Over the past few weeks, I have listened to DNA family (all my age or slightly younger/older) lament how this country is going to “Hell in a handbasket” because of the younger generation. Most of it comes from the seemingly mind-scratching adulation that the younger generations have for Senator Bernie Sanders, but I have heard a few other folks lamenting the younger generation in the same manner in some of the local coffee stops in the area. I find that perspective to be both interesting and humorous. When I was younger, and my father and his brothers were around my age – I heard much the same sentiment aimed towards those of my generation. I would even go out on a limb and say that lament has been uttered time and time again throughout the ages. So, while many of the folks my age think that they have uncovered some amazing revelation – it seems to be a cyclic perspective that occurs throughout the human growth process.
It makes sense though. The younger you are, the more you are looking for new experiences, and trying to find your own footing in the world around you. Unless you are so ingrained with your parents’ philosophies and perspectives, there is always a need to reach into other areas. Once you get older, you become a bit more conservative in the way that you see the world. If you are one of those people that must have everything done your way – you will see the younger generations’ manner of finding their own footing as “reckless”, ‘dangerous”, and “destructive” to the values that you have built up.
As an example (albeit a sports-related one), I grew up watching baseball without the designated hitter. I hate the designated hitter. I prefer pitchers bat for themselves. I prefer to see pinch-hitters in the latter stages of the game, which can lead to all kinds of strategies. Today’s modern game of baseball is geared towards a younger generation that adores the home run over a 2-1 well pitched and defended game.
All of this has had me thinking about our younger generation of Pagans within our wider community. Many of these younger Pagans have, potentially, come from families where the parents were Pagans. In contrast, most Pagans in my age group that I know came to Paganism from other religious perspectives. Given that we had so much baggage to unload during our formative Pagan years, our experiences are far different than many of these younger folks.
I have often wondered if our perspective of these younger Pagans might be different because their exploratory options may have a different depth and richness to them than our own did? Do we look at them and think that they are “doing it wrong” when they make changes to rituals that have been “done this way since anyone can remember?” Perhaps, they have experienced the “rote” way of doing things, and seek new, different experiences through improvisational methods. Lately I have wondered if there are any quiet grumblings that these younger Pagans are too “reckless” in their potentially cavalier methods. That these new Pagans with a different way of seeing the experiential world around them are “destroying” our Pagan experience?
My perspective? Well, I tend to look at some of these newer perspectives and think to myself: “Well, I wouldn’t have done it that way. But then again, I’m not them.” To most traditional Pagans, I am usually considered to either be a “joke” or somebody to not take seriously. So, to a point, I can understand the derision heaped upon these newer Pagan perspectives. I’ve had it laid at my feet often enough. Any advice I would give to these younger Pagans is to (a) remember the basics, and (b) follow where your heart takes you.
The basics are important. Once you understand the basic aspects of ritual, or even spell work, you have something that already works – just not as deep as you might want. Now you can improvise, add, subtract elements as you need. You can work in experimentation, but you always have those basics to come back to.
As for following your heart, to me that’s everything about being who you are. You know what works for you – what feels right – what resonates with you. However, there is a point of caution to all of this. Following your heart can lead you to dead ends that you thought would be nirvana. Those disappointments are hard to get beyond. Those moments hurt really hard. If you are not ready to risk that, you may want to be careful utilizing improvisation and exploration as the basis of moving your Spiritual beliefs forward. Just as exploration and so-called advancement is fun – sometimes spending time with where you are right now is good too.
I have heard a lot of grumbling about the younger generation being “bad” for today’s society….from all corners. I heard it aimed at me when I was younger by my parents and their generation. I stepped away from their influence and have lived a life based on my own choices, desires, and needs. Some of it has been the best moments of my life. Other moments have blown up gloriously in my face and caused me to take steps backward. Society certainly doesn’t seem the worse for wear – aside from some deep divisions over political crap. I have heard it aimed at this current younger generation. I know they are going to step on their landmines in life. I don’t think that society is going to be any worse for wear over their life choices and explorative ambitions. I know many of their choices won’t be things that I would have done presented with the same moments – but then again, I’m fifty-five. They’re not here….yet.