There seems to be a lot of debate throughout the Pagan realms these days. And lately it seems that nearly any/every aspect of Paganism is up for some kind of kerfluffle wherever you glance. What makes a “good” Polytheist – how to define what is or is not a Pagan – should Pagans be involved in political/social causes – and if a Pagan is not involved in such, does this make them a “bad” Pagan – and on and on and on. There comes a point where my brain just turns off whenever I see/read/hear such arguments. And these are mostly arguments or debates. Rarely does there seem to be anything even dressed up to look like a discussion. Its just folks digging the trenches for their perspective positions and readying the Molotov cocktails from their lexicons for the coming verbal/textual battles.
Start With Why
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. -Simon Sinek, TEDTalk, 2009, Puget Sound, WA
In his TEDTalk in 2009, “Start With Why“, Simon Sinek discussed a concept called “The Golden Circle” which had at its center the word “Why”. Two outer rings from that point were the words “how” and “what”. His position was that effective communication about your product starts with telling people why you do what you do – rather than the typical advertising mantra of telling you what the company does, and how they differentiate themselves from the competition. In a large way, this entire perspective drives why I do not participate much in the theology debates/arguments that seemingly parade endlessly through the Pagan blogosphere.
For the most part, the perspective tends to start out with a re-telling of “what” an individual is standing for in their own perspective, followed quickly with a “how” they are different/better than the other perspective(s). Rarely is there a follow on to that as to “why” they believe what they believe. The focus tends to remain squarely on the matter of “how” their differences stand-out from the others. And I would posit that this is where the entire discussion derails into the area of an argument or debate – and in my opinion, turns so many people off. The discussion moves away from “why” people believe as they believe and steps firmly into the territories of “what” they believe and “how” they are different — fertile territories for nothing more than point v. counter-point banter. So in the spirit of stepping into what I believe to be the far more rich ground of “why” – I decided to write this particular blog post. Hopefully, I’m somewhat articulate.
The Territory of WHY
Why Paganism? Why Druidry? Why Polytheism? Why Animism? Each and every one of these have been valid questions over the years. And I do mean years. I started down my path of Paganism back in the mid- to late- 1980s. After reading “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler, and “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk – I realized that I had stumbled upon a way of living that allowed me to combine my love of being outdoors (even in the easy-bake oven environment of Texas in the Summer), my connection with various animals, and my strong sense of spiritual nature. It was real. It had a name: “Paganism.” And it was nothing like I thought it was. It turned out to be a lot of hard work, a lot of thinking, a lot of trying to shape my own understanding of the world around me, a lot of examination of connections and connectivity that I had never been aware of before. And as odd, foreign, weird, and strange as it seemed – it “fit”. Many other Pagans I have talked with about this described it as a sense of “coming home”, which I could understand. For me, it was a bit different. It was like taking a blindfold off and taking in the wide-ranging view of a prairie landscape stretching out before you with large mountain ranges far off in the distance. Small enough to be distant, but near enough to display their immense size as well. And then being handed the freedom to explore where and how you liked – so long as you learned, and did not become a nuisance to the others around you. Respectful exploration.
Druidry, on the other hand, was much further down the line. I explored all sorts of nooks and crannies until I stumbled upon Druidry. At first, there was that feeling of a wrong turn. It was foreign enough to many of the other Pagan paths I had walked to not have a familiar enough feel. Eventually, I stepped onto that Path and found out more of the wonders of connectivity to my environment – and eventually the connectivity to the Gods and Goddesses as individual entities. Druidry was the focal point of bringing more in line with my own Spiritual nature. Much like putting glasses on to adjust your eyesight – Druidry provided that focus then, and continues to do so now. Druidry provides a stable framework within Paganism for me to work with. That may not be the case for anyone else – but it certainly is for me. Through the lens of Druidry, I understood the meditation techniques that help me to commune with Gods and Goddesses. I am no expert by any means, but its a focal lens that helps me in my own studies.
In the initial steps of my Pagan path, I came to understand the combined aspect of God and Goddess. The gods and goddesses of mythology were merely psychological archetypes that assisted in understanding the Lord and Lady in a more magnified manner. This was helpful for me to get beyond the Christian theology of my upbringing. When I stepped onto the Path of Druidry, and began my exploration of the concepts of Animism – I found that there was far more to the Lord and Lady then I had envisioned. Beyond that simple two-fold layer were the Gods and Goddesses within mythology. They were there to be experienced, to commune with, and eventually to work directly with. For me, it was that understanding which made me realize that I am a polytheistic Pagan. The Gods and Goddesses were real! And to this day, its a feeling I marvel in every step of every day. And while I was starting to experience this concept, I managed to find another fold that opened my world — Animism.
Animism helped me to understand and realize the connections and connectivity to everything within the web of Life. Everything is alive – yes, even the rocks and stones. They merely exist in a different fashion of time than humans, and animals do. Trees also exist in a different fashion of time than humans and animals. For these particular spirits…time is far slower and longer lasting. And each aspect has a connection to everything – the rocks are connected to the trees which are connected to the animals which are connected to the humans who are connected to the land which is connected to the water, which is connected to the sky. Everything is alive – which is dependent on how you define life. Furthermore, we all form a balance here within this ecosphere, which human beings have not been respectful of nor caring about how we maintain our position within that balance. And that ecosphere is alive, and constantly striving to make things rebalance whenever there is a change. But I am getting into the “what” aspect of all this now. 🙂
Why do I believe as I believe? Because I feel the connections to everything. I may not understand the large majority of these connections, but I do feel and experience these connections. The hard part is explaining the connections to those who do not want to even see that existence. Rather, there is always the discussion of why these connections are not discussed in the Bible. Perhaps, I would counter – its because the Bible speaks of having dominion over the Earth – rather than seeking communion with the Earth and all its creatures – human, animal and otherwise. But that turns towards debate…and its an area I am not really wanting to traverse into. Honestly, I’d rather agree to disagree — and move on with doing the things that make me the Pagan that I am: learning and experiencing….