Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Circles, Cycles and Pulses: Pagan Values Blogging Month

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice 2010: The Season of Light Nights

Summer Solstice 2011: Wanting to Be Up and Doing

This post is an entry in the 3rd Annual Pagan Values Blogging event, which I also wrote this years' Full Journey Moon post (self evidently titled June is Pagan Values Blogging Month) for.

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As I've been living into the solar power so palpable during this Summer Solstice season I am reminded of one of the core elements in my personal pagan values system: the fact that all of creation moves in circles, cycles and pulses. When I think about the things I disagree with Christian theology about the first is a need for a savior (I think I can do that within my own relationship with the divine, thank you very much). The second, and perhaps more important to me (though probably not to most Christians who would argue my first point), is the knowledge that time is cyclical with no set beginning, ending or singular event that never has been before and never will be again. Time isn't a straight line and neither is virtue, or anything else. It's all circles inside of circles, pulses and waves. Every coin has two sides, and neither is more important than the other.

One night last week I found myself listening to the Christian radio station and heard a pastor speak very passionately about evil. He sounded to me like a big brother warning his younger siblings about their father's strange and not altogether sensible rules and harsh punishments. He wasn't fire and brimstone like so many preachers, but truly heartsore and worried that we might fall into evil. It all seemed so foreign to me because, to be perfectly honest, I don't believe in evil. This is not to say I don't believe in Really Bad Things, or even Really Horrific Things That Defy Rational Explanation and Might Very Well Be Called Evil. I just don't believe in some supernatural power that causes evil. The Worried Pastor said he didn't know why a good god allowed evil to exist and that was just something we'd find out when we got to heaven. I know, though, to my own satisfaction at least, why there are things in this world that people call evil: imbalance.

Every impulse and action in creation has an opposite impulse or action and neither are Good or Evil, though some may be Beneficial and Harmful. Most just Are, though. Like wet and dry, neither is bad though both are harmful in their extreme. That same night I heard Worried Pastor I switched over to NPR and heard a story of Sudanese soldiers going door to door in the Nuba region of the country and killing members of any tribal group that had supported the South during the civil war. That is a pretty awful action, and one that I will never defend, but I still don't see it as evil. I see it as an imbalance in the impulses community affiliation vs. universal humanistic care and the impulses of protecting one's resources vs. sharing. It isn't wrong to lock your doors to keep intruders out, but it is certainly very harmful to kill neighboring people who compete for your food sources. Both come from the same impulse to protect what you need to survive.

One of the reasons I rejected Buddhism during my late teens was because I don't believe all life is suffering, and I also don't believe that detachment is the way to relieve what suffering does exist. Even at that young age I saw that the play between joy and sorrow was where the real meaty part of life is. It will be winter just as surely as it is now summer and cultivating an emotional detachment from that change seemed counter productive to me. As I began exploring paganism the image of a Medieval or pre-Christian woman, blonde and buxom, laughing and pouring mugs of beer for her husband and friends came to me. A woman who is not afraid of enjoying the good things in life while they are here, and bearing through the hard times that are just as likely to come soon. A couple years later I claimed that I gave up vegetarianism to become a hedonist. I think I gave up Buddhism for the same reason.

Community and self. Summer and winter. Festivities and solitude. Heat and cold. Joy and sorrow. Darkness and light. Growth and decay. Giving and receiving. Rain and sunshine. Fear and security. Death and birth. These are the peaks and valleys of the sine waves of life. We ride them like roller coasters as we move through our days and years. When the waves are too steep - the selfishness too selfish or the heat too hot - we find ourselves out of balance and off kilter. But when the waves are too shallow there isn't enough momentum to keep us moving forward. You can't draw a picture with a white crayon on white paper and you can't live a life of all growth and no decay, or all giving and no receiving.

The reason I love Annette Hinshaw's Earth Time, Moon Time calendar so much is that the very foundation of it is this idea of cycles at various levels. The cycle seen at the year level that starts with the Death Moon and Birth Moon and goes all the way around to the Harvest Moon and the Sorting Moon is the same cycle that happens at many other levels. It is the cosmic cycle of the creation that the Hindus think of as yugas or eras. It is also the cycle of the human life span, or of the lifespan of a business, or a garden year, the lifespan of a frog, a butterfly or a mayfly. It is smaller cycles, too, like cycles of digestion and breathing and photosynthesis. All these cycles within cycles, pulses within pulses are the engines that drive the brilliant and beautiful motion of the myriad things. This is deep wisdom and Annette Hinshaw has brought it to a beautiful and simple, hands on and practical calendar.

I hope that Worried Pastor figures it out so he can stop worrying. Evil isn't here against god's wishes, or to lure us into eternal damnation. The yin and yang of creation is here to keep us moving in dynamic cycles, circles and pulses. This time of year, when we have just seen the crest of the summer wave and are sliding our way down into the darker part of the year, is a perfect time to remember that core tenet of my pagan values. Circles, cycles and pulses literally make the world go 'round.

Read more entries in the 3rd Annual Pagan Values Blogging event HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! This was really helpful and thought-provoking. Now I do use the term "evil," though I used to be really uncomfortable with it. Maybe because sometimes other words don't feel like they can adequately describe the horrors perpetrated. I think your perspective is more balanced. British autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen has just come out with a book on "evil" - which he describes as a theological term so of no use to a psychologist. He prefers to use "cruelty" and goes on describe the Zero Empathy that underpins it.