Basking in the Glow of Kindness

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been an interesting bit of momentum taking place in a subset of the Pagan Blogosphere. There have been posts from folks about what their own aspect of Polytheism was. What made it interesting was that a vast majority of the statements went along the lines of “this is what my polytheism is. Its different than yours. I only ask that you honor my vision of polytheism as I am honoring yours.” There were no accusations of this person or that thought being out of line with what “polytheism is”. No one played Gatekeeper and shoved folks out into the digital alleyways for not adhering to some singular mindset of what they believed polytheism was or wasn’t. Some of the statements have culminated in some very interesting, well thought out conversations on the differences between folks’ visions. Calm, reasoned, intelligent discourse with respect for individual viewpoints. It has been a joy to (a) read, and (b) take part in some of that.

I was a little floored when a statement I made was compared to someone’s (seemingly) favorite caffeinated coffee ice beverage. As I stated in my reply, I have never had something I stated compared to a food product before, but damnit, I’ll take it.  🙂 My statement, for the record, was a touch of a monologue off of someone else’s comment. I’ll copy and paste it here….

…you (not you specifically, the generic “you”) can realize that the Gods you work with want something specifically from you…not from everyone else. But let me add on – your point about narrowing who can be a polytheist…in my opinion, that’s a power trip issue. Folks who want to be “gatekeepers” as to what is or who isn’t a polytheist are looking to make an exclusive “club” rather than letting the Gods determine what They need from individual folks, and to whom They will manifest Themselves to. In my view (which is worth less than a Starbucks Grande coffee), that’s limiting who the Gods are, by placing the Gods into a containerized view. If a polytheist is “putting the Gods first”, then they (the polytheist) should be open to the perspective that the Gods will seek those that They wish to work with – even if those that are sought are not in the polytheist’s definition of “who is and who isn’t”. That’s my two pence worth….

The overarching points that were made in this particular thread (its part of a Facebook conversation), was essentially that polytheism has certain hallmarks to it – many Gods and Goddesses – but the underlying aspect of what makes one a polytheist is defined by their own unique, personal relationship(s) to the Gods and Goddesses that call to them. No one gets to define that relationship, other than the adherent and Those that they are connecting with.

But that’s just the background to it all. What was interesting, compelling, and exciting was the degree of respect everyone provided to one another throughout the wide-ranging comments and discussion. I have known for a long time that the wider Pagan community can have conversations and discussions like this – even when there are wide and deep chasms of difference between the participants. I cannot put my finger on the exact reasoning behind the courteous manners utilized, but if I had to lay a potential direction for it – I would point to the recent Many Gods West conference. (which I didn’t get to attend because I had no vacation days left – Boo!)

I am not sure how long this little truce and kindness will last within the Pagan Blogosphere and in the online social media platforms. Not long, I would guess. But damned if I am not going to bask in it, and hope it comes around a whole lot more often than it seems to.


The Pagan Square Mile

Some of the things that I noticed while at Pantheacon – the people were all smiling, talking, discussing things and having fun with one another. The smiles were real, the laughter not faked, the hugs were loving and kind, and the fun was authentic. Its such a different experience from daily life. Where people that work together, find reasons to barely tolerate one another. Where everything is a competition as people climb the corporate ladders of their lives. All hell-bent on getting bigger paychecks so that they can spend more in a consumer-driven society where over-consumption is the name of the game.
I ddidn’t see that among the folks at Pantheacon. While I was an outsider here (this was my first time here), people were friendly. Willing to converse about who they are, what they believe, why they came here. They were not guarded in their responses. They didn’t couch their language in generic language, letting the listener decide what things may mean for themselves. No, here people shared freely, openly, with no free of rejection. Pantheacon is a safe zone for discussions such as this to take place. I wonder how long it would take for the rest of the world to act this way?
Or could the rest of the world get to this perspective? It sometimes feels like the rest of the world SHOULD be able to get to this perspective fairly easily. But, there’s also the acknowledgement that not everyone will ever accept that every human being has a right to their own beliefs. Just as there will always be people who believe that blacks will always be the inferior race, even after they are shown that pigmentation is more generated by where your ancestors came from – its a matter of adaptation to one’s environment rather than something that seperates human beings into different subsets that are inferior or superior.  But I digress (as I often do).
Can the rest of the world come to a point of acceptance of everyone else’s faith? Can we eventually get to a point where people are not defined by what they believe, and are instead defined by their actions and deeds? To be honest, I may be the wrong person to answer this question. Looking forward into the future, trying to divine how human beings I have never met will respond to such a difficult issue….that’s really not me folks. I have a hard time planning for anything further down the line than a year from now. And even then I get nervous about doing that. But then again, maybe I am the right person to answer this question.
Or, if you prefer (and I do), maybe I am ONE of many people who are the right folks to answer this question. During Kristoffer Hughes’ talk on Welsh Gods and Goddesses (and again during his “Cauldron of Transformation” presentation) he made a notation of how each of us is responsible for our own individual “Pagan Square Mile” (I am paraphrasing here). Each of our single square miles are ours to handle and maintain on our own. If we approached issues that affect us on a global, social scale – if we approached those from the same perspective, we can effectively spread ideas such as these as a united core of individuals. And in this manner, we can effect change…even on the most difficult issues. Because the united voice is louder than the divided voice.
Seriously, what I witnessed at Pantheacon was incredible. Just as incredible as what I have learned from the various panels I attended. The people here at this convention were nothing short of amazing. And they are only a small part of our entire world-wide Pagan community. There are many others out there that cannot attend. That doesn’t make them any smaller than the folks here – it makes them no different than the folks here. All it states is that those folks didn’t have the means to get here. But they are a part of the conversation too. They are a part of the equation of change too. To ignore the point that their voices matter in this would be the wrong idea.
We certainly have a lot of minds to change. Most of the Christian perspective gets taken up by the very loud, very small Conservative, Ultra-Right folks say. Theirs is a perspective of hate. Theirs is a perspective of gaining power over others – particularly those whose religious perspective does not match theirs. And while they are small in numbers – they are very loud, and hard to ignore. Even more so, they will be difficult to win over. Sure. It looks nearly insurmountable. We aren’t going to change their attitudes or their perspectives. Not right now. But patience will win out. Its not a matter of “winning” the battle – rather its a matter of changing their perspective. Helping them to understand that everyone has the right to choose how they believe, what they believe. They won’t change their attitudes over night. That doesn’t mean we should stop. Nor does it mean that we resort to their level of decorum either.
Grateful Dead - Fare The Well - 05July2015How do we solve the world? Not sure there’s a way to solve, but the start is certainly found in a statement that drummer Mickey Hart made during the Grateful Dead “Fare Thee Well” concerts in July of last year. “The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this:  Please, be kind.” This morning, those words echoed in my mind the moment I woke up, and that is not something that happens often. When phrases stick in my mind the moment I open my eyes, I pay attention.
My two phrases were:  “How do you solve the world? Through patience, kindness, and understanding.” and “What drives that solution? Determined, deliberate action.” I am starting to see how I am going to cultivate my Pagan Square Mile. How about you? Have you given thought to that yet?

Dealing With Life…Through Common Courtesy

My way of working with my own Druidry is something similar to motorcycle maintenance. Every so often, I have to park it in the driveway, pop off the wires, and check the engine. One of the things I start with is how well I am looking into, and interacting with the connections to my own environments. Environments, plural.

Imbolc Retreat 2015 - photo by Amanda Godwin
Imbolc Retreat 2015 – photo by Amanda Godwin

There are many environments that we all work with. Personal, interpersonal, spiritual, ecological, and a few others. But let’s start with personal and interpersonal. In this particular area, I am looking at how I interact with other people, as well as how I interact with myself. Others may have a different definition for these – but these terms work for me in the manner I define them. I know there are problems here when I am not giving a rat’s hang about others or myself. The second place to look is in my manner of dealing with the ecological issues around me – a connection I am always having to work on. If I find that I am not worried about how my daily life impacts the environment around me – its a fairly good indicator that I have something to work on here. The last component is that of the Spiritual connections – my connections to the Gods, the Goddesses, the Spirits of Place, the Spirits of Time, my Ancestors…typically, this is struck out of balance when I neglect to do my meditation work. In mechanical maintenance, this is similar to checking the oil level and gas filter. This works fine for one or two issues – but what if everything seems to be out of balance.  What then?

And its here that I find myself. Right now. Or put far better by George Harrison in his “Just For Today

Just for today
I could try to live through this day only
Not deal with all life’s problems
Just for today

But, things get interesting as the day moved on – and became another day. Dreams and meditations are a large part of my daily Path. In my dreams lately, I have caught glimpses of a face looking out at me – from inside the hedges, from within the forest’s edge, from behind the thick foliage of a tree. Always smiling. Fo me, an obvious nudge towards something that I need. What it is exactly, I have no idea – but so far its been fun trying to figure it out.

But through it all, I caught another angle of what has been bothering me – lack of common courtesy. The manner in which we – the collective we here – attack and belittle one another. Why?  To win a fucking point in a discussion that we’ve managed to turn into a heated argument. Over what?  A disagreement over what a particular statement says or doesn’t say? We then make assumptions of what someone has meant in what they’ve said – without taking the common courtesy of the moment to consult them? And then we come out guns blazing, looking to eviscerate that individual within the medium of the internet?  Shit, perhaps this could have happened face-to-face in a local coffee-shop too?? All over the idea of looking good to people who may happen across our posting? Have we really lost our hold on common decency and good conversation that much?  I certainly hope not.

I’ve never really explored the idea that I have a stronger degree of empathy than I thought I might. But perhaps that may be the reason that I feel “unhinged” and “unconnected” from time to time. A while back, I stopped reading political news – simply because I felt so angry all the time when reading it. I still pick up drips and drabs here and there…but for the most part, I have been ignoring the political news. And I have felt better over that. I really have. I’m not angry and feeling off-balance all the time. Am I going to have to do the same thing in the Pagan blogosphere as well?  I certainly hope not. But it does leave me with one particular thought…

When are we going to stop bickering over concepts, definitions, and issues – and focus on what is necessary to get our world back in balance? Get to where we can start solving some of the world’s issues (fossil fuel reliance; fighting wars over religious, political and social issues; treating one another as humans, not as blacks, whites, asians, lgbt, straight, bi, what have you) and helping to make our society a better place to live? I’ll be honest, I really see the Pagan community as being part of the vanguard towards these types of solutions – but we’ll never get there if we’re more concerned with throwing people under the bus over misunderstood definitions. In my opinion – we seriously need to rework our focus…I know I do, and currently am. I can’t lead people with words – I do better by being the example.

Yesterday, I watched my neighbor’s (across the very busy street here in the neighborhood) dogs squeeze their way through a hole in his fence, and start wandering the street. My first thought was “fuck it – they are his dogs, his problem.” It took me a few more moments to think about what I would hope for if those dogs were my cats instead. I strapped on my tennis shoes, crossed the street, and called the dogs to follow me. I brought them to his front door, rang the doorbell and explained why his dogs were in the front yard with me, rather than in the backyard where he had left them. Instead of turning my back on an individual I have never talked to in the nine years I have lived here – I went out and helped solve a problem so that his dogs would not be hurt – or picked up by the local pound. My first thought was to be an isolated individual. My second thought was to be a helpful individual and keep a pair of dogs from harm’s way. Common courtesy.

We can certainly place our Gods and Goddesses first and foremost in our spiritual practice (and we should – in my opinion). However, we also need to place some common courtesy back into our daily lives, so we can help combat the simple apathy that unfortunately permeates our environment…and believe me – a kind word, a simple action, a smile — all of that goes a long, long way to changing the way other people feel.

That’s my two pence, spend it how you wish…

Grateful Dead - Fare The Well - 05July2015

The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this, please, be kind.  –Mickey Hart