I'm CJ, and I am an eclectic Pagan writing about sustainability and a variety of other topics as it relates to living a more holistic and natural lifestyle within the New Age community. I love reading, writing, and learning about new things as it relates to spirituality. So, I decided to create this here blog, TGCJ, as a platform to express my view of things and maybe help others along the way.
I think of myself as an eclectic Pagan, exploring their ancestral roots in Aztec, Celtic mythology, and Mexican folklore. Aside from that however, I like to think that my spiritual practice encompasses more than just tarot cards, books from the New Age market, statuary, altar items, and pretty apothecary bottles. In fact, I like to refer to myself as an 'armchair pagan.' Which is really just a joke on the old white male philosophers who lived off their wealth, reading and thinking all day (wouldn't we all like to garden, sit, read, and think all day whilst drinking tea?). Meaning, I like thinking...a lot, about the theoretical aspect of my spirituality and the dominant underlying themes most common amongst New Age practitioners.
But reality provides much better experiences than idealized conditions found in any long-winded thought process (or comfy chair), such as the importance of self-sufficiency and the responsibility that comes with it. For me, being self-sufficient means learning, not just a bunch of new skills and hobbies, but knowledge in and of itself. Even if that knowledge is not readily applied anywhere in the day-to-day life. However, one of the more common tenets in Paganism is to share and contribute to your community, regardless of how you define community.
Which is what I do here at TGCJ, I share what I know about herbalism, letter-writing, good habits one aught to have and the mental discipline to support those (even if I personally am terrible at it), gardening, permaculture, minimalism, zero-waste, self-education especially, and most importantly, how all that comes together and integrates holistically into eco-witchcraft.
So, if you find any of the ramblings of an 'armchair pagan' (wheeze) of interest, then do stick around, float, meander, browse at your leisure over tea or coffee, and leave a comment or send me an email if you like. I hope you find something useful here, if not then at the very least are amused when you close your browser tab. Thanks for reading.
What is The Great Cosmic Joke?
The Great Cosmic Joke is actually a phrase used by monks and enlightenment seekers as a reference to the idea that the pursuit for enlightenment or self-improvement as the end goal or solution to all our problems is at best misdirected but ultimately...one of comedic value.
To quote the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh,
"I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat."
While it would seem that the great cosmic joke is something that's attained at the end of a journey to enlightenment the idea itself is something that can be learned from and applied in the everyday. This idea being that the pursuit for self-improvement, learning something new, or attempting to implement a new habit should not be an end goal.
Rather it's in the acts and journey itself that not only propels us forward but can also for a moment…make us forget the end goal. Therein, at least in my opinion, lies the joke for those wise and lucky enough to grasp it.
"In a moment of true laughter there is only joy."
How then do we lose that moment and end up right back where we started chasing an idea and focusing more on the proverbial forest than appreciating the trees that make up said forest? The individual aspects that make up our character? All the little milestones achieved along the way. If you think about it hard enough it really doesn't make sense.
If the end result, or ideal version of you, is so much healthier, stronger, positive, and happier than you are now; why is it so hard to achieve that goal? Is that version of you really happier doing all of the things that you're making yourself do now to become 'better?'
Sure there's bad habits and breaking those can be difficult but our lives aren't all a series or progression of good and bad habit building. Having such a viewpoint of yourself just puts you on the other side of the aforementioned forest, where you can only notice singular imperfections, failing to appreciate the beauty of imperfection. You want to know where the best place to be in order to fully appreciate a beautiful woodland?
Inside the forest.
You know, surrounded by all the trees and wonderful beautiful things that make up nature? From the top of the branches swaying in the breeze, to the sounds of the birds above, the leaves and soft earth under foot, smell of petrichor, the animals, and all the insects that exist and breathe in the same air you do now. The trees inhale that which we exhale and we breathe in what the trees release, and that cycle repeats on and on.
It's easy to say that the great cosmic joke is meant to be a reminder to be mindful and live in the moment, enjoying the here and now, that the journey matters more than focusing completely on the end goal. Which is all very true and a good take-away, so you can stop reading now. Or not...
My personal take-away is not so much about milestones occurred during the journey but the quiet in-between bits, the sunlight through the trees as you walk toward your destination, if you will. For me, the great cosmic joke is more about a perspective shift from focusing too much on the idealization we have with what self-improvement is, does, or can do and more about all the little bits in between on the way.
The spirituality I've found within the New Age community has helped to both ground and guide me in understanding this mindset. Most practitioners, Wiccans, Pagans, and Witches will talk about the importance of meditation, visualization, and being mindful in general as part of their practice. The great cosmic joke takes that a step further to remind you that all that you do matters, the end goal is just a point in time, and the destination is just the sum total of your experiences. So, why not learn to enjoy the process more and live for the little moments that take place as you go through life?
How Does All This Help You?
Since the process is it's own purpose, anything written on TGCJ is focused not just on mindfulness but mainly the smaller details and motivations behind the things we do. Also, because this is a New Age blog it is written for an audience that would typically be found beneath the umbrella of Paganism and Witchcraft (with a capitol W), the content found here will be about things related to New Age spirituality but posts won't be about the "The Top 10 Altar Items" oft seen elsewhere.
As mentioned in the bio above, ones spiritual practice doesn't just involve altar items and tarot cards, and while tools of the craft can be important, that's something that depends on the individual. Content covered here is more broad by discussing the value system many within the community share but also nuanced by addressing the plethora of ways those values are expressed.
At this point, it's important to note that TGCJ is considered a New Age lifestyle blog written through the lens of sustainability. Sustainability and natural lifestyle alternatives is the personal lens that myself, and many others, work through when interacting with the world. Sustainability is a unique term and while it is thought of in relation to the environment it's ultimately about closed self-sustaining loops or how one aspect feeds into and maintains the larger whole. You'll often hear the word holistic thrown around in wellness trends or the New Age community, but sustainability is probably the best word to use to fully understand what holistic (Greek, hòlos = whole) truly means.
One person's spiritual practice is it's own piece in a larger system, it affects the interactions with the world but also with others in groups, covens, or the larger Pagan community as a whole. For good or ill. Viewing the holistic landscape of the New Age community through a sustainability lens brings learning and enjoying the process of growing within ones individual practice that much closer to what the great cosmic joke is all about.
Topics found at TGCJ are classified under a few different categories but overall, range from:
gardening & permaculture
sewing & embroidery in spell-work
Deity & ancestors work
different branches within Paganism
meditations and visualizations
Here's What You Can Expect from TGCJ
Any spirituality or practice can be demanding and cause a shift in priorities. Learning to live a life that's balanced and mindful is difficult in an of itself. Not everyone has the discipline or time to meditate everyday, which is a shame because science says it's awesome for the physical and emotional health. Regardless, there's always going to be parts of any journey that are not as enjoyable as others, some are just downright frustrating.
There won't be anything written here with the intention of sugar coating or making something seem like less work than it is. To struggle without meaning is just suffering. The great cosmic joke teaches that the joy in the little moments of life is it's own reason for being, this includes any difficulties along the way as well. Though this is all purely my own interpretation, constructing some meaning or finding enjoyment and see each action as it's own reason for being is the ultimate purpose of a spiritual practice.
"However vast the darkness we must supply our own light." - Kubrick
TGCJ is, ultimately, meant to be a light-hearted and sincere space, it takes the struggles, complicated issues, and diverse range of topics that crop up within the New Age community and attempts to reflect them back in delightfully comedic ways. Transparency in the struggle is a real core value and honesty is as important as comedy here.
What's most important to remember is that TGCJ is meant to be funny and educational resource. This blog is all about taking the edge off of trying to fit into the perfect mold we create in our heads or see online by learning to appreciate the process itself towards growth, without totally giving up on our goals to be better for ourselves and the environment.