Music does a lot for me. Its the soothing sound in the background. Its also something that makes my brain percolate around topics. While writing the previous post on ritual – I found myself straying into the topic of the Pagan Community. Don’t ask me how I get there, it just happens. But one thing was a marker of sorts for me – “Something to Believe In” by Poison.
Ok, I get it. Hair bands are not exactly popular things these days. And I do remember a documentary where the late Ronnie James Dio – someone I respect immensely – stated that Poison and bands like them essentially killed heavy metal. I disagree with Ronnie, and am floating a little beyond the topic – but it definitely was this one song that keeps coming back to mind. So bear with me as I drag a piece of my mis-spent youth into the picture (look what the Elf dragged in!). Ok folks, you can put down the fruit, vegetables, and eggs you are about to start throwing. I’ll get back to the topic!!
I have been around Pagan communities, in one form or another, during most of my thirty-plus (cough cough) years on my Pagan path. I’ve watched how groups start out like a rocket headed for deep space, and eventually lose momentum over things such as internal politics, and inane power struggles. When I was much younger, and far more idealistic, I would actually roll up my sleeves and pant legs – and wade right into the middle of things. Now, as I am older and have far less energy to fight the same battles over and over. I usually pack my tent and head home.
At work (pick a job, any job), I have a penchant for being a troubleshooter. I fix things. I find trends. I try to create solutions. And in the workplace, this is a touch easier. Everyone has the same vested interest – to make the company go, so we can make money through the purchase of our company’s products, and wind up being paid a paycheck, and have our insurance benefits covered. Vested interest = vested attention. Much easier to communicate with people.
Its a little harder to do the same thing with the Pagan Community. Many people will join up in a banding of the Community (think Pagan Pride Days, as an example). They will be excited about what the project can bring. How Pagans everywhere can benefit from what is being done. There may be a wide, diverse representation of the Pagan Community involved. And while everyone is gathered, there will be visions of the direction that this can take. Notice. visions. Plural. Everyone will have an idea of how this grouping of folks can benefit their small corner of the Big Tent (to borrow a phrase from the marvelous writings of John Beckett). The original organizers will have an idea how their event or project can benefit the community, as well as providing a springboard for the benefit of smaller groups and individuals. And thus will begin the inevitable herding of the cats.
I have watched this happen many times over. And honestly, it is frustrating, but its also a very sad moment. When people and groups set their own agendas ahead of one that benefits the entire Community. I watch people step away frustrated, jaded and confused. Their goal and intention was to build something that everyone else can utilize as a place to bring their own intentions and dreams to showcase for others. Instead, they get a front row seat to the squabbles, bickering, and posturing of others who sweep aside the wider goal, and subjugate it to their own.
I feel like I am writing an early Black Sabbath song here. All doom and gloom.
Generals gathered in their masses,
just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
sorcerer of death’s construction.
In the fields the bodies burning,
as the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind,
poisoning their brainwashed minds…Oh lord yeah!
But. The reality is that not all is doom and gloom. In a few days (less than two weeks and counting), I will be boarding a plane (flying again…sigh) and headed to California for PantheaCon 2016. I have heard stories about things that happen at this Con. Like any gathering, there will be some form of drama. But I have heard about some lovely conversations that come out of PantheaCon. And I am interested in what there is to offer. Thus the reason that I decided to go. And I haven’t even made it through airport security, and I have already made contact with a lot of people that are wanting to talk. Not just to promote something that they have – but also just to talk. To get to know one another. To fellowship together. To pursue ideas. To discuss, and maybe even some light debate. Nothing that could start some “witch war” between us, just respectful disagreement followed on with exploration of those disagreements to find where root agreement flourishes. In other words – practice what a community is.
I saw this at the first Pagan Pride Day I worked with at White Rock Lake here in Dallas (2013). I have seen this in action at the ADF Imbolc Retreat that I attended last year (and going to again this next weekend). I saw this at Austin’s marvelous Pagan Pride Day this past year, where I travelled all the way from north Texas in one morning to have a wonderful interview with Chris Godwin (who I will see again next weekend). Pagans who come together, talk, discuss, play, hug, hold light arguments over differences, sing around the fire, pour libations to the Gods – and generally celebrate the fact that we are all Pagans, Christians, Atheists, or what have you….but above that, we are all human beings.
While I am saddened by the events, projects, groupings that have failed for one reason or another – my heart is gladdened by the fact that there are people who overcome these obstacles and keep things on track. Yes, people. While it is a group of people who make things go – keep the project on track; its still individuals who set aside their own personal agendas and desires to make things go that are the ones to be heralded. Eventually, they get afforded the spot to bring their own individual agendas to the forefront. They are provided the spotlight and the stage for their own ideas. That same spotlight and stage that they helped to build for others to do the same.
Eventually, the talking stick comes around to you. Just as the chalice may come to you within the bounds of a ritual. You wind up with a choice. You can drink from the Chalice, or you can hoist the Chalice in a salute to the Gods and Goddesses that call to you. I have passed the Chalice so many times when it is presented to me. I am hoping that I get the chance at PantheaCon to hold the talking stick for a little bit, but I am looking forward to sitting and listening. Communing with my fellow PantheaCon attendees.
Remember, I had referenced Poison’s “Something to Believe In” at the beginning of the post? Well, here’s where I add it back in again.
I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street
Like bodies in an open grave
Underneath the broken old neon sign
That used to read JESUS SAVES
A mile away live the rich folks
And I see how they’re living it up
While the poor they eat from hand to mouth
The rich is drinkin’ from a golden cup
And it just makes me wonder why so many lose, so few win
You take the high road and I’ll take the low road
Sometimes I wish to God I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then
And give me something to believe in
Well, to be frankly honest, as I watch Pagan after Pagan come out of the shadows – unafraid to be who they are. I am giving that hope for something to believe in. I have the hope that a widely diverse Pagan community can come together, discuss differences, debate definitions, and at the end of the day hug one another over what holds us together. Can it be done? Certainly. One only has to look at PantheaCon has accomplished, even with the dramatic moments. It can be done. It has been done. It will continue to be done. Its all a matter of growth, growing up, and some folks stepping through the doorway to be leaders – both loud and quiet, brash and shy, through words and actions. And because of that, I am excited by what the prospect of the future brings for the Big Tent. From my perspective, I definitely have something to believe in for this widely diverse community we are all a part of.