Tag Archives: community

Big Fish

What makes up a community,
if not those common threads
that make us not such strangers
and more interested, instead,

in how the other sees the world,
what makes a good friend tick.
To share the things that shape your life:
that’s what makes friendship stick.

And who need know out and beyond
some wide, imagined fence,
besides the ones whose words you trust
with your experience?

If the result is my small pond
should teem with such big fish
that my wee boat seems less alone:
for what more could I wish?

09 APR 2006

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Pagan Comm(unity)?

About two years ago, I participated in a discussion group that included a number of relatively famous pagan “elders”. There was some scuffle regarding some relatively unsavory behavior on the part of one of the members, a leader of a pagan group and the erstwhile protege of one of these “elders”. This elder posted (anonymously, of course) a message that encouraged people to close ranks, to support this unscrupulous character because as Pagans, we owed it to ourselves to present a unified front against our “enemies”, to recognize and respect our “brothers” and give them more leeway, so to speak, than we would another non-relative. A recent item over at Letters from Hardscrabble Creek on whether or not “pagan community” was a meaningful construct gave me incentive to look up my response to that issue, which touches on the concept of “pagan community”:

As far as “Pagan community” is concerned, I am often troubled that some people who claim the name of “Pagan” seem to think that there should be some artificial construct (of course, it does not seem artificial to them) that connects us all at the level of our common beliefs, that there is some kind of “brotherhood” which all pagans should acknowledge and respect.

I have a fundamental question regarding this “brotherhood”, however … is this a “brotherhood” of those who CLAIM to be at one with each other, or of those whose deeds prove it to be the case?

As was said once earlier in the last century (if may have been FDR who said it), if you are a “Harvard Man”, you don’t need a class ring to prove it – your actions will make it obvious to all that you are of that caliber.

For myself, I know my brethren (that are not tied by blood) by their deeds, and not their words. And if a brother (or sister, for in fact ‘brotherhood’ implies something that smacks of patriarchy and hierarchy, of closed rooms and inequality) makes what I feel to be an error, it is my obligation to discuss it with them privately, “on the way to the church” so to speak, rather than standing up and impugning them before the entire congregation. For if we are in fact ALL siblings, then any action that affects the well-being of one affects the well-being of all. All of which goes to show that one cannot choose one’s “brothers” lightly. Yes, we are all related, we all share this plane in which to find our paths, we are all different shafts of the same light. But our “unity” is quite a different matter. The fact is that we are NOT a pagan community because we call ourselves Pagan, but are only a community if we act as a community

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Redefining My Peer Group

When you think about it, what does a jury of one’s peers really mean? Legally, I suppose it means that because all individuals are theoretically equal under the law, one’s peers in a litigious sense means other equally theoretical equals.

A peer might be anyone who shares with me age, gender, ethnicity, race, education, geography, nationality or religion, in some combination. But considering any of these factors in isolation does not make sense to me. This does not seem to be the basis by which I identify my peers on a daily basis. For example I do not consider all men to be my peers, nor all southerners, nor all people who did not quite graduate from college? Not on a typical day.

For me, a peer is a fellow traveler. Not someone on the same path as I am, nor someone who has been where I’ve been, but someone who has been faced with the same kinds of dilemmas, made similar choices, and lived with the consequences of those choices in order to a achieve a similar goal. That means that in order to decide who my peer group is, I have got to get the order of the questions right. Often, we ask “who is going with me?” before we ask “where am I going?” As a result, whether or not the traveling companion is suitable, advantageous or even compatible for the journey cannot be in any way intelligently determined.

Who are my peers, then?

People who have lived in more than one state. People who have been divorced. People who read books daily. Curious people. People who vote their conscience and intelligence and not the party line. People who believe that life and death can be defined as energy borrowed, energy returned. People who feel that art, beauty, kindness, compassion and doubt are essential elements of human existence. People willing to get their hands dirty. People who recognize that all ethical systems are based on the principle Thou Before I and actually, where possible, live according to that standard. People who believe that love is not ownership. People who seek commonalities, rather than differences. People who seek beyond institutionalized anything (schools, churches, governments) in order to discover how Universal Truth becomes Personal Truth. People who see beyond all of these Aristotaliarian compartmentalizations. People who know there is no such thing as prehistory, who draw outside the lines, who accept personal responsibility for who they are, where they are, and how they got there, who believe that a meritocritous egalitarian society is not only possible, but achievable, one person at a time.

If my life were on trial, I would insist that 12 such individuals be found to weigh my fate.

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Peace in Action?

On one of the communities I manage, someone made a comment that it seems like all the peace-oriented communities are pretty comatose — not a lot of posting activity. This made me wonder about peace-makers, in general.

To me, a peacemaker is not someone who is all that interested in lamenting how non-peaceful other people are. In addition, they don’t necessarily work in groups. Peace, after all, begins with the individual — and anyone who is seriously interested in finding, and making, peace is always going to look at themselves first and root out in their own character, actions and psyche those violent or harmful impulses and manifestations which are antithetical to peace. That means, of course, a constant level of activity for the peacemaker that starts perhaps unperceivably (to the outside world) and radiates outward first to their immediate surroundings — co-workers, family, neighbors and so on. There isn’t a lot of point in organizing a sit-in half-way around the world if you haven’t got your personal act together first.

Marx said it best — the first step in any public revolution is the private revolution. Ramakrishna, talking extemporaneously about 50 years earlier, said it in a different way — unless you have personally experienced God, you’ve got no business preaching or teaching God to anyone else. First, you’ve got to shut up and listen. In other words, change yourself and you have already changed the world.

So I’m not really all that surprised that the “real” peacemakers aren’t clamoring up and down the “peace-oriented” message boards. After all, they’re busy doing what they need to do, despite a world that doesn’t value their efforts (and often doesn’t even realize their effects, because they are assimilated by osmosis, not radical paradigm shifts). For me, it’s enough that people interested in making peace have a refueling station such as peacetrain to pull into and share their experiences, encourage others and when they can, say just a word or two.

To sum up, to me you “make” war. You “spread” peace. The difference is that you can separate war, either philosophically or physically, from yourself.
With peace, that’s not an option. The Creator and Created are One.

Any thoughts?

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A Sangha of Two

The things that you love are a part of me,
each butterfly that brings a laughing smile;
Our community grows large because we
share every moment and each traveled mile.

I can touch you here and now, feel your lips
against mine, your scent on the morning breeze;
and if for brief times the world fades and slips
away in mist – I say, do as you please,

dear Maya, for there are two of us here,
beyond the veil of time. It matters not
whether our past lives brought us so near,
only the bliss this small moment has brought.
While we are on this precious, living path
Let us pause, and drink deep, and love to laugh.

08 JUL 2003

For Starlight Dances: life is suffering disappointment good bullshit not a noun.

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May the Teacher’s Role Be Lessoning

A recent discussion in a friend’s journal made me think of a poem I wrote a few years back in response to a thread on a pagan discussion board related to “why doesn’t someone teach me NOW what I want to know” posted by some Veruca Silverwing Salt young newbie.

As far as “Pagan community” is concerned, I am often concerned that some people who claim the name of “Pagan” seem to think that there should be some artificial construct (of course, it does not seem artificial to them) that connects us all at the level of our common beliefs, that there is some kind of “brotherhood” which all pagans should acknowledge and respect. I have a fundamental question regarding this “brotherhood”, however … is this a “brotherhood” of those who CLAIM to be at one with each other, or of those whose deeds prove it to be the case? As was said once earlier in the last century (if may have been FDR who said it), if you are a “Harvard Man”, you don’t need a class ring to prove it – your actions will make it obvious to all that you are of that caliber. For myself, I know my brethren (that are not tied by blood) by their deeds, and not their words. And if a brother (or sister, for in fact ‘brotherhood’ implies something that smacks of patriarchy and hierarchy, of closed rooms and inequality) makes what I feel to be an error, it is my obligation to discuss it with them privately, “on the way to the church” so to speak, rather than standing up and impugning them before the entire congregation. For if we are in fact ALL siblings, then any action that affects the well-being of one affects the well-being of all. All of which goes to show that one cannot choose one’s “brothers” lightly. Yes, we are all related, we all share this plane in which to find our paths, we are all different shafts of the same light. But our “unity” is quite a different matter. The fact is that we are NOT a pagan community because we call ourselves Pagan, but are only a community if we act as a community.
— My response to an on-line discussion on closing ranks behind ill-behaved pagan “leaders” for the sake of the “community”, which I thought was appalling

Why look outside yourself for guidance?
Why claim there is a “community” when none exists?
Why insist that some be leaders and others followers?

No elder, no true teacher seeks
to become the center of a cult of personality;
quite the contrary, they avoid it,
knowing that there are many who would seek their path
(wanting a shortcut, wanting to skip their own wandering search)
and who will find the teacher’s advice —
the solitary, aloneness of true self —
not to their liking,
and therefore fit for derision.

A true teacher knows that each path is unique;
My telling you what works for me is pointless,
unless you can appreciate its application
in your own action.

A right to be disrespectful may not be a given,
and titles and honorary degrees are often bandied right and left;
Who dares to say that another’s path is wrong for them?

Perhaps no one has a right to judge,
but then again, no one has a right to be taught,
either.

As to your assumption that “we are all kin here” —
I do not know you well enough to say if we are related,
but I know my brethren by their deeds,
not words.

21 FEB 2003

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