Loki: Acceleration on a Curve

A learning curve, that is. Though I’ve been tempted lately to think of Loki as having a gentler approach to the “lifespan development issues” faced by us older folks, that’s an illusion. In reality, he’s tossing us about just as much as the twenty- and thirty- somethings. In many ways, our existence is as precarious as the millennials leaving their teens: poverty, lack of affordable housing, lack of employment, relationship and family issues, lack of respect…

However, I greatly appreciate his rapid-fire, “toss it all at the ceiling and see what sticks” approach. These days people show their qualities very quickly and as painful as that is in the moment, it’s actually great for a woman who has less and less time to waste on pointless drama and toxic relationships.

My biological clock is ticking–and it’s not a baby I’m expecting. Momento mori.

I’m in the process of jettisoning things right now: outmoded concepts of who I was; books and objects I’m not in love with anymore; acquaintances and colleagues who’ve been hanging around in my “Facebook friends” list but who never communicate (I just purged my list today); papers and crap I’ve been holding onto as “archives…” Who, really, will care? Except for my cats, and a few books, artwork, and family photos, I could actually travel lighter than I have in the past.

Only trouble is, there are far fewer safe (non-toxic) places I could land. But for now, I’m enjoying where I live, with clean indoor air and a degree of comfort not afforded to most of the world’s people. Do I know how lucky I am? Yes, I do.

Back to people and their qualities, though. And back to Loki.

He won’t let me stagnate. He won’t let me put my trust in people who are deceptive, competitive, dishonest, or otherwise toxic. It’s as if he’s an enzyme or a catalyst (“just add Loki!”). In his presence, the alchemies of personality and conflict boil, bubble, and froth. Perhaps what results will be palatable, perhaps not. Whatever happens will be the opposite of comfy or stale.

Understand, I give offerings to this god daily: cinnamon tea with honey in the morning (kind of like when I used to get up first in the morning and make coffee for my then-husband, bringing it to him while he stayed in bed), poems and prayers, conversation, and frequent sweets. I have a degree of trust in this patron deity that exceeds what I feel for almost everyone and everything (except my cats), but I also know that my trust cannot lead to complacency.

And so I ponder the latest fracas–an unexpectedly ugly outburst from another, and my own feelings of frustration, shame, anger, and the mental fluctuations of “what do I want to do about this, if anything?” My first impulse is always to simply leave–remove myself from the situation–but this time I think I’m being challenged to stay, and to also state my terms for doing so.

In the past I’ve fled abusive bosses and narcissistic lovers, and avoided personality disordered friends. I’ve left a hula halau (hula school) after an alaka’i (assistant teacher) yanked my arm without warning, while I was trying to learn some steps. She’d previously poked fun at my “duck feet” in class, in front of everyone. I walked off the dance floor and never returned. I’ve been “mean-girled” and “man-splained” and worse, and though I have a certain level of tolerance for human failings (even, sometimes, my own), I do draw the line at accepting insulting or abusive behavior. Or rather, my gut draws the line even if my mind wants to excuse or rationalize the person’s actions. There’s a very definite feeling from my enteric nervous system that says “no more.” It’s very final.

Armouring, warding… recuperating, reviving… these are important activities in my life. Sometimes they take all I’ve got. But with Loki’s help, I seem to cycle through my emotional reactions faster, arriving at whatever strategic measures I have to take to prevent a repeat occurence.

Loki can be a “pick your battles” kind of god, exits are okay but he can also urge a full-on confrontation, the scorched earth kind. Even “best served cold” can be fine with him. I am free to choose but it has to be a conscious choice. I have to confront my own feelings and failings, no matter what. It’s a liberating way to live even at this age. And yet there’s never a definitive answer to the existential question: “are we there yet?”

We Lokeans never arrive at a final destination. We are, in so many ways, forever in transit. We are always accelerating on the curve.

Hail Loki! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Loki's_flight_to_Jötunheim.jpg

####

My Gods are Fragrance-Free

What follows is imagined, an eco-parable. Gerda, a Jotun, smells only of rich soil, bruised herbs from her garden, and luscious Jotun pheromones. This was enough to dazzle the Vanir god, Freyr, from afar. His sister, Freya, adorns herself with amber jewels, but cares for her skin only with salves of honey, clear water, and powdered grains. The dry tips of her hair are moistened only with the tiniest bit of melted butter. She scorns the feckless chemistries, the unwise alchemies, of Midgard’s humans, which propel poison into every living thing. Freya has complained to Odin that dead warriors are no longer what they once were–they are now creatures with flacid muscles, except for their texting hands, and that they die now with withered sperm counts, and distortions in their DNA.

Even worse–“They (the humans) are even going after the roots of the World Tree,” she whispers, “with something called ‘Round-Up.'”

Freyr, the Corn God, nods. He dies each year for the harvest and comes back reborn, but it’s becoming apparent that the humans who once honored him for this would now rather manipulate the mysteries of the grain themselves. Perhaps an extended vacation in Vanaheim is in the runes…let the humans spend a year without him for once, prefereably after an Icelandic eruption, when ash clouds herald global famine. That’d learn ’em, he thinks, but in the next moment he backs away from such thoughts. He will serve as he has always served, all these long eons. “Perhaps Ragnarök will be a blessing after all…”

Freyr smells of rich earth too, and Gerda’s herbs and mead, and a not-unpleasant tang of godly sweat and semen. Vanir pheromones are also rather scrumptious, carrying a faint scent of apples. But humans, drunk on designer petrochemicals, can no longer detect them.

As for Ragnarök, Loki has no comment. What will be, will be, and has been–so many times. Contrary to his bad press, Loki finds no happiness in wanton destruction…but cleansing…the metabolism of poisons when all else fails…sometimes that is something to be desired. He should know. The next cycle has already unleashed forces powerful enough to bake the planet, to scour it of the unwise alchemies of the paltry, money-grubbing humans. Midgard will eventually recover (Gaia is strong) but Loki isn’t all that keen to be the trickster god of cockroaches. However, he recognizes the cosmic joke about to be played on them all. He’ll do his best to find some fragment of mirth when the time comes. But onlookers will mistake his battle grin for vengeful joy, misunderstanding the mask that hides his hot, angry tears. It was all so unnecessary! It always is! Meanwhile, cremation fires are at hand for another death of a too beautiful world. It’s Loki’s job to ensure that creation follows cremation. Somebody has to do it…

Sometimes Loki wishes Sigyn had gone in for systems change, rather than holding the bowl for him alone. He imagines he could have borne his suffering–bound with his son’s entrails and scorched by viper spittle–if he’d known she was battling the powers that be, on behalf of all sentient beings. Sigyn might have known better though, and who really is to say? Her victory might yet be won.

1920px-Loki_Bound_by_Collingwood
Sigyn holding the bowl, to keep the viper venom from dripping onto Loki.

It doesn’t take a völva prophecy to know what’s coming. Freya sheds tears. She and her daughter want to save a cat or two. Freya wants the falcons to be okay, and bees. Freyr puts in a word for boars and grains. Dogs too. Their father wants to save whales, sharks, sea turtles, guppies, and coral polyps, among others. His is a long list. Loki would like to send wolves and snakes and salmon and horses to Hel, for safekeeping. Gerda hides seeds in safe places, and waits. The souls of animals are already reluctant, but plants and fungi have not yet given up all hope. Neither has Gerda.

Loki says, “Don’t shoot the messenger (especially if I’m it!). Don’t ignore the voices of doom, of climate change, or the canary in the coal mine. Invite Cassandra onto your podcasts–she’s still got a thing or two to say! Don’t disregard the muttering sibyl, the trancing völva, or anger of witches and Jotuns.” He’d slap this message on t-shirts, even though it’s not a sound bite, in hopes that humans would pay attention, but he distrusts capitalism–particularly the kind that sells toxic petrochemical perfumes wrapped in bottles that look like Marvel Universe characters, especially his!

This last is a particularly painful mockery–big anime eyes and golden horns on keychains are one thing, but this is quite another–all those bottled endocrine disruptors ending up in the salmon, just so a few fans can pretend they have access to “his” scent.

11123127_hi
Product of a toxic industry making a mockery of our god, adding yet more petrochemicals to the planet and its creatures, all in the name of money.

Meanwhile the big money laughs and this makes Loki mad. “Stick to cosplay,” he mutters. “Is nothing sacred?” but he already knows the answer to that question. Rather say that nothing is so futile as the sacred, and nothing is more powerful. After all, Loki knows how to stand with two, four, eight legs, or none, in the spaces between all the worlds you could ever name. (Some say that’s why he drinks so much sometimes. He’s so sick of stupid.)

All matter is alive and aware. If we could hear it, all Midgard is screaming at us right now, “Stop it! Go back! You’re hurting us!” The Earth is our hearth. Hearth fires are lit for warmth and nourishment, not destruction. But we have forgotten this. We have forgotten to extend our hospitality (our frith) and our care to all living things. Loki-as-Lóðurr awoke the first humans with his breath, which was clean and alive and full of strength. He warmed us with his breath and gave us fire to warm our hearths. He certainly did not give us a command to go forth and pollute.

I would like to think that human beings still yearn for that first clean breath, that pure air granted to us by a being as old and as vast as a star, and that we’d do anything to get it back. Instead we diddle with gadgets, toys, herbicides, GMOs, scented candles, and guns. We’ve poisoned our Midgard and every living creature in it. Our own bodies now shit microplastics. We’ve inflicted this same diet on animals and plants. Fragrance chemicals are harming aquatic wildlife. Our reproductive systems are drenched in endocrine disruptors (like phthalates) from deli food containers, Round-Up, shampoos, and perfume. Babies are born with birth defects as a result.  Our breast milk contains countless contaminants, including an array of self-inflicted consumer toxins from such beauty products as “Loki-Master of Mischief” cologne. Soon plastic golden Marvel Loki horns from the above bottle will find their way to the Pacific Garbage patch, floating among the discarded grocery bags, to be eaten by starving whales who can no longer find enough krill. I don’t think this (below) was the kind of “mischief” Loki had in mind…

Water_pollution_due_to_domestic_garbage_at_RK_Beach_01
Water pollution due to domestic garbage at RK Beach in Visakhapatnam. Date 22 September 2013, 09:53:32. Author Adityamadhav83. Creative Commons Attribution

Is there any hope at all? Or do I just put another gaudy, food-colored donut on Loki’s altar and sigh, “fuck this shit, Worldbreaker, we’re doomed. Bring it on…”

But Loki will have none of that. He absolutely refuses to let us dodge this wyrd. He says, “Stop buying this crap, especially not in my name. Use your breath for something decent, like saving the planet, while you still can.”

“Do this,” he says without winking, “and maybe you’ll get a whiff of my pheromones…”

####

LokiFest CA is a “fragrance-free” event.

NEW & BEST LokiFest Flyer 4:22

This

This blog takes a break from discussing the spectrosexuality survey to bring you an urgent public service announcement brought to you by Greta Thunberg.

53711552_10218872175577608_8203911658809065472_n

That Was Then, THIS is Now

When I was a child, caterpillars were a frequent sight. I played all day at tidepools at the Coronado, CA seashore and gently poked a lot of sea anenomes to make them close. I could catch (and release) small frogs at the pond on the local golf course–there were thousands. In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood even though my family was poor and my grandfather had died of a radiation-induced brain tumor after leaving the Navy, after witnessing the explosions at Bikini Atoll. Planes from North Island Naval Base flew over my tidepools several times a day, so I was never unaware of war.

But by the time I was twelve I’d become convinced that the planet had changed immensely since the last time I’d incarnated (yes, I really thought that way as a kid). I blamed television and radio rays, all modern things, and sensed a coming apocalypse. I thought it would happen by the time I was a legal “grup.” I was desperate to understand how to live my life on the earth in a healthy way. Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living on the Earth was one of my favorite books. (But I was also listening to the Velvet Underground’s first album so go figure.)

Soon teen hormones took over and I became interested in other things (including boys), such as feminism, working at a women’s clinic as a pregnancy counselor, and supporting La Huelga by leafletting for the grape boycott outside of supermarkets. Then life threw me several curve balls and I did not end up in a wooded hippie commune, as I’d planned.

I ended up…elsewhere.

In spite of my valid childhood concerns, I still don’t know how to make a fire or how to identify wild edible herbs in my area. I have no skills at all that would enable me to survive a day in the wilderness, let alone the rest of my life foraging in a semi-rural or urban landscape as an old woman living in a toxin-drenched, violent dystopia caused by the galloping climate disaster we are currently doing everything we can… to continue.

I’m more likely to end up on somebody’s plate, at that point. Waste not, want not.

So I could say to Greta Thunberg and all her generation, and to my children’s generation which preceeded hers, yes, I remember what it was like to be a young person who could see clearly that Western consumerism, pollution, and war were all features of an insane cancer that would doom us all, even the animals. And I didn’t understand why the grown-ups didn’t see what I could see. And yet, as an adult, I have not done enough.

Greta and her allies will probably not make the same mistake. They have much less time to waste on bullshit than I did and their analysis is more accurate.


Quote from Greta Thunberg’s address to the World Economic Forum last January:

“Some people say that that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”


I’m going to leave that right here for a moment. I’ll return to Greta later.

Ecology 101 in “The Pleasant Land of Counterpane”

I spent the last three days in bed, sick with a cold brought from the Eastern states by an air traveller. During that time I binge-watched Versailles and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and ignored the new Our Planet, even though my cats favor nature programs. (You see, as a mature citizen of the most unsustainable resource-guzzling nation on the planet, I still have that luxury, that privilege, of choosing entertainment over information.) But last night, “while I was sick and lay a-bed,” I watched the first episode. The lush photography of masses of penguins, sea birds, anchovies, and dolphins made me want to weep. The melting glaciers of Greenland, ditto. I knew what the message of the show would be and that’s partly why I didn’t want to watch it while ill.

Here’s an excerpt from a future episode, one about ants and fungi in the rain forest. It holds a cautionary lesson for human beings. In the beginning of the clip, ants farm fungi and keep it free of disease. And there’s a phrase thrown in about how the fungal crop may have benefits for human medical research. The the footage switches to a deranged ant climbing a tree, finally reaching the very end of one twig “high above the forest floor.” What happens next is an apt metaphor for how we human beings function in the face of our self-created planetary disaster. Of the pathetic ant and its fate, David Attenborough says:

“Something has taken control of its movements, like a puppeteer pulling at the strings of a marionette. There’s just one final act for which the ant has no choice. It must find a place to bite down, tethering it to the vegetation. With the ant in its death grip, a parasitic fungus, Cordyceps, erupts from its body… Finally the fruiting body of the fungus bursts from its head. From this bulbous container spores will be cast into the air currents where they will claim more ant victims…”

But other bugs also succumb to this parasite. The footage is horrifying. But Attenborough comments:

“The more numerous a species is, the more likely it is to fall victim to the killer fungus. Checks and balances like these means no one species can ever dominate, so protecting the jungle’s incredible diversity…”

Cordyceps is sometimes called a “zombie fungus” because it eventually controls the behavior, the motor movements of its host, forcing it to starve to death while the fruiting bodies mature enough to emerge from its body in order to release spores.

I have often wondered why human beings, collectively as a species, are so stupid and self-destructive? Why are we not organizing, rapidly and decisively? Even in a destructive context like capitalism, economic arguments support the wisdom of a “Green New Deal” and other initiatives. Why are we lurching, like mindless fungi-infected zombie ants, toward the very things which will doom us all? In spite of all, we humans clamp down our jaws, unable to speak out at the very edge of the precipice–a death grip of consumerism.

Even the ants have learned to recognize their infected colleagues and to remove them from the colony, as a means of survival. But we are not so wise. And our infections are both internal (habits, thoughts, ignorance, selfishness) and external (policies, power structures, faulty leadership, pollution, war). Our individual and collective inactions give Darwin the lie. We do not care about our own species survival. We only care about whatever feeds our greed.

Here’s another lesson, this one on indicator species and social ecology. This video of the late Michael Rossman was taken in front of the Berkeley Oak Tree Sit of a few years ago. In spite of the tree sit and protests, the oak grove–“a real forest” as Michael says–was destroyed to build a multi-million dollar student atheletic building right next to the CAL stadium, which sits on top of the Hayward Fault. Though it is on a smaller scale, it is another example of the kind of short-sighted, destructive policymaking that Greta Thunberg calls out so accurately. (And how Michael would have cheered for this young woman, had he lived to hear or read her words!)

Medicine for the Cordyceps Twins of Capitalism and Consumerism

Unlike the ants sick with Cordyceps, I do think we have some choices, still. Even now way  past the eleventh hour we can back away from our lemming rush off the edge of the precipice. We can choose individual change, systems change, and context change. The doctor is in and ze prescribes: Animism. The awareness that all matter is conscious, therefore humans are not the be-all and end-all and we don’t get to be nature bullies any longer.

Animism can be combined with the Precautionary Principle as a practical philosophy to infuse global and local policies and decision-making, as well as strategies to mitigate and reverse as many of the features of our climate catastrophe as possible (including species decline and extinction, fuel usage, etc.). When we can give and observe the rights of rivers, forests, etc. as “a legal person,” with the understanding that there really is a consciousness experienced by that thing or natural feature and that we are engaged in a communication with it on some level (whether we sense it or not), then we are on the way to correcting our destructive hubris.


Here’s a passage and quote from a good article about legal rights of natural features:

Contrary to popular misconceptions, legal rights are not the same as human rights, as corporations have enjoyed the rights of legal personhood for quite some time.

“I always find it interesting that people don’t seem to be challenged by the idea that a fictional thing like a corporation can have personhood, but that a natural resource, which is actually much more tangible, can’t,” Macpherson said. “I think that people are just used to what they’re used to, and over time as this becomes more common, and more people are pushing for it, the idea will start to seem less shocking.”


Artisanal Animist-Infused Threefold Social Order

And we could try this. Though Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a man of his time with serious flaws (dude was a racist), he had some interesting insights and did some good in this world (e.g. biodynamic farming and Waldorf Schools). His post-WWI Threefold Social Order is one of his more intriguing ideas. I am not sure that all aspects are reasonable or doable in the 21st century–a far more complicated era of multi-national corporations and our climate catastrophe–but I do like the idea of infusing animism into a simplied form of his reasoning, at least as a jumping off point for consideration.

Steiner was inspired by the slogan of the French Revolution, but he thought “liberté, egalité, fraternité” should be separately assigned to each of the three general realms of human life. He felt that the economic sphere should be based on brotherhood (and we need a more inclusive word for this, I know), that the legal realm should be based on equality, and the cultural realm should be based on freedom.

I can imagine combining a working philosophy of animism (consiousness of matter) with this idea in the following ways:

Infusing liberté (freedom) with animism in the cultural realm could result in a greater respect and engagement with animals, plants, waterways, landscapes, and other natural systems as culture-creating and culture-bearing in their own right. We could allow for and respect their cultures while purusing our own within that context.

Infusing egalité (equality) with animism in the legal sphere would inform decisions to grant legal personhood to more and more animals, rivers, habitats, mountains, etc.

Infusing fraternité (non-gendered familial comradery?) with animism in the economic realm could result in more considerate and less exploitive behavior with regard to other creatures and natural features, that they are recognized as fellow citizens of this planet as well as legal persons and that they have a stake in thriving in a sustainable natural economy. Humans would return to something more in harmony with the natural order of things and no longer see ourselves as completely entitled to everything we want, no matter what effect it has on anyone else. We would have to communicate with and treat with the other terrestrial intelligences on this planet.

So these are ideas to kick around as foundational as we pursue necessary practical strategies such as renewable energy, lowering our carbon footprint, ending military pollution, and so on.

Humans: Rouge Species or Lemmings and Zombie Ants?

Right now, it’s as if humanity acts on the rest of the Earth’s species just as the U.S. acts on the rest of the countries of the world: greedy, grabby, exploitive, entitled, endlessly destructive, and heedless of consequence. A rogue nation and a rogue species if ever there was one.

While everyone alive right now (especially in “developed” countries) must take individual actions to decrease complicity and perpetuation of climate change, the elders, thinkers, inventors of this world who are working on solutions to climate catastrophe (such as the folk who present at Bioneers conferences) need to quit patting themselves on the back as elite “thought leaders” (as so many do) and spend much more time in the trenches with young people such as Greta Thunberg. Pass on what you know. Get the kids access to conventions, forums, the United Nations, and executive board rooms. Use your own privilege to grant them as much access as possible to other thought-leaders, policy-makers, Use your platform to get their voices to the general public. (And make sure it’s not just white, cis kids either, okay?)

And in turn, each young person alive today could in turn represent a bee colony, a flower species, a forest, a mountain, or a stream, and as their representative give them a voice in conventions, forums, the United Nations…

Meanwhile, someone teach these kids how to make fire without a match, please. They may need this where we’re going.

####