Looking at Teamwork in an Individualized Spirituality

Back in 1986, I joined the United State Air Force. I was two years out of high school, doing badly in college classes, and nearly no prospects for jobs. At the instance of my father, a retired Non-Commissioned Officer and thirty-plus year veteran of the United States Air Force – I enlisted in the Air Force myself. The promise was that I provided four years of my life to the service of the United States in exchange for learning a trade – and growing up. I did just that though – I did grow up a bit more, learning more about being responsible for my own actions. I also learned a lot of other valuable lessons, such as the core basis of being a leader. But the most important thing I learned is still something I adhere tightly to even today – teamwork.

Many folks here the word teamwork, and they think of folks pulling something with a rope – everyone using their combined strength to accomplish something that any one individual could not do on their own. Certainly, an aspect of teamwork is at play there, but teamwork goes much deeper than this. And all of this can even fit into a very individualistic perspective of Spirituality that Paganism tends to gravitate towards.

Teamwork is Knowing and Doing Your Part

In order to understand your best positioning in a team, you need to not only know your strength and weaknesses, but comprehend what that means. Getting to that level of comprehension means that you know where you can fill in at other positions or duties without completely weakening the ability of the team to accomplish the task. Furthermore, it means that you may only understand your task, and not see the entire Big Picture. Most folks working with their Gods can understand this to some degree. You do what is asked of you to the best of your abilities, even when you’re unsure of what the final aspect will be.

If you really want to see teamwork, attend a large Pagan Gathering and look for the people in the background.

As a for instance, when I was in the Air Force I worked on cryptological equipment which scrambled and unscrambled text messages so that only specified readers at the distant end of the message could read what was sent. My job was to make sure the equipment was in working order when placed on KC-135 and B-52 aircraft. That cryptographic communication equipment was what I was tasked with – my responsibility. I was trained how to work with, repair, remove and install the equipment, as necessary. I had no idea how to fly the aircraft, how to work on its avionics equipment or how to repair its engines. Others were tasked with those responsibilities. My part of the Big Picture was the communications that occurred between the aircraft and ground controllers. I did not have the Big Picture, only what I was tasked with. Others were tasked with other responsibilities. The crew of the aircraft were tasked with a role that none of us knew. So long as we all worked together, the aircraft and its crew were capable of carrying out their mission. That working together – that teamwork – was what allowed the mission to succeed.

Now, to bring another example into focus – Pantheacon. There are lots of moving parts to the conference – including many that I could only guess at (likely guess badly). The call for submissions goes out, presenters submit their suggestions, and a panel of folks accept or reject the submissions. The accepted submissions are then slotted into rooms throughout the hotel that are set aside for these presentations. People coming into the convention will find a table where folks are available to get the name tags to the right people, along with a conference book – which had another team of people working with that. All of that has hundreds of moving parts, lots of involved people – and none of that even approaches the people manning information tables, working hospitality suites or insuring that presentations have the proper equipment in place or that the equipment is working. But there is a large amount of teamwork that is involved, people working together towards a common goal — a convention that goes off as smoothly as possible, even knowing that hiccups and issues will arise.

Maybe a more insular example will help bring home the point. I’m a fairly open and public Pagan. I have a handful of folks that will ask questions from time to time. For instance, I have been asked i I could marry someone or if I could do a public rite for a gathering. Both are functions that I would be singularly terrible at. First, I am not ordained or licensed to marry anyone anywhere. I could perform a hand fasting rite, I suppose – but the its legality as a marriage ceremony would certainly be null and void. I just do not have the credentials to do something like that. Nor the experience, for that fact. But in a pinch, I suppose I could do it. As for a public ritual, I have never written one, much less performed one, other than as a participatory guest. So where would the teamwork aspect come from? Well, I know people who can do one or the other – even both. And not all of them are in Texas or the United States. I would be happy to point people in their direction. I know my limitations, accept that, and still try to find ways to gather potential acceptable solutions.

Believe it or not, I have heard from a lot of folks that Pagans are not good team players. I know that statement is true, but only to a point. Because I do know quite a few Pagans that are team players. Yes, Paganism is fairly individualistic in its overall approach to personal Spirituality. Does that mean there is not a spirit of teamwork that is readily available and approachable? Hardly. Rarely have I seen a group of Pagans not willing to roll up their sleeves and do hard work in order to achieve a goal or task. I would posit that Pagans are always ready to be team players, even if the concept of teamwork has to be tweaked ever so slightly. Just my personal take….

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