So, its 6am here as I write this. The youngest cat is winding back and forth between my legs, underneath my chair. Outside, the world is pitch black, as the world slowly spins towards the sunrise. I have my headphones on, so I don’t wake anyone in the house to the sounds of The Pretty Reckless. Through all of this, I sit here and stare at my open Word document, wondering what to write. In some ways, I feel like I have written about nearly every topic I can think of. After all, the blog has been up since 2013. Eight years is a lot of time to write about this topic and that topic. In some cases, I have covered topics more than once. I’ve even gone to the degree of re-visiting some topics from time to basically just refresh my perspective on something. Not that my perspective is anything important. After all, I’m just one person with opinions of my own. Nor am I the type of person to make my own understandings into empirical facts. I have no mandates that Paganism is this or that every Pagan should be doing that or that Pagans should react this other way. That tin-stamping perspective is what turned me off to what Christianity is about. You must do this. You must believe this. You mustn’t do that. No room for exploration.
Exploration. The desire to dig further on your own within a topic. The need to see what becomes your own “truth” within your beliefs. The feeling that not every topic will appeal to you, but that such a lack of connection will not invalidate who you are or what you believe. That’s considered to be such dangerous territory to fundamentalists of all kinds. Why? Well, simply put – you are going beyond the teachings and directives of whoever believes that they are in charge. The digging further might lead you to question the strong pillars of their teachings. In other words, you’re going off-script. You’re wandering off the map. And off the map, there be monsters. Or so the warning goes. The reality is that you are going beyond what those so-called leaders know. And that great void beyond is scary for them because it might really invalidate the pillars of their belief.
In my eight years at the college I was employed at – the first three were as an educator. I was an adjunct faculty member. I taught a course called “Introduction to Business Applications.” The course was an introduction to what essentially was the Microsoft Office Suite. Super boring shit that most students already had a firm grasp on. I know I was losing the students’ attention, as I stood at the head of a classroom of thirty seats. They already knew the basics of using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For most of them, Access was an abstract concept that went a bit beyond their comprehension. But for the most part, they already knew all of this stuff. So I took the class on a deep dive beyond the syllabus. I scratched the surface on Business Intelligence by showcasing the usage of Information Systems. I showed them the usage of Information Systems within the legal and judicial systems by bringing in real-world cases straight out of the news. At the end of the class, I challenged them to go beyond what the class text taught them – to envision where a technology would be in the future – five years, ten years, fifteen years, and twenty years into the future. When I was asked what a “technology” would be, I brought up concepts beyond that of computers. One enterprising student wrote about the future of coffee brewing. The idea was to get them to think outside of the box, to delve into a technology (or industry as one student argued the point) in a manner that was to place them in a position to forecast the aspect of “cutting edge.”
Our teachers, even within Paganism, wish us to learn the basics. In our formative years, we learn the basics – the techniques, the concepts, the rote words, and motions of spell-craft and ritual. All of that is emphasized year after year. Rarely, is there a case made for students to explore beyond those basics. Exploration is never discussed, and in some cases discouraged. Because you are headed off the map. Here…there be monsters.
Speaking from the perspective of what some would call an Elder – a term that I do not like being adhered to me despite me nearly thirty-five years in Paganism – as well as that of an Educator and a Student, I sometimes wonder if we have lost the desire to grow beyond what our teachers provide for us.
Underlying all of this is the idea of growing Paganism. Not in terms of the number of people that decide that they are Pagan, but in terms of exploring aspects of our beliefs beyond what we know and use now. I am not foolish or arrogant enough to believe that Paganism has stagnated. Nor do I believe that no one is making motions towards growing our Pagan knowledge beyond where it is now. There are always innovators within any movement. Sometimes, they are overlooked because they are quieter than most. Sometimes, they are overlooked because they are the weird, eccentric people that no one wants to associate with. The people that helped innovate these wonderful, electronic devices that we use to communicate over great distances in real-time with people we may never meet face-to-face – they are all too aware of how that perspective feels.
Also, there will be those that prefer to stay on the map. The unknown is not where they want to be. They will travel into that realm when – and if – they are ready. There is nothing wrong with that perspective. Not everyone is made to explore into the unknown and deal with the unexpected, the failures, the desire to restart from scratch when any attempt to stretch and innovate becomes a fabulous disaster. My clarion call is not meant for those people.
In many ways, much of what I am expressing here is just reaching out to those Pagans that are seeking to reach beyond the edges of the map. Others may see your efforts as being useless. That you are flirting with unnecessary danger. That there is no need to look beyond the horizons, to stretch beyond the sky. I would point out, that as an educator my time in the classroom with my students was a multi-fold operation. I was there to teach the students the basics of the topic, while providing inspiration (and sometimes guidance) to go beyond the topic, should they desire to do so.
So, do you want to be a Priest in a manner that you believe to be unapproached by today’s modern Pagan Priesthood? Then research that direction. Learn about what it takes to provide what you believe to be needed. After that, seek ways to become that kind of Priest. After all, Priesthood is about serving others within their own Spiritual Paths – if that’s your calling, reach for it. Remember, the only thing that limits you in what you can do – is you.
Re-reading this, I’m a little astonished where my mind took all of this. However, knowing how I approached the classroom environment after my first semester – its not an earthquake of a shocker either. As I noted, at the end of each semester, I was challenging my students to think beyond what the class taught them. To build upon that knowledge. As Damh the Bard notes in his song “On the Shoulders of Giants” from his album “Sabbat”
So by peace and love we stand,Damh the Bard, “On the Shoulders of Giants”
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.
We build our traditions and groups with each new generation that arrives. These new Pagans will use our foundation of knowledge, traditions, and effort as the building blocks for their future. I tell you know, most the pioneers in the computer industry would be astonished to see where their start with basic computers built in their garages has gone. And who knows what the future holds. Well, the younger generations do. Their imaginations will take us beyond. First, they must have the desire to move beyond the edges of the map, as it is drawn now. For beyond those edges, there be monsters.
2 thoughts on “Thinking About: Here There Be Monsters”
“Oh” the girl said, shaking her head. “Don’t be so simple. People adore monsters. They fill their songs and stories with them. The define themselves in relation to them. Do you know what a monster is young shade? Power. Power and choice. Monsters make choices. Monsters shape the world. Monsters force us to become stronger, smarter, better. They sift the weak from the strong and provide a forge for the steeling of souls. Even as we curse monsters, we admire them. Seek to become them, in some ways” Her eyes became distant. There are far, far worse things to be than a monster.”
Ghost Story (A novel of the Dresden files)