Low gas prices or the environment: choose one

So which do we want, cheap gas or a country that doesn’t depend on the Middle East and environmental disaster to keep it afloat? (With apologies if my post doesn’t come out, I’m still trying to master posting from Digg.)As I’ve misquoted before (it was Joseph Campbell that said it first), money is congealed energy. Gas prices are a perfect example of this and the trade-offs we face.

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UK study shows Gay men have trouble reading maps

The more I think about this, the more I think it’s probably true but also backwards . . . it’s not that gay men can’t read maps, it’s that the brain structure that results in gayness isn’t the same one that makes map-reading easy. Many cultures have viewed homosexuality as an indication of a different spiritual path, which suggests a different way of thinking. Perhaps maps is simply the most obvious form we see these days.

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Time enough for magic

It’s not my wont to perform magic (and I certainly haven’t studied enough of Crowley to be worthy of performing magicK), and mostly that’s not because I doubt the stuff works. Lots of Pagans are really into spellcraft, and it almost seems like magic itself is their religion; I suppose this is an extension of the active-participant philosophy Pagans have, as opposed to the sit-and-watch-the-holy-man-work tradition that many religions recommend. So as I said, I don’t doubt it works, but I do have a lot of doubts that man understands it anymore than he understands science. I don’t practice genetic engineering or fertility treatment, either.

Magic seems to have in common with other areas of knowledge one trait: humans learn enough about it to get excited, and then they just rush off and try some. We’re really short-lived, so we’re always in a great deal of a hurry to put what we just learned into practice, to try it out and see if we’re right. Being that we have an Epimethean vision of the future, we’re always surprised, a generation or two down the road, when we discover our actions have consequences. What do you mean, all the passenger pigeons are dead? With horror and with the same lack of foresight we often try to fix the problems we created in the first place . . . for example, we added MTBE to gasoline to reduce emissions, and got contaminated groundwater instead.

So mostly I hesitate to engage in magic because Gaiapeds prefer to Leave No Trace, and because I can’t foretell the future, even if my life depends upon it. We’re just such powerful, creative, hasty creatures, we humans, that we go off and try out all our new toys this instant and then cry and get upset when we break them or make a big mess.

Okay, so I’m an earth-walker, which means that I should follow the lessons of the Earth. The Earth doesn’t just sit there, doing nothing . . . should I? Nothing frequently does as much damage as something, and it’s important to recognize that leaving no trace does not necessarily mean doing nothing at all . . . it means choosing the course of action that causes the least harm. The Earth does act. Observe the tides, the erosion, the plate tectonics. When the Earth chooses to act in a certain way, the method is almost always the same: slow, careful action with enough force behind it that it cannot be denied. From time to time, those forces result in big changes, but slow and steady pressure usually has slow and steady results, with the undeniable power of a tree breaking a rock or a shoreline dissolving away.

So I’m not comfortable rushing to an altar and lighting six purple candles, sprinkling dragonsblood deosil and chanting the names of God until the full moon rises. That doesn’t mean I won’t spend three or four months creating serenity, though . . . if it takes long enough, I’m going to understand what I’m doing long before I can do harm. I think that’s the secret to magic and science . . . if we’re willing to spend enough time we’re much more likely to act rightly. Most people really want to do the right thing, but we don’t allow ourselves enough time to discover what the right thing happens to be.

So like those zany Druids, I am proud to consider myself faster than a speeding oak tree.

Geocaching for Fun and Profit

I’m usually a bit of a slug, preferring to sit at my desk and talk about how cool the natural world is than get out in it. So yesterday was a big day for me, as I got to put my money where my keyboard is and do a bunch of cool stuff. After exploring caves in Kingston I tried my hand at geocaching.

When my partner first suggested geocaching to me I was hesitant, because any hobby that requires a decent amount of time and money invested ahead of time should be approached with caution. I like to be careful how I use my money, so it didn’t seem like a good idea. However, I found out friends of mine have a GPS and take the kids out geocaching all the time, so why not?

The finding of the cache, seeing what’s inside, and trading some of those items for ones we brought was neat. What made it a different kind of walk in the woods for me, though, was the kids. Holding the hand of a three-year-old on a somewhat rocky trail makes you look at the terrain in a very different way. She is completely trusting in your ability to keep her safe from harm as she improves her locomotive skills. It was a new way to experience the world through a child’s eyes.

Going Deep

I got to explore the planet in a new way yesterday, wandering down into the ice caves and old mines near Hasbrouck Park in Kingston, New York. Historically the area is known for producing natural cement, and these caves were dug out a fair bit back in the day. The climbing down was scarier than climbing back up, and it was intense to experience the subterranean chill. There are a number of flooded old mine shafts that are best to avoid (story has it that some divers have checked them out and never returned), and ice formations that are pretty impressive for June.

Now I’m told that I wasn’t in any real caves, but I don’t mind. No matter what we accomplish in life, we will always find a friend or acquaintance that will minimize it for us and try to make us believe it’s not impressive enough. Depending on how well I know the person, I’ll do anything from smile and nod while ignoring them to telling them that life isn’t a contest and that if it were I would win because I get extra points for getting over myself. Oneupsmanship is absolutely the most irritating human quality, but I digress.

I am glad I went under the ground. I’m not sure I would do it again, but it’s an experience worth having. I guess if I were really into caving and spelunking the word Gaiaped wouldn’t make as much sense – earth-walker might mean going underground, but it sounds like a stretch to me. What I enjoyed most was the feeling that I was in very real danger if I made a mistake. Putting the natural world into perspective means recognizing that nature can kill you.