"Zaphod grinned two manic grins, sauntered over to the bar and bought most of it."
- The Restaurant At the End Of The Universe

Moderation is a difficult virtue for many people to practice, so it should come as no surprise that it's also difficult for many to write about. The Delphic maxim “nothing in excess” is an excellent example of a concise definition of this concept.

The virtue of moderation is what allows one to go shopping in the most tempting store and purchase a small treat instead of spending all that’s in your wallet. It allows you to take a bowl of ice cream from the carton, not the entire carton itself, or have a glass of wine without downing the entire bottle. This is not to say that indulgence is always a bad thing- who hasn’t heard the saying “everything in moderation- including moderation”? However, a lack of control over one’s impulses and desires can be troublesome- or far more dangerous. It’s nearly impossible to turn to the media anymore without seeing news of some celebrity going into drug rehab, or advertisements for various means of help for those with any number of addictions. For those with addictions, moderation is extremely difficult or downright impossible.

In our contemporary culture in the US, advertisers and the media frequently seem to scream “More! Bigger! Faster! Extreme!” and we push ourselves to the limit in many ways- credit card debt and bankruptcy filings are out of control. Workaholics barely know their families. Cars and trucks are bigger, faster, louder. Many celebrities lead very public lives of hedonism and extreme indulgence.

We may consider a classic tale of indulgence- the tale of King Midas and his golden touch. When King Midas was granted his wish that everything he touched turned to gold, he got it…and everything he touched did turn to solid gold- including his own daughter.

King Midas’s tale and others particular to today’s society, such as the drug overdose of actor River Phoenix and the suicide of singer Kurt Cobain clearly illustrate that just because you seem to be getting everything you want does not necessarily mean that that is what’s right or what’s good and if you’re not careful, you may lose everything. These stories may be a bit more extreme than what most people face, but it is somewhat appropriate that they are a bit “larger than life” and therefore may be a wake up call or a lesson to some people that it’s not a good thing to- as the bumper sticker goes- “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.”
"My doctor say that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency of moral fibre and that I am therefore excused from savinguUniverses."
- Slartibartfast, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Integrity is the quality of wanting to do the right thing- and doing it. Even when- especially when no one is looking and no one will find out. One who does the right thing only when the spotlight is on them cannot claim integrity. Without integrity, we could trust no one. We would have no families, no communities, no one to turn to in time of difficulty or crisis. Without integrity, we would never be able to leave our houses safely; life would be lived moment to moment worrying about defending ourselves from crime.

Integrity, however is not doing what’s right simply to avoid punishment, it’s doing what’s right because it’s right, even if it may result in punishment.
"...and the universe,' continued the waiter, determined not to be deflected on his home stretch, `will explode later for your pleasure.'
Ford's head swiveled slowly towards him. He spoke with feeling.
`Wow,' he said, `what sort of drinks do you serve in this place?"
- The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe

In considering the virtue of "hospitality", I've thought about what it means to me, and what the dictionary gives as its meaning.... cordial and generous treatment of guests. It comes from the same root as hospital and hospice.

Different cultures have different rules regarding aspects of hospitality. One example which I was reading recently came from the inside of a box of Celestial Seasonings tea, which spoke of Vietnamese Culture, and how very often, tea would be offered to visitors- even before strangers are introduced, and that it is not possible to politely refuse the offer. The mythologies of the world are full of stories of gods or royalty, disguised as beggars or travelers who come to a village seeking aid, shelter or a hot meal...those who offer their hospitality, even if it means emptying their paltry stores of food are rewarded, those who turn the stranger away are punished. One such story from Greek mythology is that of Baucis and Philemon:

Zeus and Hermes decided to test the hospitality of the people of Phrygia, disguised as poor travelers they traveled begging a meal at each house. They were turned away until the came to the humbles, poorest house where the couple Baucis and Philemon immediately set to preparing a meal with what little food they had. Before they could kill their goose, which was more of a pet to them, the gods revealed their identities and rewarded their hosts richly, destroying the rest of the village.

My own greatest experience with hospitality has come from Alpha Phi Omega, an organization that I joined in college. After I left school, I did a good bit of traveling. One of the things that most members learn is that we are very quick to offer our hospitality to others who may be traveling through our area- most often in the form of "crash space". I have had the opportunity to allow those who were traveling to stay at my place, as well as stayed (sometimes on very short notice) with others.

These examples speak of hospitality. While certainly a noble virtue, I would argue that in our list of, we should consider the wider idea of generosity. To be sure, hospitality does require generosity- to those who would come into your home or other area of your own control as well as from the guest. If I am a dinner guest in someone's home, they are going to act in a hospitable fashion towards me, and with the ancient custom of the guest gifting the host, I might bring for my hosts a bottle of wine, flowers, candy or something else as appropriate to the occasion, or I may entertain by telling stories or with song, sharing conversation and news of mutual interest. Nowadays it is also very common for a guest to clean up, or at least to offer to help clean up after a meal. But generosity is a variable in any equation that involves giving.... money to charity, food and clothing to the needy, giving time to help someone out, and yes, hospitality- giving to your guests, sharing your home, your food and drink, your comforts. Hospitality is generosity within a specific context.
“Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds”–Douglas Adams

At my first glance of the list of virtues, I was certain that I would have the most problems with fertility. Everyone knows that fertility is about having lots of kids, right? And I'm not particularly interested in having kids at this point in my life...even if I were, I am not in a position where it would be a realistic goal. However, this aspect of fertility is a vital one for humans, or any species to continue to exist. There is a stigma, even to an extent in the most advanced countries, on people who are unable or chose not to have children. In less advanced areas, or among the more superstitious, a woman who is unable to have children may be thought to have a curse. In some places, the very idea that one would grow up and actually make the choice to not have children is inconceivable. (No pun intended)

One other commonly considered aspect of fertility is that of the land: farms, fields, fruit-bearing trees...our lives depend on the fertility of vegetation and animals; it is how we obtain our food. We would die without it.

Even today, two of the very common things that people pray for are for fertility of the body- to have children, and (depending on the area and religion)- fertility of the land. Most if not all pre-Abrahamic religions are said to have been, or at least to have started out as- cults of fertility. All cultures that I have come across in research have at least one, and usually several if not many deities relating to grain, vegetation, animals, sexuality, birth, reproduction...all of which are connected to fertility.

But these are not the only aspects of fertility. Intellectually, I know this but I was still having some problems getting past the "fertility means making babies" aspect. If I had any mental hang-ups before, this Beltane has presented the opportunity for me to better understand and embrace fertility in another form.

After doing research on Belenus and Epona, and in the week leading up to Beltane, I suddenly had ideas popping out of nowhere. I was waking up in the middle of the night, writing a poem and falling back to sleep. My invocation to Belenus practically fell out of the pen and onto the paper. By the time Friday rolled around, from out of nowhere I had a grand plan to start a local group for studying Hellenic tradition, and for things that could be done within ADF to facilitate other people's study. I have a list of things that I want to accomplish, books to read and interests to pursue. How I will work this all into my life in a realistic way, I'm not sure...but that, I have no doubt will be at least a part of my lesson in moderation.

Creativity and ideas are often not thought of immediately when one hears the word, however they are vital aspects of fertility as well, without which we would not have any of the things which we do- no one would design and build our houses, offices, schools, modes of transportation. We would not have conversation or telephones or computers- communication, We would be without music, art, books, movies, television, plays, dancing- no entertainment or ways for learning...we simply would not be.

I believe that it may be concluded that of the nine Pagan virtues, fertility in its many forms is the one that without, the human race simply would not exist. Without any of the others, we would live greatly diminished lives, but we could still survive and continue. Without fertility...we would have nothing.
“Don’t panic.”- The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

There was, a few years ago, an urban legend circulating amongst college students of a philosophy class at an unnamed college, with a particularly eccentric professor. For the final exam if this class, he handed to each student a single sheet upon which was printed a single question: What is courage?

Legend has it that one student answered this question with an equally brief answer, two words simply stating: "This is." Legend also says that this student received the only A.

Such a stunt would certainly require a good deal of courage, however this student did not define courage, he demonstrated an example. Courage is taking action despite one's fears, anxieties or inhibitions. Greek mythology is littered with heroes who performed great tasks...there is the story of Bellerophon, a young Corinthian prince who goes off in search of adventure. Proteus, a jealous companion wishes for the death of Bellerophon, request that the king of the land kill him but the king, thinking it not wise to kill the prince outright, arranges for him to be sent to kill the terrible Chimera thinking that Bellerophon could not possibly survive. Bellerophon did the unthinkable, slayed the Chimera and won the favor of the king, wedding his daughter and later inheriting his throne.

The ancients lauded acts of bravery and courage, and it is an admiration that is not diminished in contemporary society. One of the most popular fictional characters today, Harry Potter, faces all manner of challenges, from dealing with a nasty, ill-tempered Uncle Vernon to a war with Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard that ever lived. On a more serious note, our country, referred in song to the "land of the free and the home of the brave", is dotted with monuments to soldiers who have served and died in wars and battles. In many towns and cities, parades and other festivities are held on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other occasions to recognize the service of those in the armed forces, an occupation which, by its very natures requires courage of its people. In 2001, after the tragedy of September 11th, memorials and tributes were offered around the country- and around the world- to the victims and survivors. Special attention was also paid to law enforcement officials, fire fighters, military personnel and those who died while trying to stop the hijackers.

On a smaller scale, courage is shown by people every day- elementary school children standing up to playground bullies, office workers risking their jobs to face a tyrannical boss, homosexual men and women coming out to their family and friends, a small child sleeping without a night light for the first time...these are all events which require one to move through and beyond their fears and anxieties, despite the risks getting beaten up, losing a job, being shunned by one's family, being eaten by the closet monster.

Often we find that when faced with a tough situation, we are able to act in a manner much more courageous than we previously thought possible, innumerable folks have found in everyday situations such as the schoolyard bully, as well as under much more dire and widespread circumstances.
Haven't used this journal in ages. What I'm going to do is remove most of the entries and repost each piece of DP writing as it's being submitted for approval.

Once the DP is finished and I start on the clergy story program, I'll post my submissions here also. This will be my ADF study program submission journal.

Starting with the virtue eassays- due to text formatting headaches, I'm cutting the dictionary definitions off of my LJ posts....I've already sent them off to Caryn.
-Why have you chosen to undertake the Dedicant Program? I joined ADF in September after being active with the Grove since January. It took me a while to decide if I was going to join or not, though I had known for some time that I wanted some sort of semi-structured approach to spiritual/religious study whereas there may be specific requirements to complete but there is not a required structure to the execution of said requirements. I just used some form of the word "require" far too many times. Essentially, ADF and the DP is what I have been looking for. Another reason is that I plan to take part in the ADF clergy study program when I am finished the DP..and the DP is a requirement. However, this is not a "means to an end", I would be working on the Dedicant's Program if I had no such plans.

-Is this a step on your path, or will this become the path itself? it is a path and it is a step on the path. there is only one journey. the end of one journey is only the first step on the next journey so they are all one.

-What do you expect to learn? perhaps a bit of focus. a bit of connection. a bit of history. a bit of myself. a bit of community, if life, of tradition, of unconventionality, of that which I need to know to continue to the next segment of whatever I'm doing here.

-What would you like to get out of this journey? the Dedican't Program segment of the journey? Or the whole grand mess in general? (I'm assuming that this is referencing the DP and I think my answer is essentially the same as the previous question. )

-Do you know where this path will take you? I know where I expect it to take me. I know where I hope for it to take me. I do not know that what I hope and expect is what will actually happen.

-If you have just joined ADF, why have you chosen to work on this immediately? See "Why have you chosen to undertake the Dedicant's Program"

-If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now? n/a

-Does it look hard or easy? It looks hard and it looks easy. Part of me wants to jump at it, knowing that if I really wanted to, I could complete the requirements well above and beyond what is required in a matter of a week. I could crank out pages and pages of writing and I'd be finished with it.

I'm not doing that because it's not about "getting it done". It's about the doing and the learning and the taking the time.

Part of me sees the program as a whole, sees what needs to be done and while recognizing that the requirements themselves are easy in theory, the end result is a much bigger thing. This is very important to me...and therefore, somewhat intimidating and if I think a lot about it, a bit overwhelming.

-Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be
easy? Yes. See "Does it look hard or easy?"

-Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about? not at this time

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asthefiretree

March 2010

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