The Optimism of the Will

The intellect is a curious thing. We talk about ideas spreading like viruses throughout society, or even across societies. (And note how, every few months, we see a sudden burst of moral outrage — around some antiquated symbol — flaring up in different states and countries only to die out like so many health scares. The moral outrage, the idea, literally spreads.)

But, although marketers and social media campaigners want to spread their particular “idea virus,” typically, we try to avoid catching actual viruses. But the term is a good one. Ideas not only grab hold of societies, they can become malignant in individuals themselves. Good intentions can pave the road to hell, to paraphrase a well-known proverb. Ideas can metastasize. Continue reading “The Optimism of the Will”

The Results of Rituals: Inside and Out

“The disciplines of physical exercise, meditation and study aren’t terribly esoteric. The means to attain a capability far beyond that of the so-called ordinary person are within the reach of everyone, if their desire and their will are strong enough,” Alan Moore once said. “I have studied science, art, religion and a hundred different philosophies. Anyone could do as much. By applying what you learn and ordering your thoughts in an intelligent manner it is possible to accomplish almost anything. Possible for an ‘ordinary person.’ There’s a notion I’d like to see buried: the ordinary person. Ridiculous. There is no ordinary person.”

Maybe one day I will measure my magical progress by how many fat sacks of cash I can manifest or by bending the universe towards whatever momentary fancy that takes up space in my head. Perhaps on another day I will evaluate myself by the frequency of flashes of blinding white light that envelop me while standing at my altar of worship. Wait, maybe when I hex all my enemies and they come to great pain for crossing me, that’s when I’ll know I’m serious about magic. Or maybe none of those things will ever happen and I’ll have merely lived a more interesting life than if I had never allowed myself to think magically. Continue reading “The Results of Rituals: Inside and Out”

The Cowardice of Defeatism

Some time ago, a casual acquaintance of mine complained to me that he had no real friends, no real interests outside of work, and that, although he was dating, it wasn’t going well. Wanting to help, I suggested that he join a gym or weightlifting group, and supplied him with contact information for several in his area. This would give him some kind of routine — and purpose — outside work, I thought to myself, and his body would improve (which would be better for his health, and for attracting women), and, of course, he would make friends.

When, a couple of months later, I ran into him again, nothing had changed. He hadn’t contacted any gyms or any of the groups I suggested, and he hadn’t made any other steps to improve his life, which he now described as “not worth living.”

Perhaps he really had no interest in improving himself physically (even if it would have a positive affect on his spiritual and mental well being and on his life in general). And, certainly, we all go through periods of stress, despondency, or of feeling “stuck.”

I have noticed over the last year, however, a certain attitude of pessimism or defeatism in some people who consider themselves to be very serious, hardcore, and uncompromising individuals. Continue reading “The Cowardice of Defeatism”