I am one of those people that watches. Perhaps a better way to term that – I am an observer. For instance, the tree in my backyard is one of those indicators that I constantly observe. Yesterday, I noticed that there are small buds on the ends of the branches – a typical sign for me that Winter is coming to a close, and Spring is about to put its foot through the door-frame. Late in the afternoon – the weather turned towards a hard frost with a large amount of sleet falling. This morning, the buds are even larger – I will be watching intently over the next few days to see if the leaves begin to sprout. I observe.
When I was running my podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” – a few times I likened the podcast’s name to my position within my Pagan community. I stood just on the edge of the widened circle, just barely in the glow of the fire and partially hidden in the shadows. Not out of the sight of anyone, but not in the bright glow that others may seek. And I have observed. I remember well the Satanic Panic of the mid-to-late 1980s, where Pagans were painted with a broad brush by the Christian community. Where some Pagans recanted their beliefs publicly to avoid the jaundiced eye of a public community that was willing to believe the worst rumors concerning something they did not understand. Where other Pagans put their lives and families on the line, publicly taking a stand for what they believed – demanded the respect and privacy that should have been afforded to them under the Constitution of the United States. I was in an enviable position as a military member, my rights were protected under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I had no fear or need to hide who I was. But I observed what happened to my local Pagan community.
I was at the fringes of the “Witch Wars” that enveloped my community as well. The military sent me overseas as that process started to unfold. When I returned four years later, the Pagan community that I remember had drastically changed. There was no cohesiveness, no unity. There were small groups that did not talk to one another because of this reason or that. I had spent four years as a singular individual within my own Spirituality. I read books. I spent time in the forests of Germany. I found my strength within myself. I observed that I knew more than I had previously thought. Upon my return to my local community, I remained an individual – opting for no group. At least, at first.
When I did find what I thought to be a group of folks that I could work and grow with, I found myself embroiled in a growing collective of politics and internal power struggles. I watched. I observed how these power struggles consumed various areas and approaches to the group. I found none of this to be inviting for my own spiritual growth or adding to my own spiritual needs. And I left. Back to my own personal Path.
Here on the edges, I have watched and observed. My podcast and blog were the only manners in which I have stepped out into the community at large. The internet, as a communications tool, has changed a lot of the dynamics of how people connect with one another. My community is not the local entity that it once was. But the politics remain. The bickering remains. The endless struggle to try and define what this term means, or how it applies to these other people, or if it does not apply. Who is allowed to use this term to describe themselves. Are people “Pagan enough” to be included? Why certain people should be excluded – over whether their religious/spiritual beliefs and practices are correct enough or not.
I read. I listen. I watch. I observe. And I am just one Pagan. One person. Surely there are others. And I do believe that the Gods watch as well. I do not see the Gods as preparing themselves to wreak vengeance down upon those who revel in the bickering, politics, and such. That kind of action is for the Christian God. I believe the Gods watch, observe, and hope. They hope that we, as Pagans, as followers of Pantheistic or Polytheistic or whatever other -istic definition device you can dream up – they hope that we can again focus on the stuff that really matters: finding, developing and cultivating our connection to the Sacred. The “how” is not a real issue. Whether you do so through Zen meditation, or environmental efforts (such as picking up trash in your neighborhood), or camping, or what have you — the method is not important. What is important is that you find your connection to the Sacred, the strands that tie you into the rest of the world around you. And then strengthen that bond in whatever manner you can, or whatever is most useful for you.
In the meantime, They watch. So do I. So do so many other Pagans, some of which need a little guidance on how to take their first steps. And get turned off by the free-fall that they see. I am just one Pagan – one simple, 48-year old man – making my way through my daily Life. Watching and observing.