1986. Sometime around August. I cannot recall the exact date. I do recall the location though. A quaint little Irish Pub in Fort Worth called “The Pig and Whistle and Pub”. It was here that I met my very first Pagan, a Wiccan High Priestess named Serena. We spent much of the evening making small talk, after all we were on a date. We played darts a few times – at that time I carried my own set, and we eventually crossed into the territory of belief. I had my own super silly thoughts of what being a Witch was about. She had her own assumptions of what I believed coming out of a Southern Baptist background. We wound up misjudging one another by a great deal. But it was the time discussing things that provided such an depth of value between the two of us.
I rarely get to have great, in-depth conversations with other folks about beliefs and the such. Religion is an off-the-table subject at work…though many people find ways to slam their beliefs into your face in what they believe are subtle machinations. Last year, when I attended Pantheacon I knew very few people there, and didn’t get the chance to have discussions of this kind of nature. Hopefully, Pantheacon 2017 will be a little different.
I see so many other Pagans having conversations of this degree with folks they know online, and I get a little jealous. I would certainly would love to sit down with a group of folks and discuss the intricacies of belief, ritual, the Gods Themselves, experiences, interconnection – over a cup of coffee, a beer, or even under the stars at the edge of the campfire. I am a solo practitioner. What I do in my Spiritual Life is typically done alone. But having some sort of group interaction is always a refreshing point of view.
Using a crude metaphor, Merton claims that no man can be an island….but Merton never lived an hour-plus drive outside of the nearest group of Pagans. Granted, Merton may never have been a Pagan either, but you get the idea.
Now, I do have a handful of Christian friends that I could potentially have such conversations with. Let me stress – POTENTIALLY. In my experiences since 1986, talking religious and spiritual beliefs with Christians tends to devolve into an attempt on their part for conversion. So, I have managed to stay back from that attempt as much as I can. Attempted discussions with co-workers (behind closed doors) have also devolved into how I am doing things “wrong” by not following the Christian Path. And a Christian v. Pagan thematic was not what I was really trying to craft in a conversation. Yet, somehow it always manages to devolve in that direction.
In the 2005 movie Serenity, a dying Shepherd Book tells Captain Malcom Reynolds: “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.” Its a particular statement that has shown up in many of the conversations I have had with others. I’m a Polytheist. I’m a Pagan. I find value and reverence in every Path. It is not up to me to determine a Path for another, nor to judge the validity within that Path. Nor is it for me to set in stone the where/when/why/how of a Path either. But when I hear people lay down laws, statutes, and rules for how certain people should or should not be within a particular Path, I have to remind myself that that individual’s walk is not mine. I can disagree all I wish, but in the end – their walk is between them and whatever aspect of Deity/Spirituality is calling them forward. Its providing direction for them – even if I were to think it to be wrong. I will only cross swords with them if they are harming others. Voicing dogmatic opinions is not harmful, unless they attach an action to follow it. For instance, “People 5’5″ and having balding, blonde hair are an abomination to the Lord. They should be put to death.” The description I am providing is me. I’m ok with being an abomination. I am not ok with being put to death. I will let the first part stand; the second will provoke a violent counter-response from me. After all, I’m very into being alive.
Yes, I am aware that I am answering dogmatic response with a semi-dogmatic response law of my own. A line of what is right and what is unacceptable has to be drawn somewhere. I follow a very Hippie perspective: Be kind to others. But I also have a protectionist aspect to add: Protect others that are being attacked. In a way of speaking, its a sort of Samurai Code. But I am not Samurai. I am just me. So, from my perspective, its just a way of trying to do the right thing….
See, its conversational topics like this that I would love to entertain over a cup of coffee, or a beer, or even a cup of hot chocolate (which is what I am drinking right now). I will tell you, being a solo practitioner is rewarding to me, but there is just as much reward in being a part of a group – particularly where you can talk in-depth about topics in a semi-social setting. The value in that, in my opinion, is immeasurable. And one that I am going to try and seek out.