Thinking About: Knowing the Path vs. Walking the Path

Its no secret that I enjoy the original trilogy of Matrix movies. For me, there’s a lot of symmetry in some of the lessons that the main character of Neo goes through, and my own life – particularly in the training sequences with Morpheus in the first movie. Neo struggles to adapt to his new world, to understand the rules of his environment – essentially re-learning how to be himself. Then comes the rescue sequence of Morpheus within the Matrix, and Neo suddenly starts to comprehend some of his abilities, enough to save Trinity from a crashing helicopter. Then Morpheus makes the statement that really brought it all together for Neo, and a statement that reminds me of my own place within this world that we all inhabit:

There is a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.

Morpheus, “The Matrix”

This one quote is, at least for me, a grounding mechanism. A singular statement that reminds me of where I belong. This keeps my feet firmly on the ground, precisely on the path where I belong.

Hopefully, none of that is confusing. If it is, let me explain a bit more in-depth. Some of this goes back to the conversations at that rarely used exit door at Bossier Parish Community College that I have mentioned in the last two posts. At that point, I had been on my Pagan Path for somewhere close to a decade. I felt like I knew enough to be a “wise” helper for other people stepping into their Paganism. I had that feeling that I was a guru that was placed there to help others through the minefield of starting on their Path. I was a pretentious little shit in ways I could never dream of. Looking back now, Gods, I felt like I knew it all. Of course, I didn’t even know enough to fill a thimble to the halfway point. Sitting in on those conversations, I was treated like I was the be-all, end-all of Paganism. It took another three years for me to realize that I knew nothing more than the singular corner I was living in. There was so much more to Paganism for me to learn about. More than I could ever fathom. Paganism was a wider, deeper ocean than the small, knee-deep pond I had been living within.

Now, nearly twenty-five years beyond that point, I’m a much different Pagan. I appreciate so much more of the world around me. As I watch this morning’s very cold sunrise from my desk, the world reminds me that there is so much more to experience. Each morning brings a new sunrise – unique, alive, and different from the previous days before it. Each new day affords a new experience for me to encounter. Some of it is like yesterday and the days before it, but if I look closer, I find those new experiences…those footfalls which breath new, fresh air into my day. And the above quote from the Matrix reminds me that my experiences and encounters will be different from everyone else’s. We’re all individuals who receive much the same input but process it in ways that no one else will. At least not the same.

Every so often, I get asked why I don’t write books. Well, I have no desire to be seen as an “ultimate guru.” Not by a single soul. I know my Path. I experience my Path daily. Knowing and experiencing my Path are different things. One is understanding where I am, who I am, what I can and cannot do. The other is actually living that Path. Experiencing things with each footfall. What I have learned is that a book cannot adequately explain either point to someone wanting to know and walk their Druidry, their Paganism, their Path. I’m not a healer. I’m not a Shaman. I’m nobody of any extra-ordinary ability. I’m not even a teacher. My Path is not meant to have me sitting at the top of mountain. Cross-legged, in a meditative state, waiting for acolytes and seekers to find me so that I can dispense arcane wisdom for their undivided attention. Rather, I’m here to live and experience the day in whatever fashion it presents itself to me. To see the sunrises. To experience the sunsets. To listen to the magick of music, just like I am listening to Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades marvelous album “Influences” right now.

Everyone experiences their own Path differently. We all came to our various paths in Paganism because we “knew” this was the right place for us to be. We know this path is meant for our feet, even if its just to explore it a short way to be sure that this “calling” is right for us. But to find that “rightness” of the Path, we must do more than just “know.” We must experience it. We must live it in the manner that makes sense to us, individually. Do you find that daily morning rituals bring strong meaning to you? Then do that. Do you find that pouring libations to a God or Goddess brings powerful, emotive feelings for you? Then do it. If you’re not sure, then continue doing those things until you are sure…even if its to be sure that it doesn’t work for you. You won’t know until you try. Knowing your Path is one thing. Walking your Path is that step beyond, where theory meets experience. I can’t tell you how it works. I can only tell you that you will never know until you experience it for yourself.

When I was in high school, my parents put me into Catholic schools. I had classes on the theological aspects of church teachings. In every class, I was at a disadvantage to my classmates. The vast majority of them were members of the Catholic faith. They had experienced many of the mysteries of church teaching. I only had the theory. When our school attended Catholic masses, once a month, I got to watch – first-hand – many of the things I had been taught in those classes. I got to witness the beauty of those liturgies, and these were beautiful expressions of their faith. I didn’t partake though. Even then, I knew my Path was not here. I also knew that experiencing the practices of this faith would be cold, empty exercises of rote expression. There was beauty in what was being done, but it was empty in the expression of the beauty of faith for me. I knew my Path. Walking the Path of their faith would provide no meaning to me. The difference between knowing one’s Path and walking one’s Path.

So many people walk a Path in the hopes of becoming someone well-known in that faith. A few actually do become that. Usually, they find a manner to express their faith in a manner that resonates with others. Writing books, giving presentations, expressing their joy through musical performances, creating art in many different fashions…but not everyone reaches those heights. Some become leaders of their groups. Some become teachers. Many don’t reach those heights either. Because of that, many question whether this was their Path to walk. Perhaps, the problem was in wanting to be seen, respected, and adored….for whatever reason. Not everyone is meant to be that in their Path. That doesn’t and shouldn’t diminish who you are in your Path. Living your chosen Path is about growing yourself in your Path.

Being a Pagan, for example, doesn’t mean that every day will be like a Dungeons and Dragons encounter. Or that it ever will. If that’s the way you are experiencing your Paganism, and it disappoints you…let me reiterate here. Your Path brings experiences and meaning to you. What those experiences mean, that’s for you to determine. The fact that none of it seems like a mystical encounter doesn’t diminish anything that you have experienced. Stop. Look at the sunrise or sunset right in front of you. Look around your neighborhood. See the children playing. Your neighbor doing their chores. The dogs barking at the squirrels who are chiding them from the top of the fence. All of that is here and now, in this moment. Find the beauty in what you are experiencing. Its great to be alive. Find ways to experience all of that as part of your Path.

Now, I am in no way telling you how to experience your own Path. Nor am I telling you how to do your Paganism. I’d be a fool to go back to that point in my first decade of Paganism and believe that I know everything. Not even here – thirty-five years into being a Pagan. I’m well aware that there is so much more to Paganism than my small drop of experience in that ocean. But even with those thirty-five years, I am no expert on your Path. Even if your Path is the same as mine: Pagan, Polytheist Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. We will tread some of the same water, walk some of the same deer trods in the forest, drive some of the same highways…but we are individuals. We experience the same things, the same moments differently because we are individuals. That, in itself, is a comforting thought for me. Life is meant to be lived. Paganism is meant to be experienced. Those two sentences hint at the very reward that such a Life will provide.

–Tommy /|\

Photo by Viktorya Sergeeva on

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