Tribute to My Fairy King

Freddie Mercury: This is a photo of "My Fairy King," Freddie Mercury, walking around in full regalia. My only regret is that I never got to see him perform live...This may seem completely random… but I’ve decided today to dedicate an entire blog entry to Freddie Mercury. Maybe it’s a belated birthday present to him… but whatever the reason, I figure now is as good of a time as any to share my thoughts on this epic bard whose legend lives on today.

My first clear memory of Freddie Mercury comes through the song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’m not sure whether I was first enthralled by it before or after seeing Wayne’s World, but either way, it was one of the first songs that I gravitated to.

For me, Queen became a quest. The first audio tape I remember owning was a Queen “single” that I think I literally played until it wore out. I’m not sure which songs were on it, but I think it may have been Bohemian Rhapsody and The Show Must Go On. Luckily, that tape lasted me through to the first CD I remember, which was also Queen — specifically, the Queen’s Greatest Hits album with the red cover, which was essentially the same as the first disc of the main 3-disc Greatest Hits set.

It’s hard to put into words what that CD meant to me. At the time, I couldn’t explain it at all except to say that I liked it. But in retrospect, I can definitely say that it helped me through a prolonged period of extreme depression.

As the dawn of adolescence brought on raging hormones and expanding self-awareness, I found myself feeling extremely anxious, depressed, and trapped by my banal suburban circumstances. My family was good to me, and this was actually a point where my family life was becoming more stable than it had been in the past. But this was also the precise age where I really started looking beyond my family for a social life — and somehow, the petty tyranny of suburban junior high and high school seemed like a soulless wasteland where I could never be free.

If you had asked me, I wouldn’t even have been able to put into words what it was exactly that was being denied me. But I knew that there was more to life than this, and I felt a tremendous urge to discover that life, whatever it may be.

Enter Freddy Mercury.

Now of course, I don’t want to diminish the contributions of the other members of Queen when I talk about Freddie Mercury. They all had songs that I like, and none of the songs would have been the same without the full set of artists. And yet, there was always something that made Freddie stand apart. He had a certain manic energy, a certain irresistible charm, a certain powerful magic…

My life was so boring in those days that I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like to cut loose from all of my social inhibitions and have a real party. It would be years before I could even recognize and throw off the chains that were holding me back from experiencing the full power of human emotion. But when I listened to that music, and that voice soaring and diving through the heights and depths of human passion and ecstasy, I could feel something stirring in my heart that I’d never felt before.

It was a taste of pure freedom! Yes, the joy was often mingled with pain and sorrow, but the sheer power of the unchained human heart was what always shined through most brightly for me. It was the music of a heart longing to break free… a heart falling in love… a heart that would not rest until its epic passion for the beauty and magic of life had been fulfilled, bringing the power of eternity into the presence of a single moment.

So much rock music carries some of these same themes… but when they were at their finest, Freddie Mercury and Queen breathed an incredible life and love and beauty into the drama. People who know me should know that I believe in magic as a real spiritual force… and I believe that Freddie Mercury came to us with a magic powerful enough to open people’s minds and set our hearts free.

In other words, he rocked our world.

Of course, there was a great deal of controversy among some people over the fact that he never officially acknowledged his bisexuality to the public, and that he didn’t acknowledge his HIV diagnosis publicly until the day before he died. But really, I think that both criticisms are rather petty, though certainly well-intentioned.

Sure, it would have been very helpful if Freddie Mercury had joined some political campaign to speak up on behalf of the GLBTQ movement. But really, I think that his music spoke for itself. It was music of liberation… and even though he didn’t officially contribute to the queer liberation movement, he helped make those of us who were feeling trapped by our sexually repressed society feel more free. He was also the first role model I ever had who was bisexual, which lead me to learn more about bisexuality and ultimately myself.

It would have also been very helpful if Freddie Mercury had held some sort of AIDS benefit concert while he was still with us. I’m sure it would have raised awareness tremendously and raised a good chunk of change for the cause, too. But really, he was ultimately able to accomplish in death what his desire for privacy did not allow him to accomplish in life. He was the first role model I ever had who died of AIDS, and his death and subsequent tribute concert probably raised even more awareness than anything he could have done in life.

So, both in life and in death, Freddie Mercury had a lasting influence on my life, and on the lives of millions of others who still celebrate his music today. Whether you’re a die-hard Queen fan or someone who barely knows anything about them, I encourage you to take the time to listen to a few songs, check out a few of the music videos, and let yourself be inspired by the beauty and power of this epic bard’s talent. He will always be with us in spirit…

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Six Years Later

Tribute in Light: New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 9, 2004) - As the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack approaches, a test of the Tribute in Light Memorial illuminates a passing cloud above lower Manhattan. The twin towers of light, made-up of 44 searchlightsAs we reach the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a part of me wants to just avoid the topic entirely. After all, over the past six years, I’ve devoted a seemingly endless amount of time to the topic, whether through personal reflection, 9/11 films, or public discourse of one form or another. Even so, a part of me can’t resist seizing this opportunity to talk about it yet again. Why? Because the events of that day are still having an impact on our lives, and there is still so much that needs to be said and done about it.

On September 11, 2001, I was awakened early by a phone call from my mother. As a roommate handed me the phone, I was surprised to hear a trembling sadness in her voice, as though she had been crying or was just about to. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but she basically told me that we had been attacked and that I should turn on the news to see what was happening.

Due to her early morning call, I was actually awake in time to hear the first reports of a plane hitting the second tower. From this point forward, I spent most of the day in my living room, watching the reports on TV and talking with my roommates and friends about what was happening.

It’s hard to describe my feelings on that day. And I mean that both in the sense of “difficult to explain” and “difficult to talk about.” I’d spent the past five years of my life being extremely critical of the social, economic, and political systems that those towers and that Pentagon embodied. Even on that day, the symbolism of attacking a major center of global capitalism and a major center of global militarism was not lost on me. Therefore, part of me wondered why it had taken so long for someone, somewhere to commit such an attack.

And yet, I myself have never had a love for violence. In fact, I have long had a love for peace. Intellectually, I was not surprised by this attack… but in my heart, I was shocked. No matter how often I see violence, especially mass violence, it never ceases to amaze me that anyone could be so wantonly destructive.

And so, on September 11, my fellow anti-authoritarians and I spent long hours talking about the tragedy, stewing in an odd mix of sorrow, fear, and cynicism. As the Pentagon was hit, I personally began wondering if there were hijacked planes in the air on the West Coast, or even in Chicago, where my stepfather was working a few short blocks from the Sears Tower. I also started wondering about friends in New York City who I hadn’t seen in a while but still cared about deeply. Were they one of those nameless faces covered in soot, running around trying to avoid the unthinkable collapse of another steel tower?

For perhaps the first time, I felt the reality of political violence as a personal experience. I’ve always been an empath, and thus violence has always felt very real to me even when I wasn’t the one experiencing it firsthand. This, though, was a moment when I felt a very real threat to my loved ones, and indirectly to myself. I’d seen friends subject to political arrest, surveillance, and abuse before, but that seemed to pale in comparison to the thought of people I know personally being injured or killed because someone decided to blow up towers in NYC, or LA, or Chicago, because of some political conflict.

In the days after 9/11, there were moments when I had a naive hope that this tragedy would give the majority of Americans a greater empathy for the survivors of war and terror in other nations. For a moment, maybe it did. But then, the moment passed, and our grief was twisted into a thirst for vengeance by our nation’s “leaders.” America’s sacred soil had been soaked in the blood of the innocent, and the evildoers must be punished for this unholy act.

I can’t even sit still as I think about the outrage of it all! The bodies of the victims weren’t even cold when politicians and pundits started singing their battle cries, using transparent but powerful propaganda techniques to twist national grief into nationalist war. Thankfully, most of the people I saw on the TV screen on 9/11 itself showed a genuine mix of sorrowful human emotions rather than any tendency towards war-mongering or spin-doctoring. But as day wore into night, and night slipped into morning, these genuine human emotions were pushed back into whatever dank dungeon they’re usually locked away in. Instead, as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I found myself surrounded by a bazillion American flags and a bazillion people calling for war.

In the end, the cynic in me realized that a lot of this had to do with the way that many Americans were framing these events in their own heads even as they unfolded. It’s not that war, or terror, wasn’t supposed to happen anywhere… but rather, that it wasn’t supposed to happen HERE. Not on American soil to American citizens. Watching it happen elsewhere may have been sad… but watching it happen HERE made it an UNTHINKABLE TRAGEDY.

As I watched all of the lovely artwork sprout up depicting angels mourning and caring for the victims and survivors of 9/11, I wondered when I would see the artwork of angels comforting the targets of US imperialism, ecological destruction, and the like. Do the angels not weep for children who die in Palestine? Do the angels not weep for those tortured and killed by the Contras in Nicaragua? Do the angels not weep for the children who make our clothing in distant Wal-Mart sweatshops? Do the angels not weep for the gutting of the forests, choking of the air, and poisoning of the oceans?

Do the angels not weep for those tortured in American custody, or killed by Americans in Iraq?

I for one believe that the angels DO weep for these things too. I believe in angels, and I believe that many of them weep at the sight of such suffering. But looking at Fox News, you’d never guess that an angel is watching over anyone other than the supporters of George Bush.

I want to be clear about the fact that I do mourn the tragedies of 9/11. Like many people, I felt myself change on that day in ways that are hard to describe and likely to last a lifetime. The sorrow and grief that I felt on that day changed my perspective on the entire world. But in part because of that grief and that sorrow, I also feel an intense commitment to ensuring that the madness of war and terror doesn’t claim any further victims. And the only way we can do that is by understanding the logic of war and terror, and doing our best to eliminate it.

Therefore, I would like to conclude this 9/11 reflection with two questions. By striving to answer these questions, I feel that we as Americans and we as citizens of the world can hope to uncover new truths and discover new paths towards peace.

(1) What really happened on 9/11? I’m going to an event tonight at 7pm at the Big Muddy IMC which raises this question. What I know for certain is that the “official story” is one of the most absurd theories I’ve heard so far. For example, I’ve heard all sorts of arguments and counter-arguments about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but I still haven’t heard a reasonable “official” explanation for the fall of WTC 7. If we truly want to ensure that we never have another 9/11, then our first step must be to examine the events of that day. Once we understand what really happened, we’ll be better able to stop it from happening again.

(2) What would be some real solutions to the problems of war and terror? Seeing 3,000 people die in NYC sparked tremendous grief in me, but so does watching tens of thousands die in Iraq, and millions die elsewhere from war, terror, genocide, hunger, and the like. It seems pretty clear to me that invading Iraq and blowing a bunch of things up hasn’t done much to win this “War on Terror.” In fact, it seems to me like we’ve been using terror domestically in order to psyche up the American people for causing terror abroad. But if we’re going to say that the Iraq war is bogus, and that the War on Terror is bogus, then we need to come up with our own strategies for ending terror, be it state-sponsored or freelance. Maybe we can set up our own grassroots “Department of Peace” and launch a different sort of “War on Terror.”

Anyway, these reflections have been a bit unfocused due to a mix of the complexity of the topic and my lingering hints of flu. If you’d like to talk more about it, though, I am eager to hear what you have to say. Since 9/11 is still being used as a justification for an endless War on Terror, we all have a lot to talk about…

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Dreams of Magic and Flight

Lunar Eclipse of 28 August 2007: Photo: Total lunar eclipse, by James Guilford, August 28, 2007. Originally appeared at: http://www.stephensobservatory.org/From time to time, I like to share a particularly interesting dream that I’ve had. I just woke up after an amazing dream, so here goes…

I’m not sure if I remember the very beginning of the dream, but the beginning may not be relevant. What I do remember as the beginning is probably the most spectacular scene of the whole dream, and it may have been inspired by yesterday’s beautiful lunar eclipse.

It was late at night, and I was looking up at a very cloudy night sky. The clouds were so thick, in fact, that I could see no stars anywhere, and the sky looked inky black without the usual tufts of indigo that I see on most cloudy nights.

As I looked up at the sky, something amazing happened. A large circle in the clouds opened up, and I could see a tapestry of stars. Then, a brilliant beam of silver light illuminated this opening in the clouds. This beam was the same color and width as a full moon, but brighter and much longer. The surrounding circle of parted clouds exploded into a burst brilliant rainbow colors. This all happened very quickly, with the opening of the clouds, the flash of rainbow light, and the appearance of the silve beam occuring almost simultaneously.

For a few moments, the silver beam danced about as if alive, spinning around a bit and condensing into a moon-sized ball. Then, once it was fully condensed, it flew down from the heavens and struck me in the solar plexus, filling my body with light.

This alone would have made for a great dream. But then, the dream continued.

Apparently, the ball of light had granted me the power of magical flight. I was still in disbelief a bit, and wasn’t used to flying, so I still had very minimal control over it. But with a bit of focus, and a bit of luck, I could float around through the air, mostly in a slow and horizontal manner, but picking up a bit of speed and altitude as I put my mind to it. I think I was originally in Carbondale, but as I started flying, I came to a few taller objects such as a highway-type overpass and a tall hotel or apartment complex.

This flying lead to a lot of attention from passers-by. At first, this was a very mellow and happy occurence — people looking on in wonder as someone flew slowly in front of them or above them. But then my antics captured the attention of the Technocracy.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, the Technocracy is a villainous organization in the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension. They arguably started out with good intentions, seeking to bring order to the world by convincing everyone of a common scientific worldview and thus eliminating the chaos created by random mages bending reality to their will with magic. Over time, though, they became a fascist organization, using mind control, social engineering, and brute force to control society. One of their primary goals is to neutralize “reality deviants” — people who use the power of magic to mold and shape reality in unauthorized ways.

So, the Technocracy somehow caught wind of my newfound flying abilities, and soon I was on the run. I looked around in Carbondale for people or places that I could turn to, but didn’t seem to have any luck. I went into some large office building to hide, but it turned out to be controlled to some degree by the Technocracy, so I had to rush through a security turnstyle and fly out of range of my pursuers.

At this point, I wanted to fly really fast and really high, but still hadn’t learned how to do so. Instead, I floated fairly close to the ground and headed east toward Carterville, where I knew I could find a friend of mine who would understand.

It took a bit of thinking to remember where exactly she lived, since I don’t drive and it was nighttime again at this point. But soon enough, I found my way to the house where she and her husband live. Their house was new for some reason, but I found my way in and started telling her about my adventure.

I can’t remember her exact reaction, but I think she was excited about the flying and worried about the Technocracy. At first, I was worried that they would have gotten to her before I made it out there, but we speculated that since she too was a Mage, this somehow protected her from immediate scrutiny. I knew that I couldn’t stay for long though, so after talking with the two of them for a while, I head back out onto the road.

At this point, the dream started to lose momentum and clarity. I think that my plan was to travel north to visit my brother in the Champaign/Urbana area and tell him what had happened. I met him in a train station halfway between here and there, though. He was apparently stuck due to some sort of missed or delayed connection, and I ended up talking to him about that first rather than my flying adventures. I think the dream may of continued slightly beyond this, but that’s where my memory of it ends.

Pretty interesting, eh? Here are a few of my thoughts on what it may mean…

The moonlike beam/ball of light that came down from the sky was obviously symbolic of the presence and power of spiritual inspiration in my life. From a sea of inky blackness, a burst of brilliant light emerges… it doesn’t get more straightforward than that. The very colorful and bright explosion of light inspired an incredible sense of wonder and joy in me, which leads me to believe that this symbolized the greater role that ecstatic experiences and practices are taking for me.

The fact that the light struck my solar plexus indicates to me that this has a lot to do with personal power and my sense of purpose and direction in the world. This is largely based on ideas about the chakras that not everyone may be familiar with… but even without any of that information, consider the anxious churning feeling that occurs here when we’re not sure of our personal power, and the “gut feeling” that we get when we know of something that we need to do.

The flying, of course, is an extension of that concept of personal power. The fact that I could only fly a little bit, and without full control, indicates that this sense of empowerment still feels very new and uncertain to me. The fact that I had to run from the Technocracy also indicates an uncertainty of this new power. However, I didn’t feel anxious during most of this chase… just conscious of my need to fall back and learn how to use my newfound abilities. This is a good sign that anxiety is playing less and less of a role in my life, and that I realize now that the disappearance of this anxiety is clearing the way for me to develop aspects of my personal power that I previously left undeveloped.

In any case, whether you agree with this analysis or not, I hope you found the dream itself interesting… 🙂 I believe that our dreams are very important, and I encourage everyone reading this to pay close attention to your dreams if you don’t already. If you don’t remember your dreams, you may want to keep a dream journal by your bed or under your pillow for a while. Writing them down can help you to improve your memory of them, while also giving you something to look back on later in the day, either for curiosity’s sake or for the sake of figuring out what’s going on in your subconscious.

That’s enough dream work for today. Now, it’s time to move on to the waking work… 🙂 Let me know what you think, and I hope you have interesting dreams…

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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.

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