Saturday, June 18, 2011

June is Pagan Values Blogging Month

The Full Journey Moon

Full Journey Moon 2009: A Journey for the Journey Moon

Journey Moon 2010: The Journey Moon

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"We must not be afraid to discuss the values and virtues and ethics we have discovered in our contemporary Pagan faiths. There are enough books on rituals and spells and prayers to last us a few generations… lets start writing works on confronting poverty and hunger from Pagan perspectives. Let us set aside the fear of prejudice, and the once glamorous but now tattered and worn mantle of the outsider and the rebel, and take pride in ourselves and our faiths, in our works and lives and worship and in our Pagan communities and our larger communities." - Pax, author of Crysalis

June 2011 is the 3rd Annual Pagan Values Blogging Month, a great project that aims to get pagans of all stripes to be both thoughtful and vocal about the things they care most about. Some bloggers have chosen to confront broad topics of historical pagan values, or the values and ethics of movements, traditions or denominations within contemporary paganism. From both a practical and ethical standpoint, I can not begin to discuss such broad and impersonal topics but can only speak as to my own beliefs and values. I am a pagan, but I am also a Quaker and Quakers put great emphasis on speaking only as far as your leading takes you; to not go beyond the measure of light that we have been given. I can only speak about my own values and beliefs, but I hope to be able to discuss how my background in both pagan and Quaker thought and worship have informed my values.

June 2011: What do I value?

My personal value s are inspired and informed by my dual identity as both pagan and Quaker. I see the core of my values as a two sided coin with relationships on one side and self actualization on the other. The interaction of these two forces creates a motion that we physical beings live within, a motion and a force that does the work of building, rebuilding and healing our world.

As a pagan I see the root of my spirituality as a deep connection between myself and a mother goddess spirit, who in turn has a deep connection with every other person, animal, plant, and non living thing on the planet. The Mother loves me like her special child, but she loves you, that guy over there, this tree, my dog, the soil, thunderclouds, bushtits, spiny lobsters and wildfires just as much. I am bound fast to all the myriad things in that strong and vast web of loving connection. It is easy to forget our connection to the goddess and the rest of creation, but by constantly seeking knowledge, experience and wisdom we can become better citizens of this interconnected web.

Quakers see a similar web of connection through what they call the Light of Christ present in each person. By recognizing that God works through all people, all people must be listened to, cared for and treated as an agent of the divine. Coming out of that realization Quakers see personal authenticity and individual seeking as important components of a spiritually rich life. We can not listen to the voice of god if we are busy with unimportant things and practicing the fine art of discernment is highly valued in Quaker communities.

When I first started meditating on the question of what do I value the very first thing that came to mind was education. I spend vast amounts of time in my own personal life learning things so I can be a smarter, wiser and better person. I read voraciously, practice skills of observation and discernment, enjoy sharing what I know with others. I created a vision statement for myself last fall and used the phrase “I am an ambassador of the universal divine on a journey to explore life on earth and share what I discover.” It is my job to constantly work to get better, smarter, bigger, happier, and wiser. Quakers and other Christians call this becoming more Christlike. Some pagans call this becoming a priestess. Psychologists call it getting closer to self actualization and Havi might call it destuckification or biggification and Rob might call it cultivating pronoia. Whatever we call it, it is of the utmost importance to me.

In fact, I am prone to thinking it is more important than it is. I tend to value intelligence over genuineness, cleverness over bigheartedness and worldliness over simple faith. All virtues can become vices if taken to an extreme and I am grateful that I have been presented with a number of lessons to remind me that humility is a worthy virtue as well.

Many of those lessons come through experiences with community. Quakers believe that a true leading from god will be verified by the discernment of the community. My pagan theology says that nothing is truly virtuous unless it benefits the community, and nothing can be evil if it has benefit to some member of the community. Ed Espe Brown, the author of the Tassajara Bread Book and an early spiritual mentor of mine, wrote once that living in community is like living in a rock tumbler. He feels his time at Tassajara Zen Community was a time when he was rubbed against other people and his sharp edges were worn away into smoothness. I’ve met people who don’t have strong communities and I think of them as like the 40 foot long gypsum crystals in the Naica mine in Mexico. They are beautiful and perfect in their own way, but fragile, sharp and brittle. Tumbled rocks, rocks that have rubbed against other rocks in the community of a stream or a rock tumbler, are just as beautiful but with a sense that they have been tested and hold up against the forces of life. A community of seekers, acting authentically and with caring, can be that testing ground and polisher for a person. 

Relationships and biggification. Self actualization and community. The inward focus and the outward push. Like yin and yang or male and female, the pull between these seemingly opposing forces creates motion that propels us forward. In the end, I believe we will be judged by our actions but the impulse behind our actions is vitally important. All of the other things I value like safe and clean food, protection of the natural environment, equal rights for all people, the reduction of pollution and waste, the increase of beauty and truth are rooted in this interplay between an inward seeking and an outward connection. We must actively care for our communities, both human and non-human, and we must base that care in the interplay of inward and outward, benevolent altruism and informed self interest. What is good for the web is good for me, and what is good for me is good for the web. 

Right now our web is sick and hurting. There are bright spots of self actualization, healing and beauty but there are more places of bleakness, brokenness and despair. I believe that we are here, in the physical, mental and spiritual form we are in because God needs this form to do some specific work. There are things that can only be done with our human bodies, human minds and human hearts and we must find out what those things are and do them. The dual impulses of becoming more authentically ourselves and becoming more authentically in community is the way forward to find that work and successfully do it.

1 comment:

fillingcalix said...

Come ON! Tumbled rocks!!! That is just FREAKadelic. Seriously. I JUST wrote about this!!!!!

In terms of the two sides of the coin, it reminds me of the principles of Reclaiming: that magic has two purposes, intertwined together: healing the self and healing the world. Each act toward one of those ends also works toward the other aim.

As for education, that's quite a mindmeld too, as just this week I've been thinking of ALL that I have to learn (right now I'm working on yoga and voice training, on top of the Shiva Nata and shamanism), and how the true path is that of an eternal student. There is always more to learn, so much we might even need many lifetimes to learn it all. Which, of course, fits right in with the Shiva Nata goal of continuing to challenge oneself.

Complacence = death!

LOVE YOU, as always!! Such an honor to share your world, sister.