I get accused of all kinds of political positions by people I know. My right-wing family thinks I’m a hard-core Leftist. My Leftist friends this I’m a Right-winger. My Independent friends, who are stuck here in the middle with me, understand me better than most. But all of that is just labels that get thrown around in a quest to dominate conversations and perspectives. In my mid-fifties, I’m used to all of this now. Most of the time, when I get a label adhered to me, I just smile, end the conversation, and move on with my day. Trying to argue points over what I see and feel is a waste of time for me. And honestly, I have so much more to do with my day that is far more productive with my energy and time.
However, all of that does draw a point in the area of power dynamics, which plays out more and more in our everyday lives. Thanks to former President Trump, we were thrust into this dynamic of “winning v. losing.” From that, we’ve come to a perspective that my former boss liked to refer to as “domination.” For me, it’s a perspective I don’t ascribe to whatsoever. I’m not out to dominate a single individual, lord my knowledge as a means to control them, or whatever other descriptive you want to add. That’s probably why I’ve never accepted a student to teach in Paganism, and I have had people request that from me.
I am a teacher. I’ve been in a collegiate classroom before (and hope one day to be again). When I was teaching Information Technology, I was very careful not to promote one technology over another. I always ducked the inevitable browser-war and operating system debates by pointing out that each had its own merits, and the choice was up to the individual user. The same holds true in politics, from my perspective. That even gets down to debates on food, religion, and what have you. Life, itself, is a series of choices that we continually make. Gods, I would hate to draw the flowchart on my own life to this point. All the choices, all the dead-ends that would form loops in the flowchart – what a mess it would be. But then Life is messy.
So, why no Pagan students? Wouldn’t I want to teach others my brand of Paganism? No, not really. Pushing people towards my way of thinking and believing would, in my opinion, rob them of the experience of exploring for themselves. Everything that I would teach someone about Paganism could fit into a thimble and be easily disseminated through a late-night conversation around a fire drinking liquids of our individual choosing.
What about those who lord their opinions of what it means to be a Pagan over me? Well, we’ve seen that with the inane fundamentalist movement nearly a decade back with “Are you Pagan enough?” The answer to that question for ANYONE in Paganism is “yes.” Even if you’re just dipping your pinkie-toe in the water. No one gets to dictate the depth or breadth of another individual’s Paganism. In a way, this is why I don’t want to set myself up as some classroom-like teacher of Paganism. I don’t want to “grade” someone’s ability to be a Pagan based on some subjective set of lessons that I created. You tell me that you’re a Pagan – as far as I’m concerned, you are. And I am no authority on you or what you are.
I’m staunchly a solo Pagan. Solitaire. Solitary. Whatever descriptive you want to apply to it. That’s your label, use it as you like. But I am not bashing and smashing on groups. Groups work for other people. Groups provide the needed support for some. Groups provide the structure that others find useful and helpful. Groups, for me, provide comradery and friendship. Nothing wrong with any of that.
With all that out of the way (sort of), let me circle back to why I don’t take on students, and dive a touch deeper. When I get people asking me to teach them about Paganism, I tend to point them elsewhere, to people who already do this (and far better than I could) such as John Beckett. If people are looking for me to teach them about Druidry, I point them to OBOD, ADF or BDO. Those organizations already have structures that lend towards teaching that is better than anything I could devise off-handedly. If they are looking for teaching on Wicca…well, I point them to Wiccans that I know. Hard for me to teach anyone about Wicca. I’m not a Wiccan, and what I do know of Wicca comes from what little training I had over three decades ago. Better to point them to far more knowledgeable resources.
I know some folks will look at all of that as a cop-out on my part. I know my limits. I’m aware of the pitfalls. While I do what I consider to be a good job at teaching Information Technology in a classroom environment, that doesn’t qualify me as a good teacher/mentor in a Pagan setting. Like I pointed out, I know people are better equipped to do that in such a setting. I’d rather a potential student got better training elsewhere than get shoddy, shitty training from me. As I noted, I know my limits.
The same holds true for joining a group or creating a group out of thin air and becoming its leader. I already struggle with concepts such as “Priest” and “Elder” – I don’t need the extra struggle of being a leader as well. I know my limits.
Sure, being a single individual in Paganism affords me a great deal of freedom, which I prize highly. It also affords a lot of loneliness as well. A lot of figuring it out on my own. A lot of self-reliance. A lot of failed attempts at things which has only one direction for blame – right here in this seat at my desk. Through trial and error – a LOT of trial and error – I navigate through the waters of Paganism and Druidry. Its not a journey for the faint of heart. In the thirty-plus years of being on this path, its NEVER been easy. Going it alone is rough and difficult on its best days. Some folks have no choice though. They live in areas where they are isolated from other Pagans because of distance. To those people, my hat is off to you. You travel a Path of broken glass because there is no other Path. I grok your frustrations. I sympathize with your trial, and error solutions.
I have no desire to “win” at any part of Life. I have no desire to “dominate” at any single thing. For me, living Life is about experiencing the good, the bad, the ugly, the unforgiveable, the mistakes that you never thought would be mistakes. Being alive doesn’t have a scope of winning, losing or any such nonsense. Unless…you want to count waking up each morning. Maybe that’s a way of seeing “winning.” Maybe. Sometimes, I’ll post on Facebook that I made it to another weekend, and that I was unsure of how I managed to get there. Well, the real point is that I managed to get there. Exactly how I managed it is not really necessary. We all claw, scratch, bite, punch, and wrestle with our days…just not ever day. Sometimes the days are nicer to us. Whether we win, dominate, lose, draw, what have you….we still experience. We learn from those experiences. We grow from our struggles, our happiness, even our “blah” days. In the 1980s movie “Red Dawn”, when US Air Force Colonel is about to head across the battlefield to try and get back to his units, the young adults who are with him marvel at the tanks fighting there, he remarks: “ Its a real war, kid. Its here every day.” Well, its a real Life folks, its here every day.