Saturday, November 15, 2008

Natural Awe

Believe it or not I think about spirituality a lot; I spend a great deal of time each day just thinking. You see I am a truck driver by profession and much of my day is spent just holding the steering wheel and pondering. Last week I was driving down I-5 through a rural area in the late afternoon; the sun was low in the sky and the colors just hit me. For a moment I was in awe of the play between light and shadow; how the leaves of the trees were an infinite array of shades. This moment lasted perhaps only a few seconds in real time but, I felt different for the rest of the day. I have had this experience a thousand times over the last 20 years, since I became a Pagan. Light is one of the most incredible forces in the universe both scientifically and spiritually. I don't think I am special in my ability to see, my eyes are not better than the average, I have no great talent. What I do posses is a willingness to be awed by natural phenomenon; light reflecting on water or air on my skin. It is difficult to be unguarded today, to be open to experience when it comes calling. When I was a child I had no fear of experience; I am constantly reminded that I would walk right into the ocean and disappear under the water. My family became so concerned about me that they tied a clothes line to my diaper so I could not wander into danger. Though I cannot pretend that life didn't knock me around or that I kept that fearlessness into adolescence, I did recover some of it as an adult. Spirituality at it's core is about experience or perhaps more people would agree with the word transcendence. We are trying to ignore the mundane or transcend it to get in touch with the higher realms, right? No I don't think so, we are all capable of seeing transcendence within this world by seeing in a different way. I don't mean to imply that there is no spirit world or land of the dead; that this physical world is the only real one. What I am trying to say is that the natural world has many layers of reality to it; that we can allow ourselves to see more. In my view spirituality is the search for meaning in the mundane, for a new way to see and understand our lives. Paganism has given me the courage and skills to allow myself to be open and unguarded again as an adult. When was the last time you allowed yourself to be open to experience is this way? Open yourselves to experience and I know you will find your life more filled with meaning and joy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Balance or foolishness?

Recently I was listening to a pagan pod cast I enjoy and the host was talking about balance. Let me make clear that I understood her point which was no one is all dark or all light. She was talking about how many Pagans claim to be only of the light and that they have no dark thoughts, impulses, etc. That kind of behavior is not normal nor likely in a human being, I think we can all agree. My problem with her rationale was that she used the word balance to describe this point. She stated that if a person was all one thing light or dark; they would be out of balance and therefore in trouble. Folks let me say right now this kind of thinking just does not work and is sloppy. If you follow that logic, for every "positive" action I take, I must make a similar "negative" action to remain in balance. In the end everyone would be at best neutral as to how they affect the world and their community. Think about it, would you want to receive a present from your boyfriend today knowing that tomorrow you're are gonna get a smack? Faulty logic and lack of common sense is one of the greatest problems in Paganism today. In defense of the unnamed pod cast host she also agrees that we are missing common sense, it is just the way she spoke about her beliefs that brought me to this topic, no disrespect meant. So if balance is not about each person's every action what is it about? Balance is about things macro cosmic; balance between jobs and the environment; between individual freedom and security and between the individual and society. This is not to say a kind of balance cannot apply in one's own life; balancing work and family for instance, that is balance on the micro scale. The question of whether anyone is all light or dark is a different matter entirely. It may seem terribly picky; a charge I am guilty of regularly but, words do matter and how you present your thoughts and beliefs may determine how they are received. I implore you to think about your beliefs more; to try and communicate them in a new and perhaps better way. We will all benefit from understanding each other better and hopefully we will understand ourselves better too.

Pagan podcasting

I have been listening to a lot of pagan pod casts lately and in general I am enjoying it. It is interesting and helpful to me to hear other people's opinions and it reminds me to review my own thoughts from time to time. There are many different ideas about paganism being expressed and a wide variety of practices being discussed. What I like the most about pod casting is hearing the personal stories and experiences of the hosts. Since I am an opinionated person myself, there are of course things I don't like. One of my main complaints is the lack of show prep so obvious in many pod casts or any attempt to edit them after the fact. It is not uncommon to listen to a host hem and haw for several minutes while they think of something to say. Something else I don't care for is the constant attempt to include pagan music in each show; as Deo from "Deo's Shadow" put it pagan music sucks. I personally can live without any more bad music in my life regardless of who is producing it. Overall I think the democratization of radio, TV and pod casting is a great thing for everyone. The narrow point of view expressed in "mainstream" media is boring and does not in any way reflect the populace. Social networking sites and YouTube have done a great deal to both cause regular people to become crazy narcissists and bring people together in common understanding. Pod casting has the opportunity to create a vibrant, flexible, creative pagan community in the next few years. A community in which everyone can tell their own story and share their truth with the world. Yes I understand that means every Raven, Willow and Fairy Bunny will clog up the bandwidth with silly websites, pod casts and such. That is the downside of democracy but, it is far far better than the strangle hold on thought and ideas some societies deal with every day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What does Pagan mean to me?

Let me begin this blog by defining the word Paganism in my own view. Paganism is an umbrella word referring to a large group of alternate religions, some tribal in nature, some modern or re constructionist. Pagan religions remain decentralized and generally are organized in small groups or practiced by individuals. There is no central theme to what is called Paganism and no one person or group can seriously claim to represent or even understand all facets of Paganism. It is in a way a kind of organized anarchy; defined in many ways equally by what it is not as well as what it is. How do you put that in simple terms; anyone who claims to be a Pagan is. We all have our own litmus test on what makes someone a Pagan; what values they must have, how they worship, who they worship, do they use magic, etc. However in reality, no one can say beyond their own opinion and that is the strength and weakness of Paganism in a nut shell. When you start applying other words like Wiccan or Heathen there are some qualities, beliefs and attitudes that generally apply to all people using that word. In my view the word Pagan is really only a way of saying "I don't belong to an organized religion". Take the concept of New Age religion; based in large part on Christian values and beliefs, yet sharing many ideas about energy, healing and spirits beings with Paganism. Given these facts you might naturally think that New Age believers would consider themselves Pagan and Pagans would except them as well, not true at all. There is a movement in some circles to combine the religions of Christianity and Wicca or Judaism and Wicca but, in general this has not been accepted by Pagans. Paganism represents for many people within it a break from the traditions of their society and present culture in favor of a reconstruction or new interpretation of ancient culture. So what does all this mean, why am I bringing this up? I will tell you; I have a very open definition of Paganism that includes all tribal religions (Australian aboriginal, Native American), Shamanism, African Traditional Religion (Voudon, Ocha, Ifa, Akan) and folk practices from around the world. I unlike many European Americans don't see our ancestors as the primary source of wisdom and culture in the world. In fact ancient people had more in common across the world than they had differences if you remove the form rituals and beliefs took. The basic concepts of religion and spirituality run like a thread through all human history; as proven by the works of Joseph Campbell, Levi Strauss and Mircea Eliade. So folks, Pagans one and all lets talk about our lives without worrying about who or what a Pagan is. I care about who you are and what you believe, not what your label might be. In the end we could call ourselves Christian and be habitually unfaithful to our spouse, we could call ourselves Pagan and hate the environment. What does that label mean in comparison to what you believe and what you do?