As I write this, on a Sunday, I watch the fall of a steady downpour of rain. This is the first rain I’ve seen here since I moved to Arkansas, and it breaks a super hardcore heatwave that’s been in place since my first day in the state. Listening to the rain coming down through the branches of the trees in the neighborhood, I’m reminded of how nurturing various sounds can be for me. The sound of falling rain holds a special place for me, as I have been caught in rainstorms while walking through old forest paths in Germany more times than I can recall. The soft patter of the initial raindrops has always been a quiet, calming sound for my thoughts. And here on this Sunday, I certainly need this in my life at this moment.
Now, I’m two days later on – a warmish Tuesday afternoon. The sound of rain has been replaced with Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” from his “Glass Houses” album. Incidentally, this album was my first introduction to Joel’s music. Still, music from the “Glass Houses” album is always a comforting reminder of my freshman year in high school – Montgomery Catholic High School. That wasn’t an easy time in my life, I was transitioning into life as a teenager – starting to come into my own with my personal opinions on a wide variety of topics. Over time, I found myself disagreeing with my parents on a lot of issues – enough to create a widening gap between myself and them which would never be crossed or narrowed. There were a lot of disagreements, arguments, and – sadly – accusations hurled between us. But all of that strife also helped me to grow. I learned how to stand up for my perspective. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to temper my vehemence concerning our differences until sometime in my forties. As I said, that gap of differences was never bridged.
Recently, the Supreme Court has handed down a set of rulings on Rove vs. Wade, as well as a case concerning a football coach’s right to pray at the fifty-yard line after games had ended. Most of the Pagan community is rather hardcore left, particularly when compared to me – a left-of-center individual. Many right-wing Pagans take that as a sign that I am with them on many issues, but the reality is that I am not. Over time, I’ve caught the lower levels of the Nine Hells for my perspective from both sides. Pagans on the Right-wing of the political equation tend to not believe in a middle-ground. Lately the Pagans on the Left-wing have adopted a similar stance. Those Pagans who find themselves in the center area get vilified by both sides of the equation. Such vehement adherence is laudable to either element, even from my seat in the middle. Or at least I find it laudable until insults start to be hurled.
Politics has never been a part of my Spirituality. Unfortunately, as today’s cultural and political environments continue to dominate everyday life, those of us in the middle are finding ourselves pulled into the arena of politics. Our opinions and perspectives are considered to be wrong and cowardly…simply because we don’t share opinions with others. Everyone on the left and right seem to be gathering themselves up for battle in the insipid “culture wars” that are burning through everyday life. “Pick a side.” “This God/dess is gathering soldiers for the battle. You’re former military. Join Their side.” When I decline, I’m vilified.
Much of what is happening now reminds me of the vicious arguments that my father and I had. Pushing against one another, cock-sure that our individual way was better, and angered when the other couldn’t see our logic. Then, when we were older, and our differences smoothed over on the corners and edges from the passage of time, our stubbornness (I am after all, my father’s son) never let us reconcile our differences until it was too late. After the passing of my parents, I resolved to never let differences between myself and someone else dig that deep or stretch that wide again. Yet, I am constantly reminded that “there is no room in Paganism for right-wing people.”
Gatekeeping people is a shitty thing. Keeping people out of Paganism is just plain stupid. Anyone can be a Pagan. Anyone can worship the Gods. The relationship an individual builds with the Gods is between them and the Gods – and is none of my concern. However, keeping people out of your group’s rituals is your right. That’s not gatekeeping. That’s choosing who you allow in the sacred space that you worship in. I can’t keep right-wing people from being Pagans, Druids, or what have you. But I can choose not to attend rituals with them. But I don’t do that. I grok why others do.
One’s Spirituality is something intense and personal to each person. Far be it from me to tell you (the person reading this) or anyone else how to do your Paganism. What is sacred for you can be profane for someone else. How I do my Druidry is how I do things. It doesn’t make me the be-all, end-all in Druidry. Nor does the way I do my Druidry require you to do it the same way either.
So, I sit here at my desk, listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I remember the sound of the rain from Sunday. I focus, I center, and I find that peaceful Inner Grove that puts my frame of mind back to where I need it to be. Over all the insults I have endured over the past few days, and those that I will suffer going into the future…I can release the anger I feel over it. Over time, I’ll eventually heal from the pain of it all. But I can also do my dead-level best to keep the wedge of those differences from growing too wide, too far, and too deep. Plus, its politics that all of those is bending around. And politics doesn’t matter. How we treat one another does. Remember: be kind. …and take a moment to listen to the rain.
‘Cos out on the ocean of life my love
There’s so many storms we must rise above
Can you hear the spirit calling
As it’s carried across the waves
You’re already falling
It’s calling you back to face the music
And the song that is coming through
You’re already falling
The one that it’s calling you