I'm coming to the end of an almost 2 month long "Vacation" in my great home State of Maine, Now that I'm out of the military I can finally be my bad self. No more looming paranoia about Duty-Roster Call-Ins at 0400, no more standing at Parade-Rest for shit-heads who otherwise aren't fit to shovel shit from one pile into another, I'm completely free to enjoy my life for it's good times and challenges now. I've been staying with family here in Raymond for the majority of the time I've been in Maine, but earlier this week I had a chance to hang out with the only friend I have left from my days at Maine College of Art. Her name is Rosie and she's an entire package of fire-crackers tossed into a can of gasoline, she's the kind of person who'll tell you what she's thinking regardless of whether or not you want to hear it.
Fun Fact: Medicinal Marijuana is legal in Maine, just, eh... puttin' that out there for you *cough*
So, just like the good-ol-days, we spent a day chillaxing in Freeport (yes, home of the L.L. Bean Store, the second most visited tourist attraction in the State) walking up and down the streets just talking shit about yuppies and wandering into random shops looking for interesting items. Should you ever find yourself in Freeport, I highly recommend the British Imports shop right across the road from L.L. Bean but I should warn you that for some fucked up reason they don't have any FLAKE Bars (Really, WTF guys?)
However, just like the good-ol-days, Rosie wanted to pop into her all-time-favorite shop for a minute. Telling her I didn't believe in faeries anymore wasn't hard, most Wiccans don't get upset with Atheists over that stuff because they know what it's like to have some shit slung in their direction: I just kept it simple, that after everything that went down in Iraq I am DONE with religion. Period.
Anyway, back to my friend's favorite shop...
With the exception of some of my previous experiences, if you've seen ONE New-Age boutique you've pretty much seen them all: Ironically overpriced Buddha statues, nag champa incense (which I rather like, actually) a glass case full of various polished stones and unusual jewelry, maybe some of those Tibetan Prayer Flags that people out here seem to like so much, just a compendium of items that anyone with any loosely formed idea of meditation or auras might find "Ooh! Shiny!"
Back in the day I could have easily destroyed half a paycheck in a place like this, so much temptation! Rosie is still an avid Wiccan, she was actually one of the first people to introduce me to the idea over 11 years ago before "Z" hijacked my spiritual practices. I didn't see the harm, really, I just fell out of it after that long because after surviving a War Zone it seemed stupid to keep living a lie. I don't get terribly many chances to hang out with Rosie, I figured why not? Now I can look at things like this objectively and it's not like I'm not allowed inside the shop itself.
New-Agers LOVE Angels! And who could blame then? Stories of Angelic figures predate Christianity by thousands of years, and who wouldn't want an invisible super-being protecting them from harm 24/7 that they can talk to and interact with?
There's an entire corner of this place with piles upon piles of anything Angelic on every shelf, and they all look fucking identical: White robed with shiny wings, and almost all of them have blonde hair. If Angels DO exist, I wonder what they think of things like War? THAT is humanity at it's absolute worst and it's not even anything new, we've been looking for ways to kill each-other En Masse since the dawn of time and all the while they've supposedly been watching us go at it. I don't know about you, but the thought of it actually creeps me out a little. I was brought up as a child to believe in my Guardian Angel, that everybody on Earth had one that protected them wherever they went: I guess my Angel either didn't like me all that much after a while, or there's no such thing as Angels.
Which brings me to another item regarding prevalent (though not necessarily uniform) New-Age belief: Spirit guides. Animal totems, Ancestor worship, dead relatives telling you what to do, etc... Really? First of all, even if the dead COULD speak to the living I'm not too keen on the idea of taking advice from deceased family members, mostly because in the case of some of MY family many of them are dead due to NOT heeding the advice of the living (mainly by doctors, but hey...) Invisible animals aren't anything new, either: I suppose that anyone who's an animal lover wouldn't mind having a few spiritual friends that take on the guises of their favorite animals: Wolves, deer, cats, eagles, even rabbits and mice.
When was the last time you talked to anyone who bragged about having a Velociraptor as a Spirit Guide? Or a Trilobite, or an Archaeopteryx, or a Woolly Mammoth? They WERE real animals that are now VERY DEAD, why don't they get to have a say in our lives just the same?
I have a favorite animal: The Octopus. Those things are not only wicked cool animals, they're extremely intelligent and DEADLY AS FUCK! If I were to pick ONE ANIMAL that I'd live to have follow me goddamn everywhere, it'd be a Giant Pacific Octopus (and yes, they have been known to survive on land for several hours) but just because I really REALLY want one, that I'm capable of imagining one at my side offering me practical financial advice, doesn't mean it's real. And for the record, I'm not AT ALL into tentacle porn, Cephalopods in general really are just awesome creatures that deserve our appreciation and respect.
I've lost interest in the figurines and statues in this place, I move on the the part of the shop where the books are because that's where Rosie is. I consider myself an avid reader, although I don't really get to sit down and read as often as I would really like to, but I gander at the shelves and notice that nearly all of "the Classics" are here: Scott Cunningham, Silver RavenWolf (Yes, that's her name, but she seems happy with it) Doreen Valiente, among a few other popular Pagan authors as well. No matter what your beliefs, many people who write books like these will pretty much tell you do "do what feels right to you, even if it's not by the book."
If THAT'S the case, what's the real problem with people like Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey? Their own practices surely "felt right" to THEM, even if some of them confused and down-right creeped-out the rest of us, by THAT reasoning who are we to say they were wrong?
I happen across one book with a pink cover, the title alluded to practices for recovering from a bad break-up. Rosie and I both smirk at this thing and set it back down on the shelf: Though far more expensive than this little book, a bottle of Tequila and a good hard cry with a horny stranger will accomplish the same thing. On the shelf immediately next to this are rows of pristine journals that look hand-made: I used to collect these things like Pokemon and fill them with "Spells" that I'd either copied from other books or made-up on my own.
Wicca really is the epitome of making it up as you go along, but to a point they're at least willing to admit this: The general idea is that as long as you're not actively seeking to harm anyone, do whatever floats your boat. It's very rare that you HEAR ABOUT Wiccans and Pagans actively discriminating against the LGBT crowd (although rare, I promise you it DOES HAPPEN) and I think this is the reason why they tend to get along with most Atheists so well. Most Wiccans aren't proselytizers and the very nature of that faith doesn't mesh well with the idea of "winning converts" at all. If a friend decided to take up Wicca, most Wiccans would offer advice from time to time but that's about it.
Despite my internalized ramblings and criticism, even a few memory-replays while in the shop, I DID buy myself something: An $11 pair of earrings made out of recycled plywood, I'm not joking.
What can I say, I saw them and knew deep down that I really wanted them (must have been A Sign, LOL!) and they were made locally, or so the card said.
I took them to the counter and I paid cash, the clerk looked like Penn Jillette with braided pigtails but was otherwise very friendly and courteous to me. It's not like I put my bright red "SNARKY & BITTER ATHEIST" hat on before going inside, and I doubt these are the kinds of people that really care what I think but genuinely appreciate their customers. And why wouldn't they? I doubt they think they're selling people snake-oil, many of them honestly believe it themselves and I'm fine with that: They have every right to believe whatever they like.
Just as I have every right to reflect on my experiences and criticize their beliefs to no end.
Rosy and I concluded our visit and went out for coffee, I put my recycled plywood earrings on as soon as I walked out of the store.
It was a good day indeed ^_^