Disaster Recovery and Paganism – What Ifs

What if…. The prospectus of trying to determine a future event and the resulting chaos created by it are not a typical place I spend my days. However, there was a time in my Information Technology career where such scenarios were a part of my every waking day – Disaster Recovery. Disaster Recovery, or DR as it is commonly called in the computer systems fields, is the process by which a company insures systems up-time. In our digital world, up-time is everything.

Right before the Y2K “bug” hit, I was working for First American Real Estate and title company as a digital systems Tape Librarian. My job was to gather backup tapes that had been created during the night, and ship those to an offsite location for safe-keeping. The rest of my department dealt with sending critical data files to off-site customers, and war-gaming disaster scenarios. Over time, I was accepted into these little sessions, usually head in the cafeteria during lunch time. We would dream up a disaster scenario for our building, and discuss the entire scenario while we ate. I cannot count the number of times we actually cleared out the cafeteria with our rather grisly scenarios. I remember one scenario we worked out came about because of a gas tanker accident on Interstate 35 East, right outside our building. We started to surmise what would have happened if the tanker had gone out of control, attempted to use the Empire Central exit and careened out of control through our front doors – coming to rest in the middle of our lobby. We estimated that if it had happened when this accident did, we would have lost somewhere around forty percent of our employees in the crowded lunch-room. We further war-gamed that the tanker would explode in our lobby, rendering the elevators and the south stairwell useless for evacuation. We estimated that we would save most of the employees below the fourth floor (our building was twelve stories) before oxygen deprivation would occur for those at the higher floors. Yeah, we were fun to have around for lunch.

These war-gaming scenarios were a necessary function of the department. We attempted to figure out where our best plans would go awry, and how to get past that point. Our jobs were to save the resources, including personnel, to the best of our ability. There was always a given that recovery would put the company at a footing somewhere between fifty and seventy percent of previous operating capacity – at least for the first two weeks.

So what does this have to do with Pagans or Paganism? Well, I have often wondered (sometimes aloud), if people made any plans when something that they wanted to have happen….didn’t occur. Let’s go with politics for a moment, as an example. nearly everyone I know wants President Trump to lose the coming Presidential election. I hear commentary that this country will be completely destroyed if he managed to be re-elected for another four years. However, considering the deep nearly one-for-one split among the two main voting factions in this country, a re-election of this President is a distinct possibility, no matter how much one might not want to consider that. My question would be this: what do you do if he DOES get re-elected? Surely, folks have given this some kind of thought, right? Would you run off to the woods and hide? Or perhaps, you would claim to run to Canada as these celebrities did – but did not do. Maybe? Or perhaps, you’ll dress all-in-black with black watch-caps and darkened faces, so you can play like prisoners-of-war, and fight the government like a modern-day Hogan’s Heroes. Ok, most likely, you will do the same thing you have done for the four years he has been President – slam him on Twitter, and post memes comparing him to Hitler on Facebook and Instagram. But have you seriously thought about what happens if he did get re-elected?

Capricorn – Max Ernst

Now, I am no clairvoyant. I have no special ability to tell the future. And honestly, using the old war-gaming tactics from DR has not really shown me a whole lot that can provide me with actionable thought processes. Mostly because the guy is just unhinged and unpredictable. However, I am not about to start prepping for living off the grid and reducing my connections that the government can use to track me. I am not about to pull my money out of the bank, and stuff my mattress nice and thick. However, my DR war-gaming reminds me to always be ready. So, I am not sure what can be done that will affect me so deeply…maybe outlaw Paganism? Maybe forced conversions to Christianity? If any of that happens, I’ll be there ready to fight against such inanity. I don’t think the US of A is going to head down that direction…but…gotta somewhat be ready for it. Sort of.

So, what to do? Well, you can utilize the concept of war-gaming scenarios, and try to prepare for whatever end you think might be likely. But you also have to realize that the procedures built from such scenarios are not what everyday living should be like. I mean, unless you like living a life of paranoia and suspicion of every single person you met. So, I would caution that the war-gaming scenario, while fun and ever-so deeply macabre, is really not for a “right now” manner of living. Its designed for a “what if [x] happens” type of mindset, which is only there….just in case.

The United States Air Force had all kinds of contingency plans for all sorts of scenarios. All of that was drilled deeply into my thinking, and really made me a natural for the DR scene. I left the DR world back in 2004…and found refuge in other areas of the Information Technology career fields. But that way of thinking, that way of testing terrible scenarios to determine what can be done to be ready for whatever [x] is….its never really left me. I am constantly asking myself “what if”…and now I wonder how many other people have ever thought of that…particularly in the tumultuous political and social waters we find ourselves in these days.

What If…Seeking a Different Spot Around the Fire to Understand the Unctuous “Culture Wars” Concept

At one of the Hearthstone ADF Imbolc Retreats (I do not remember which one), John Beckett did a presentation that utilized a beautifully done meditation/visualization of a future where Paganism and Polytheism are more in the mainstream. Temples to the Gods were in evidence everywhere, and people openly showed their devotion to their chosen Gods and Goddesses. it was a gorgeous moment to experience, indeed. And while I was wrestling with a camera, I still allowed myself to feel some of what John was bringing forward in this vision of what tomorrow could be.

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“Mother Nature” located in the median of Central Avenue in front of the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Now, I am not one for playing the “what if” game too much, but this particular visualization has really stuck with me over time. How things can be changed into something we envision. How we can literally alter reality if we just find that tipping point – that idea that changes the current perception cultural perception of what is “normal”, and societal behaviors towards those things and ideas that are different from our own. Just what that moment will be, I have no idea. It could be an idea that germinates because of this blog, or even of sharing John’s beautiful vision. It could be something as simple as changing the way we deal with one another on a daily basis – treating each other with respect instead of suspicion and disdain. That tipping point could happen tomorrow. Maybe five months from now. Or five hundred years. In a manner of speaking, it is unfathomable. But the idea that it could take place is there. But let us play another “what if” game.

What if Paganism had never faded into the background of society? What if monotheistic Christianity always remained in a cult status? What if the Muslim faith had never grown to the degree that it is now? What if our world was still heavily permeated by Polytheistic beliefs and traditions? What if the roles that are in current motion in today’s society were completely reversed?

Now, I must preface part of this here. I am not a Psychologist by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my understanding of Psychology of any types is rudimentary at its very best – and that’s stretching that point quite thin. Nor am I a Theologian, amateur or otherwise. I am; however, an observer of human behavior. And I have been on the bad half of some of the worst of human interactions when it comes to dealing with things that are unknown and potentially threatening. Not one bit of this post should be taken that I am claiming to be an expert of any kind, merely my own personal observations and opinions. And with that touch of legalese out of the way…

When I was fairly young in my Pagan Path, I was in the United States military. While not exactly a true representation of American society, it can be considered a closed environment that mimics some social aspects of civilian society to a true degree. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was a fairly protected environment for the free, open practice of one’s religious beliefs – to a point. One early morning, shortly after my picture and name appeared in a story entitled “Practicing Pagans” in the European theater newspaper “The Stars and Stripes, I was physically confronted at the Allied Post Office (APO) location on Sembach Air Base. I was recognized, called a Satanist and told it would be better if I had “the Hell beat out of” me. I knew neither of the individuals that confronted me. Over time, I have tried to understand what would have driven them to make such a brazen confrontation in a public place (it was 2am and we were the only ones inside the facility at the moment). The only rational perspective I can come up with is that they were uncomfortable with something that was “unknown” to them – and thus the painting of a perspective they felt they “understood” by calling me a Satanist.

I would love to think my fellow Pagans would be far more understanding of belief systems and practices that were foreign to their own concepts. And given that the majority of Pagans of our current modern age understand quite well what it is like to be in the position of being misunderstood, I also realize that this happens wearing glasses colored by where we are today. Were the roles reversed, with Paganism and Polytheism far more in the open for dozens of generations, accepted as the societal norm, incorporated to a greater degree within the laws and unwritten societal rules…well, I cannot say for certain that I believe Pagans would be reacting any different with that criterion placed upon them.

Human beings have a difficult time accepting things that are foreign to their own perceptions. Westerners, particularly Americans, are considered to be brash, loud, crude, inelegant, and generally unintellectual by many in far Eastern cultures. The differences come from generations of generations of socially acceptable behaviors that differentiate the two cultures. That differentiation allows for disdain from either culture concerning the way that each acts and reacts to situations and societal patterns. Not knowing or understanding these unwritten rules creates barriers between both cultures towards acceptance of the other, as well as insulting descriptives of one another. I believe that if Paganism had enjoyed the long era of social acceptance in the western culture that Christianity has had, that there would be equally troubling acceptance of other belief structures within the Pagan and Polytheist camps. I would even present a concept that some of the unaccepting aspects that are deeply embedded within Christianity have become so because of the length of time that such disdain has been developed within the understanding of the Christian faith from those theologians and practitioners that have essentially been deified over their own writings, discussions, etc etc. I fear that Paganism would really have been no different, were it in the same position under the same societal allowances and constrictions.

I am not saying that Pagans or Paganism practice an aspect of exclusion of those that are “different”. There are elements of that in small examples, but for the most part, Pagans are very accepting of others – even those that are diametrically opposed to their beliefs. Where individual beliefs and practices are legislated into non-existence, Pagans tend to be at the forefront of the fight to oppose such measures. Even when the legislation is aimed at those aforementioned opponents of Pagan beliefs. Were the roles reversed, I believe that there would be some aspect of similar issues of legislation to remove Christian faith. Not because of the Pagans, but because of the fact that PEOPLE are involved. And people tend to fear that which they do not understand, comprehend or fathom. People tend to fight that which they believe threatens their own existence.

So, in playing the “what if” game, I have found – for myself – a manner in which to understand some of the problems that the Christian faithful MAY have with those of other faiths. And in trying to understand the reticence of many Christians to even see how allowing others to find their own Spiritual paths hurts the entire concept of faith driven by a desire to have the free will to follow their G-d, I can understand more fully aspects of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s perspective that non-violent opposition is the best way to lead change. Violence, vilifying the other side with insults and pejoratives only continues to provide the fuel to their fires concerning “cultural wars” against their own faith. After all, it is far easier to motivate and cajole individuals to fight for a cause, when the cause is perceived to be an underdog that is on its knees in subjugation.

Coming back to the here and the now – Dr. King’s non-violent approach is the correct way to handle such issues. However, Dr. King’s perspective is not going to be effective if people are in your yard with torches in the middle of the night, ready to burn your house down. Nor is it going to be useful if those same people are also armed with handguns, ready to gun down anyone that tries to flee the cleansing fires of that home falling down upon them. Pacifism to show that you are no threat is one way to handle protests. However, there will/may come a time where you will need to fight for your life too. I pray to all the Gods, Goddesses, Spirits, and Ancestors that it never comes to that for anyone. I also pray that if it does, that They will assist you and your loved ones in finding a way to become safe.

I like John’s vision. In fact, prefer it over the concept that I have brought forth here. In my concept, nothing has really changed. The players have merely switched roles. And without the experiences of being the underdogs, I fear that the Pagans would merely assume the same roles that the Christians currently possess in today’s mainstream society. In John’s vision, both sides have become more self-actualized, understanding how each had a role in escalating issues to the deep “culture wars” divide that is so heavily touted in today’s society. In John’s vision, people have learned how to handle their differences in a more effective manner. And while I do think that the ultimate manner of reaching such a utopian perspective will only come with more anger, vitriol and eventually bloodshed, it certainly is a vision to try and strive for. But the tools that will get us there are not in our beliefs in theological constructs, but rather in the belief that we need to get to a place where all human beings are seen as equals – regardless of their differences. And that, I fear, is the dark labyrinthian path that we, as a human society, are only just starting to travel through. May all the Gods have mercy upon us all…

 

–T /|\