If you are a Pagan of some variety (and I imagine that at least most of the people reading this blog are) then you may have noticed this past month was a tad… well, crazy. The Pagan Wide Crazy has affected most of the people and groups that I’m acquainted with, as every even small frustration and minor personal problems all erupted at the exact same time. The massive infighting, which we Pagans are more than used to dealing with, was a lot worse than I ever remember seeing it before.
I’m not usually one to give much weight to concepts like Mercury retrograde, especially when I so often see it employed Pagan wide as a get out of being a douche free card. But this incident, how far reaching it was, almost makes a believer out of me. If it had been just a few people in one group in one tradition perhaps, but its hard to believe even for a more skeptical mind that this was all pure coincidence.
The end result of this incredible drama filled month is several people walking away (or going to walk away) from the various groups, organizations, internet communities that they once called home and foraging out on their own. And yes, as you may have guessed, I will be among those people walking away.
This is not something that suddenly came up in the last month (in all likelihood wasn’t for any of the people who have walked away, even if it may have seemed that way to those they left behind), it’s not something I’m doing because of everyone else many of whom are friends of mine (though I admit their leaving as well does lend some strength to my move as well) and it likewise has nothing to do with personal problems that have occurred between me and a group I was once involved in (which some of you may or may not be familiar with). This is something I have been struggling over for some time. I have been silent here and silent elsewhere in other religious venues as I slowly and rather painfully worked out how to make this final major change to get me to the place where I need to be now.
Actually back when I accepted that the reconstructionist label no longer fit who I am and what I was doing, I should have taken the hint then it was time to back off from the community. I had thought it would be easy enough to continue interacting with people and groups, because after all nothing with me has changed that dramatically. I didn’t immediately see the overall problem with that statement: I have left behind a label that no longer has any real relevance to me, and yet I will remain in groups defined by that label.
At one point in time, I definitely needed it. When I was first starting out, first learning, the online community was an invaluable resource. And indeed I was one of the people who managed to make it through my newbie years unscathed, something that people who didn’t manage it like to claim is impossible (of course, I also did a lot of research on my own, was more likely to ask for sources rather than answers and carefully worded the questions that I did ask so that I would not be misunderstood). But now, as far as the basics of belief and practice go, I already pretty much know where the majority of the community stands and, more importantly, I know where I stand, and as I explained in a previous post that place where I stand is fairly far off from the average. And there is still a lot that I need to learn in order to do the things I need to be doing, and those are not things that I can learn from lists and forums, not things I can share with the people there.
My spiritual life has largely been on hold for this last year, part of this has to do with internal problems that were cranked into high gear with my second dedication to Hermes almost a year ago now (and that part I’m sure came as no surprise to him and was likely planned on, knowing me as well as he does), but also because of my being slow to act on several of the changes I need to make in my life to get myself to the place where I need to be. A year spent up against a road block is more than long enough, and its high time that I go through and make the changes that I can make (because not all of them can happen overnight, unfortunately). It is no longer good enough to maintain ties with communities just because they once held some importance to me even though that is no longer the case, because I’m not at the same place or because they themselves changed. If something is not actively contributing to my spiritual life, if I am not getting something out of the association (and they getting something out of an association with me) then it is not worth it to continue on. There is a limit to how social I can be even over the internet (I am an introvert through and through :)) and how many different things I can pay attention to at the same time; I need to focus myself in appropriate directions and weed out any and all distractions.
Though I do not intend to sit here and bad mouth the community as a whole (certain individuals within the community yes ;)), it goes without saying that it needs some work if it is going to stay around and be a real presence in the years to come. That many of the long term and more successful organizations are currently going through major upheavals (mostly centered around prominent members leaving) and re-evaluating who they are and what they want to be accomplishing is (I hope) a sign that this change is about to begin. Truly, I wish them all the best of luck.
But this does also signal, as is usual in times of healing and transformation, that things are also about to get a lot worse before they get better – if they get better. And this also presents yet another reason why I need to back off now.
I am a liminal person serving a liminal god; this has always been the case, but over this last year my liminal status has become even more pronounced (if possible) than it was before. I have never been community oriented (note that I did not say anti-community, there is a huge difference between condemning something altogether and recognizing that, while it is a positive thing for others, it does not work for you) and always knew I was destined to be mostly solitary, serving Hermes in a private one on one fashion as opposed to on behalf of a (human) community, that any involvement I might have in the community would be secondary at best and any impact an indirect result of that private work – which makes sense if you think about it, as Hermes’ action in the world often comes about through accident and coincidence, indirect routes. For those who want to insist that if you are not neck deep in community then you are Doing It Wrong, I must respectfully (or not so respectfully, such as the case may be) disagree; this may not be a common, mainstream path but it is certainly a legitimate one. Every religion has its fringe element, and that is where I plan to be.
If the community is going to survive and rebuild itself, it’s going to take a lot of work, and people that are both realistic about what that work actually entails and are committed to getting it done. It may never be a community it a traditional sense – keeping in mind there that I draw a very sharp distinction between “community” and “a bunch of people loosely tied together over a particular commonality”; the latter does not equal the former (that many people expect that it does is, I think, one of the biggest sources of the Pagan Drama we all know and love), it takes a lot more than having one thing in common and co-existing in some internet elist (or even in a real world group) to make a community. It may never be more than the latter (with a few real, smaller communities scattered here and there), but that doesn’t mean things can’t be a lot more functional than they currently are. People need to decide what they really want, and more importantly, what they are willing to do to accomplish that. It’s not going to be easy by any means.
And, as a liminal person, I am not meant to be a part of this solution. My focus is, and has to be, on my largely personal and private relationship with Hermes and the Work he wants me to do. I simply do not have the same investment, personal or spiritual, in the formation of a community (or functional group of people) that those who both want and need, again personally or spiritually, that in order to be fulfilled and doing what Work they need to do. And as such, I can not allow their problems to become my problem; especially in the midst of a massive upheaval and the (hopefully) start of a major transitional period, I need to back away.
A lot of people might not like this, and indeed people who are very community oriented often do not understand (and mistake the motives of) those of us who are not. We all have our part to play, and it isn’t all focused in the same direction. This troubles I’ve had this last year have really shown me where my place is, where my focus is, and how I truly need to be moving in the right direction or the rest of my life suffers as a result. Being embroiled in community drama is proving to be both a distraction and a drain; a year is more than long enough I can not remain stuck behind this road block any longer, I need to put my energy back into my relationship and my private practice. The community is not truly benefitting from my presence as I said I can not be part of the solution to their troubles; I could continue to hang around and take up space anyway but that would be pointless, worse I could try and force myself to be involved and volunteer for work I’m unlikely to ever actually do because my heart isn’t really in it (while sacrificing my actual Work in the process) but that would cause far more harm than good. Really, this is best for all involved.
I do not intend to disappear from the internet altogether, merely pulling back into my own private corner of it. There is likely some good that I could do here publicly for those who seek me out, not to mention the individuals I’ve met who do contribute to my spiritual life whom I don’t want to lose contact with and… well, I am an introvert with a lot of trauma related issues and many problems interacting with people in person, the internet has always been a social outlet for me, to help find the few people out there I can relate to and tolerate. And I may even maintain some presence on a small handful of lists and forums, provided they are contributing something to me and I to them. For those who want to find me, there is always my Livejournal and of course this blog. And as I refocus my energy into building my spiritual life in the direction it needs to go, I hope to be using this blog a lot more than I currently do, as I’ll have more to talk about again.
And to those in these various groups I’m parting ways with, I do thank you for the help you once gave me and, once again I truly wish you the best of luck in the future.