Archive | Sacred pop culture

Tequila on Thursday Morning

Last Thursday, May 18th, I sat at my desk at 10 am and took two shots of tequila.*
One for Chris Cornell’s death.
And one for his life.

The life that came through that amazing voice.

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I haven’t said anything yet, because my grief is not over. Barely begun, honestly. The 3-day emotional cycle of social media is not enough for this death, for me.

Chris Cornell was someone I chose to listen to, a few years after the biggest rush of grunge. I bought Temple of the Dog as one of my 10 CD selections with BMG (only a penny, do you remember that?). It wasn’t a case of being caught up in the music of my generation, it felt more intentional than that. It was an adult purchase, inside of my budding adult sense of myself.

He was important because of his talent, because of his emotions and how much he loved Andrew Wood, because of how his beautiful voice conveyed all of it. But also, for me, because his voice and music fed the seeds of my self.

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Because I am from Seattle, I have a lot of friends back there, and with Chris Cornell being a son of that city, there were lots of memories.

A former roommate talked about taking a Chem class with Soundgarden’s bassist, Hiro Yamamoto at Western Washington University (my alma mater. I remember when he came back from class to tell us what had happened, how it had been discovered. Great story, not gonna tell you; it’s his business).

Another friend, who I knew had worked for the King County Coroner’s office (but didn’t put two and two together until she shared), talked about being part of the team that catalogued and packed up Layne Stayley’s remains when he was found in 2002 (15 years ago, my god). Another voice that can never be duplicated, lost to drugs. (“So many sharps,” my friend said, “so many.”)

And people who had served Chris Cornell around town. Or seen him in the early years. There was a comedy show in Seattle in the 1990s called “Almost Live” where Billy Nye got his start. Soundgarden was part of “The Lame List” piece once. (See also: ‘High Five-n’ White Guys’ and ‘Chihuly and Jones’ – INFJ’s have a terrible sense of humor.)

Who had not seen him in concert once or twelve times? When Lollapalooza was still a mud fest in what was the backwater of Enumclaw, WA. (For a joke we call it ‘Enum-scratch.’) I listened to each song as people posted their favorites and felt my own connections. I read some reports and some posts (this one is my favorite) about what his music meant. And I thought about why I had included him as one of the first members of the ‘Shiva’ board on Pinterest (which seems a ridiculous thing to say as a Gen-Xer: Pinterest). He embodied the full sense of masculinity to me. He was not afraid of himself. He had his demons, to be sure. But he explored so much of life, of himself- and made beauty from it. I deeply admire that.

I had last seen him when he came to Providence on his solo tour. He was on stage simply to have a good time with music. The kid who sat next to me was not born before 1996, and I took umbrage with his youth, but not with his taste in music. Chris Cornell as a god of both our youths. And there he was, taking requests, also denying requests, and just messing with music until it sounded good to him. He left the stage as a warped chord echoed so loud it hurt. It made your head buzz in the way you knew you would not be able to speak in a normal tone of voice until the next morning.

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But now, at 42 and with a master’s degree in mental health, one thing in particular stays with me: mid-life masculine depression. Yes, Chris Cornell dealt with depression and anxiety either due to or related to his drug use. But so many men deal with undiagnosed depression at this age. At the very least, it deadens them and kills their relationships, and sometimes their work.

I work with many women whose male partners suffer from depression (which has different symptoms than female depression). Male-specific symptoms of depression include physical ailments, anger, and reckless behavior. Men tend to turn their depression outwards, while women turn it inwards. And, especially for men, treating depression makes them feel inadequate. So they don’t treat it…and their relationships falter or they lose their job…and they feel inadequate so they don’t treat… You see where this goes.

There are a variety of reasons that depression happens in men. We all have inside of us the capacity to have every mental health disorder there is in the book. But the silence of it is what makes it so dangerous for men. As my friend, Jenifer said, “Suicide was stalking him (Chris Cornell) and we couldn’t help. How could we have known suicide was stalking him?” Only if he told us.

And the same is true for those around you. If you suspect you are (or your partner is) depressed, please seek help.There are lots of treatment options, many of which are not pharmaceutical (if that bothers you).

Male mid-life depression is a thing.
Male depression is a thing.
And you can have treatment and support.

The music of your life is deeply valuable to someone. Many more ‘someones’ than you suspect, probably. Your fans want you to live, just as we wish Chris Cornell could have.

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I think there is more to say about Chris Cornell’s death, but it’s not yet formed. I’ll share it when the time is right. And if you’re mourning- maybe it’s finally time for that trip to Seattle. Here’s my map. Visit ‘A Sound Garden,’ will ya?

Blessed be, Chris Cornell. Rest in peace.


*I’m not given to drinking much. I like a little wine sometimes, and some champagne on New Year’s Day. But Thursday morning I needed the burning gold of tequila running down my throat in the same way the hot tears ran down my cheeks.




Full Moon in Scorpio

I’m late again! Sorry, friends. It’s been a weird week.

My friend, Melissa Kaiser, made a beautiful graphic for this full moon. And she asks:

How deeply, intimately, fully are you connected with your heart? How connected are you to what you love? Open, she says, to the full expression of what you love and who you truly are. 

God, that feels so good- I’m so there, right now. Delicious.



Chani Nicholas writes:

Being alive means engaging in a continual process of transformation. Nothing in the natural world stays the same. Everything shows signs of being in relationship with its environment. Trees cannot deny the effects of a forest fire. Rocks do not try to hide the smoothness that results from the relentless pounding of waves upon them. Icebergs do not feign being untouched by the rising temperatures of our planet.

Yet we humans try to defend ourselves against the inevitable changes. Aging. Loss. Grief. We spend so much of our resources chasing some external solution to our internal discomfort. We have such difficulty sitting with the feelings that, if felt all the way through, could renew us. Release us. Transform us. 

Our transformation depends on our ability to sit with and accept the feelings that arrive with the truth. Not our version of how we wish life would be and not the version of reality that we need to be true in order to justify how we are living. Just the honest truth. How it lands with us in this moment. What it means for our life. Right here, right now.

I think I might have been born in the wrong sign. Scorpio feels more like me, if this is what it’s about. Click her name to read the rest of the post- it’s great.


And lastly, it’s not about the moon, it’s about nodes. (I don’t pretend to understand this, I just know it resonates.) From my fave, Bairavee Balasubramaniam:

There´s been an incredible amount of energetic spring cleaning as we´ve been asking to disconnect from things that no longer serve or resonate with us (as we perceive it to be). Sometimes this leads to healthier choices, and sometimes it leads to deeper delusion.

That´s up the individual and how they choose to walk their path…

When you see that Love has fire and teeth just as it has softness and surrender …. those neat little categories dissolve instantly. And unconditional love can just as easily hold you in warmth and connection, just as it can boot you out of its space, wishing you well from the core of its soul.

Too true.

That’s it for now. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately- my own interfaith training and how magic works and decolonization of the latter. More later, loves.

Best wishes from the trail,
Joanna :: xoxo




Things That Are Currently Fascinating Me

The shit weather of 2017 (and beyond).

Dudes, I have lived in New England for 16 years this year. Longer than I have lived anywhere. And for the first 12 years the year-round weather was all the stereotypes you here and postcards you see. Hot, humid Summers, beautiful Indian Autumns with foliage I couldn’t believe (really), Winters full of snow and sun and snowpiledhigh snow, and Springs that were muddy and blustery.

But the last four years, and especially the last two- they have been very different. People here say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes. It’ll change!” <har har har> But the fact is, what we are seeing and experiencing isn’t just New England weather schizophrenia; it’s global warming.

The Canada geese have only left my little state once in the last four Autumns. Their pituitary gland must register that there have been 43 consecutive days of cold (below 37 degrees F, I think) before their brain tells them to start flying South. We haven’t had enough cold days in a row, for three years, for their brain to do its thing.

We have ruined the Earth. We have changed the atmosphere and the weather patterns (and so much depends on weather; see also- Somalian famine) irrevocably. Humans are a blight on the Earth, and many days, I hope she rids her system of us.


Algorithms and social media.

I use Facebook and Pinterest and someday will be on Instagram, but what’s truly interesting to me is how those things are connected, and how they try to connect us.

I have genuine stalkers on both of my websites- they also hang out on FB and Pinterest- and I’m figuring out because they are the people who ‘visit’ me the most, a lot of their stuff is what shows up in my feed. The software algorithm notices who is ‘watching’ and ‘visiting’ me the most on these sites. It thinks that because those folks are so interested, whatever they are interested in will also interest me (wrong assumption, but understandable software design).

I got a guy, who was an acquaintance a long time ago, and who visits all my sites, FB, and Pinterest- who likes watches. They are a favorite and fantasy item for him. He likes a lot of replica things, but he’d love to have a real, luxury-level watch. A few days after I put up my affairs video, the ads on YouTube were, in all seriousness, wall-to-wall Rolex. It does not take a genius to figure out who was watching my video enough times to produce that ad content.

And that’s true all over the place.  There is someone on both FB and Pinterest who has the shittiest taste in beer, and so I get ads for Michelob. (To each their own, but I’m a milk stout kinda gal and you’ve gotta be more interesting than ‘Michelob’ to hang with me. I’m ‘beerist,’ sue me.)

I have four FB friends from MSW School and one of them appears to get getting ready to do their PhD in Social Work, because I get ads for just that in my FB feed. It ain’t for me- I sure as fuck am not getting my PhD in Social Work. But when she clicks on something I’ve posted, FB wonders if I might like that, too.

And I got one lady who, having been unable to satisfy her stalking tendencies by just looking at my stuff, now stalks all my friends on FB. How do I know? The same video for a baby store run by men came up on three of my friends’ FB feeds on the same night. That’s not coincidence; that’s an algorithm doing it’s thing.

There are three people on my FB friends list who attended Washington Statue University (WSU- we call it, ‘wah-zoo’) and the other day on Pinterest I got a pin for WSU stuff. Just one, but it narrows down the field for who was visiting my Pinterest boards.

And I’m seriously fascinated by it all. The algorithm is software and software is simply rules for how, when, where, and with whom the data is shifted around and shared with other people (with a few ‘if/then’ scenarios thrown in). So, if you even care to follow the patterns (which I do), you can sort of find out the rules and then play with them.



Spam and data collection.

This is also related to algorithms, but slightly different. On my websites I get spam comments- apparent junk comments that just show up in my Comments folder for review. But, sometimes there is actual data in them. Parts of people’s email conversations. Someone who was visiting this site a month or so back had been watching “Moonlight” recently, because the spam comments were filled with that name and words about it (as if from reviews- it could have been any one of 15-20 people in my feed who were talking about it on FB, but it’s weird that actual reviews showed up, you know?). Sometimes it’s lists of shoes someone was looking at on other websites- like, seriously, links to all manner of shoes on a particular website. I got somebody in India who works with or for a metals company regularly reading my stuff.

And it fascinates me how the software is only operating by written rules, and yet is has this unintended consequence of leaving bits of data on the websites we visit. Now, I only notice this stuff because I watch patterns and I’m curious. (And because I get a low number of comments- 100s versus 1000s- that I can poke around in and wonder about.)

Every spam comment also comes with an IP address. IP addresses are sometimes fixed and sometimes random. People who stop by repeatedly are easier to see because their IP addresses are often the same over time (not always, but mostly).

For instance, back in November, I got some weird spam about Mercedes SUVs and baby seats. I didn’t even know Mercedes made baby seats- turns out they do.  And I was just curious about that, so I searched on the IP address within my comments. Turns out, that IP address had visited me before- in June of 2016. And the comments content was all about how get off The Pill and which sex positions were best for making a baby. So, congratulations MercedesMom- you got your wish!

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As you can see, this stuff genuinely fascinates me. Certainly it’s because of the software and how it works, and doesn’t- what’s intended and what’s not. And what it says for our seeming ‘security’ online.

It also fascinates me because looking at these things, with some knowledge of what they are, is the process of uncovering the patterns. Software produces patterns- that’s what it is designed to do in most cases. And I love finding patterns. Patterns can show you where things are going- they can help you navigate the world more efficiently. Not always, but sometimes.

I’m fascinated with the algorithms because they are an inorganic attempt to create the interconnectedness of life. We are all connected. In some way or other, I am connected to each person on this planet, if only because I and they have human bodies. But we are all connected, nonetheless. And algorithms used in social media are human attempts to re-create that connection. They are attempts to create Indra’s Net in the best way we currently know of. Human, imperfect, also interesting.

So, yes, this is a ‘grab bag’ of a post. But it’s what I’m thinking about lately. The things we each find fascinating in this life are so different, but that’s also the fun.





Well, hello stranger. I missed the solar eclipse and new moon in Pisces on Feb 26th. Quick recap: chaotic energy. But today I finished my work so I’m giving myself the gift of a quick post here. I’ve got so many things rattling in my head right now…I will write them to you eventually.

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Still by Alanis Morissette

I am the harm that you inflict
I am your brilliance and frustration
I’m the nuclear bombs if they ‘re to hit
I am your immaturity and your indignance

I am your misfits and your praises
I am your doubt and your conviction
I am your charity and your rape
I am your grasping and expectation

I see you averting your glances
I see you cheering on the war
I see you ignoring your children

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your joy and your regret
I am your fury and your elation
I am your yearning and your sweat
I am your faithless and your religion

I see you altering history
I see you abusing the land
I see you and your selective amnesia

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your tragedy and your fortune
I am your crisis and delight
I am your profits and your prophets
I am your art I am your bytes

I am your death and your decisions
I am your passion and your plights
I am your sickness and convalescence
I am your weapons and your light

I see you holding your grudges
I see you gunning them down
I see you silencing your sisters

And I love you still
And I love you still

I see you lie to your country
I see you forcing them out
I see you blaming each other

And I love you still
And I love you still

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I was on the bike last weekend and my iPod oracle decided to play this. I hadn’t heard it in a year or more and I played it three times through. It reminded me of many things, but mostly the profound nature of love- it’s breadth and depth.

Love. I’m learning a lot about love right now. My beloved and I celebrated the 21st anniversary of our first date in early March. It was very cool to think about how strong and lucky we are to have had so many good years together.

We’ve loved each other in many different ways.

We love amidst the hurt we cause each other, we love amidst the healing. We love in the parts of ourselves it takes patience (perhaps years of patience) to show each other. We love in the spontaneous connections of joy when thing are easy. There is a reason we have had three marriages in our 21 years together- love.

In other places, I am learning about love that is unpleasant, tough, defiant, strong like a boot kicking your ass. There is patience here, too. I am learning to love and respect myself more each day. Learning to dig out the less-than-loving parts of myself as I confront more of my own racism and sexism (got called out about rape culture- felt like an asshole. Lived through it, learned, and won’t repeat the mistake again!).

This song reminded me of what love is. So many things I cannot even describe or comprehend. So many things that are unexpected or beyond my understanding. Love surrounds the demons of life, too.

I’ve nothing more to say or share at the moment (quick post, I said!). It’s just what I’ve been pondering lately on the long walk home.

Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo



Sacred Pop Culture

One of the tags I use here is ‘sacred pop culture’ because I believe the Divine shows itself in all forms, all ways, including pop culture. This is, in part, because I am a panentheist- I believe that The Something is in every part of creation, out to the edges of the Universe and beyond. I also believe this because pop culture is the carrier of symbols, and symbols are both timeless and unique to their period; through time they hold the thread of the Divine.

The most important message of Life, the sacred truths, are being written to suit each culture and each epoch. Because what so much of America consumes is pop culture, these messages and truths are bound to find their way out. Truth will use any doorway. (I have written a few posts on the topic: Bieber + the Sufis, P!nk as Crone, and death mantras from R.E.M.)

And this brings me to the Grammys and the almost otherworldly performance by Beyoncé.

Some days before the Grammys, Beyoncé announced her pregnancy (twins) via Instagram. And there was a lot of racist, sexist BS flying around about it, but amongst that ridiculousness, was a lovely explanation for the meaning of her photos: she was channelling one of the goddesses of the Yoruba religion- Oshun. Oshun is the goddess of sweet waters, fertility, and love. Beyoncé was embodying a symbol, embodying the Divine for herself. And that is sacred pop culture.

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I learned about Yoruba in seminary. A Voodoo priest in NYC taught us about the creation myth, special stories and characters, important dates and rituals, and other important facts about Yoruba. (He also said his most frequent ritual customers were white, Christian couples trying to conceive. He had a 95% success rate. Don’t tell me magicians and witches aren’t real.)

One of the interesting pieces of the Yoruba religion is the belief that the Divine was broken into 1001 pieces. Those pieces were scattered to the winds and became gods and goddesses, called orishas, like Oshun. This story is similar to the story of Isis and Osiris in Egypt. Osiris was cut into many pieces and dumped into the Nile (and several other places). Isis spent her life finding the pieces of Osiris and re-joining them. The theme of breaking divine things and re-joining broken pieces is an important aspect of spiritual history, especially Black spiritual history.

And here is Beyoncé dressing herself, expressing herself, as a goddess, and in particular, a black goddess. Her headdress was aligned with depictions of Oshun, but also whispered of the Catholic iconography of the Black Madonna. And she was attended by many other women- perhaps symbolizing other orishas or goddesses. In one part of the performance, they swayed in unison, connected to Beyoncé, not unlike the idea of drops of water reconnecting to form an ocean. I hope, if anything, those attendants symbolized the return of the orishas to work as one, no longer cut and scattered. What a symbol, what an ignited call to action, what a miracle that would be.

Beyoncé used the symbols of black culture, as a black woman and artist, to share a vision with black people. She wears the symbols, but she also became the symbol for this culture, this epoch, this time. And it was holy.

[If you own rights to this image, please let me know.]


Carl Jung defined some of the long-standing cultural symbols, calling them ‘archetypes.’ These were stories, patterns, energies that showed themselves in cultures through time. Think of the ‘Mother’ archetype, the the ‘Innocent’ archetype, or the ‘Hero’ archetype. Jung believed these symbols came from a kind of psycho-spiritual database, called the ‘collective unconscious.’ The collective unconscious holds symbols over time and layers them with meaning. The orisha can be seen as a set of archetypes in the black culture.

Joseph Campbell, an American anthropologist and mythologist, studied myths across time, and developed the theory of The Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is a story of facing and overcoming difficulty that is repeated across time and cultures, and often includes archetypes.

Both Jung and Campbell recognized that archetypes are called forth from the collective unconscious when they were needed for the journey of becoming something new. Whether it is becoming a new person, a new role, or a new culture- when the archetypes and symbols are needed, they arrive.

And I see this in many places. Writers I admire are channeling the truths of the past. Marybeth Bonfiglio reads to me as the new Lao Tzu. Perhaps not as concise, but still as fruitful, still as packed and powerful, still as clear about the true connection of humanity to nature, about the truth of humanity as nature. Marybeth Bonfiglio is exactly what happens when the Tao Te Ching explodes into it’s 1001 beautiful pieces.

Christian Fabien, when he writes his poetic prose on Facebook, is Sage Vyasa telling Arjuna what the field of the fight looks like and what to fight when war is the system you live in. I see pieces of a modern Bhagavad Gita– questioning moral action and inaction, investigating dualism and non-dualism, combining long-held symbols in new ways that provide insight, and showing the way forward to those who will listen (I don’t think he’s much into gurus, though).

John Pavlovitz, writing new letters to Ephesia, Galatia, Collosus, and Phillipia- to all the cities in his internet reach. His Christianity actually returns to the better angel of Jesus’ nature. In the way archetypes do, he strips away layers that have not served humanity and returns to the life-giving essence of the teachings. In fact, he is applying the truth that stands across time in Christianity- not the modern interpretation that upholds oppressions. (Matthew Fox creates in a similar vein for Catholicism, but with a Campbell-esque re-invention of the catholic.)

Of course, I admire the raw writing and clear thinking of these people. But my admiration is for more than their skill in thought and word- they are the doorways through which truth finds its expression. The truths that matter find their way forward- and that is the purpose of sacred pop culture. (These writers are, in fact, my Bible.)

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White House counselor and Nazi, Steve Bannon, believes we are in something called The Fourth Turning- a time in history that will bring great destruction, great clarification, and great re-building of entire cultures. I agree that we are in a special time in history, perhaps even a ‘turning’ (I hope!), but it is not the turning he imagines or hopes for.

The turning we are in is one of hope. Society always moves forward- even if through violence (you remember, the last time we fought the Nazis, we went to war). We are not turning into some throwback of white supremacy and willful ignorance, we are turning forward– into a wider, more accepting, more equal way. Yes, things will be destroyed (that is the way of Kali), but what is destroyed will be what is no longer useful.

How do I know this? Because of the archetypes who are showing up to this fight. Bannon and Trump are imposters of leadership, stupid, bloated symbols of a toxicity that is fighting to live, despite its nearness to death. What do we see rising to fight it? Beautiful black goddesses, uniting the divine energies- pulling the orishas back together, coming out of hiding as the Black Madonna and shining the truth. Every act of resistance in art (even Katy Perry). The writers of modern truth I have mentioned here. The visual artists who discomfort the comfortable.

In pure numbers, there are more of us than there are of them. (Excuse my dualism.) The majority is choosing to create this new way; we are the culture makers.With every choice, we create the new and the good*. We are the visionaries and we are cutting away what no longer works, and paving a path that embraces more, more, more.

Oshun is rising full and ready- and she is reaching millions by cable TV.
The single water drops are pulling together like magnets, ready to crash.
The pieces of the divine are connecting into power.
The Earth has her protectors and those who speak for her that you might finally listen.
Papyrus and slow horses no longer limit the reach of prophets; websites provide instant connection.

We are awake and fighting. And the gods are with us, ready in their modern armor.

*I love it when I learn more and have to add stuff. In this article, Hannah Arendt makes clear that creating the ‘better’ is worse than creating the ‘good.’ ‘New’ must be careful to not fall into the land of ‘better’ and instead strive towards ‘good.’ Yes.