Uncle Thor's Lessons, Anecdotes and Humor

22
Apr

A Few Business Lessons

A few lessons from 25 years experience running the Trollwise Press

The Post Office used to be a great deal. It has lost some of its edge over the others. When I first started using the Priority Mail fixed-rate mailers, the fee was about $3.00 a pop. The biggest expense and source of trouble is shipping. The trick is to streamline shipping without cutting corners. For instance, you need to use padded mailers even though they cost more. You want your product to get there in good shape. Plain envelopes give very poor protection, though they seem cheap.

The Post Office has free boxes and mailers. The trick is to know when to use Priority Mail (fixed rate mailers & boxes), First Class, Parcel Post or Media Mail. This is easier if you do business via PayPal. They make it possible to send orders from home.

Shipping has to get your goods to the customer in good shape, in a timely fashion. There are times when fixed-rate Priority Mail; is both the fastest and cheapest way to go. There are times when the most economical rate, Media mail, is as slow as molasses. Before starting a business that ships, try to get a handle on prices, time, etc.

You cannot cut many corners. Most corner-cutting adversely affects the product, the shipping or customer satisfaction. Work to economize without getting stuck in a nickel-and-dime attitude.

If you plan to add a breakable item to your inventory, test ship a few to friends in different parts of the country. You will learn if it can be shipped, and how to best ship it so it arrives intact.

Every corner you cut results in at least one unhappy customer.

A dissatisfied customer needs attention. At least hear what he has to say. You can afford to lose crackpots and customers who end up losing you money by fussing too much. There are not many of them. You cannot afford to lose customers who like the product or service, especially those who endorse it and come back for more. A dissatisfied customer can be an opportunity to make a loyal customer. It all depends on how you handle it. Make extra effort. You may even have to lose a little profit from the sale, but the effort you make can turn a complaint into an opportunity. A good response to a complaint turns an unhappy customer to a satisfied one.

Customer complaints will reveal flaws in your business. They will tell you what to fix. For example, we got several complaints about our packing when we started out. By addressing the problem, we improved our shipping and customer satisfaction.

Remember that customers like to think you are listening to them. It takes very little effort to be attentive to them.

One of the factors affecting a very small enterprise like mine is vulnerability to outside causes. I am dependent on my suppliers and shippers. I have very little control over them. As much as I like to be timely in filling orders, it may take time for an item to be shipped here. Likewise, we are subject to the issues our shippers face. For instance, a package we sent to one place may take only a few days, while another sent near the same destination may take over a week. My ability to get product to customers is affected by the performance of suppliers and shippers.

Price is important. For instance, I have been using off-brand toner cartridges for years because they are priced much lower than original manufacturer. The problem is making sure these other cartridges print at the same quality as costlier ones. A good supplier offering quality toner at good prices makes the difference here.

Our consumables are toner, ink, paper, cardstock and binding supplies. Prices have climbed considerably since we first launched The Trollwise Press. Quality is important. I have found that if you shop around, you can get good prices on better quality paper and cardstock. I have also found that going to an office supply store like Staples is usually more expensive than shopping online. I get my comb binders online at a much reduced price from what the office supply stores charge, for instance. (Ffellowes brand is compatible with GBC and is much cheaper at Shoplet.com)

A good online supplier will tend to carry quality merchandise, some at a very deep discount.

Communicate. Let customers know if an order will be late. Keep them apprised of your progress in situations where things are behind schedule.

If you lose a customer, odds are low that you can ever get him to come back.

Complimentary items work if the customers likes and uses them. You cannot throw any old thing at people and call it a gift. Make sure the gift is appropriate. For example, a booklet on a subject related to the books a customer purchases makes a good complimentary item.

I have run The Trollwise Press for 25 years. I have written almost all of the books, magazine articles and other materials. The typesetting, graphics, layout and paste-up are all my work, too. And yes, I do the printing, cutting, assembling and binding as well as packaging and shipping of all our products. It is all done with a laser printer, paper cutter, comb binder and stapler. I developed my own publishing system and it still works to this day.

18
Apr

Gods Work through Man and Other Means

Call it Gods or Spirit, it has its preferred ways of working. A humorous story tells the tale:

Alongside a mighty river lived man who claimed to have great faith in the God of his understanding. He had such faith they he felt his God would save him from any dire circumstances.

It so happened that a particularly bad bout of weather and tides had swelled the river far above normal. There were flood warnings. The civil authorities recommended that people evacuate to higher ground. All folks in the area except the man of faith did so. The man stayed, certain in his belief that his God would make things right.

The flood waters rose over his porch and started to fill the first floor of the house. The man of faith prayed to his God for help. He called for Divine power to set things right. Hardly had he finished praying when he heard people calling on a bullhorn. Outside, he saw a rowboat by the house. The men in the boat were calling to anyone who needed to be rescued.

When the man of faith came to the window, they said, “Get in! We can take you somewhere safe.”
“No, I do not need it! My God will rescue me,” the man replied

The men in the boat tried to convince him to accept their help, but he steadfastly refused. The boatmen finally left him and looked for others who needed help.

Flood waters continued to rise. They rose so that the man had to go to the second floor. He prayed again to his God for help. Before he finished his prayer, he heard a large motor boat outside. The man went to the window. There was a larger boat with several people in it..

“Get in! Hurry!,” the people called to him.

“No, I cannot do that! My God will make things right for me!” he replied. Though they tried to urge the man to join them, he would not. They finally had to leave to seek others who might need rescue.

The flood kept rising until the man had to climb onto the roof. He was on the highest part of the roof and the waters lapped at his feet as he prayed to this God again. Then he heard the rotors of a helicopter. He looked and saw a whirlybird approach him. The door on its side opened and a crewman unraveled a ladder.

“Climb up,” said the crewman. ‘Hurry!”

The man replied,” No. I have faith in my God that he will make things right. He will see to my safety.”

Try as he would, the helicopter crewman could not convince the man to climb aboard. The helicopter finally had to leave to rescue others.

Soon, the waters swept the man from the roof and he drowned.

In the next world, the man met up with his God. The man looked disappointed. He said, “How come you did not answer my prayers?”

His God replied,” I sent two rowboats and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

There are many miracle stories. Almost every religious tradition has them. The Jewish and Christian scriptures probably have more that most. There are everything from a parting of the sea to a burning bush that talks to feeding enough folks to fit a minor league stadium with just a handful of fishes and bread. Of course, the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Shinto people have their own miracle tales. It is funny how folks will take their scriptures at face value. Miracle stories are part of the art of storytelling.

Catholicism has a thing called Hagiography, or the Study of the Saints. The peculiar thing about it is that on the surface, hagiography seems to be seeking historical facts about saints and any miracles they may have caused. Beneath that superficial level, hagiography often asks if a given saint could perform a certain miraculous act attributed to him. Whether he actually did it or not is another matter. I think most miracles, Catholic or otherwise, are like hagiography. It matters not if it happened, so much as if it could have happened.

I have had a few unusual spiritual experiences. They are hard to describe in human terms. As for miracles? The scriptures and folktales are nice stories, but real miracles happen differently. There is no big flash of light, no disembodied voice, and no moving of earth or sea. My experience and that of many others is that the Gods work through others. They also work through coincidences. One might say that the Gods work anonymously.

The Gods are not going to send you a great big blast of wind to whisk you off the roof when flood waters threaten you. They will not send a troop of Valkyrie to ride you to safety. However, they just might send a rowboat.

Gods prefer to work through circumstances. For example, whenever there is a disaster, we heard of people who were somehow deterred from going to that location. They may have had everything from engine failure to missing their train to a more complex set of events. What is striking is just how weird are the circumstances that led to those events. Call it an eerie coincidence. Nonetheless, the people never got to the place where disaster struck. They missed the plane that crashed, or never made it to the building that collapsed, or never got to the town where the earthquake struck.

Disasters are extreme circumstances. Godly coincidence can also happen in the most everyday things. Miracles of this sort can be the biggest or the most minor of things. It is the end result that counts.

The Gods do not fulfill things in you way. They do it their way. You can be sure that in doing so, they also manage to accomplish many other things that go along with their plans. We are not privy to all of their work, so we do not know the entirety of the situation that the Gods have in mind.

Is it Wyrd or the Gods? Both, or neither? Whatever you decide, your answer is more likely to come via a man in a rowboat than the sky opening with a blast of trumpets and a company of spiritual beings..

17
Apr

Spiritual and Medical Healing

Rarely in past times was spiritual healing done apart from physical medicine. The many magickal potions and other formulae of the ancients were medicines. They worked because of the medicinal properties of their ingredients. Spiritual work supported physical medicine but did not replace it.

There are religious sects in these times that emphasize spiritual healing to the exclusion of physical medicine. Indeed, a few of these groups go so far as to condemn medical healing. They regard use of medicine as a lack of faith in their deity.

I remember a fellow who had been studying a school of metaphysics that believed heavily in the power of spiritual healing. That same school did not discourage people from seeking medical help. The man in question may have missed that. One day, he told me he had a headache. He was going to use spiritual healing to meditate the headache away. Before I could reply, he left.

The man came back a couple of hours later. I asked him if he had overcome the headache. He replied that he had not.

“Taking an aspirin would be much simpler,” I said. Indeed, by meditating on the headache, he probably prolonged it. Nonetheless, he took the aspirin and soon was rid of his headache.

There are cases where spiritual healing has been sufficient to do the job. They are relatively few compared to the many that require medical work. Keep in mind that spiritual healing has not had much success with heart and circulatory problems. Also, it should be noted that hospitals do not employ faith healers..

Use spiritual healing along with medical healing for best results.

(By the way, public faith healers have an assortment of carnival-type tricks they use at revivals and other events. Their miracles are actually variations of old parlor tricks.)

Doctor versus Herbos

The New Age and Wicca have engendered a crop of herbal and other “natural” healers. Most of them learn their trade via books and occasional classes at New Age shops. Some are taught by mentors who learned their craft the same way and then practiced it for a few years. Few of these herbal healers have a recognized medical background.

I have done my share of playing with herbs for magickal purposes. My friends and I had a lot of fun and we learned a few tricks. Most of what we made were incenses and a few magickal charms.

A Wiccan friend related his own experience with the New Age type herbal healers. He had a problem, so a herbalist recommended using a tea of comfrey root. Comfrey has long been recognized for its medicinal properties. The leaves and root can be used. The herbalist recommended using the root for tea.

The result was not what was expected. My friend started having liver trouble. His self-made herbalist friend had prescribed too much of the root. (For the record, the root is more concentrated than the leaves.) The man, who was also an experienced Wiccan teacher, ran right into two major problems with self -made herbalists. They are lacking in diagnostic skills and in prescribing the right dosages.

There is a belief held by many natural-remedy fans that herbs are natural and therefore 100% safe. They seem to forget that belladonna, black hellebore and loco weed are also natural herbs, and they can kill. What they also often do not understand is that many of the same herbs they like are the active ingredients in modern pharmaceuticals. Herbs are not 100% safe, but must be carefully selected and given in the right amounts and combinations.

Medical doctors and to a lesser degree, nurses, have been taught to diagnose ailments. They know the signs of the various afflictions and have the means to determine if a person is having a case of shock or the flu. Most of the self-styled herbalists do not have this training.

Doctors and nurses also understand the issue of dosages. They have learned how to determine an appropriate dose based on various factors, such as the severity of the ailment, the patient;’s weight, and other drugs being administered. Backing them up are pharmacists who specialize in making medicine. Pharmacists have a great understanding of drugs, healing effects and side effects. The drugs themselves are made under carefully-controlled conditions with very precise dosages. By themselves, herbs are not as precise. Some batches of herbs may be more potent than others because of climate, environment, seasonal conditions for the year they grew, etc.

One of my own lessons in medicinal herbs involved four old “tonics” I had learned. Each used about two tablespoons of honey and a glass of warm water. Each was infused with a tea made of one of four herbs: chamomile, spearmint, peppermint or lemon balm. I had mentioned them to a friend who was a nurse. She laughed. She explained how the tonics worked:

Each of the herbs was known for its medicinal properties. The honey gave a quick burst of energy that would aid healing. The warm temperature made it easier for the tea and honey to pass through stomach walls and so be ingested. Because of the nature of the herbs, even a strong tea would not be harmful.

Many herbs are also spices. I have found that commercially-available spices tend to have good purity and consistency insofar as quality and potency. My wife worked in the food industry and has told me that spices also have the reputation of being dirty. Making them pure enough to sell as food takes some effort.

All things considered, the medical profession is very successful at handling illnesses and injuries. There is nothing unnatural in seeing a doctor and using modern pharmaceuticals.

23
Mar

Those Who Threaten to Leave over an Election

Several famous people have commented that if a certain candidate is elected president, they will leave the country. For some of them it is Trump; others hate Hilary. Now, if a celebrity named Kanye West leaves, I think a lot of people will be relieved. The others run the gamut of the entertainment industry.

I am not leaving the country, whether the president is Trump (Captain Hair), Hilary (Ms C-word), Sanders (Cranky old coot) or penguin-faced Cruz (El Buffuno Grandissimo). We have had good presidents, bad presidents, great presidents and buffoons. The nation has always survived. The US survived the Civil War. It survived Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. We survived George W Bush and we are surviving Obama. As for demonstrations at rallies, does anyone remember the 1968 Democratic Convention?

Even the worst president cannot ruin the country if there are people here to keep things on a steady keel.

If the US is home, then why let an election make you leave? Would it not be better to remain and do your part to maintain the nation’s well being than run away?

During our Revolution, the phrase “sunny day patriot” described those whose patriotism waned when things got tough. Genuine patriotism stands firm in good times and bad. These days, that also includes good presidencies and bad ones. That means times when a presidential policy causes a problem. For instance, two of Obama’s schemes impacted me financially. That is no cause to flee. We all get hit sometimes. Life is unfair, so ride it out.

This is our country. We, the people of the United States. Neither the president nor the Congress nor the Senate own the country. They change from one election to the next. Only a fool would let someone drive him from his home by being elected. A fool or a wimp. There are times in life when you have to grin and bear it.

The fact is that very few Americans would think of leaving. Even fewer would leave. For those who do, a quote form and old R&B song applies: “Don’t let the screen door hit you where they good lord split you.” Note that the crybabies are all entertainers and media types. Overpaid, spoiled brats.

People of substance will stand firm.

Believe me, a bad president is the least of our worries.

********

Many of the Syrian refugees are sunny day patriots. Many are fighting-age men. Rather than pick up a rifle and help defend their homes, they run like a pack of scared geese. I have read of interviews with the Syrian refugees who calmly state that they will not fight. Obviously ,they want someone else to fight for them.

Not only does that ring of cowardice. It also makes them vulnerable in another way. They will have to deal with the folks who will fight to recover those towns and homes. If it is an Arab town that had been liberated by Kurds, for instance, then the town may be absorbed into Kurdish territory. The Syrian refugees may go back home to find a new set of overlords.

When you let others fight for you, you allow them to rule the roost.

Give the Kurds their due. They have been fighting from the start. Kurds are willing to fight to defend their homes and to take the battle to the enemy. The images of Kurdish women who have taken up arms stand in stark contrast to Syrian and Iraqi men running to Europe.

One anomaly is that the refugees claim to be begging for help. Then they behave badly, as has been seen in Sweden and Cologne, Germany. Norway has no patience with them and any refugee who gets out of line is deported quickly. Many refugees from the Middle East mistake kindness for weakness. They need to be handled firmly. As we are seeing, the governments’ failure to address the problem is leading to a rise in vigilante groups.

28
Jan

The Best Kind of Friend

A trick of self-deception is to mistake the messenger for the message. Many times, a person who is wrong wants to ignore or deny his mistake. This is all the more true if he wants to persist in this erroneous activity. When someone calls him to task, he will argue with great effort to discredit his accuser’s statement. Winning the argument does not change the fact that something is wrong. However, the trick is self-deception is that the wrongful one thinks that by discrediting his accuser, the problem does not exist.

All he has really accomplished is to fool himself and to perpetuate his mistake.

Dismissing the messenger does not dismiss the message. The above example is one where the individual mistakes one for the other. If an enemy army were coming with overwhelming force, the general does not end the threat by executing the messenger who informed him of it. The enemy is still coming and all the general is left with is a dead messenger and no battle plan.

This bring up the best kind of friend. A real friend will keep you from doing something incredibly stupid. For instance, suppose the road you want to use has a problem. The bridge is out. Your friend knows about it. If he is that best kind of friend, he will try to stop you from using that road. Should you insist, he will be even more insistent that you do not use it. No matter how angry you get, the friend will stand fast. In the end, he prevents you from doing yourself serious harm.

The worst kind of friend will want to please you, and will let you do whatever you want. That includes going down the road where the bridge is out. That is not a friend. That is a “yes man.” The sole purpose of a yes-man is to stroke a person’s ego. To that end, people of substance have the best kind of friends. People with easily-bruised egos have yes-men.

One of the things a friend can do is help you find flaws in your plans. A true friend well tell you if he thinks something you are planning is flawed. He will also tell you exactly why he feels that way. If there is a flaw you missed, well, you just “dodged a bullet.” If your friend was mistaken, no harm is done. At least you know he is paying attention. Many times, an astute friend will keep you from making mistakes and alert you to things that need to be addressed. You may be so focused on your project that it takes a second pair of eyes to make objective criticism.

One example is when writing an important letter to address an issue. My wife and I use a simple process. Before sending an important missive, we let the other read it over. Along with exposing any points that might need clarity, it helps assure that the message we intend to send is indeed the message the other party receives. Many a mis-communication is avoided and corrected in this simple exchange.

None of us is infallible. There are things each of us can do better. Sometimes it takes the best kind of friend to point that out.

In other words, “Without someone to “pull your chain”, you might run right over the precipice.”

28
Jan

The Wise and the Teachable

If you leave one path for another, make no effort to burn bridges behind you. Unless, of course, you leave on bad terms, because of a problem,or such. You may find, as most do, that every stage of your spiritual journey gave you something. It is nice to know that you still have friends there and can visit on good terms. My only regret in this is that many of the friends I made along the way have passed from this life. Many of them were wiser, more experienced individuals who generously shared their wisdom with me. Of course, they were also much older than me and so are no longer with us.

I have had the benefit of knowing many wise and wonderful people in my own spiritual journey. One trait they had in common was their willingness to share their insight, experience and wisdom with others. Their generosity of spirit was remarkable. It is a trait that I have found in people of several schools and traditions. These people did not try to act wise or spiritual. They were natural in everything they did. Genuine teachers are like that. Those who do not have it try to act as if they do. Those who have it are just naturally themselves and do not need to act the part.

Another interesting characteristic of truly wise people is that they are not full of rules and regulations. No “you have to” or “thou shalt not.” They offer guidance and suggestions, but do not burden others with rules and musts and have-tos. This is not to say they have an “anything goes” attitude. Quite the contrary. The wise will assure you that anything does NOT go! However, their guidance is unburdened by useless technicalities and annoying complexity. That is how they can give you more insight in a sentence or two than you would get from a lengthy diatribe. Many newcomers who seek are so convinced it must be complex that they miss the subtle beauty and simplicity of genuine wisdom.

I have learned from wise men and women of various traditions, various backgrounds, various races and ethnicities. I am thankful I had the good sense to listen. The fact that I am alive and sentient today is because of sage guidance long ago.

A wise, tough old man told me the value of being teachable. One day, he had opportunity to give me an example. A man who was so full of his own ideas and worries came to him. The man would not let go of these things and so was unteachable. The wise old fellow told him to come back when he was ready to be taught. After the man left, the old one said to me, “There you see why a person must choose to be teachable.” Indeed, the lessons I learned were because I was willing to learn.

If you choose to be teachable, those who can teach you will appear.

Here I am, aged 60 years plus. I have wisdom and experience of my own to share. Be that as it may, there are still things I can learn and people who have wisdom to share with me. I am ever thankful for the wise old-timers who came my way over the many long years. I find peace in the fact that I am still willing to learn. And so, my advice to you is to remain teachable and keep learning. Stay interested in life. He who is unwilling to learn any more is like a stagnant swamp receding into putrefaction. He who remains teachable is like an ever-renewing stream of spring water, ever fresh and clear. Even in old age, his spirit is fresh.

07
Jan

Northwest Nut-Hatches

The stand-off in Oregon is reaching comic proportions. There is a bunch of unshaven guys in cammies holed up in a wildlife refuge building in the middle of nowhere. They have been there a few days and the place is probably already stinking of unwashed morons, more so because the toiled paper has probably run out. (If they did not think to bring snacks, they would probably not think of toilet paper.)

Is that supposed to be a stand-off with the police? They do not even know how to make a viable threat.

When most people think of a stand-off with the cops, what do we think? Bonnie & Clyde. John Dillinger and Baby-face Nelson. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and the Ma Barker gang. Machine-gun Kelly. Pretty Boy Floyd. All of the aforementioned were well-dressed individuals who gave the stand-off a bit of prestige. We certainly do not think of a bunch of hungry rednecks stinking up a small building in a wildlife refuge out in the middle of nowhere.

Some of those who participate claim to be veterans. What kind of veterans? Infantry veterans would have come prepared for a siege. That is part of their experience. Supply clerk veterans and transportation veterans could have been in harm’s way, but they are still not trained for a stand-off. An infantryman would not forget to pack along plenty of c-rations and toilet paper. A supply clerk might.

And yet again, it all renders down to a big bunch of smelly guys crowded into a little building, begging for snacks. I am certain they will be very morose when the lack of electricity means they won’t be able to watch Duck Dynasty and Last Man Standing.

*******

There have been some prize crackpot schemes. This one takes the cake. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, the governor of NJ said, “If it sounds stupid, it probably is.” That certainly applies here. All the cops have to do is keep them surrounded and let nature handle the rest. Participating in a wackadoodle plot like this is like volunteering to go to jail.

As to the Bundys, they remind me of a jackass from many years ago. The man had a run-in with some people, including the owners of a bar. He decided he was going to go up there and have a brawl. What he did was go to a couple bars in his neighborhood and invite guys to have a few drinks with him. He did not tell them he needed extra muscle for a brawl. So here they were, at this bar, expecting a good time. Next thing, the owner locks the door and out comes his muscle: a biker gang. Making it worse, the guys that the fool invited were not brawly folks. They were people who only wanted to have fun, not people you would bring to a brawl with knives, bats and motorcycle chains. One of my friends nearly got killed that night all because of the jackass who suckered his friends into a fight. (I was not there. I ran with a different crew.)

The Bureau of Land Management probably needs to be fixed. However, an ill-conceived scheme is not the way to do it. Tactically, legally and otherwise, the whole thing is ridiculous. All those men did is put themselves in a precarious position. And all the police have to do is sit and wait.

03
Jan

Read It Yourself!

Almost 30 years ago, I was taking classes at a metaphysical organization. I liked their way of explaining esoteric things in plain American English. I had taken a short series of classes that were bright, informative and enjoyable. The practitioner’s course was being offered. I decided to try the first part. (I never saw it as conflicting with Heathen beliefs, and I still do not.)

The metaphysical school has its own basic textbook. It had been written originally in the late 1920s. For the practitioner course, the leader of that particular group opened the book and started reading two or three lines. He then added his interpretation of them. He repeated this throughout the lesson. The book itself was clear and plain. There was little doubt what it meant. So why did this teacher insist on interpreting it for us? Why not give us the benefit of his experience and insight? Obviously, I did not go beyond the first part. For the money they charged for the lessons, I could read the book for myself. In fact, I already had!

There is one place I have seen this before: Biblical exegesis. These exegetical works are where a clergyman goes through the Bible line-by-line, giving his interpretation. Frankly, it is the work of windbags who like to hear – or read – themselves talk.

Why do people think that we need to have them explain what we are reading?

Recently, someone posted a thing promoting some author’s new book on the Havamal. It was not a translation, but a re-interpretation of the Havamal “for our times”. In other words, the author purports to interpret the book for us and give it a timely spin. I looked at the author’s blog and saw an awful lot of writing just for making a few points.

The Havamal has been translated many times. I always liked the Hollander translation. It kept the poetic format and was written in pretty clear English. There are others I use. I have a few older translations online that can be used without infringing copyrights, for instance. The rest of the Eddas have been translated, as well as the Gaesta Danorum, Tacitus, and so on and so forth. There are many competent translations of these famous works. Aside from a few technical snags, they are all pretty clear. Read one, compare it with another, and you get the same story. Whatever the particular translation, it tells you its message and unless you are a complete moron, you understand it. Ancient Nordic, Greek and Roman writings were that way. They were for their people what plain English is for us. In fact, Norse, Germanic, Greek and Roman literature translates into modern Western languages rather easily.

Compare this with translations of the Bible. Hebrew does not translate as easily as the European languages. Hebrew is a Semitic language akin to Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic. The syntax is very different. Nonetheless, Bible translations are pretty consistent. Compare the King James (Anglican), Douay-Rheims (Catholic), Revised Version / AV, Good News Bible and even the translation from the Aramaic Bible. There are differences in the flow of the language, mostly due to the times they were translated. King James is in an older dialect; Good News is in the style of the 1960s. (The Hippy-Dippy Bible?) Despite minor differences, they are all very consistent. Some are translations, some are transliterations, but the story is the same. Which ever one you read, David still flattens Goliath with a slingstone and Jesus gets hoisted by Italian guys.

The clergy of the various sects and denominations of Christianity like to tell people what the Bible means. They assume that people are too stupid or too unenlightened or too ungodly to understand what they are reading. Yet pick up a translation of the Bible and you get the same message as some hoity-toity windbag preacher who is reading the same translation. Compare translations and it is all the same bunch of stories. So obviously, the clergyman who wants to interpret for you is either a condescending jackal or a pompous ass of the first order.

People do not need to have the Eddas and other lore explained for them. We do not need to have it re-interpreted for a new age. This is because with few exceptions, we are sentient and literate people who can read and understand. We can read and can figure things out for ourselves.

Besides, we are a non-scriptural religion. The old lore is a starting point, but we do not hinge on its every word. We do not quote the old lore to justify or excuse our actions and motives. The old lore is a finger pointing the way, not the way itself. And as each of us lives his or her own life on its own merits, each takes it as he or she sees fit. We certainly do not need someone to tell us what we are reading and how we should deal with it.

Read it for yourself or do not read it at all!

Rest assured, the Norwegian man in Bergen who reads the Norwegian version of the Eddas and the French fellow in Brittany reading the French translation is getting the same message as you and I reading in English. Translations may miss a few nuances, but the meat and heart of the story is there. We certainly do not need someone to be so arrogant as to want to tell us how to interpret what we are reading. We have been doing that for ourselves.

****

You are reading these things for yourself. Whether you like a poetically-structured version like Hollander or a translation that reads like a storybook, enjoy it. Read the ones that speak most comfortably and clearly to you. Heathenism has no “authorized version”. The important thing is that you get the message in a manner that you can appreciate. Whether you read of Thor defeating Hrungnir in verse or prose or a storybook with pictures, it is still the same story . Heathenism is not a dogmatic way and so we should not be dogmatic, especially since we are a non-scriptural religion. Read the works that you enjoy most. You will get more out of them.

30
Dec

On Finding Your Spiritual Home

Through the many adventures in spirituality, I chose to make the old Norse and German tradition my home. It felt right. It fit. It was natural. Know that I have not thrown out everything else I learned. For instance, I still read Tarot. One should not throw out the baby with the bath water. At the same time, a person eventually has to declare one tradition his home and work from there.

Did I choose it or did it choose me? I never really left it. It was with me all along. This is who I am.

When seeking your path, comfortability is essential. You want the one that is most natural to you. I have found that what often happens is a person will find a comfortable way of spirituality and spend time there. Then he may drift to an even more comfortable one. What happens is that he gets to one place and learns all he needs, and then it is time to move on. Often, these are like stops along the Spiritual Hiking Trail. You need to linger at one and get its benefits before you are prepared for the next one.

Then again, some folks find that one system or school that fits them for the rest of their lives.

If you do leave a friendly school or system to take your spiritual journey further, do so peaceably. Don’t burn bridges. Sometimes when we move on ,we think that which we left is somehow not good enough. We may even feel a bit derisive. That is just a natural way of psychologically making the break easier. Do not feed into it. Go in peace and friendship. In time, you will remember that place fondly for the time you spent there and the things you learned and the people with whom you learned them. In some cases, you may even go back there to stay after having learned all the other things along the way. At least, you can always go back for a visit with old friends.

Do the teachings agree with you? Do you like the people? Would you like them if the issue were something other than spirituality? For instance, would you like these people if you were all taking a cooking class together? Would they be acceptable company if you were joining a hobby club, forming a PTA committee or having a union meeting? If not, LEAVE.

Do they try to make you change the way you act, talk or dress? Do they try to tell you how to run your personal life? If so, LEAVE while you still have a chance

The same goes for teachers and leaders. Would you want to be around this person if the issue at hand were not spirituality? Would you feel comfortable inviting him for brunch with your friends? Would he be someone you could introduce to your spouse or other relatives? Would you feel safe if you were alone with him?

People are a good indicator of where a path will take you. Again, look at those who have been at it a while. Are they happy? Does their life show goods results? If they are not happy, LEAVE. Likewise, if they tend to be smug, spiteful or negative in their outlooks, LEAVE. The same goes for those systems where older members tend to look down on newer ones. You are doing this for your self-betterment, so why risk doing things that could make you as miserable, nasty , or otherwise unpleasant as some of the people you see.

The plain fact is that spirituality is unregulated and has no agreed-upon set of standards. There are unscrupulous individuals, narcissists and others who see this as an opportunity to satisfy themselves. They prey on the gullible and the socially needy. Some are nothing more than slugs seeking to have sex with people who might otherwise deny them. Others are social basket cases seeking to get recognition.

“Avoid Creeps in an occult shop.” More then once when looking for hard-to-find books in occult shops, I have had creepy individuals try to strike up a conversation. I tried to avoid getting into a discussion with them. They might be trying to make a friend, or get someone interested in what they are doing, or even put themselves up as teachers. You can tell they are creeps from the start. They are like everything I have said about the teachers and leader and groups to avoid. So when assessing schools and people regarding spirituality, think of that saying: “Avoid creeps in an occult shop.”

Remember always the old axiom: If it sounds too good, it probably is.

You are doing this for your own benefit. Why suffer? You should be enjoying it. If not, time to go elsewhere!

29
Dec

Spiritual Growth: On Gathering Insight

On Gathering Insight

Many people think that the way to gain spiritual insight is to read and learn and study. That has its merits, but is not the way, I find that part of gaining insight is not a gathering of more, but a letting go of outworn ideas. Insight is simplicity rather than complexity. It is a release of burdens and the dropping of impediments.

Among things that are dropped are unproductive attitudes and counterproductive habitual thinking. With maturity and spiritual growth comes conflict with bad mental habits. Some of these are faulty attitudes and habits of long duration. They have either persisted since childhood or seemed reasonable at the time they were adopted later in life. We hold on so hard we do not realize we are better off without them. The need to rid oneself of them should be apparent. They are held tightly until one matures to the point that they become unbearable. Once the process of releasing them has begun, however, the bad old habits and attitudes start dropping one after another.

Another thing that is released is a certain rigidness of spirit. One sees that the journey is not one that can be enhanced by rules and petty demands. He can be firm in his resolve, but is not rigid. There is flexibility and yet there is backbone. Think of the Yew that can bend when necessary, yet always returns to its true form.

Early on, the need to conform and seek the approval of others is released. The journey is taken for oneself, not others. Therefore, he need not justify himself on what others may say or do. Freedom from conformity with others and freedom from their opinions is among the most liberating things.

Perhaps the best is freedom from perfection. There is no longer a need to believe that everything in the Universe has to be perfect. Likewise, one need not be perfect. What we see as the imperfections of Life are just aspects of how Life works. Without the need to believe in an infallible creator or an infallible creation, one frees himself from an awful burden. Perfection is a human idea and it is not an absolute, but a relative thing. Perfection is not the same as precision. Perfection is a concept that only exists in the eye of the beholder.. Precision exists no matter who is looking. Precision does not set a moral standard and so does not burden our spirit. Precision is the joy of the scientist, engineer and craftsman.

As you learn, you realize that nothing has to be your way. Then you cede the need for things to conform to what you think they ought to be. Instead, you let them reveal what they really are. Everything is what it is. Trying to make it fit some pre-conceived notion will only distort it. Patience allows the time for understanding to unfold. Rigid definitions crumble with the growing of insight and understanding. Better it is to let it show you itself than for you to try to tell it what it should be.

Spiritual growth can be like letting fall a rucksack full of rocks.

*****

In my six decades, I have encountered people who are rigid, severe and insistent on “perfection.” They are unyielding and demanding; as a result, they are bitter and resentful. One might say they are “tightly wound” like an over-stressed clockwork spring. Such tightness of spirit impedes the flow in oneself and in the Life around oneself. It backsup and causes stagnation of the spirit. You can see it in their faces when they get older. Such persons are an unhappy lot: implacable and unable to take joy in Life.

I am reminded of the analogy of trying to hold a handful of sand. If you try to grip the sand in your fist, you lost it. The tighter you grasp, the faster it goes. Let the sand rest in your cupped, open palm and it stays. The sand is an allegory for the joy of living.

The door to insight opens inward. If you force it, you push it away. If you ease into it, you draw it to you. I first heard this many, many years ago. All these years later, this lesson has been proven tiem and again.

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