I have read a couple of posts here and there about PantheaCon – mostly from John Beckett, but I am sure there will be more to come from the folks who went. I did not go – nor do I ever have plans to attend. I teach college classes, and this particular event happens typically at the quarter-point of my semester. I am not about to walk away from my classes to attend a Convention, no matter how tempting it might be (which it really is not). But I do enjoy reading some of the questions raised at such events, and quite a few were presented over at the Wild Hunt on this post by Jason Pitzl-Waters. So I was quite intrigued to read the material he presented, and the resulting comments – and decided to lend my own (albeit quite small) voice to the fray. So, let’s start with where Jason’s observations did:
If I were to sum up what I thought the spirit of PantheaCon this year was, I think it would be the overarching question: What kind of community, what kind of religious movement, do we want? Who do we want to include? Who do we want to exclude? What do we look like? Are we prepared to examine our flaws? Our privilege ? Do we want to build new institutions? Are the ones that we have serving us?
Quite an intriguing arena of material to work with. But let me start with my first observation – the (what I assume to be) royal we utilized in much of the questions. While I get the idea, I am supremely uncomfortable with the perspective of stating any form of ‘we’ in how I answer. I can no more answer any question or provide any observation for any other Pagan than myself, than I can take credit for any of the database systems I have worked on as a developer or Database Administrator. I certainly had a hand in the design and operation of those DBMSs, but I cannot speak on behalf of anyone else that was on any of those development and operational teams. Now, I am not trying to criticise Jason’s choice of words here, just merely pointing out how I find that choice to be cringeworthy in my eyes. There are a few – as evidenced in the comments to this thread – that point to PantheaCon as being a meeting of elitist Pagans, who only acknowledge people that they feel are worthy of admittance into their group. As someone who has never attended a single Pantheacon event, I cannot attest to the correctness or wrongness of such sentiments…and I can only take the word of individuals who have attended and either feel that to be correct or incorrect. In my mind, Jason’s word choice does not seem to be intentional towards being exclusive – merely just a choice of what seemed appropriate in his statement. I do not see Jason as being any kind of elitist or what have you. Now, that and ten bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. On to more meatier ponderings….
The question of what kind of community do we want to have, and who should be included – certainly does not help to dispel some of the elitist tags that get bandied about – but it certainly does bring some interesting food for thought. What precisely is going to be the makeup of a “Pagan Community”; how do we define its overall community; and dependent on that definition – should we be all inclusive or aim towards an area of specifics in terms of what makes up such a community? All of this ties into other areas, such as Polytheism, Eco-Warrior perspectives, sustainable living, pantheism, and a few others – but it begs the question: what the fuck should be considered as a “Pagan Community”? And who gets to make that choice??
….and this is where the terrain goes from a smooth, gravel-laid, walking path through the forest – and becomes a rock-strewn, uneven deer trail through the woods. The footing becomes a little less sure, there’s always the potential to trip on exposed tree roots, and sometimes the path can fade into nothing for a while. Then you hope that the trail picks up where you are walking – otherwise, you may find yourself walking in the middle of nowhere, with no trail or landmarks to guide you. And depending on your point-of-view, this can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing.
Again, I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. Which makes addressing the concept of “community” a little difficult. An opinion of one, to address a definition of many. I look at community as a group of people that help one another – regardless of differences of opinion. A community assists one another when there is need. A community celebrates together when there are moments of greatness. A community mourns together when there is loss. For me, there is no reason to exclude anyone – even those who have done some form of wrong. In my opinion, everyone deserves a second-chance. Its when they blow that second-chance that removes them from the community. Forgive the first time, but be wary until the trust is rebuilt. After the second violation…well, there’s no reason to trust after that. But this is what community is for me. Its about helping, assisting one another, celebrating Life with one another, and mourning loss together.
So, how to splint this into an idea of what a Pagan Community is for me. Its not difficult for me to imagine. I saw it with my own two eyes back on October 5th of last year. A community of Pagan folk came together and celebrated the fact that we were all Pagan. Together. All of our differences were on display to one another. We accepted those differences, we embraced those differences – and acknowledged one another as brothers and sisters. We came together to give back to the other communities around us – the communities that we physically live in. The communities that are defined by geographical definitions. For that afternoon, we were a single tribe of people, even despite our differences. And for those on the DFW Pagan Pride Day planning committee – it has continued. And I see elements of that continue in other areas of the DFW Pagan Community. For me, that’s what community is about. There’s no exclusion of people because of their social or legal sins. There’s no exclusion of people because their beliefs don’t fit neatly into a single definition. That’s Pagan Community – at least for me.
The tougher questions to answer – are we prepared to look at our flaws? Are we prepared to look at our sense of privilege? I would certainly hope so. Again, I can only answer for myself here. I know I am by no means the “perfect” anything. I make mistakes. I have flaws. I accept that and do my best to not let any of that get in the way of being a productive member of my part of what I perceive of community. But am I prepared to examine my own sense of privilege? I would hope so, but first, I need to see what my sense of privilege is exactly. So my answer to this would be “not yet” — mostly because I have not identified where all of that is around me. Until then, I can only answer in the negative.
These questions are what I consider to be the tip of the spear – the point that needs to be discussed and determined by anyone and everyone. All of our answers are going to be different – because all of our individual needs will be different. But regardless of that level of difference, that area of individuality that tends to be the primary spark within Pagan belief systems…this is still something that we need to examine…and determine for ourselves. Our individual, selves. I think this question will be an interesting one, and that the answers will also be quite interesting as well. My voice is not the be-all, end-all – and truth be told, I am a very, very small voice in the Pagan blogosphere and podcast communities. I am brave enough to offer my own perspective here – in the open, where it can be hailed as brilliant (not likely), roundly criticised and debated (also not likely) or soundly ignored (more likely). But I do dare to make a noise (a small one) and how I perceive things. An avalanche starts when a single pebble has a dream of moving things.