Love and Unholy Glee: Loki and the Positivity Ratio

Loki depicted as a shirtless god with long red hair and horns. One boot missing. Jewelry, skull belt, hands above head. Bent knees. Dark trees and crescent moon in background.
One of my favorite Loki Images, by A. Sceithhailim on DeviantArt. You can purchase this print! I did! Go to https://www.deviantart.com/sceith-a/gallery/49128055/Laufeyjar-sonr

Loki is great for my Positivity Ratio! I could never have dreamt I’d find such a rich source of positive emotions in the service (and the metaphysical arms) of a notorious trickster god!

This morning I woke up to find yet another clever Loki-themed meme posted on social media (I will share it at the bottom of this post). The meme caused me to experience immediate pleasure in the form of amusement–the kind I classify as “unholy glee”–as well as a feeling of an almost blissful love. That’s one of the many perks of being a Lokean–access to endless witicisms and scads of great artwork inspired by our favorite Norse deity (example at left) or his deft Midgardian cosplayer, Marvel Loki.

So, what is this Positivity Ratio? Psychologist and researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., has found that we in Midgard need a diet rich in positive emotions in order to thrive. The minimum ration is three positive emotions to every negative one. I learned about Dr. Frederickson’s work through her free Coursera class on Positive Psychology. You can check your own emotional nutrition by taking her Positivity Ratio test online.

You’ll notice in the list below that “happiness” is not included in the list. It’s too vague. Instead, Fredrickson lists happy-making emotions as elements (nutrients!) that can enrich an emotional diet. The idea is, you can do this deliberately, just as you can choose to add vitamin supplements or a fresh salad to your daily menu.

B. Fredrickson 10 Positive Emotions

Now, when I took Fredrickson’s online course, I was in bad shape: I’d moved away from California and was desperately homesick, I was waiting for my divorce to finalize, a love affair had soured, I had developed a bad case of social anxiety, and so on. I was often alone, depressed, and hopeless. But when I encountered the above list, I realized that no matter how bad I felt, I could ALWAYS access Interest and Amusement. In other words, learning new things like magic (interest) and watching cat videos (amusement) could improve my mood, even if the improvement just lasted a minute or two.

Increasing the daily frequency of such emotions could–and did–build my resilience over time. Resilience is key.

I would say that Loki the trickster represents a deified personification of “Nonserious Social Incongruity” aka “Amusement” (among other things). I tried to get at this in a previous post, My Lord, I Offer Thee…Twisted Humor.

Through my devotion to Loki and my other deities, I access nine out of ten of the above positive emotions. Certainly I feel Love, Awe, Gratitude, along with Interest and Amusement. The only emotion that I don’t seem to experience in this context is Pride.

I never thought I’d understand what religious practices and beliefs did for people, but after a couple of years of my own daily devotions, now I think I do. Our imagined but not imaginary companions–gods, goddesses, non-binary deities, spirits, ancestors, etc.–present an opportunity to engage and enlarge ourselves through the above emotions as well as the larger beings we’ve contacted. I have a little more empathy now for people who are “high on Jesus” and those who have similar evangelical fervor regarding other deities. They think the rest of us are missing out on the bliss they experience. They don’t understand why others may reject their particular source (which they feel must be the ONLY source). They don’t understand that it may not be the specific deity or set of practices that provide that bliss, it’s the repeated, deliberate connection with something (anything!) larger that provides the emotions that eventually coalesce into a feeling of grace.

I should add that states of grace can be experienced through creative, intellectual, or generous actions–it’s not just a “gift of the gods.”

But for me, Loki is the fast track to all kinds of emotional goodies. When I wake up to a meme like this (based on Marvel’s Midgardian cos-player), I laugh, I feel glee, I swipe the meme and post it myself. I laugh at myself when I do it. And I enjoy people’s reactions. I am amused. And this improves my emotional diet, which can then be tracked via my positivity ratio.

This is just the beginning–sharing such emotional goodies with others is also a way to amplify them. That’s partly why our Lokean community is so vital. We can easily increase our Positivity Ratio by harvesting positive emotions through our Loki-related sharing.

It all makes perfect sense now.

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Google Image search did not reveal original source. I do not own this image. I found it on Facebook.

Hail Loki! God of Nonserious Social Incongruity!

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Meagre Palace of Midgard Part Two

I just spent two weeks in evacuation mode, fleeing first the smoke then the actual threat of the Mendocino Complex Fires, which made it to the valley beyond the ridge which is behind the community I live in. My view of Mt. Konocti this morning is either smoky or misty, but I suspect it’s smoke that veils it.  Driving back yesterday I saw broad bulldozer lines cut into the hills. Some of the hills around the lake are either blackened or tinted hot pink from fire retardant. It’s a new twist on an old landscape, with the forest fire raging now in other counties besides ours, drawing help from as far away as Samoa and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

I have asthma and other respiratory problems, so returning to this area hasn’t been an easy prospect to face. (Even as I write, my eyes burn and my throat constricts.) But my house (and the neighborhood) survived, and the cats were growing increasingly restless in the empty apartment where I sheltered, with absolutely no furniture except a sleeping bag and a folding table and chair I bought from Target. But I was–and am–super fortunate to have had that resource. It may not be there next time I need it.

The return trip was a challenging three-hour drive in hot summer temperatures with four cats in crates, which means no chance to stop for a bathroom break because the cats might suffer in a stopped, hot car for even the five minutes it takes to grab a key from the station attendant and run to the nearest stall. Prior to setting out, I asked my “most trusted one,” Loki, for a travel blessing. Because one doesn’t ask for favors from this trickster god without offering something in return, I promised that this week I’d buy some paint to begin fixing up a woodshop on my property in order to turn it into a Loki “tiny temple.” (I wrote about this idea before the start of the fires.) Since my house is intact (thank you, firefighters!) and I have the notion that it’s a good thing to keep a fire god happy, I have pledged to begin work on this Lokean sanctuary.

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In some ways, the project will be an “architectural folly” and I imagine Loki stalking the grounds as an “ornamental (manic pixie dream god) hermit.” For example, I’ll be painting a Loki mural on the outside (really trying hard to NOT imagine him in the mural as a gratuitously shirtless, hunky firefighter…). Any future owners of this property are going to have to “just deal with it.”

Much of my impulse for this “folly” comes from a deepening connection with this trickster god. This is something I never would have expected to enter my life. Sure, I’ve had lots of odd spiritual experiences but my path is always twisty and often opaque. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be at this place, overcome with devotional love for a northern deity, I would have scoffed or thrown a coconut at you (I was living in Hawai’i then, on Pele’s land).

But another impulse comes from the recognition that we Lokeans are outcasts. I’m no stranger to that social strata, so the idea of making a place for us is an appealing thought, even if no one actually comes to visit the sanctuary besides me.

But as a teacher of mine used to say, “it’s all in the invitation,” and so perhaps this place will provide the soil to germinate the community I seek.

Are you a fellow traveller? Do let me know!

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A “Meagre Palace of Midgard”

The title of this blog is a phrase cribbed from Tom Hiddleston’s star turn as “Marvel Loki” at the 2013 Comic Con, the video of which continues to fill me with geeky glee. I go to it often for amusement and solace, just as I also turn to Puddles’ Royals cover,  assorted cat videos, and Liam Lynch singing “Let’s Make Love in the Third Dimension.”

The above makes it hard to find a date, by the way. These types of “special interests” just aren’t covered in OK Cupid algorithms. Just saying.

So… I have a woodshop on my property. That’s meagre, right? For the last few months, a surplus of neighbor’s cats have called it home. And though still inhabited by the food bowls of the two most feral felines, of late I have been a-pondering the fate of this quite serviceable structure. I don’t have the money to turn it into a tiny house and I’m not sure zoning would permit it anyway. I could turn it into my very own office, but at present I am client-less. It needs insulation, sheetrock, and painting at very least. But it does have electricity! And a view of the lake.

(I wasn’t kidding about living near a lake. See? There it is!)

Clear Lake, CA
By Federico Pizano, Sept. 14, 2013. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

In my mind’s eye, I see a Tiny Temple. A Pagan Haven. A place to gather kindreds (of the most inclusive kinds). If I build it, will they come? My experience has taught me that trick never works, but the doing of it might keep me out of trouble and off the streets. Plus I could alarm the neighbors by painting Loki runes on the side… (I have wonderful neighbors though, and they already know I’m a bit strange.)

Because I am a sucker for creative futility (I’m a parent, for heaven’s sake!), I probably do need to rebrand the woodshop as an architectural folly and dedicate it to the array of deities who have captured my attention. And then invite someone over for tea…

What else have I got to do? Like I said, it’s hard to find a date… a pagan, Lokean, long-haired, clean-shaven, non-smoking, magical, witty, slightly subby date…

Are you a fellow traveler? Lemme know! And if you have an older brother…

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