Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Top 10 Happenings In Tad's Life In The Past Month:

Hey everybody,

It's been awhile, and I haven't really given you all an in-depth update in the last month. So, here here are my highlights.

1. General Life Update: Have been feeling very humbled these days -- noticing my own reactions and uptight need for control. My sense of entitlement -- trying to balance that with getting my needs met. It's amazing, and I think it's such a hallmark of the sickness of our culture -- how entitled we can feel to having whatever we want. I remember as a child and even growing up -- I was quite the kleptomaniac. If I saw something I wanted, I took it. I can see how this same impulse plays that over the world -- I want your land and so I'll take it. It's not so much hatred of the other it's just that... they really don't matter. As the old joke goes "it's not whether you win or lose... it's whether I win."

I continue to be amazed by my capacity to suddenly tighten up, move into fear, stress and judgment. The more that I reflect on the last decade of my life the more I am simply stunned by the level of arrogance I had. God bless it for the role that it served and I'm very clear that it's no longer useful in my life. Or, at least not as a controlling a dominating force. I suppose everything is useful somewhere.

I'm still sitting a lot with the question of where this is all going -- my life. Where do I fit in this whole Gaelic world? What are the aspects of my roots and I feel most called to explore? Where do I feel most inspired to give my gifts to the world? I've heard the number of indigenous people talk about the importance of developing your "giveaway" -- your gift to the world. So, I'm still even sitting with knowing what that is.

2. Financial: Dear God is Scotland expensive. Enough said.

3. Meeting my first Gaelic elder -- while I was that the book launch for "A Waxing Moon" (a book about the Gaelic College I am attending) I met a woman - Rima Morell. She is the author of "The Sacred Power of Huna" - a book about Hawaiian shamanism. We got to talking and she mentioned that, in the north of Skye - their lives a traditional storyteller, George McPherson. He is someone who learned the stories from his parents and grandparents. They would tell him the stories and then have him repeat them back to make sure that he got it right. If he'd made any mistakes they'd correct him and have them do it again to make sure that he was passing on the stories as they'd heard them.

I was very excited as, just the week before, I’d been asking a teacher at school if there were any old "seanachie" (a word meaning "storyteller" or "tradition bearer" -- it derives from the root "sean" which means old) in the area. He had said that there were not.

As it turned out, Rima was having her own book launch in Portree the next week. She mentioned that George would be there and, since it was only an hour away, I decided to go. I loved her presentation thoroughly -- people who write books about shamanism seemed to fall into one of two camps "glassy eyed new agers" or the more grounded in legitimate variety. Rima did an incredible job of laying out the political situation in speaking primarily to that in her presentation -- which I deeply appreciated -- and she deftly woven in mystical strands as well. It was clear that she had an incredible amount of respect for the people and communities in Hawaii.

George arrived a little late and, after the presentation, I spoke to him briefly.

Rima had given me the sense that he spoke Gaelic fluently so, out of respect, I switched into Gaelic for him. After about a minute he had a look of confusion on his face. "You have met a disadvantage," he said. "I only have a little bit of Gaelic. I was following you for the first bit... " I apologized and explained that I had understood that he spoke Gaelic. "Well," he replied. "My father had excellent Gaelic but he never spoke it at home. When we were growing up it was a thing to be ashamed of. You could be punished in schools for speaking it." I asked him if there was much interest from the youth in the area in the old stories. He shook his head and told me what I'd witnessed myself, that most youth think of such things and traditions as "the past". As I was going he said, "if you're ever in the area stop by for a few stories." I'm hoping to go up some points in November and perhaps for great deal of the Christmas break in December and January.

4. Going for walks with Maggie and learning Gaelic songs: one of the few other students here from North America, Maggie, has agreed to go for a walk with every once in awhile and, while we’re walking, teach me some Gaelic songs. I already have one under my belt -- well, mostly -- and an excited to learn more.

5. Visiting a Famous Castle: one of my classes is, basically, a field trip every two weeks. It's an incredible chance to see Skye and learn about it, in Gaelic. On the last trip we visited a place named Dun Sgathaich. It's the ruins of an old Castle. But was so incredibly powerful about the experience for me was that this Castle has a very special place in the ancient myths of Ireland. It is where that great hero, CuChulain, came to train in swordsmanship. It was just amazing to think of the people in the stories as real people and to imagine where they had stood to know that, in order for them to have entered the Castle they would have had to walk across that particular bridge... just incredible.

6. Leading a workshop: Back in May, I heard about a book entitled Soil and Soul: the People Versus Corporate Power by a fellow named Alastair McIntosh - from Scotland. I ordered it, and read it and was deeply impressed with it. He was writing it targeted toward the different crowd than myself, but was coming from, in many ways a similar place. He spoke of the need for “cultural psychotherapy”, the need for people living in Scotland to reclaim their roots. I resonated with a lot of it. So, I sent him an e-mail, actually even before I had read the book, telling him how impressed I was with his web site and the themes that he was working on. I also sent him one of the papers I wrote for university about the importance of white people reclaiming their indigenous roots. He really loved paper.

Fast forward.

During the October break I'd gone down to Glasgow for a couple days and sent him e-mail again -- I really wasn't sure where he lived in Scotland. When I got back to the College -- a five-hour train ride -- there was an e-mail from him asking if I was still in Glasgow. He told me that he was going to be leading a two day workshop on Spiritual Activism and he was wondering if I would like to lead a 90 minute session. Having organized so many events myself (and having had absolute disasters happen from inviting guest presenters I'd never seen before) I knew what kind of a leap of faith this was for him. So, we discussed the idea back and forth and I went back down to Glasgow.

It was so wonderful to meet all the people of the workshop -- it was, really, one of my first times of really feeling at home with a group of people. I felt so wonderful to be in the group of like-minded folks. Alastair had asked me to speak about the importance of "conviction" in activism. I had never spoken about that before, but I thought, "why not?"

My session went quite well and I was surprised to be invited to attend the second day which Alastair had told me I wouldn't be able to attend. It was such a gift to be able to watch Alastair work -- he was very masterful in the way that he facilitated and presented and I'm just unbelievably impressed with his effectiveness as an activist. You can check out his work at

7. Hanging out with students from the Gaelic school of Art: one of the things that this College gets used for is a sort of "conference area". The Glasgow School of Art, for the past five years has been having students come up here as a sort of beginning of the year community building event.

They held a ceilidh in the Talla Mhor (The Big Hall) which also acts as a sort of informal pub. I went, got to know them, did a magic show and, the next day, went up north in Skye, by Portree, to visit a famous landmark called "the Bodach”.

It is a huge, phallic protrusion of rock.

Its name was originally the "bod" which meant... well... you know... but, maybe did Christianity or tourists it's been changed to "bodach" which means old man. It was a long and fairly steep hike up their in the wind was very loud. I remember the words my friend Puma, a Peruvian medicine man, had told me once -- he told me that if I would ever visit the sacred place or was going to do a ceremony that it was important to give something back to that place, something sweet -- maybe some fruit or candy. So, I made a Celtic cross from some white rocks and left an apple up there.


So, that's all.

I know, I know.

It was only SEVEN things that I updated you on... but uh . . learn to live with disappointment?

Gaol Mòr (Big Love),



Blogger postUK2 said...

Wow. Nice blog. I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

Here's a public health site/blog you might like. It's got lots of public health related stuff.

8:18 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home