sincere. What we then must do is, with sincerity, focus on the Rede. (This applies to the other parts of the Code, but this is an essay about sincerity.) If we are sincere about the observation of and dedication to the Rede, we are less likely to engage in behaviors that will harm others, no matter how sincerely held our belief that action is needed.

I probably am thinking about this in light of recent events here in California. When someone like Elliot Rodgers does this sort of thing, people come forward with their theories of what could have been done to prevent it. Sincere theories. The problem is, they’re all wrong. I know, because had he survived, there’s a good chance that Rodgers would have come to us. And it would have been years, if ever, before we understood him. People demand that “something be done” in the sincere belief that if we just followed their plan that the world could be made safer.

I wish they were right. But returning this discussion to the issue of sincerity as it applies to us as Knights, it is simply our responsibility to, before espousing our sincerely held beliefs, consider whether or not our actions will harm someone. It doesn’t matter if we think we’re right, it doesn’t matter if it might do some good, it matters that we have put the lens of our ultimate Code to the issue before we step into action (or refrain from action).

Seosaidh

seosaidh

Sword Dance

I practice Bojutsu, the art of the Japanese quarterstaff. One generates a great deal of chi swinging the bo around in a kata or form, and you certainly move around while doing so. Indeed, that’s one of the reasons that I’m attracted to that discipline. One of the best examples of this sort of energy work that I have encountered was performed by a woman named Tina, a US Army master sergeant diagnosed with cancer. I met Tina, a small woman, but a strong one, at the Sacred Well Congregation meeting in the San Antonio area a few years ago. She was very excited to meet me and asked me to wait while she got her “athame” to show me. Tina ran off to her cabin and I expected her to return with a knife. Instead she came back grinning with a two handed battle sword that was taller than she was. This dopplehander sword must have weighed eight pounds. We laughed about it and she put it away. Next morning I was up early and did some T’ai Chi as the sun rose over the hills. Afterwards I sat down in the covered outdoors dining area to enjoy the sunrise. No one else seemed to be up and about. A short time later Tina came out carrying her dopplehander sword, unaware that I was there. She went to the middle of the field, lay the sword down, bowed to this weapon, then picked it up and started a full bore sword form, twirling and dancing about for five minutes or so, swinging that heavy sword around one handed at times as if it weighed nothing. When she finally finished my applause was the first indication to her that I was watching. I called her over and asked where she had learned swordplay, since I recognized many of the moves she’d used from Western schools of medieval swordplay. To my surprise she told me that she’d never received any training. She’d been diagnosed with cancer and decided that the way to fight it was to imagine it as an enemy she had to cut down. To do this she got this sword and went out daily to fight this disease. She’d taught herself the moves. Her sword dance generated the chi and her intent used it to attack her disease. She defeated the cancer and did the dance daily ever since. If ever I needed proof of the power of raising chi with a magickal weapon and directing it with intent, here it was.

The original video had a sound track of bag pipes that her husband played in the background, but YouTube objected to the use of the song in the video, so I’ve removed it to keep everyone happy. You can view this video with the link below:

Sword Dance

In Her Service, Kerr