Shattered by The Untamed

Content Warning: Queer teen suicide.

Last night–for the fifth time–I experienced the final numinous moments of the Chinese drama, The Untamed, which has been playing on Netflix for the last year or so. And then I returned to the beginning for yet another pass through this sword and sorcery fantasy series (a hybrid wuxia/xianxia story). And why not? It’s still the pandemic. I live alone. My sources of happiness and indulgence are few. And…The Untamed is purely excellent in just about every imaginable way. It has almost everything I love, except for Norse Loki, cats, Elves, and Jane Austen (and I can get that stuff elsewhere), so why not? Why not indulge? So having thoroughly convinced myself of a right to wallow in unrestrained fandom, I was not prepared for what came next, for what arrived this morning.

This morning started well enough. I prepared for an 8 AM meeting with one or both of my hypnosis students in India, and had a client session booked a couple of hours later. While waiting for the India students to show up on Zoom, I decided to listen to some music. I clicked on this link to The Untamed’s main theme song, translated as Unrestrained. It is sung by the two main actors, Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, who are also wildly popular in China as singers, dancers, and public figures. It’s a song that has made it onto “my final playlist” even though it is not my usual thing. And then I went on to have my meeting. So far, so good.

And then, in an idle period before my client session, I recalled Wang Yibo’s tweet from January 23rd, which is the birthday of the fictional Lan Wangji, the character he played in The Untamed. (Xiao Zhan’s character, Wei Wuxian–the “grandmaster of demonic cultivation”–is of course given a Scorpio birthday, Oct. 31st.) In Western astroloogy, this makes Lan Wangji an Aquarius not far from the cusp of Capricorn. And his soulmate is a friggin’ Scorpio born on Halloween and the front half of the Celtic Samhain. Perhaps you see where I’m going with this… (and if you do, great, because I’m not so sure…)

Anyway, I found this tweet touching. It showed the actor’s compassion for the character and situation of Lan Wangji (aka Lan Zhan), who will probably always be one of Wang Yibo’s most beloved roles. I have also seen a touching video of many of The Untamed’s cast saying goodbye to their characters. Fifty episodes is a long time to be in any character’s head and this can’t help but have an effect on an actor’s life. Whether actor or audience, writer or reader, I think it is a very human thing to have strong feelings for and about fictional characters. (I know I adore my own and love them like family.) Fictional characters often reveal something to us about ourselves or our situations. I even feel that some great characters take on a spiritual life of their own, almost like demigods. I am not kidding. (But that is a whole other blog topic.)


Screen capture of Tweet.

Back to this morning. Back to the “shattering.” Back to the crazy, sad, and ridiculously obvious thing that I never saw coming. Somehow all this came together in my brain through the translated subtitles to the song–“preparing a jar of happiness and sadness of life and death to mourn a young man”–and the above Tweeted reference to “no more painful longing” for the character’s soulmate, Wei Wuxian.

Let’s talk for a moment about the understated but strong emotions of the character of Lan Wangji. Here is someone who has had his unrequited love literally slip from his hands to fall into an abyss, to be lost forever, just as Lan Wangji has come to realize exactly what Wei Wuxian means to him. (This is no spoiler–this happens in the first few moments of the series). Later in the series we get hints about what this loss has meant for Lan Wangji in the sixteen long years before Wei Wuxian is revived in another form, through someone else’s sacrifice and revenge curse. We see that Lan Wangji has whip scars on his back and a brand on his chest, identical to a brand suffered by Wei Wuxian during a conflict with a peevish courtesan and a giant Tortoise of Slaughter. The brand on Lan Wangji’s chest is self-inflicted, perhaps to bring him closer to his lost soulmate through shared suffering. We also see that Lan Wangji “made a mess” (as the subtitles put it) and “fought everyone” and then is severely punished (the scars) and banished for three years to a cold place, in solitude except (we hope) for a few little white rabbits. We also learn that Lan Wangji has fostered a child that Wei Wuxian had cared for.

In other words, Lan Wangji’s loss and long grief has shaped his young adulthood just as the loss of his mother (and absent father) shaped his childhood. But because he is naturally taciturn and was sternly raised as a “cultivator” of Taoist practices and swordsmanship, Lan Wangji has very few ways to express his “untamed” emotions. Even his music is restrained, though it aches with longing underneath. In fact, I think some of my favorite moments are when Lan Wangji sits down at his stringed instrument to calm or heal Wei Wuxian and perhaps himself as well.

Though The Untamed is based on Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation), a sexually explicit novel, Chinese film censorship forced the romantic elements of the narrative into a very delicate tension. The relationship between Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian is allowed to be fond (though chaste) and perhaps even passionate (though chaste). The pair are called “confidants,” “soulmates,” and “cultivation partners.” Though I am a clinical sexologist by profession and can talk freely in mixed company about all sorts of things, I actually like the lack of physical sex in the series. The sexual tension between the two main characters–which is not even acknowledged as such–makes the series so much more interesting and romantic. Given the choice between the sex scenes in Outlander and the merest whispers of flirtation and devotion in The Untamed, I’ll take the latter every time.

Now I haven’t said much here about Wei Wuxian. I can relate to him as a trickster, as a “left hand” practitioner of magic arts; as a queer person; as someone scorned by a sibling who has become his enemy; as someone who is generally misunderstood; and as someone who has become weakened (he donated his golden core to the enemy brother) and is at times dependent as a result. He’s a gothy teen turned visionary outcast. He dies once and returns. He survives. He laughs. His birthday is right next door to mine. Plus, I’d like his wardrobe, thank you very much. (I’m partial to black.)

So what is so shattering about all this? I’m getting there. In fact, I’m here.

John Albert Brennan Suter.

Here is my Soulmate. We met in our teens. I was seventeen. John was fifteen. John killed himself at nineteen. I’ve written about him before. John was more than a soulmate though, he was also a harbinger, a shape of things to come. I had a hard time telling the difference between the two of us at times. We were also very chaste. He was bi-sexual but more into men. This wasn’t the best option for me but that was the breaks. He’d gone in drag as me a few times and selected clothes for me that he would like to wear–and I, I never realized that part of me was loving him and identifying with him as if we were both queer, not just him. That I wanted my own beauty, my own being, to be as nonbinary as his. It took me several decades but I finally figured this out not long ago. Too late for the beauty part…

With John gone, I tried to piece my life back together. I was alone in my grief, mostly. And I struggled with the sadness and the strange emptiness of missing “my other half.” Yes, it did feel that way. I don’t necessarily think it is a healthy thing to feel so similar and bonded to another, especially when the other is self-destructive and mentally ill, but there is no denying that this kind of bond is very real. If you ever experience it, it can feel as if you’ve exchanged soul pieces with each other or were cut from the same cloth. Decades later, it is hard for me to believe that John is not somewhere in the astral or etheric realms (or wherever), waiting for me. But I actually hope that he’s gone on to some peaceful realm or incarnated again into a happier situation. If he appeared to me suddenly, in another form but recognizable to my heart and spirit sight, would I even know how to react? I’d feel old, and ashamed, and perhaps even angry.

So here I am–with his pictures on my wall, with quiet gestures of remembrance, with objects he gave me, with a scar on my wrist from the quarrel where he pushed me into an aquarium, and my ears that were pierced by him with a needle and cork, and a heart still raw. Still raw–even with all the other people that I have loved quite passionately in my life. Who would I want as a friend and a “cultivation partner” right now, but him? Who would follow me into the oaks and make witchery with me, but him? Who could talk to the cats and make up stories told by birds, but him? Who would drink tea with me and talk about “husbands,” but him? Was he my spirit brother or my real first husband, or a part of me that went down into a canyon one day with a bottle of pills and never came back up?

I’ll never know. I can’t know. The mysteries of death and the futile search of the living for clues to the missing beloved–this is why I found The Untamed so shattering this morning. Wei Wuxian returned to Lan Wangji. But John will never return to me. This is so final.

Will I watch the series again, for a sixth time? You betcha. Because there’s some solace there, even with what I know now.

☽☆☾

Devouring The Untamed

I just spent the last two and a half days devouring an online English translation of Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. The translation, by “K”, can be found here at Exiled Rebels Scanlations. The book is the basis for the 2019 Chinese television series, The Untamed, currently on Netflix. I’ve now read all 113 chapters, but am saving the bonus chapters for “later.” I recently wrote a blog, Wild About The Untamed, after watching the series four times but prior to reading the book.

I have so much to say about this series–and now the book as well–that I plan on writing several blog posts about The Untamed, from a variety of different views (magical practice, sexology, as a fantasy writer myself, etc.). But first I’d like you to understand why I am blogging about something as seemingly trivial as a Netflix series while enduring the fear and smoke of California’s third largest wildfire ever (which is burning part of the county where I live) as well as dangers of Covid-19 and the incompetence of my federal government. I live alone. Earlier this week I packed my car in case of evacuation. Fleeing a fire in a small car, at my age and with seven cats, will not be easy. (So far I have not had to do this–though others have.) So yes, I have become completely absorbed in this particular xianxia fantasy in order to cope with several existential threats and to control my racing mind. But even if I weren’t menaced by all of the above (including my racing mind), I’d still be as fascinated and transfixed.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to convince any of my close friends to watch The Untamed, so I’ve no one with whom I can “geek out” about the series. For those who have not yet experienced this magic, I feel the same sense of pity that I feel for anyone who has not read Lord of the Rings or watched Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Is it any wonder then that I am writing a blog? This is what prolonged social isolation does to a person…

But let’s move on to some of the reasons I love The Untamed and the novel so very much.

The Trickster Archetype

I mentioned in my previous blog that the “trickster” character of Wei WuXian (aka Wei Ying and Yiling Patriarch) is what attracted me first. I am always captivated by trickster characters and spirits, including the consumate trickster, the Norse god Loki Laufeyjarson (and his Marvel counterpart). Tricksters are mischevious. They are typically outspoken and seldom mince words. They are more apt to slash with them if necessary. They get into precarious situations, often due to a finely tuned sense of their own honor or obligations. They solve problems using their wits but can fight if necessary. They see through hypocrisy and frequently challenge it. They are charismatic. They know their own value. They are seldom deferential enough to authority figures, even when not challenging them overtly. They seldom deign to explain themselves and their actions, so that even their closest companions misunderstand them. They can be fiercely loyal to just a few. They have power and they often wield magic that is considered dangerous, demonic, or somehow wrong or indecent. They attract harsh punishments and social criticism. Tricksters often drive the plot.

Wei WuXian, the “demonic cultivator” of the series, is a classic trickster. He is all of the above. In the book, this characteristic is even more pronounced. He is particularly compelled to prod and poke at Lan Zhan (aka Lan Wangji and Hanguang-Jun), his taciturn companion in swordplay and sorcery, but many of his tricks and jokes backfire. Try as he might, Wei WuXian cannot use obnoxious behavior and guile to undermine or escape his destiny. (I’m giving no spoilers. You can interpret “destiny” as you wish.)

Beauty, GHOSTS, DESPOTS, AND GHOULS

The xianxia world of The Untamed is beautiful. The buildings, costumes, ceremonies, and lotus-filled lakes calm my spirit and refresh my eyes. If I was a child watching this series, it would live in my imagination forever. As an adult, my imagination is also captivated (but “forever” is a shorter time).

But this world is not without its perils. Sociopathic despots rule it and the cultivator clans are governed by authoritarian prudes, wealthy libertines, and stern macho warriors. Resentful ghosts and lurching zombie-like “puppets” threaten armies and villages. Queer love can barely speak its name. And female characters spend a lot of time cooking and serving food, but not eating. (And why do I feel I’ve just described a Republican utopia?)

Choreography

I also appreciate the beauty of the martial arts choreography. The actors who play Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan (and the others) make it all look effortless, which means of course that (1) they all spent untold hours perfecting their moves and (2) that the film editing is amazing. I particularly like how Lan Zhan’s words and face may often be closed, but his movements with sword and his magical instrument, the guqin, are eloquent and expressive. His actions taken to protect Wei WuXian are always prompt and decisive, though his words and face may rebuff Wei’s overtures. Wei WuXian also provides physical complexity in that he can switch from a lighthearted mood to a stern fighting mode at a moment’s notice. This is also reflected in the choreography.

Symbolism

As an American of European ancestry, I know I miss many markers of cultural significance. How could I not? The translator of Mo Dao Zu Shi does explain a few things, however, and I am grateful for anything that helps me understand more about what I’m watching and reading. However I do think I managed to understand some of the personal and emotional symbols, even during the first viewing. The producers and writers of The Untamed had to be careful how they portrayed the relationship between Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan, and so relied on elements with clear–but not explicit–meanings or they scripted ambiguous reactions to explicit meanings. This is a good article about some of the main symbols (Lan Zhan’s headband, rabbits, chickens, etc.) and how they are used.

THE LOVE

The development of the complex relationship between Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan is of course the main attraction. Superficially it’s a classic “opposites attract” story, but the characters also share many similarities. Both are held in high regard for their abilities (though Wei is controversial first due to his cockiness and later for his demonic cultivation methods). Both are also generally regarded as beautiful men in a culture which obviously values looks. Both are “second” in rank in their cultivation clans/sects. Both are well educated. Both have lost parents at a young age and have been treated harshly, even abusively, by adopted or extended family members. Both are also emotionally and sexually inexperienced, though Wei WuXian likes to pretend he is not. So this is a story of first love as well as a love we imagine will last as long as the two cultivators seek immortality.

There are other types of relationships, love stories, and passionate (but presumably platonic) pairings depicted in The Untamed. There are two wandering cultivators who have a loyal friendship and a common mission to help those who need it–their way of life almost serves as a foreshadowing of the life waiting for Lan Zhan and Wei WuXian, should they commit to each other. Sibling relationships are important and complicated. Parents are either missing or inadequate. Lan Zhan’s brother becomes close to someone who rises in the world (who is therefore acceptable) while Lan Zhan’s partiality for Wei WuXian–even before his “fall”–is regarded as unfortunate and wrong.

Nothing could be more unlike The Untamed than the 1938 film of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. However those who know Pygmalion might understand me (maybe) if I say The Untamed has a transcendent moment equivalent to “fetch me my slippers, Eliza.” You have to see both to understand.

IN CONCLUSION

The book explained some scenes and elements in the television series that I could not understand. I am so glad that an English translation is available online and I feel a lot of gratitude towards K, the translator. This is in addition, of course, to what I feel for the author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and to all who brought these characters and their world to life in The Untamed.

I have always had special interests which keep me curious, happy, and occupied. The Untamed fits in with so many that I have already: magic and animism, all forms of human sexuality and gender identities, trickster tales, and epic fantasy. And I have such pleasure in the story itself and its characters. That pleasure alone–during these dreary days of pandemic isolation and smokey skies–is worth everything.

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Wild About The Untamed

After a hard day of dodging unmasked humanoids and prepping for possible wildfire evacuation in 100+ degree weather, I like to put on a clean sarong and unwind with yet another binge watch of several episodes of The Untamed (2019).

Yes, this aging witchy wannabe, trapped in a world she’d like to desperately adjust, has been captivated by the fantasy world of Chinese “cultivator” sorcery and swordplay, and the adorable love story of soulmates Wei Wuxian (L) and Lan Zhan (R) (pictured above), played by actors/singers/dancers Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo. I am not sure what prompted me to initially click on to the Netflix series but the trickster energy of the Wei Wuxian character seemed “Loki-like” and this drew me in. I was soon hooked (for many reasons) but also felt confused. While watching the first several episodes I had to search for articles that would help me understand the characters and context. (This Wikipedia entry helped.) And my response to the series was/is very similar to the one experienced by the writer of this review, “The Untamed, streaming on Netflix, ripped my heart out and fed it to me. I can’t get enough.” Yep. Me too.

Everything is admirable, except the soundtrack can sometimes seem a bit goofy in a mismatched mood way. But that’s okay, because the theme song, sung by Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, is on “my final playlist.” And if I have to kick the bucket before successfully clawing away the pastel printed vinyl wallcovering of whatever ICU gets my covid-racked carcass, I want THIS song and this song only to take me across the liminal divide between me here and me over there somewhere. (Loki, my darling psychopomp, please take note.) It’s not that I love the song that much over all others (though I kind of do at this point), it’s that in my life of deeply felt but ultimately doomed romances, I’m pleased to be immersed in observing the delicate trajectory of a “barely-got-past-the-censors” love story of two young men of magic and chivalry. (And the costumes? They are to die for!)

And as a sexologist, I have to say it’s really rather refreshing to watch nuanced courtship for a change, instead of people throwing each other up against a wall and having at it, sans foreplay, ending with a predictable simultaneous orgasm. (I’ve come to feel a bit of the prudery and boredom of the French writer, Colette, who once got snarky about people who had a regularly scheduled “abyss.” But I digress.)

In The Untamed there are plenty of actual abysses, all glowing with magma or containing Tortoises of Slaughter. There’s even the beyond-death abyss of the lost, wandering soul of Wei Wuxian after he tosses himself off a cliff (this is in the first episode so I’m not spoiling anything).

As for the actors–every single character in this very lavish, sprawling production is played to perfection. But the two main actors are extraordinary. Xiao Zhan has perhaps the easier job (as he has a lot more dialogue and opportunity to explicitly express a wide range of emotions) but the “strong, silent” Wang Yibo manages to convey many complexities with few words and a wide range of subtle facial expressions. Honestly, Wang Yibo has the mystique of Garbo, if it’s okay to compare a young Chinese actor/singer/dancer with the charisma of a bygone Western film star. I really would like to see both actors in other roles. As they outgrow their secondary personas/careers as singers in pop boy bands, I would hope they each get a chance to grow and develop their truly extraordinary acting talents for many years to come.

I’m watching all fifty episodes now for the fifth time. I keep finding more things to discover and enjoy–little details as well as previously unnoticed plot points.

And I live for the moment when Lan Zhan admits he likes rabbits.

Perhaps it is not surprising that The Untamed is starting to influence my daily life. A few days ago, in the course of renting a small storage unit for family photos and keepsakes (in case of fire evacuation), the elderly proprietor came within the six feet of social distance I’d been trying to maintain. Her mask exposed her nose. She touched me on the hand. I said “no touching” and then giggled to myself. It was Lan Zhan’s deadpan delivery. But exactly.

Outside, the world burns. The pandemic rages. My children are far away. But as long as I have electricity and the internet, I’ll be drinking in the world of The Untamed, now my drug of choice for the rest of my forseeable lifespan. Either the Yin Iron goes, or I do.

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At the Mercy of Lightning Strike Fires AND the Pandemic AND…

At least I know I’m not alone. None of us on this planet are having a super wonderful time of it, except perhaps some creatures who are benefiting from the “anthropause” to make their way into environments that they’ve avoided for awhile. How I wish we human beings could find it in our hearts to be a little less relentless once we emerge from current conditions.

So, not fun. And I’ve been sheltering in place alone except for the cats since mid-March. My errands (groceries, gas) are already as minimal as I can make them.

But there is a particularly harsh quality to waiting to see if a wildfire is going to spread to the area where you live, and wondering if you’ll make it out okay (with seven cats and a compact car, this is a huge concern). It reminds me of the early days of the pandemic when I obsessively checked the Covid-19 stats several times a day–national, statewide, and local. Now I’m checking the CalFire maps and local emergency scanner Facebook groups. Who is evacuating? How close is the northern edge of the Hennesey Fire? What’s going to happen next?

It also makes me even more reluctant to run to the market. I am consumed by the fear that if I leave my beloved felines for too long, that something might happen and they will be vulnerable to disaster. They are all indoor kitties and so they depend on me to open doors for them. How I wish I could invent an automatic emergency door that would work if the temperature rose to a certain degree. Then at least they could bolt to safety, and hopefully I’d find them later.

Thousands and thousands of people in the Western states are finding that their homes — the places where we shelter in place to avoid catching Covid-19 — are now threatened by 2020’s dramatic start to fire season. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad if it weren’t for 72 hours worth of lightning strikes that happened last weekend. I believe there were over 10,000 of them, and over 500 fires started as a result, just in California alone.

As for those people who haven’t had reliable shelter during this period–I can’t even imagine. I try, but I can’t. As a person with multiple chemical sensitivity disabilities, I rely so much on control of my home environment to keep me safe from chemical toxins. But with smoke pouring into the atmosphere of normally pristine Lake County, there is literally nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

I’m not complaining so much as describing. I know many are much worse off and are much closer to the fires. It’s the waiting and wondering and planning, and then replanning, that is wearing me down.

Is it any wonder that I’m on my fourth bingewatch of The Untamed? That is all.

De-Weaponizing White Tears

Disclaimer: In this post, I’m going to write first in a general way, as if I actually know something about this topic, or might be able to find out more. And then I’m going to focus on how I think I might be able to de-weaponize my own tears, in conversations and confrontations about systemic racism and my own internalized prejudices. Will it work? I don’t know. But I promise to strive toward this.


We make tears when we cry. Science identifies three kinds of tears: basal tears which continuously clean and lubricate our eyes; reflex tears which help get rid of specks, eyelashes and teargas; and emotional tears (also called “psychic tears”). Emotional tears contain stress hormones, which perhaps indicates a chemical-cleansing function. Emotional tears are a form of non-verbal communication.

People cry for a lot of reasons: sorrow, shame, frustration, helplessness, joy, tenderness. Tears can flow during depression or after trauma. Emotional tears provoke emotions in others: compassion, sadness, frustration, as well as anger and resentment, especially if the other person’s tears are experienced as manipulative. Yes, tears can be manipulative too.

As a counselor, I do believe that expressing emotions can be a healthy thing. However, there are also times when it behooves us to be responsible for our own nervous system responses–including tears if we shed them–to let people know that they are not responsible for our comfort, that we do not ask them to do emotional labor in response to our responses, and that we are willing, with good will, to continue conversations through our own discomfort and self-regulation.

And one of those major times is now. It’s time for white people to de-weaponize their tears and other sympathetic nervous system responses so we can ALL get on with the task of dismantling systemic racism that has been killing people for centuries. 

Why Are White Tears Harmful?

In her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018), sociologist Robin DiAngelo dissects the mechanisms that white Americans use, consciously or unconsciously, to (1) buffer themselves from deep engagement with necessary conversations about systemic racism, personal prejudice, and necessary reforms, (2) redirect the focus back to white equilibrium aka white power, and (3) put the other person in the wrong, most often BIPOC. These mechanisms includes crying. And this is f’d up. How f’d up? I’m not going to whitesplain.

Just listen…

Tears Weaponized for Our Genocide Poem by Kbeau2ful, May 28, 2020, YouTube.

Just read…

About the Weary Weaponizing of White Women Tears by Awesomely Luvvie, April 17, 2018, at her website.

So. Let’s say you’re a white person who realizes it’s time (and if you don’t know this by now, please step up your game). There are conversations that are overdue. Perhaps there are important conversations in your past that were cut short by your tears. Maybe you feel badly about that. Maybe you don’t. But no one is giving you (or me) a pass anymore.

I can imagine crying during the course of a difficult conversation (about almost anything, really). Shame in particular is a very painful emotion and most people will do anything to avoid it. And tears can be part of processing that. Where tears become weaponized is when they are used to manipulate and avoid, when they are used to undermine or dismiss the substantial time and emotions that the other person or people in the conversation have invested in talking with you! If you use your tears to just walk away from the conversation, or shutdown, or center the attention on yourself and your needs, that’s textbook weaponizing right there.

Some Ideas

Historical Context: Self educate. Learn how the mechanisms of racism create life and death situations designed to pound away at Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. Understand that the tears we white folks might shed at being confronted by our shortcomings and faults are AS NOTHING to the rivers of tears shed by people, families, and communities destroyed and killed over the centuries, right up to present day.

Communication Context: I know I can be a bore about the communication tool known as the Johari Window, but honestly, I feel a lot of privilege and racism lives right there in that window pane (upper right hand) of “known to others, not known to self.” That’s where the “Clueless Family” lives (you know: Karen, Brad, and Becky…). And when some of that stuff gets shown to us, yeah, it can be painful to understand that yes, we really are those people. Now, it might not be our “fault” that the stuff is there (unless we are people who actively cultivate hate in our lives) as we white Americans have been swimming in racism and privilege for hundreds of years, but once revealed, we have a chance to work on these things, to examine them, disgard them, and vow to do better.

Racism Johari_Window copy
Public Domain Johari Window with Added Comments

But that’s painful. And you might cry. Other people might be around when you do. Here’s what you can do to protect them from your emotions.

Calming Skills: Prepare yourself in advance for the thought that you might have a myriad of feelings when dealing with issues of racism or a situation which has become racialized or when someone is calling you out, particularly if there is something you might have done that hurts another. Decide what you can do to acknowledge those feelings for yourself but refrain from giving way to your “flight, fight or freeze” sympathetic nervous system reactions. We can often choose receptivity over reactivity, but it might take some work. So practice some calming skills in advance, such as slow deep breathing.

Think of Others: Remember that other people are also likely to be triggered by your emotions, so calm yourself for their sake as well. Remember, they’re likely not loving this. And if someone else cries, be compassionate and ask if there is anything you can do for them.

Take Responsibility: If you have the opportunity, say something at the beginning like, “Please ignore me if I cry during this conversation. I do not expect you to take care of me and my emotions, and I intend to do my own work to calm my nervous system and work through emotions so I may give you my best attention and so we may have a constructive conversation.”

Time Outs: In advance, establish a protocol for a brief “time out” if anyone involved in the conversation needs time to calm. Make sure you commit to a return to the conversation as soon as possible, preferably within thirty minutes. Do not let the “time out” become weaponized as a technique for avoidance.

Emotional Repair: If needed, take the initiative in asking if it is possible to do emotional repair. Be prepared to hear no, and lump it. If you are allowed an opportunity, listen more than you talk, and again let the other person know that you are taking responsibility for your own nervous system reactions (and then do so).

If anyone has additional ideas on this topic, I hope you will add them to the comments section. Thank you so much for reading.

Other Links/References

Doheny, Kathleen. Why We Cry: The Truth About Tearing Up. n.d. WebMD.

Geggel, Laura. Why Do People Cry? May 16, 2016. Live Science.

Waldman, Katy. A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism. July 23, 2018. The New Yorker.

Juliasetsdkpictreal1

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Anti-Racism Learning Resources

This list is a work in progress:

Videos

Video (before 2017): Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

Video (2015): Professor Tricia Rose: How Structural Racism Works.

Video (2018): Dr. Robin DiAngelo discusses ‘White Fragility.’ Author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.

Reading & Resource Lists (Please make payments to the authors or organizations who have compiled these lists, when requested.)

Document: Scaffolded Anti-Racism Resources (payments suggested to one of three organizations)

Document: Tasha K., Shareable Anti-Racism Resource Guide. Email/Paypal: antiracismresourceguide@gmail.com

Blog: Good Black News, Acknowledging Your Privilege and Becoming An Ally – A Guide to Resources for White Folks.

Blog: Kyaza, A Polytheistic Life, A Reading List on Race.

Tickle.Life Anti-Racism Resources

Franz_Marc_012
Fighting Forms, by Franz Marc. 1914. Public Domain.

 

 

 

Signal Boost: Ca. Legislative Black Caucus

Yesterday I listened to powerful statements by members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (includes members of both CA Assembly and Senate), including CLBC Chair,  Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. (79th District), Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (59th District), Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (7th District), CLBC Vice-Chair, State Senator Steven Bradford (35th District), and State Senator Holly J. Mitchell (30th Senate District).

At 22:40, Senator Mitchell referred to SB 227, a bill concerning the use of grand juries that “became the law of the land” and then she said:

“…then the court challenges come and the district attorneys find a D.A. in a rural area to put forward the challenge and they’re strategic in finding a court that will very likely overturn it and so while this legislature and the previous governor and our attorneys here in the legislature felt that the bill was constitutional, it was signed into law, it was challenged in the court. It was brought to court by the district attorney from El Dorado County, Vern Pearson, in December of 2016. The 3rd Appellate District Court ruled the measure unconstitutional and tragically our CA Supreme Court chose not to hear it.

And so while we fight the battles here legislatively to talk about [how] grand juries are not the appropriate place for peace officers who commit murder to have their day in court–unlike every other citizen–once we pass the bills and they become law, the court system is then manipulated to continue to protect those who take our lives everyday. And so those are the challenges we must face as black legislators. It’s not enough to carry the bills and get them signed by the law. It’s not enough to carry the bills and fight against the district attorneys, the police chief, the sheriff’s association, to represent the needs of black people. Then we go to the courts and we experience bias once again.”

This video, and Sen. Mitchell’s statement opened my eyes to the kind of strategies used to undermine all legislation designed to curb police and sheriff violence.

As I live in a rural county without street protests, and am also SIP due to Covid-19, it seems clear to me that one of the most constructive things I can do is begin to pay close attention to legislation put forth by members of the CLBC, and to encourage my CA Assemblymember and State Senator to support their legislation.

Finally, Sen. Mitchell’s rebuttal to LAPD Chief Moore.

Screen Shot 2020-06-03 at 12.05.39 PM

#BlackLivesMatter

#BlackTransLivesMatter

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Sex and Magic and Sexual Human Rights

This blog is a follow-up to to the April 19th Love’s Outer Limits podcast, with its topic of “Sex and Magic.” Here I want to expand more on the idea of incorporating international statements on Sexual Human Rights into attempts to deal with issues of sexual harrassment and predation in neopagan circles and organizations.

Witches going to their Sabbath, by Luis Ricardo Falero
Witches going to their Sabbath (The departure of the witches) *oil on canvas *145.5 x 118.2 cm *signed b.r.: LFalero *date b.l.: 1878

History of Sex and Magic

Very briefly put: sexual energy and behaviors have been and are incorporated into many esoteric traditions, often as part of inner mysteries or circles and initiatory rites or as a vehicle for spiritual transformation. A very few examples include: some practices in the Eastern traditions of tantra and Taoism; Western traditions of old-fashioned witchcraft (e.g. reports of witches sabbats with the devil); modern Wicca and related groups of magical practitioners (e.g. “the Great Rite”); Thelema/OTO; alchemy; modern Satanism; and other Western sex magic practices.

Many practices are symbolic, not explicitly or physically sexual. These symbols are often dualistic (e.g. a dagger dipped into a chalice) and binary-gendered (e.g. rituals calling in a  “Lord and Lady” or named male and female deities in partnership).

Many people are reworking or creating rituals and traditions that are not focused on binary-genders and are more inclusive of other genders. (See Outside the Charmed Circle by Misha Magdalene.)

Sex also may appear in accounts of encounters with deities, spirits, angels, demons, etc. Depending on who you talk to, this might be known as spectrosexuality or spectrophilia (psychology term). Such encounters may be part of a sex magic ritual, or not. They may consist of a single occurance or form part of a long-term relationship.

Some people also have sex with “the deity within” other humans, or as deities together.

This is creepy: I also believe that the tortures inflicted on suspected witches (usually female) during the European witch hunts may have been a turn-on for some of those inflicting, ordering, or witnesses the tortures.

What is Sex Magic?

Simply put, sex magic is any form of magical ritual that uses sexual energy and/or explicit sexual behavior, including orgasm, to add power to the spell or ritual. The sexual aspect may be partnered or solo. Partners may be human or spirit beings.

Sexual fluids may also be used in ritual context, as containing special powers. Some spiritual beings like these as offerings, others don’t. (Best check ahead of time.)

Sex magic is not designed to draw a partner to you for romantic or erotic purposes–that would usually be called love magic.

Magicians and Witches Behaving Badly

It’s not just magicians and witches: incidents of sexual harrassment, abuse, and rape may be found in the neo-pagan community at large, and in many other spiritual and religious communities including yogic ashrams and the Catholic church. These things occur in pretty much any cluster of humans: families, government agencies, prisons, businesses, you name it. By noting the pervasiveness, I am NOT writing this off as “human nature” or excusing spiritual, religious, and magical communities by saying, “well, all small groups reflect what happens in the larger society.” No.

I just want readers to think about this, and about how such traumas happening in a spiritual, religious, or magical community may well compound traumas that have happened to an individual elsewhere. And to notice the cruelty in how even a last refuge may become a place of danger.

And notice how people in communities that use practices already charged with sexual energies and behaviors might be even more vulnerable to such incidents. Notice how predators within such communities (including leaders) might be even more emphatic about pressuring other people to engage in behaviors “for the magic” or for “initiation” or for “advancement” but really just for their own gratification.

In preparing for the April 19th podcast, which I knew would be a mere dip into the  sprawling topic of sex and magic–one which spans history, religion, spirituality, witchcraft, human sexual behavior, and so on–I knew I would include at least some discussion of sexual predation and abuse in neopagan/witchy circles.

Many people who trace the abuses found in neopagan groups point to the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s-70’s as something which made things easier for sexual predators, and which made it less likely that their creepy behavior would be questioned or understood as abuse.

I was twelve in 1967. Love-ins happened in the park across the street from my house. So I remember the 1960s-1970s Sexual Revolution very well. It was a time when “chicks” were just naturally expected to put out or risk being labeled as “uptight” and uncool. As a teenage girl, just discovering my own sexuality, I had a good time–mostly–but I also encountered predators, some of whom harmed me, or attempted to harm me. I eventually developed a fairly reliable radar for creepy older men. Back then, I also had relatives who up and joined a renegade (abusive) Thelemic commune in San Diego County. It took them many years to emerge from it. They never shared their experiences with the rest of my family. Now, as a sexologist, I also use that lens to understand the mixed impact the Sexual Revolution had on many people and communities, including neopagan and witchy ones.

Calls for Community Ethics

In the references you will find several excellent blogs and articles written by people in the neopagan/magic communities. These particular blogs and articles span 2015-2019 and encompass the “me too” movement. These are just a few of many written! Many of these blogs and articles recognize the need for sexual ethics and policies against harrassment and abuse, which would be enforced in their various communities. There’s a sense of frustration too, that such changes are often stalled or dismissed by an organization’s leadership as not generally necessary, since only a “rare” case might show up now and then.

Most people, including people in neopagan organizations, are not aware that the Sexual Revolution included discussions about sexual human rights. Early on, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco issued a statement of sexual human rights. Other organizations have done the some, either before or since. The discussion is international. Much work has been done to define sexual health and sexual human rights. The most powerful statement comes from the World Health Organization (WHO).

All a neopagan organization, coven, conference, what-have-you, needs to do is adopt this stance and this language, and perhaps add a sentence about spiritual and magical practice. Voila! You’ve got an ethics statement and policy based on the best contemporary thinking, created by a massive number of international experts.

Among other things, you can think of the WHO language as a popular element of spellwork that has the power to access the energy and intention of all who created it and use it! This reminds me a bit of  Declaration 127 against racism and discrimination, a declaration adopted by many Heathen and pagan groups, including The Troth, that worship Norse deities and who wish to practice Norse spirituality and culture free of the taint of white supremacy.

So Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Align With the World Health Organization’s Statements on Sexual Health and Sexual Human Rights as the Basis for Your Policies

Here is language from the above document:

According to the current working definition, sexual health is:

“…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)

And here’s a screen shot of the sexual rights language from the same WHO document:


WHO Sexual Rights


I hope people will bring this idea to their leadership. I hope this helps.

References

Sarah Ann Lawless, September 2018: “So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community,” and two other pieces which have since been taken down, due to intense harrassment and trolling. I remember reading them when they were still online. (Please consider visiting her herbal apothecary store, Bane Folk.)

Emma Kathryn, November 9, 2018: https://godsandradicals.org/2018/11/09/abuse-within-paganism-a-taboo-topic/


Sister Georgia, January 30, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/i-have-been-wronged-sex-power-oto/

Sister Georgia, March 11, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/a-response-to-respectthenoinoto/

Sister Georgia, April 6, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/theosexuality-sex-and-magic/


Mark Green, January 10, 2018: https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/killing-the-sixties-abuse-consent-metoo-and-the-pagan-community/

“The takeaway for our particular community, however, is clear to me.

First of all, we need to root this shit out. It is simply unacceptable to have sexually predatorial behavior in our community. And that means clear policies at events and gatherings about affirmative consent, and firm consequences for anyone—ANYONE, no matter how revered or well known—who violates them.”

Mark Green, February 12, 2019: https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/abuse-the-pagan-community-and-our-commitments/

“To my mind, we need a community statement of sexual ethics which can serve as a sort of “seal of approval” for organizations and groups which sign onto it. People will then know where the safe environments are and where they aren’t, and can choose where they attend events accordingly. I know that one attempt was made a few years ago to develop such a statement, and it ran aground when resisted by advocates of sexual initiation.”


Misha Magdalene, January 13, 2018: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene/2018/01/long-cold-look-mirror/


Shauna Knight, June 1, 2015: https://paganactivist.com/2015/06/01/harrassment-bigotry-safety-policies-and-changing-culture/#more-1677


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Today’s Full Moon Spells

The Money Jar Spell

Yes, I know all about the “Witch’s Pyramid,” including the silence part. However, in a previous blog I said I would be making a money jar spell by the next full moon to help boost Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle fundraising efforts — as she has pledged to ride her bike “545 fucking miles” from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Please donate so she makes her pledge goal. Here’s the URL for the sponsor/fundraising page:

http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/disasterina

Well, today, March 9th, is that full moon I spoke of. It’s 9 degrees Virgo, with a sun conjunct neptune. Plus, Mercery retrograde ends today. All good stuff! So it’s time to make a witchy plea to the powers that be, on behalf of this valiant fund-raising effort!

Above you see the inside of the jar, which contains basil for prosperity, organic sugar to sweeten the deal, rose quartz chips to bring lots of love to the fundraising drive, three coins to triple the money coming in, and a petition for dollars containing the above URL. Plus, I dumped in a lot of coppery/gold glitter eyeshadow so it looks rather pretty in there. Then I used a Disasterina sticker on the front of the jar. The green candle burning on top of the lid has been inscribed with the words “AIDS LifeCycle” on one side and “Disasterina” on the other. The candle is dressed with Basil infused organic olive oil.

The candle is burning now, even as I type.

That Blue Burning Candle

That’s for me. It’s a Jupiter spell for general luck and prosperity, which I need right now. I have a complex set of changes to make in the next couple of months, and I’ve begun this time of mucho magicQ with (1) an offering to the lake where I live, as I pulled the “Lady of the Lake” card (surprise!) from the goddess deck today; and (2) the Jupiter spell. In the coming days, I have way opening, protection, health, and certain other spells to craft. It’s going to be a busy, busy time–and I’ve had to get out of the daily practice doldrums and renew that too. I can’t do this without my spirit allies!

Certain material I’ve come across recently also encourages me to cultivate relationships with “the smalls”–microbe magic. Go to microanimism.com and check out the work of Siobhan Watkins, Ph.D. Can’t hurt, could help. (I’m in the high risk group–age and pre-existing health conditions–so I am thinking about this stuff rather a lot these days.)

So… people… we’re gonna need all the luck, resilience, and smarts we can possibly muster in the days ahead. Bring in your protection wards and health-strengthening magic while you’re washing your hands for more than 20 seconds. Charge your medications on your altar, if you have one. I also recommend you check out the Healing Tao “Six Healing Sounds” and do them–particularly the lung sounds and poses. Do anything else that strengthens you.

There is so much to say…but perhaps that’s another blog post. Be well!

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Future PaganCons: Won’t You Include Us Too?

I’m getting some post-PantheaCon discussions coming through my social media feeds, with much said on the topics pertaining to inclusion–the need for great heaping gobs of it–for “everyone.” Reading these posts, I always have the pitiful question, “does that mean people like me too?” Generally, it doesn’t. 

Decorated Mask copy
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness. My decorated chemical cartridge respirator.

I ‘ve never gone to PantheaCon or any other neo-pagan convention because my disability is seldom accommodated. I didn’t go to this last PantheaCon either–the very last, ever, apparently–but some friends of mine just got back from it. These are people who have a long history with the event and with some of its founders. I’m talking “Old Guard Pagans” who have been active for a long time in Northern California. One of them brought back a stack of ephemera from the conference so I’m looking through the flyers and postcards, as well as the conference program, to see what I missed.

And, frankly I’m also looking to see if any one of these organizations, events, or teachers bother to put the magic words, “Come Fragrance Free,” on their ephemera. But before I get too curmudeonly and critique-ish about the program and ephemera, I need to say a few things first and ask a few questions.

Here’s the Pathos.

Please take a few moments to consider the following. Can you imagine:

Living like an “almost hermit” for a major portion of your life, simply because consumer toxins, including fragrances, are in wide use?

Becoming ill, asthmatic, or brain-fogged after ordinary outings such as trips to the grocery store, dental and medical appointments, buying new tires, meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant, going to a concert or event, attending a class, filing out forms at government agencies such as DMV or Social Security, venturing outside when a neighbor is doing laundry, taking public transportation, using a public swimming facility, and pretty much any other activity that involves other people and poor indoor air quality?

Finding out that friends, family members, and lovers or spouses prefer their toxic products to spending time with you?

Finding that you’ve lost the love and concern of people you deeply love, because accommodating you is just too much work and they’ve grown tired of it?

Not having a job, as there are practically no fragrance free workplaces, and not being able to get disability benefits either?

Having your options for affordable housing severely limited due to toxins used in building products and home furnishings, as well as by people who could have been roommates?

Finding that most of your social contact takes place online, but then being shamed for it?

Being told that your sufferings are imagined or exaggerated, or the result of negative thinking? Being told you don’t “look” sick or disabled?

Seeing medical and mental health professionals who have little or no idea what you are talking about?

Being constantly exposed to substances that make you sick, tired, brainfogged and frustrated, just in order to have something that remotely resembles a normal life?

And finally, can you imagine all of the above and also being denied physical entry to spiritual communities, fellowship, and solace? 

I could go on.

Welcome to my life and the life of every other person I know who copes with “Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance,” also known as “multiple chemical sensitivity,” “chemical injury,” or “environmental illness.” We not only cope with “invisible disabilities” but are also invisible ourselves, as we “don’t get out much” and most dialogue about inclusion & disability and environmental health & justice take place without us. For most people, we do not exist. And there are no social programs to assist us with our special needs. There are no celebrities or major philanthropists championing our cause. As for allies–there are only a few.

Now For the Curmudgeonly Part

Back to my examination of the PantheaCon program and ephemera. In the program, I don’t see any of those magic words that address disability accommodation and indoor air quality, such as “please attend fragrance free to allow people with asthma and enviornmental illnesses to attend.” The program also does not have a section with disability access information. I do notice “no smoking” and “no incense, smudging or candles” policies are in place, and those are certainly helpful to preserving some semblance of breathable air. However, the lack of restriction pertaining to fragrance use in public spaces, workshops, and rituals makes the PantheaCon (and any conference) a dangerous place for someone like me.

I also skimmed through the “Event & Ritual Etiquette,” looking for some awareness of “share the air” manners, but there’s nothing. None of the hospitality suites, workshops, ads, or group events contain accommodation language either, EXCEPT for the following:

(1) Katrina Rasbold’s The Limpia: Cleansing the Mind, Body, Spirit workshop (p. 20) specifies that “no smoke, scents, or scented sprays are used in this workshop.” Reading this makes me want to adore her!

(2) Dree Amandi’s Aromatherapy Magick-Spellcraft warns that “we will be actively using essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils in this space.” Such warnings are also deeply appreciated, though use of such substances in a workshop may also affect my ability to attend adjoining workshops in that time frame, or workshops which take place in the same room or nearby afterwards.

Workshops that might be expected to use this inclusive accommodation language would include anything with a breath,  “eco,” or healing theme, such as: Selena Fox’s Circle for Planet Earth and her Brigid Healing RitualEcoActivism & Climate Change, which was put on by Circle Sanctuary EcoActivists; The Power of Yoga–Energy and Healing with Lisa J. Hamlin; Chants for the Earth with Starhawk and Evelie Delfino Sales Posch; Eco-Magical Activism with Starhawk; possibly The Healing Isle with Christopher Penczak, though the talk of “potions” and “plant essence” makes me nervous; Theurgic Activism Panel; Tomorrow’s Pagan Panel: and Envisioning the Future of Paganism with Solstice.

Such compassionate and inclusive language would also be nice for Elysia Gallo’s Pagan Speed Friending, as I couldn’t risk being “speed friended” by a well-meaning person off-gassing toxic petrochemicals in the form of personal care products. And for anyone talking about inclusion and diversity as part of their program–likewise. Set an example of inclusive welcoming by asking people to be considerate on behalf of those who depend heavily on the “kindness of strangers.”

Of all the many pieces of ephemera gathered by my friend, only one is inclusive of people with multiple chemical sensitivities and respiratory ailments. This is the postcard advertising the “JeWitch Camp,” an event with “Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Starhawk, and Friends.” It has the magic words: “come fragrance free.” (And again, I want to adore them!)

I think you get the idea.

I won’t say I never go to conferences, ever, but the ones I attend are professional conferences which enable me to gain CE credits to update my professional certifications and/or may help boost my diminishing private practice–my only means of work. Still, I don’t go to more than one every few years, and I build in recovery time and escape routes and limit my attempts to socialize. It sucks, frankly. Read my Fragrance-Free FAQ on my professional site to know more.

Why Are Pagans OK with Polluting the Air-One of Our Four Essential and Sacred Elements?

Ea is a word in the Hawaiian language that first means “sovereignty, rule, independence.” Its second meaning is “life, air, breath, respiration, vapor, gas; fumes as of tobacco; breeze, spirit” (Pukui, M.K. & Elbert. S.H. (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, p. 36). To me, the connections between these two categories of meaning are highly significant.

And I want to know why–when air is our sacred elemental symbol of mental powers and intelligence–we humans are short-circuiting our brains with deliberate inhalation of toxic, petrochemical fumes, via consumer products? And why are we so stupid as to deliberately pollute our air, INDOORS and out, along with our water and soil? As pagans, shouldn’t we be extra aware and respectful?

And why isn’t consensuality considered? Why is the physical violation of other people’s bodies with airborne toxic chemicals not a matter of discussion? We ban smoking in public places. Why not scents and fragrances and essential oils, which contain some of the same cancer-producing and respiratory irritant chemicals found in tobacco smoke and vaping?

The answers to the above questions have lots to do with capitalism, entitlement, and industry pressure on legislation and policy. And they also have a lot to do with who we feel is worthy of “accommodation” and assistance. There is something in the American psyche  that despises the “snowflake”–those seen as weak are deemed unworthy. And people with significant adverse reactions to chemical toxins are among the “snowflakiest” of us all.

In 1998, Scientific American published a study that claimed that the air in the average American home is MORE polluted than the air around most outdoor Superfund Clean-Up sites. Here’s the PDF: SciAM-EverydayExposure-3 As for me, I’d love to have a study done on the air quality in the average pagan conference in an average hotel. And then I’d like something done by way of solving this problem, so that we may all breathe freely in fellowship with each other. Pagan conference organizers, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. What say all of you? Or can you still not hear me and those who are like me? A 2018 study showed that one in four Americans suffer from environmentally caused illnesses (Ann Steinemann study–download here). So, with this increase in illness, how long can you ignore the effects on people in pagan communities? How long can you refrain from a proactive examination of this issue of indoor air pollution, and from creating policies that seek to diminish the health consequences of attending your events?

Spirits of the Air, I conjure thee–give us the awareness to do better, help us heal your sacred substance, and that of the earth, and of all living bodies–else we be doomed to choke on our hypocrisy and ignorance as all living things perish around us, through our selfishness.

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