Real Life Supervillains?

I’ve been involved in the Real Life Superhero movement for several months now. As far as I’m concerned, choosing a new name and wearing a uniform or costume isn’t what defines a Real Life Superhero. What defines us is our vision for how we can improve and serve our community, and our ongoing efforts to act on that vision.

Recently, though, this definition has lead me to consider an ominous question: what defines a Real Life Supervillain?

On one hand, I rarely throw around terms like “villain” to talk about real life. My main focus is on what Mahatma Gandhi called the “Constructive Program.” The Constructive Program is the effort to achieve goals such as social justice, ecological integrity, peace, and so on through positive methods of self-improvement and community organizing. This approach has no place for criticisms of other people; it is purely focused around creating the positive foundations of a good society.

On the other hand, there are people and institutions that actively and willfully cause harm to people and the planet. It’s very important to bear witness to the harm that they do and take organized action to stop them from doing it. This is part of my role as a Real Life Superhero, and really part of anyone’s role in life if they want to live in a good and just society.

Therefore, I ask again: what constitutes a Real Life Supervillain?

There are some common answers that fall short of the mark. For example, a handful of people have responded to the RLSH movement by calling themselves Real Life Supervillains. Some even create websites or online profiles to proclaim their villainy:

Ruthless Organization Against Citizen Heroes (R.O.A.C.H.)

Some of them are just joking. Some may be RLSH supporters with quirky senses of humor. A few may actually intend to expose the secret identities of RLSHs or otherwise make a mild nuisance of themselves. But this hardly counts as real villainy.

R.O.A.C.H. is out, then.

Some other examples suggested by RLSHs include violent criminals, gangs, and Osama bin Laden. Yes, there are some violent criminals who may qualify, and an international terrorist is a very likely candidate. But somehow, even these examples fall flat. Violent criminals and gangs are often a menace to the communities they inhabit — but most have no higher aspirations to qualify them for the “super” in supervillain. And bin Laden is too easy of an answer. He probably qualifies — but since the mainstream media has put so much energy into vilifying him, I hardly see the point in saying anything more on the topic.

I would like to propose the following criteria for what defines a Real Life Supervillain:

(1) Committing actions, or making credible plans to commit actions, that pose a threat of serious harm to many people and/or the regional/global environment;
(2) Full knowledge that one’s actions or plans will threaten or create said harm;
(3) Malicious intent to benefit from said harm through economic, political, or other means.

With this definition in hand, I can cite what I see as some of the most dangerous Real Life Supervillains in the world. These fall into three categories: corporations and their executives; governments and their officials; and private fanatics and their supporters.

Given the fact that this entry is running long, and the hour is getting late, I won’t go into detail on these Real Life Supervillains just yet. I’ll talk more about them in one or more future entries. However, in light of Thursday morning’s unfortunate Supreme Court decision, which inspired this entry, I’d like to start the conversation by encouraging you to watch a film called The Corporation.

The Corporation explains some of the history of corporations and their role in our society. It will be a good primer for understanding why today’s corporate structure in general, and certain corporations in particular, may qualify as the most dangerous Real Life Supervillains out there. It’s available for purchase online, but you can also watch it for free on YouTube.

As always, your comments are welcome. Hopefully, once we have identified who the Real Life Supervillains are, we can stand together against them, and make the world a better place in the process.

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My Ecstatic Path

I am an Ecstatic. I often talk about individual aspects of my Ecstatic path, but I rarely sit down and talk at length about my perspective on what Ecstasy is, or what being an Ecstatic means to me.

Today, though, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

What is Ecstasy? This is a question that has been explored by many people throughout the ages. First of all, I’m obviously not talking about MDMA or any other drug, although mind-altering substances do have a place in some ecstatic paths. I’m also not talking about relatively mild and fleeting feelings of excitement or happiness.

Ecstasy is a heightened state of consciousness that is better experienced than explained. Different people experience it and describe it in different ways. For some, it involves focusing on an inner experience of Divinity to the point of temporarily losing all contact with external stimuli. In this state, the Ecstatic is immersed fully in a beatific vision of the Divine and may pass out or become unresponsive. For others, it involves attaining a heightened awareness or appreciation of surroundings in which the Ecstatic experiences the Divine as being physically present within them and around them. Either way, the most common threads among Ecstatic experiences are arguably shifting consciousness into a trance or trance-like state and experiencing a profound sense of the presence of the Divine.

My earliest Ecstastic experiences were in my childhood. Really, I think most people who are new to the concept of an Ecstatic path would do well to look back to experiences in their childhood, even if they didn’t have a happy childhood. Most children haven’t learned yet to suppress and constrain their primal life impulses. Therefore, most of us can remember some point in childhood or young adulthood when we became so swept up in an experience — whether it was a “good” or “bad” one — that everything else faded into the background and we lost ourselves in the intensity of the moment.

I remember experiencing the natural world in this way as a child. I grew up in the Chicago area, so I didn’t have too many opportunities for experiences outside of a human-constructed environment. There were, however, exceptions. Sometimes, my grandfather would take us to a local nature preserve, or my mother would take us to the park near our house. I would inevitably run ahead and climb on any object that was even remotely climbable, whether it was a stone or tree or simply the bars of concrete at the front of parking spaces. When I wasn’t at the park or nature preserve, I would love picking dandelions during the warm seasons because they were really the only brightly colored flower growing in my environment. During the winter, I would play in the snow whenever I had the chance, whether that meant throwing snowballs or making snow angels or simply stomping up snow hills and jumping back down.

I’m sure that many people can identify with these childhood experiences. The point worth noting from an ecstatic perspective, though, is the shift in consciousness that I experienced. I had no words for it, but when I did these things, I felt something shift inside of me. I was seeing more, feeling more, BECOMING more than I had been before or after these moments of unfettered play. Sometimes, my focus on this experience was so strong that I lost all sense of time, or lost my sensitivity to heat and cold and fatigue, or let go of the growing inhibitions that our society was heaping onto my back as I grew into young adulthood.

These experiences were, however, only the beginning of my Ecstatic path.

A child is full of energy and vitality, but there is a certain depth of power and passion and awareness that only develops in adolescence and adulthood. At some point during puberty, my empathic sensitivity, as well as my emotional intensity, seemed to increase tenfold.

Sadly, junior high and high school — especially in a fairly backward and banal suburban environment — is not a friendly environment for an Ecstatic! As I was mocked and bullied for being “different,” I found myself retreating deeper and deeper into my own shell. The Ecstatic impulse was still there — the drive for profound experiences and qualitative shifts in consciousness. But I didn’t know what it was, or what to do with it. So I sought desperately to fulfill it through escapes into fantasy realms by reading and writing fiction and playing computer role-playing games.

It wasn’t until I was well into college that this long-buried aspect of my consciousness was called back to the surface. My favorite fictional reality at the time was the Ultima computer game series — and the Avatar archetype from that series, along with my long-time Superman fandom, had driven me to see what forms of good I could do out in the real world.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this in and of itself was the start of my return to an outwardly Ecstatic spiritual path. I had discovered a heroic archetype that filled me with a profound sense of joy and purpose, and I had learned to invoke that archetype as a powerful way of transforming my consciousness and motivating myself to action. Even though I was still extremely socially anxious and depressive, I found myself stepping out into the world and taking actions for activist causes that even emotionally healthy people find challenging. This was possible because invoking the heroic archetype shifted my consciousness into a profoundly different state than the one I experienced outside of an activist context.

This was a start. However, it wasn’t nearly enough, and in the long run it wasn’t sustainable. I needed to do more than just change my actions. I needed to change my experience of the world.

Luckily, synergy set in. I came across activists who combined their environmental work with a sense of the importance of personal empowerment. They recognized that human minds and hearts were being ravaged and strangled by some of the inhibitions and constraints of our society, just as the forces of consumption and ecocide were ravaging and strangling the creatures and the living land that surround us. My academic studies in environmental philosophy gave me a theoretical framework for understanding their perspectives, and my experiences in ecodefense gave me a taste of what it felt like to live free and wild in defiance of many of society’s constraints and expectations.

Taking these lessons to heart, and learning how to live them in my daily life, is the work of a lifetime. I definitely feel like I’ve reached the stage, though, where an Ecstatic path is no longer an abstract concept and is instead a lived reality.

All of the above still sounds a bit abstract. What does an Ecstatic path really mean in my life? What experiences qualify as Ecstatic, and what do they mean in my life?

One way to really grasp the shift in consciousness that I’ve experienced is to read my poetry:

Prose can only come so far in describing states of consciousness. Poetry uses imagery and narrative to lure the reader or listener into a trance state similar to the one experienced by the poet. I haven’t posted my new poem about ecstasy there yet, but you can read it in my new poetry book, Ecstasy of Liberation, or simply ask me to show you a copy.

Another way is to describe some of the types of experience that I have now that I’ve embraced a fully Ecstatic path.

My experience of physical and emotional reality has forever changed for the better. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was depressed, the world had faded into shades of grey. Colors seemed dull and lifeless, sounds seemed flat and monotone, and the only physical sensation that really had any intensity to it was pain. Emotionally, my favorite movies, books, or TV shows could still at times inspire great joy in me, but my default emotional state was one of sadness and loneliness and sorrow.

But my Ecstatic path changed all of this. I wrote about this in my poem “Cloudbreak.” During the course of my environmental activism, my experiences in the natural world would bring me into a trancelike state — an Ecstatic state — in which colors were brighter, sounds were more crisp, and the world felt more solid and sensual. At first, these were fleeting peak experiences. Over time, they became my default experience of reality. Now, even if I’m just walking a few blocks to run an errand, I may find myself overcome with joy at the sight of a sunset, or the moon rising, or even mountains of grey clouds blanketing the sky and altering the quality of the daylight.

My experience of other people has also undergone a profound positive shift. It used to be intense in a bad way — a sense of mortal terror as I was cast adrift in an overwhelming sea of emotions, expectations, and inhibitions, all of which were a mix of empathic impressions from other people and my own reaction to their presence. But my Ecstatic path allowed me to embrace the power of emotion and passion rather than fearing or suppressing it. I learned to experience and express my own passion more deeply through meditation, poetry, chanting, ritual, ecstatic dance, consuming dark chocolate, and occasionally through drinking significant amounts of alcohol. And now that I’ve embraced my own emotions and passions, I’m almost always comfortable in the presence of other people.

The most profound change in my experience of other people, though, is love. Now that my own fears, jealousies, judgments, and preconceptions have mostly gotten out of the way, I feel a tremendous love for those around me. If someone is cruel, or dull, or banal, or malevolent, I may not LIKE them — but I will feel their humanity while interacting with them. Even if I complain about their behavior, their attitude, their personality, and so on, I will still manage to move past that to experience aspects of their humanity and love them for it.

If I can feel that baseline of love for people who I might openly identify as “villains,” imagine how much love I feel for the people who are near and dear to me!

When I’m in the presence of someone I love deeply, I often experience a shift in consciousness as I feel a sense of awe at being in the presence of incarnate Divinity. When I’m in the more active version of this state, I find myself drawn into excited conversation with the one(s) I love, wanting to share as much back and forth as possible in a reciprocal state of spiritual communion. When I’m in the more receptive version of this state, I love to simply sit in the presence of the one(s) I love and be an active listener. Even if the details of the conversation are nothing new, and even if we’re in the midst of some seemingly banal activity like doing chores or running errands, I find myself shifting into a profound state of happiness and bliss simply to be in the presence of someone who I feel is the Divine incarnate. In that moment, they are Lady or Lord to me, and their presence is a heartfelt blessing.

I’d like to talk about what it’s like to be an Ecstatic in the midst of a romantic relationship. But alas, for whatever reasons, my relationships have been very few and far between. In the end, though, even this has been a blessing in its own strange way.

My Ecstatic path has opened me up to ever-increasing experiences of passionate appreciation of the beauty of the world. This includes my romantic feelings, and my desires for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy.

If I had found someone earlier in life, I would have probably just directed all of my attention to them and not changed much in my understanding and experience of love. Instead, I was driven by fate into prolonged periods of solitude where I was forced to face my shadows and evolve as a person.

Before these challenges, my heart and mind were filled with destructive attachments and inhibitions. I was jealous; I was possessive; I was afraid of being alone; I was despondent at the thought that someone who I loved did not love me in return. My Ecstatic experiences filled me with a profound sense of love — but when this love went unrequited, my attachments filled me with a terrible, soul-crushing pain.

Something had to give. Fate, in essence, had presented me with a choice. I couldn’t continue to suffer like this. Would I ease my suffering by letting go of my love, or letting go of my attachments?

For a while, I was stuck. I didn’t fully understand the question being posed to me by fate, and I didn’t know how to let go of my attachments. With time, though, it started to become clear. My love itself wasn’t what was making me suffer. It was the attachments — the jealousy, or the fear of being alone, or my reluctance to accept the sorrow inherent in unrequited love. These attachments not only caused me to suffer, but also caused me to hold back my own capacity to love.

And so, with time, I started to let my experience of love burn these attachments away. It was a painful process — much like being burned alive! But when it was over, I felt reborn, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

There are still, of course, remnants and echoes of the old patterns — and maybe there always will be. But something fundamental has shifted in me. My experience of life, and love, has transformed for the better. I now love people with wild abandon, regardless of what they may feel for me, or what prospects we may have for a romantic relationship. It’s one of the most amazing and liberating feelings in the world, and better experienced than described.

The bad news is that I still find myself without a romantic partner. The good news, though, is that this troubles me a lot less than it used to. I have many friends who I love dearly, and on most days I’m quite happy to share my love with them in whatever ways they want to share it.

Amazingly, and somewhat paradoxically, I’ve found that the more profound and Ecstatic my feelings of romantic love become, the more mellow I feel about any one person ignoring or rejecting me romantically. I think it’s because I no longer see other people as the source of my love, or my romance, or my sex, or my happiness. They are certainly the subjects of my love, and certainly the ones who draw those feelings out in me — but ultimately, my love and passion and joy and bliss emerges from deep inside of me, like a bottomless well or an endless spring. So if one person doesn’t feel the same way about me, I mourn that disparity in my own way and simply move on.

In case I haven’t made this clear, the experiences provided by an Ecstatic path aren’t all “positive” in the conventional sense. They are simply experiences that are profound enough to shift our consciousness from a state of dull sleepwalking to a state of entranced communion with the Divine. On a good day, this may involve an intense appreciation of the beauty of a person, a place, or an experience. On a bad day, though, this may involve intense sorrow, despair, or terror in the presence of a beauty lost, or a love betrayed, or a world full of suffering, or an incarnation of the Divine that is desecrated or twisted beyond all recognition.

The latter form of experience — what some might call the “dark side” of Ecstasy — may sound awful and undesirable to someone who is not an Ecstatic. In fact, these sorts of intense “negative” experiences are why a lot of people like to keep their emotions and passions in check. They’d rather feel flat than feel that level of sorrow. But to an Ecstatic, these experiences are just another way of encountering the Divine as it is embodied in a wild world of flesh, and blood, and bone, and mud, and fire, and ice, and laughter, and tears. Sure, it’s usually preferable if we experience this Ecstasy through trance dancing, or wild romps through the wilderness, or nights of drunken debauchery, or tender acts of lovemaking shared with a soulmate. But our experience of the awesome power of immanent Divinity is just as present in our tears, our clenched fists, our gnashing of teeth, our sobs of despair, our indignant rage at the ravages of death and destruction and travesties of justice.

If it’s intense, and you feel swept up in it, and you find yourself trembling in awe in its presence, it’s probably Ecstasy, regardless of whether the awe is one of joy, or terror, or both. In these moments, you will truly know that you are alive, and you will feel moved in a way that you may never have felt before. If it’s a moment of bliss, embrace it with gratitude and follow your bliss. If it’s a moment of horror or despair, embrace it regardless, and ride it out until you discover the lessons it has come to teach you. Either way, it will take you somewhere incredible.

So, that’s my perspective on Ecstasy and my Ecstatic path. If you like what you see, let me know, and I can share with you some of the works of music, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that have helped me along the way. In fact, I should probably create a page on my website dedicated to listing such resources. In the meantime, I’m always eager to talk about it, and I wish you well in your own Ecstatic journey.

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Avatar Review

Originally, I hadn’t planned on seeing the movie Avatar while it was in theatres. Money is tight right now, and I don’t go out to the movies as often as I used to. I heard so many positive reviews from friends, though, that I decided to see it.

I’m glad that I did!

Avatar is one of the most impressive movies I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive movies I’ve ever seen! There are flaws to it, of course, and I’ll get to those in a moment. Even with these flaws, though, I would say that it’s comparable to the original Star Wars series in terms of its groundbreaking visual style and profound mythological themes.

So what do I find so impressive about this movie?

First, there was my purely visual enjoyment of the film. Some of my friends who saw it in 3D were not that impressed with the new 3D technology. I, on the other hand, was deeply impressed. Maybe it helped that I haven’t really seen much of the old 3D technology, so the thought of seeing anything other than real life in 3D was still pretty new to me. Then, throw in the fact that they created a visually stunning virtual world and used the ultra close-ups sparingly enough to make them pop when they did happen. It really helped me to feel more deeply immersed in this alien world and the film’s compelling narrative.

Second, there was the story itself.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, this will contain a few spoilers. With that said, I’d like to talk a bit about the story.

Human beings have established a military and economic presence on a distant moon named Pandora in order to extract an incredibly powerful and valuable mineral called unobtainium. [Yes, they really call it unobtainium.] Their extraction of this mineral, however, is complicated by the fact that there is a race of sentient indigenous humanoids called the Na’vi who live tribally in the massive forested landscape of Pandora.

The forests of Pandora are an impressive creation. The moon has lower gravity than Earth, and subsequently has massive towering trees and an endless variety of vegetation interwoven throughout the forest floor and canopy. They don’t say anything about most of the species present on Pandora, but it’s clear that they put a great deal of thought and effort into creating a rich backdrop of alien biodiversity for this profoundly ecological narrative.

One of the most interesting aspects of this ecology is the neural link. The Na’vi, as well as many other species (all animals?) have a braid-like appendage at the back of their head that grants them the ability to link into a global neural network that is personified as a planet-mother goddess named Eywa.

This is where the mythological elements really shine through. Each clan of Na’vi clusters around a massive Hometree. Together with the Tree of Souls and Tree of Voices, this Hometree constitutes a quite literal manifestation of the Tree of Life concept that is present in many real-world cultures, faiths, and mythologies. Their daily lives and identities are inextricably linked with their tree home, and it is both a symbolic and a literal connection to their planet-mother Eywa.

One of the most poignant scenes of the movie for me was the destruction of the Hometree.

Naturally, the largest deposit of unobtainium within range of the corporation’s base is underneath the Hometree. Therefore, after a half-hearted effort to get the local Na’vi clan to relocate, the corporation orders its military force to destroy the Hometree and drive any surviving Na’vi out of the area.

I know that some people don’t get as into movies as I do, and some people like to mock anyone who gets emotional about anything, especially a movie. If you’re one of those people, you can feel free to mock away. I must say, though, that the scene surrounding the destruction of the Hometree was profoundly moving for me in ways that I can’t even describe in words. But I have to try.

The Tree of Life — or the World Tree, or the Hometree, or whatever you like to call it — is a very primal mythological concept that has probably been with us since we descended from the trees to walk on the plains so many millennia ago. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, I encourage you to read up on it, starting with the Wikipedia article:

This Tree of Life has meant many things to many people. The overarching concept, though, is using a tree as a metaphor for the different aspects of the world as a whole. The roots involve the underworld, a hidden place beneath the soil where the dead depart to and new life emerges from. The trunk represents the manifest world, a solid and thick place where energy flows between earth and sky. The branches represent our connection to the cosmic, to the infinite, to the many branches of knowledge and wisdom and understanding. Taken as a whole, this Tree of Life represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and all of the mysteries and beauty and glory that it entails.

To watch such a clear and powerful incarnation of this Tree of Life being brutally destroyed before my very eyes was a profoundly sorrowful experience. It was like a re-enactment of humanity’s untold centuries of senseless genocide and ecocide, all of it packed into a few minutes of masterful cinematography. The only thing I can compare it to is the encounters I had with real-world ecocide during my time in Idaho — walking through the scorched remains of a series of massive clearcuts, or walking through a long stretch of cleared trees and realizing that this path would soon be a road on which many more clearcuts would unfold.

For me, it was a profound experience. I would go so far as to say that it was a spiritual experience. If the movie had just ended there, I think I would have been inconsolably sad and had to call my friends for emotional support.

Luckily for the moviegoers, however — and luckily for the Na’vi — it didn’t end there. With the help of the human main characters, the Na’vi fight back against the invaders. They not only succeed in driving the human aggressors back, but also manage to take over their base. The majority of the corporation’s personnel are exiled back to Earth, and the main characters and Navi live happily ever after.

On the whole, as you can tell, I was very impressed with Avatar. One of the flaws in the movie that I will point out, though, was mentioned to me by a friend of mine. I had noticed it on some level, but might not have thought to comment on it if she hadn’t brought it to my attention. It involves the two-dimensional — or perhaps more accurately, one-dimensional — portrayal of the humans who are fighting the Na’vi.

First of all, what are their motivations? They’re a military force — perhaps more accurately, a mercenary force — so we can’t expect them to be too sympathetic to the plight of the people they’ve been hired to keep in line. At the time they signed up, it wasn’t a full-on war with the Na’vi — but given the fact that you’re guarding mining operations that are encroaching ever-further into Na’vi territory, you’ve got to have at least some clue of what you’re signing up for.

Given the dehumanizing that goes on in any war, you can expect most of them to be down with the program. But all of them? Without question, without reservation, with great enthusiasm? The only people who even seem to consider the Na’vi perspective, much less support it, are: the scientists on the mission; the ex-Marine who is working for the scientists and spends all day running around in a Na’vi body; and one pilot who is friends with the ex-Marine and science team. Everyone else is just mindlessly hungry for the blood of the Na’vi, including a general who makes a deliciously over-the-top villain but doesn’t offer any depth to the humans who work for the corporation.

The conclusion I came to about this is that James Cameron simply doesn’t find the story of the conquerors interesting. He sees them as a one-dimensional force of nature — a mindless killing machine — rather than a collection of individual human beings with their own motivations, hopes, dreams, and so on. The aforementioned general has an intense and highly visible personal character, but it is there mostly for our amusement and/or horror, and offers intensity without any real depth. This is really unfortunate from a social and political perspective because one of the most important parts of fighting against imperialism and oppression is understanding what it is and how it works!

Another smaller issue I had with the movie was a quick throw-away line about how the Na’vi and their ability to communicate with their planet-mother goddess Eywa was a scientifically demonstrable phenomenon rather than some “mystic Pagan voodoo” or some similarly ridiculous and offensive phrase.

On the one hand, it was just a throw-away line that a real scientist might in fact use when describing a form of advanced biochemical communication that might otherwise be seen as “mystical” or “Pagan” or “voodoo.” On the other hand, it felt rather jarring and out of place in a movie that is otherwise profoundly mystical and arguably deeply Pagan in its narrative. People of many faiths and beliefs can identify with the tale, of course, just as they can appreciate ancient Greek mythology, or incorporate pagan mythic elements into decidedly Christian tales such as the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or the Lord of the Rings. But it seems a bit silly to me to construct an entire tale around a planet-mother-goddess archetype and then mock the ancient Pagan cultures that gave us this archetype.

One last point about Avatar that I’d like to talk about briefly is the fan response. In particular, the fans who have become depressed because of the movie:

I’ve heard people making fun of the “Avatar Blues,” so I wanted to say something supportive about it.

Personally, when I left that movie, I felt uplifted and inspired. The Na’vi may have lost a Hometree, and many lives, but they drove back the invaders. I’ve joked with friends that Avatar was like a re-enactment of the European conquerors invading the Americas and Africa — but this time, the indigenous people had dragons on their side! It’s an inspiring tale of resistance and liberation, and it ends on a bright and hopeful note.

But I can understand why it would leave some people depressed. Maybe they never encountered a fantasy story with that strong of an archetypal narrative before; maybe the 3D effects made it seem that much more real to them; maybe the current state of the economy and the nation has them feeling more depressed than usual. Whatever it was, I can see why it would leave some people depressed, and I think it’s cruel to make fun of them for it.

A big part of what helped me to have an inspiring rather than depressing experience was my firm belief that someday, if we choose wisely and take action to make our choices a reality, we can live in a world that is far closer to the deep beauty and deep connectedness that exists in Avatar. No, we probably won’t sprout USB ponytails that allow us to connect directly to Gaia’s neural network. But we can certainly live a life of deep, personal, and daily relationship with the beautiful living ecosystems that surround us. And as a mystic myself, I believe that we may even achieve telepathic abilities one day which surpass even the biochemical form of telepathy present in Avatar.

So if you’re one of the people who left Avatar feeling like your real life was a little too grey for comfort, take heart! If the movie touched you that deeply, then you are carrying a little splash of all of that color and radiance and connection around with you deep in your heart. And you are surrounded by many other people doing the same. So even if your surroundings look very grey at the moment, there is a network of people all around you who dream of a better world — and you can be a part of making it happen.

And if you’re one of the people who hasn’t seen Avatar yet, I would highly encourage it. Even if you only watch it so that you can make fun of “Dances With Smurfs of Fern Gully,” you may find yourself touched at some point by the experience. This one is definitely a classic worth seeing.

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DONATION: Carbondale Interfaith Council

This week, I’m making a donation to the Carbondale Interfaith Council.

The purpose of the Carbondale Interfaith Council is to make God’s love visible in our community by fostering interfaith cooperation, sharing religious experiences, engaging in service, discovering unity while respecting our differences, and speaking with courage and strength for justice.

I started going to the Carbondale Interfaith Council board meetings in 2009 and am happy to be involved in the organization. Two of our most prominent programs include our support for the Good Samaritan House and the Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogues.

The Good Samaritan House was established in 1985 by the Carbondale Interfaith Council to provide services to the needy in the Carbondale area. They provide an emergency shelter, a transitional housing program, a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and an emergency assistance program.

The Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogues offer a series of public panel discussions on a variety of social and spiritual topics. Each dialogue features a leader or spokesperson from several different faiths who discuss their perspective on the topic of the day in light of their faith. After the panel discussion, speakers are open to questions and ongoing dialog with members of the community.

In addition to these long-term programs, the Carbondale Interfaith Council and members of the interfaith community also recently sponsored a small delegation to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. This delegation allowed local people of faith to interact extensively with members of the global interfaith community, sharing their experiences of faith and service here in Southern Illinois and bringing back knowledge and wisdom from the conference to the Southern Illinois community.

Even if you are an atheist or agnostic, you may find common ground with the Carbondale Interfaith Council’s commitment to public service and promotion of dialog and peaceful co-existence among people of all faiths (or no faith).

These programs are certainly reason enough to support the organization. However, I’m also making this donation on behalf of the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance.

The Carbondale Interfaith Council is primarily composed of members of the Abrahamic faith traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, they are open to engaging in dialog and shared community service work with people of all faith communities that are present in Carbondale and Southern Illinois. As a member of the Pagan community, I intend to make an annual contribution to the Carbondale Interfaith Council on SIPA’s behalf in order to demonstrate our community’s willingness to engage in community dialog and share in community service work organized cooperatively by people of many faiths.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, consider making a donation to the Carbondale Interfaith Council or the Good Samaritan House ( ).

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support you can send their way!

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

My Books

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