I have been openly Pagan since 1986 – and honestly, that is sometimes described as a “long time” by quite a few, including myself. In reality, the years and time frame do not mean much. I lived through the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, where I was accused by several members of my department (USAF – Active Duty) of being a Satanist. There was a month long period where no one in the duty section would work a full shift with me – we worked deep nights (11pm – 7am) – and a day-shift supervisor eventually spent a single night shift working with me. He was a pentecostal minister, and spent the entire shift following me from work area to work area – asking me all kinds of questions about what I believed in and why. I wound up doing all of the work that night, and really resented that. When the shift was over, I asked him to come out to the loading dock, where I completely went off on him. That moment – where I turned on my supervisor – wound up being a conversation that lasted until 11am. The next night, my nervous co-workers were back on shift with me, obviously expecting me to cast some kind of voodoo spell on them. With a light load of work, I sat them all down in the work area, and explained what I expected of them when we were at work. Later I was told that this particular talking session led to me being promoted into the NCO ranks a few months early. Apparently I was considered to be “leadership material” – if they only knew my predilection towards an avoidance of being in any lead role. And while that talking session with my co-workers was key towards keeping harmony in the duty section long enough to get work done – it was the bitch-out session on the loading dock that has really remained with me through all the years.
Earlier this year, I read Emma Restall-Orr‘s book “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“. While I found some of the reading a bit dry and difficult – I am not a fan of Psychology or Philosophy – it did serve to be something similar to stirring the Liquid Oxygen tanks on the Apollo 13 mission. The result was not an explosion in the sense that half of my spacecraft was ripped apart and the rest of the mission was placed in jeopardy. But the book did serve to snap several puzzle pieces together in my brain. Once I started looking at my environment in a different light, I could see the connective nature of everything. We have all heard the “circle of life” concept thanks to the wonderful (yes I am a fan) of the animated movie “The Lion King”. At the time, I thought it was just a cutsey tagline for the movie – over time, I have found out differently. But it never dawned on me to see my environment in the same light – that rocks, dirt, and other compound subjects could have the same quality that animate objects have.
Now that I see the connective matter there, I have started to rework the way I see a lot of the rest of the world as well. I see the connective issues between consumer, retailer, supply chain, producer, and how each of those relationships spawn more relationships. I can see that it matters what happens halfway around the world, where fracking is occurring in England – as it will have an effect on the environment there, which can cause changes in nearby environments, which then causes more changes to the environments nearby those. What we do in one location has effects throughout the world. Its been a really sobering moment for me in my own life, and the way I approach my relationship with the Gods.
But this has also caused me to wonder about the approach to what is important in Spirituality. Speaking from a a generic and broad-brushed approach, each individual’s Spirituality is an approach to the important questions in Life. Those questions can be different for each unique individual, but I believe that the one question that continually crops up on various individual lists is “what is the meaning to my Life?” I won’t speak for everyone here and say that each of us has approached this particular topic at one point or another in our lives. However, I know it has cropped up in my thoughts more than once in my forty-eight years in this lifetime. Now, with a look from a far different vantage point than I have had previously in my life, I wonder if this is the wrong question to be asking.
When I think a little more on the topic, it seems a little self indulgent – perhaps even bordering on the egocentric perspective of self-important. As if there is a search to find that meaning of what my individual Life is about, and then assign some degree of value associated with it. Looking at my own Life, would I consider myself to have the same value as a Steve Jobs? Or Professor Leonard Kleinrock? Albert Einstein? Or any of the other great innovators or social movers in History? What about when compared to Joe Blow who works at the local Circle K on the deep night shift? When I look at a question of determining the meaning associated with my own life, I see the circle of understanding being very local, very self-oriented…selfish, if you will.
We are all a part of our environment. We all have a value in the entire aspect of inter-connectedness. Every rock, tree, person, single celled organism – all serve a purpose in that environment. Each has an intrinsic value that lessens the larger living organism that comprises our combined existence. Certainly, there will be individual entities that have a far more critical role in the combined existence, but each entity provides overall value. That combined value is important to the makeup of the combined organism. So that leads me back to the question…are we asking the right question in our search within Spirituality?
Perhaps the question is not about the meaning to our individual existence, but rather how is my individual existence connected to the overall pattern? In a way, we can find or derive answers from the concept of Mesh Networks in computer network topology. With no central server in the network, each workstation holds a position of equality in the overall hierarchy. When a workstation is damaged or turned off, the network recombines the remaining workstations into a new topology. When a new workstation is added to the network, the topology recombines again to incorporate the new workstation. Given a large enough infrastructure, it is feasible for the network to continually expand and contract in a very short period of time many times over. In essence, the network is alive with change. Instead of looking for meaning in such a structure, each workstation defines its existence by the connectivity it has to fellow workstations in the network. Maybe this is the real answer.
Or I should say, this is the question we should focus on – where and what are the connections that we have in each relationship in our combined existence and environment? We connect economically. We connect socially. We connect organically. We connect mentally. We connect physically. But how do we connect? With what do we connect? How is that relationship built, strengthened and grown? Perhaps, we are asking the wrong connections, and maybe its because we have become far too self-focused.