Patterns. Relationships. Connectivity. These three words comprise a large part of what my Druidry studies are to me. Learning about how things relate to one another, their connectivity to everything else, and the patterns that can evolve from all of that. For instance, we build new housing areas here in the United States, expanding the reach of our cities further and further. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, I can still recall when there vast empty fields between both major cities and Arlington, which sits between them on Interstate 30. Nowadays, I cannot even discern where Dallas or Fort Worth ends, and Arlington begins. It is a giant, enmeshed urban environment. At one time, wildlife lived in those wild areas between the cities. Now, that same wildlife lives within the urban environment, displaced from the growth between the two cities. The animals caught between have developed new ways of foraging for food, such as dumpster diving the local Taco Bell. Wow, I just realized how much of a different bend the term “dumpster diving” has taken since my days of piecing together shredded documents with long distance codes printed on them, which I “obtained” from the dumpster in the back of the local phone company building. Yeah, the times are definitely a-changing.
I have talked about these connections, these relationships before. I wrote at length on this back in July of 2014 when I was still teaching. “Aware and Awake in a Binary World” still gets the occasional hit from someone finding it on a search engine. In the post, I talk about the relationship of data within our overly connected world. When I was teaching my class, I tried to get students to be aware of how much information was floating in the nether-reaches of the internet on them. How companies would utilize social media against them during hiring processes. After all, an ultra-conservative-Christian company such as Interstate Tire and Battery would definitely have a problem hiring an individual who took a picture of themselves holding a large bottle of whiskey with a near orgasmic look on their face. You don’t bring that picture to an interview, nor would you attach it to a resume or application. But companies would search the online media to locate you – and scrutinize who you are by what is presented there. Nine Hells, I am search a company like ITB would have a very difficult time hiring an openly Pagan individual such as myself. And as a private company, they would have every right to refuse to hire me. But the point here is not the hiring process of a single company; the point is how connected our online world is, and how little we seem to understand the same concept of connectivity in our physical world.
“Everything is connected. One action creates a similar, equal reaction”, or so the two sayings go. But everything I have seen certainly seems to corroborate this. Every conscious and unconscious choice we make impacts everything around us. Trash thrown on the side of the road can cause problems for animals. Plastic six-pack rings can entangle birds in the same manner that a trap would, and leaves them more vulnerable to being caught by predators or starving to death because they cannot fly off to locate food. Half eaten food in the fast food bags that are thrown out may feed local animals, but it also makes them dependent on human beings for food, causing them to not fend for themselves properly in the food chain. Worse, it encourages wild animals to be unafraid of human beings, seeing people as food ATMs (essentially), and running stronger risk of face-to-face encounters that can end badly for both humans and animals. We humans don’t always see how our actions such as polluting or tossing out garbage on the side of the road as being destructive. It is unsightly, but no one is getting hurt, right?
That’s only a small aspect of the consequences we have on our planet, on our surroundings and on others. We are aware that the photos that we put online can be seen by a vast multitude of people, because we are made acutely aware of our digital footprint and the potential consequences from it. That’s always in the news. Right in front of your face. But your own footprint in the physical world is something that many people seem to be blind to.
When I talk of being aware of connections, relationships, and being aware of patterns, there is more to it than just a concept of Psychology. It is a conscious look at how everything is affected by everything else. It is a slow, conscious, thoughtful examination of everything. I do this nearly every day, as I sit on my back porch and view my backyard. And every day, I learn something, I see something I had not noticed before. Will I ever understand it all? Doubtful. But once I understand the relationship and the pattern associated with it, I can see whether I am being harmful in my interactions – even on an unconscious level, and adjust my interactions accordingly. Every day is a moment to learn, a moment to examine, a moment to comprehend, and a moment to adjust – if necessary.
For me, the process is a purposeful examination of my life in motion. For others, it may seem like a futile proceeding. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I certainly understand. Hopefully, a few others may attempt the process as well, but that is up to them.
Its the time for the turning of the Wheel, particularly within the Pagan faiths. Samhain is that time of the year that claims there is a thinning between the veils of the world beyond and this one. I’m not wholly convinced of that theory, and maintain that the distinction between this world and beyond never truly changes. Its merely our perception of that such a distinction is more acute than we typically discern. But that’s slightly off the beaten Path I am walking here – the turning of the Year.
Last year, I discussed a bit about why I go into a self-inflicted hibernation: Samhain – Change and Transformation Goes Hand in Hand With Reflection. I also started working towards changes in my own routine for the coming year, which is about to change to a new year. And I have spent some time in reflection of those changes – along with some that came about through more reflection throughout the year.’
This year has seen quite a few changes in my life, both out here in the open, and behind closed doors. Some changes were for the better, some weren’t. Some changes deserve to remain permanent, others need to be looked at more in-depth, and still others need to be completely discarded. But this is the typical cycle of anyone’s life. Whether we do it consciously or not. I turned fifty-one at the start of this month. I absolutely guarantee that I am not the same person I was when I was twenty-five. Life’s experience will change you over time. Things happen that change your outlook on Life, and people come and go from within your immediate circle of being.
One – Writing
Last year, I promised that I would write more, and I have. I spend nearly an hour of each day writing in my personal log. And while I write, I go back and read through old entries constantly. Thankfully, I have EverNote to help me through all of that. It has proven to be an indispensable piece of software that I could hardly do without now. I also have set aside particularly two hours of every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening to work on my Bardic Gwers assignments. This has proven to be an invaluable process, as I have made progress in getting assignments completed. Its also proven to be a part of my week that I look forward to handling. Its where I can shut out the rest of the world for a period of time, and reflect on what the assignments are about. And to be perfectly frank, these two things have helped me a bit in becoming a better writer. I’m still nowhere near the point of being a “good” writer. I am; however, far better than I was before.
There’s a lot to be said about immersing yourself into something that you want to do. I write SQL code for most of my job. Being away from that code for any length of time is painful when I return to it. I easily forget things I do not have my fingers on constantly. “Practice, practice, practice” really does have more meaning than you think. I can see that my writing is getting a little better over time. And as I practice being descriptive with my writing style, I find myself doing a far better job detailing things I previously could never find words for.
Two – Podcasting
For three years, I have carried old episodes of my old podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” for anyone to download. Essentially, I kept the doors open so folks could get those episodes and listen to them – if they wanted to. Last month, I closed the doors to Edge of the Circle for good. Keeping it open, while not a bad thing, always kept my mind open to the thought that I could always abandon “Upon a Pagan Path” and re-open Edge of the Circle. That’s not where I wanted to be. I believe in what “Upon a Pagan Path” is about. Now, I need to focus on keeping it on track. When I first started, I thought I could keep up a two-week schedule. That was just a silly point. Me biting off far more than I could chew. Then I attempted a once-a-month schedule, and that has failed. Now, instead of putting out a schedule, I’ve decided to go with a perspective that I will publish a new episode at least once every 45 days. However, that doesn’t mean that I might publish an episode sooner in that time frame. This, hopefully, will keep me feeling the pressures of “must publish” in getting the podcast out. I make far too many mistakes when I do that – and I have a hard time recovering from software, hardware or scheduling issues.
Three – Being (even) More Visible
Last year, I noted that I had decided to crawl out of my corner of the Pagan community, and try to be more visible. Earlier this year, I attended my first Pantheacon, with John Beckett as an impromptu guide to getting started. Here, I met the super-smart, super-fun Shauna Aura Knight. A captivating smile is always an awesome thing to observe, but Shauna is an excellent conversationalist too! Plus, she runs a wickedly fun and informative panel, regardless of the topic. I also met, and interviewed Alf Herigstad, who runs the podcast “Being a Better Man“. We did an interview outside at the hotel, where I learned my first lesson at Pantheacon: if you are going to interview, have private space where distractions are at a minimum. Yes, I am returning to Pantheacon. This time, I will have a more costly room at the hotel venue itself, but I will also have more time to explore parts of the Con that I did not previously. For instance, I did not get a chance to wander into the dealers room, where I had missed a chance to met several other people I only know online.
This next year, I will also take the chance to go to Many Gods West in Olympia, Washington. After hearing about John’s excursion there, and being a polytheist myself, I decided that I needed to take the chance to attend. I am also hoping to attend the ADF Imbolc Retreat down in south central Texas (this time with the date protected with a vacation day for the Friday). I will also be attending the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering (already confirmed) in March, and the Dallas Pagan Unity Fest (unknown date at the moment). Living closer to both Texarkana and Oklahoma City, I am looking into getting the chance to attend both of the Pagan Pride Days at these locations as well. And yes, I will have my microphone, and my GoPro camera in tow.
Four – Spending Time With the Gods
Just because this is last, does not make it least. In fact, its probably the top priority for what I accomplish throughout the day.
One thing I eventually got away from over the course of the year, was my daily devotionals at my small stone circle in the backyard. Either the weather was too hot, or too rainy. or too something or other. Those are excuses. About forty days ago, I put all this back in practice. Even when I traveled to Wyoming. I am sure that the other guests at the Inn may have thought I was strange for standing outside the door and staring at the sunrise and sunset – even when it was raining or snowing (yes it snowed while I was there!). As far as I was concerned, that was their problem, not mine. As you know, Coyote, Crow and Fliodhas are where the majority of my time gets spent. Lately, Ravens are being added to the mix. I haven’t quite figured out why, since They are not nudging me in any particular direction. Some folks would claim that sometimes Ravens are just Ravens. That’s not really been my experience. If it happened once, I would agree. When it happens ALL THE TIME, I definitely will disagree. All I can do is continue to puzzle this out as I can, and continue honoring the two Gods and the one Goddess who take Their interest in me.
The Wheel turns regardless of what happens. There’s a Presidential cycle occurring here in the United States. My friends in Europe are all dealing with the sting that has come to every side from #Brexit. My friends in Canada continue to deal with corporate interests finding ways to exploit natural resources located on First Nations land. Here in the States, we deal with the same thing with Standing Rock in North Dakota. Many of my friends are dealing with personal issues that run the entire range of issues. Change is all over the air. Some of it has an ominous tinge to it. I know the Gods are not going to “fix” things for anyone. They will intervene in Their own fashion, in Their own time, and for Their own reasons. Everything I have detailed here is about how changes are occurring for me. After all, this is the time of the Year for looking at how things have gone, and what plans can be in place for the coming Year. What will truly happen? I have no idea. I both fear some of the changes and what they will bring; and embrace other changes that I believe will be helpful. But until the Wheel turns to that point, I – like any else – can only guess at what’s coming.
In the meantime, bring your drinking horn with your desired beverage over to the fire. Let’s sit and talk. Because that is how we make community. Through communication.
There is so much going on around the world these days. A terrible United States election cycle that has devolved into the hurling of insults and accusations. Strife and issues ring out anew in the Middle East, bringing back the specter of Cold War relations between the United States and mother Russia. First Nations lands being desecrated in the name of “progress” while long-honored treaties between the US government and those nations are flung aside like refuse thrown into the dust bin. Racial tensions throughout the United States. Religious tensions throughout the world. Terrorist concerns. Individuals being marked as terrorists, who really aren’t. Cries of governmental procedures being formed to revoke a citizen’s right to weaponry. A businessman turned politician being accused of sexual assault by many women, while he continues to utilize language that shows how insensitive he is to appropriate behavior towards these same women. This weekend, a building was fire-bombed and sprayed with graffiti equating Republicans with Nazis. Its all enough to make your head spin twice a day before your first cup of coffee – Linda Blair style.
How in the name of the Gods above and below are we supposed to maintain a sense of calm and balance in a world that seems to spin faster and faster out of control with each passing news story? The details come quicker than an Aroldis Chapman fastball aimed at your ear. Every news outlet spins the story to provide a positive outlook towards the political bend that they favor. The truth seems more elusive than ever.
Well, for one, turn the TV and radio off every once in a while. Get off of Facebook and other social media sites. Stop going to the news web sites every five minutes. As a Pagan and a Druid, the outdoors is where I find my solace. Its where I find my balance. Its where I contemplate my own place in the scheme of everything. And I usually find that a lot of what I am seeing and reading – I don’t need to endlessly wring my hands over. Some of the stuff that I wind up reading, I just need to let it pass down the river. There’s nothing I can do about Donald Trump’s commentary on women, except to say that I find it disgusting. As more and more of it gets heaped out – I can only point back to my original statement of how I feel about it, and move on. I can; however, do more concerning the issue of an oil pipeline being built underneath a fresh water source, and the First Nations burial ground that was desecrated and destroyed to make the pipeline’s construction towards the river viable. I can offer nightly prayers to the Gods and Goddesses asking for assistance in stopping this. I can give monies and supplies to the defenders that are there. I can write to officials for the oil company, the construction company, the local governments, the state government, and the Federal government voicing my concerns. If I had the resources to do so, I would drag my Winnebago trailer up there, and stand on the front line with the defenders. There are plenty of actions that can be taken.
Its all about picking which fights I can help make change in, and which fights will provide no more change than the sound of my voice. In the case of Trump, its doubtful that anything I saw will change his mind on what he’s done. Best to just make my singular statement and move on. With #NoDAPL, writing these folks can make a difference, particularly if I write effectively and respectfully. Calling these folks a$$hole$ is the surest way to turn them off to what I am trying to say. Standing shoulder to shoulder with those folks is a direct action that can carry change. Singing my concerns and requests for assistance to the Gods is my way of adding in the Spiritual side of what I believe. I believe that such requests hurts no one…except the folks who get subjected to what I call “singing”. Whitney Houston, I definitely ain’t.
But what’s more – for me – getting out by the stone circle at night does more than just provide me a place to compete with the alley cats for the “song of my people” moment in the moonlight. Being out there, gazing up at the bright moon reminds me of who I am, and where I live. My ancestors are European in flavor. Most likely Celts. They sat around their nightly fires and looked up at the skies. They saw the Moon in all of Her glory. They saw the cloudy skies, where She played hide and seek among the Stars. They saw the stormy skies, and cowered slightly to the awesome display of cold, torrential rains coupled with the awesome flash of lightning – followed by the deafening sound of thunder following close behind.
I’m quite sure that they dealt with tribal politics. They got tired of hearing about how the blowhard herder Donaldus Trumpus had a better plan to lead the tribe in battle against the Slavic types just over the next ridge line. Or how the Romans were going to tip the balance in the region by propping up a half-Celt, half-Roman soldier named Barrackus Obamus as the next sacred Chieftain. And I wonder how they found balance with their daily lives? They lived much closer to the Spirits of Place then we currently do today. I would like to believe that they found their solace, their balance in daily life from living so close to what is Natural. Their lives constantly in the same balance that the rest of the natural world was in. As the bear went, so would the tribe. As the wolves managed, so would the tribe. As the deer survived and thrived, so would the tribe.
My stone circle is not much. It consists of fairly good sized stones from places I have visited. Each holds special meaning. Each holds a specific space and role in the circle. Altogether, it forms my sacred space. That space is where I take time to bring myself back to balance. To remember who I am, what I am, and how I will go about accomplishing what I need to do. Sometimes, the mundane world is part of those thoughts. Sometimes its not. It all depends on my frame of mind and the moment.
When I feel overwhelmed, I go this sacred space. Either physically or within my own self. My own circle. My own sacred space. Its here where I bring myself back to center. Its here that I achieve balance. Through meditations. Through prayer. Through centering, as in the OBOD Tree Meditation. There is no FoxNews or CNN located there. There’s no need for things like that, for me. I created my sacred space to be what I need it to be. A place to study, a place to contemplate, a place to remember, a place to rest….
Of course, its far better than sitting cross-legged on the ground, fingers in my ears, eyes shut tightly and screaming “LALALALALALALA” at the top of my lungs. That didn’t work when I was a kid, either.
I have taken to not writing much on the weekends. Typically, I use the two days I get off from work as ways to try and replenish who I am. Walks. Spending time at my circle in the backyard. Reading. Listening to lectures and music. You know, just generally avoiding the television and the insane twenty-four-hours news cycle that seems to permeate everything.
This morning – a Sunday – finds me sitting here at the keyboard of my Mac, drinking coffee, scratching the ears of the youngest cat (Kaylee) and listening to a concert from September 2015 by Phil Lesh, the former bassist of the Grateful Dead. Yeah, I have more Grateful Dead, and Grateful Dead related music material than anything else. I definitely am an individual born into the wrong generation.
I kid people at work, and tell them constantly that they don’t want my input on projects. I would only infect it with my hippie perspective. Except that I am not kidding about that. I bring a hippie perspective to nearly everything I do. Yes, I was born to the wrong generation, I firmly believe that.
Now, when my coworkers hear that I am a hippie, smoking weed immediately comes to their minds. Or doing some form of consciousness-altering drugs. Nothing could really be further from the truth. I smoked weed once in my life, in the parking lot of Hamel’s Amusement Park in Shreveport. After one pull, I promptly barfed my toenails up. And harder drugs just never appealed to me to even try. I had friends that got hooked on cocaine. The aftermath of what it did to them was warning enough to me. But I do enjoy whiskey…just a little too much. I’m a mean drunk, so I watch my alcohol intake very closely. And I know how I am around whiskey, so I don’t venture too far from a couple of IPA beers for the night – provided I am not driving. But the mythology of hippie culture being nothing more than drug-soaked indulgence…total nonsense, at least from my perspective.
But. The hippie culture was about loving one another. And not just in a sexual way. Mickey Hart made the proclamation of “Be kind to one another” at the end of the 50th anniversary concerts in Chicago last year. I have quoted that many, many times here in the blog. And for me, that is the one driving mantra of the hippie culture – to be kind to one another. You saw that in the Burning Man festivals from a few years ago. People who needed something to eat were provided that from nearly anywhere. Sadly, Burning Man became something that was “hip” – and the folks that have come to this event now bring their own security, and keep out people that they consider to be “undesirable” from their camps.
For me, the hippie mentality is one of inclusion. After all, we are all part of the same human race. Skin color means nothing. Height, weight, hair color, eye color, personal musical preferences, sexual orientation, gender identity, even political affiliation – none of that excludes you from the being a human being. And somehow, we manage to forget this every four years – particularly here in America.
Its called the Presidential election cycle. And every four years, we divide ourselves into smaller factions and make proclamations about how bad the other side is. We resort to insults. Yes, even I have done this in this political season. I am not fond of what the Republican nominee stands for. Not so long ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of the zombies from the TV series “The Walking Dead” wearing the “Make America Great” hats and carrying some of the yard signs for the Trump campaign. Shame on me for doing that. In essence, I got caught up in the “Us v. Them” breakdown that happens in every Presidential election cycle.
Ok. Take a moment, and close your mouth. Don’t be in too much disbelief over what I just said. And here’s why. On November 9th, what are we – as a collective nation going to do? Think about it. There’s a fair chance that Donald Trump could be the President of the United States. There’s an equal chance that Hillary Clinton could be President of the United States. What are you going to do when the candidate that is not your choice, wins? Riot in the streets? Grab your gun and shoot every supporter of that candidate until you feel satisfied with thinning out the gene pool? Board up all the windows in your home, and wait for an inevitable nuclear strike? What are you going to do if YOUR candidate DOES win? Are you going to gloat over how your candidate was really the ONLY choice that Americans could make? Or maybe, you might consider a different tactic…
What about going on with your life as you did on November 7th, just before the election? What about extending a hand to your neighbor who voted for the OTHER candidate? Are we going to start checking voter affiliation and asking who people voted for President before we provide assistance to them in their time of need? Maybe, we do go that route of pure political division. But I have faith in human beings.
I do believe we can put aside our political differences. We can stop regarding one another by the color of our skin, or how much money we make doing our mundane jobs. I have faith that we will eventually figure out that we are all part of the human race. That all the other divisions that come about from birth or from personal choices and preferences, won’t be seen as factors that keep us from working together. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. And by the Gods, I share in that dream. But to get there…as I regard our current election….we have a long way to go.
I want to thank Nadia for planting this into the foreground of my thoughts. Sometimes, it is the most controversial topics that can bring about some of the most inspired thinking. Thank you for planting that seed of thought….
So, what do I mean by “depth” in Spirituality? That’s a fair question, particularly concerning my little back and forth jaunt in yesterday’s blog post. But before I get going too far – let me preface this a little bit here. Trying to define what is and is not “deep” about one’s spirituality is a rather tough topic to tackle. After all, what I believe to be an approach of depth concerning Spirituality could be considered a rather shallow approach to someone else. Thus, for me to define the concept of “depth” for someone else would be a silly gesture. But I can describe how I approach the concept of “Deep Spirituality” and what it means to me. My approach might work for someone else; or it might not. It might inspire someone to seek a perspective of what “Deep Spirituality” means to them; or it might not. The truth of the matter is that I can only speak for myself.
For me, my turn towards a more in-depth approach to Spirituality began with taking my understanding of polytheism a little deeper than I had. To some degree or extent, I have had a belief in more than one God and/or Goddess for quite some time. I never truly approached the concept beyond that of the dual aspect of God and Goddess; seeing the various masks as psychological aspects. Except that I really didn’t believe that. I could see that each God and each Goddess were separate entities. Just as there are so many stars in the night sky, I could see that aspects of polytheistic belief worked the same way. All I needed to do was explore more; come to understand each aspect individually. Bumping into Coyote was not what I truly expected. From Coyote came Crow. Fliodhas has been a long, ongoing flirtation. And I have no clue with what is coming with the ravens. I assume I will find out soon enough.
Each introduction to these Gods and Goddess (one at this time) are far more intimate than I am willing to reveal on a blog post. But each has brought me to another part of diving deeper – research. And that’s one thing I can truly say for Pagans over Christians – Pagans tend to be a combination of data analysts, librarians, and folk researchers. Always combing for more information, looking through the tea leaves, the bones, and interpreting the cards. Hardly leaving any stone untouched, or any potential path to be examined. In my mundane job, I am asked to find patterns in the habits of students, the grading patterns of instructors, and the ebb/flow of enrollment between three main semesters of an academic year. In a manner of speaking, this is part of diving deeply into the analysis of my college’s student body. The same can be said about expanding and deepening my understanding of such concepts as the Wheel of the Year. All the rituals associated with certain aspects of the year, as well as the ebb/flow of the moon phases have patterns as well. Through continual study, as well as examination of ritual concepts against such aspects as cultural history and folklore; patterns can be discerned, examined and acted upon. But there’s always the reminder in the back of my mind: I am not trying to recreate something from the past. I am trying to bring pieces of the Past forward into the Present, where I might be able to utilize these in moving with far better grace into the Future.
Its those connections, between myself and everything else, and everything else with everything else that keep me driving forward. As I mentioned in a few recent blogs, conversation with other folks is another aspect of diving deeply for me. I don’t get this as much as I wish I could. But, that will eventually work itself out for me. Of that, I am confidant. Sharing of ideas and concepts with others is a wonderful to expand my point of view, in my opinion. Everyone tends to approach a topic from different angles, and each individual experience adds to what I consider to be the overall consciousness of an issue.
I know that some of what I have written here will strike a vein with some folks. Other folks will shrug and make an observation of the lightness of my approach. Others may scratch their heads and not completely understand. Believe it or not, I grok all three of those positions. I have been there. Each is an experience that I relate to very, very deeply. And at the same time, I know that everyone’s approach will be a little different than my own. Its what makes us all unique.
At the end of it all, I know that a large part of my Spirituality is about continually learning, growing, and evolving. There is no end-game. Only continual experience. Only expanded understanding. I don’t have a mystical hall of roads paved in gold, and a heavenly mansion awaiting me. Only experience. For me, that’s the blanket of the future for me. Always weaving itself. And the best way I have managed to do this? By not trying at all. Ain’t that some kind of paradox? Personally, I don’t think so.
A few comments here and there have gotten me into the current train of thought that I have. There are so many different ways to approach one’s own spirituality. Depending on the individual, their purpose, and their individual need – one can dive deeply into their beliefs and daily practice. or one can skim from the surface of the water, sampling from various areas of the body of water, collecting all the samples together to make a mosaic of belief. or one can choose some completely different method of partaking in belief that I have not thought of in this extremely small sample-sized paragraph. The point is that we all approach belief differently.
For the longest time, I utilized the skimming the surface concept. I sampled here and there – tossing what didn’t work; keeping what did. That worked for a while, until I sampled a bit deeper and encountered Coyote and Crow face-to-face. Now I dig deeper. My rituals have a different feel to me. My daily rituals remain simple, but bigger ritual aspects have become a little more complex. I research more. I am digging through my ancestry to find what I believe may be “missing” pieces. I am deliberately encountering more Spirits of Place. I am deliberately coming face-to-face with the concept of Spirits of Ancestor. Even my desire for conversation is taking on a need for deeper, more in-depth topics.
And then I look outwards, and I see so much less in Spirituality. And not just from the Pagan community. I see how shallow Religious-osity (I know its not a word, I made it up) is in the world around me. As times seem to get more desperate, more tenuous, more unpredictable – I see more people clinging onto the Lifeboat of Religion. And so few of these folks are Pagans. So many more are grasping on to Christianity in its various forms.
I sometimes wonder if that has to do with the ease of which people can grasp the concepts of Christianity? After all, its a belief system that nearly all of us have had shoved down our throats from mainstream and pop cultures. Paganism, with its implied need for inner work (and there’s plenty of that), and seemingly complex ritual (its more foreign than complex to the over-saturated pop-culture mind) is not a ready-made belief system. The handholds may be more difficult to comprehend than the ready-made Lifeboat of Christianity.
Perhaps the handholds on the Lifeboat of Christianity are easier to comprehend because the bar for acceptance is a bit lower? Or is it because today’s pop culture has such a shallow aspect to it, that a belief system with deep meaning would be difficult? But that’s not really a fair statement. I have met many Christians that have a deep, extremely powerful and meaningful Belief system. I have also encountered folks within the Pagan belief systems that are seemingly shallow with their own beliefs. Its also not fair of me to claim someone else’s belief to be shallow or deep; particularly when I am comparing their belief to my own – utilizing my own personal standards of what is shallow and deep.
I also have to realize, I came from the same position that many of these folks – both Christian and Pagan are at. To sit and judge their perspective as being shallow or not nearly as deep as what I perceive my own to be – that’s definite a narcissistic perspective coming from me. As if my own beliefs are better or deeper than others. My perspective is where I am, and my only standard of measure should be where I was previous to where I am now, and where it is that I am striving towards with my own beliefs.
But I do wonder sometimes….is a shallow pop culture a symptom of how the average person perceives their own Spirituality or is it a cause of an approach to Spirituality that has seemingly been more shallow as the time moves forward? And that’s really an answer I do not know how to approach. But its still there, in the back of my mind. Perpetually unanswered, except where my own personal perspective is concerned.
Yeah, I’m just a blast at parties. (/snark)
1986. Sometime around August. I cannot recall the exact date. I do recall the location though. A quaint little Irish Pub in Fort Worth called “The Pig and Whistle and Pub”. It was here that I met my very first Pagan, a Wiccan High Priestess named Serena. We spent much of the evening making small talk, after all we were on a date. We played darts a few times – at that time I carried my own set, and we eventually crossed into the territory of belief. I had my own super silly thoughts of what being a Witch was about. She had her own assumptions of what I believed coming out of a Southern Baptist background. We wound up misjudging one another by a great deal. But it was the time discussing things that provided such an depth of value between the two of us.
I rarely get to have great, in-depth conversations with other folks about beliefs and the such. Religion is an off-the-table subject at work…though many people find ways to slam their beliefs into your face in what they believe are subtle machinations. Last year, when I attended Pantheacon I knew very few people there, and didn’t get the chance to have discussions of this kind of nature. Hopefully, Pantheacon 2017 will be a little different.
I see so many other Pagans having conversations of this degree with folks they know online, and I get a little jealous. I would certainly would love to sit down with a group of folks and discuss the intricacies of belief, ritual, the Gods Themselves, experiences, interconnection – over a cup of coffee, a beer, or even under the stars at the edge of the campfire. I am a solo practitioner. What I do in my Spiritual Life is typically done alone. But having some sort of group interaction is always a refreshing point of view.
Using a crude metaphor, Merton claims that no man can be an island….but Merton never lived an hour-plus drive outside of the nearest group of Pagans. Granted, Merton may never have been a Pagan either, but you get the idea.
Now, I do have a handful of Christian friends that I could potentially have such conversations with. Let me stress – POTENTIALLY. In my experiences since 1986, talking religious and spiritual beliefs with Christians tends to devolve into an attempt on their part for conversion. So, I have managed to stay back from that attempt as much as I can. Attempted discussions with co-workers (behind closed doors) have also devolved into how I am doing things “wrong” by not following the Christian Path. And a Christian v. Pagan thematic was not what I was really trying to craft in a conversation. Yet, somehow it always manages to devolve in that direction.
In the 2005 movie Serenity, a dying Shepherd Book tells Captain Malcom Reynolds: “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.” Its a particular statement that has shown up in many of the conversations I have had with others. I’m a Polytheist. I’m a Pagan. I find value and reverence in every Path. It is not up to me to determine a Path for another, nor to judge the validity within that Path. Nor is it for me to set in stone the where/when/why/how of a Path either. But when I hear people lay down laws, statutes, and rules for how certain people should or should not be within a particular Path, I have to remind myself that that individual’s walk is not mine. I can disagree all I wish, but in the end – their walk is between them and whatever aspect of Deity/Spirituality is calling them forward. Its providing direction for them – even if I were to think it to be wrong. I will only cross swords with them if they are harming others. Voicing dogmatic opinions is not harmful, unless they attach an action to follow it. For instance, “People 5’5″ and having balding, blonde hair are an abomination to the Lord. They should be put to death.” The description I am providing is me. I’m ok with being an abomination. I am not ok with being put to death. I will let the first part stand; the second will provoke a violent counter-response from me. After all, I’m very into being alive.
Yes, I am aware that I am answering dogmatic response with a semi-dogmatic response law of my own. A line of what is right and what is unacceptable has to be drawn somewhere. I follow a very Hippie perspective: Be kind to others. But I also have a protectionist aspect to add: Protect others that are being attacked. In a way of speaking, its a sort of Samurai Code. But I am not Samurai. I am just me. So, from my perspective, its just a way of trying to do the right thing….
See, its conversational topics like this that I would love to entertain over a cup of coffee, or a beer, or even a cup of hot chocolate (which is what I am drinking right now). I will tell you, being a solo practitioner is rewarding to me, but there is just as much reward in being a part of a group – particularly where you can talk in-depth about topics in a semi-social setting. The value in that, in my opinion, is immeasurable. And one that I am going to try and seek out.