Daily Archives: February 21, 2003

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,

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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Songs for the Deaf

Heart strings be stilled, and bring on the noise
that dulls into senseless, hard men hopeful boys;
Just pound on the floor, if you must have a beat,
and perhaps you’ll vibrate the tips of your feet.

We must find other, quiet joys
To fill up the void where the Music once played,
for our audience fidgets and acts quite dismayed
if we take up their space with a moment in time
of anything that might be unique, or sublime,
suggesting the beauty arrayed
In a brief pause of breath, when the talking has ceased,
and like seeds from a flower, our thoughts are released
in the atmosphere, freed from these cages of sound
that we build to protect us from life, all around
(it seems like that to me, at least)
Yet praise of the average demeans genius in man;
we crave mediocre sounds, all we can stand
are the songs that we know, ones we all know by rote
so that even the tone-deaf can find all the notes,
and our Music sounds hollow and canned.
What good is it to sing out from deep in your soul,
if the listener’s ears are beyond your control?

If you must shake the walls, and the floors, and the chair,
soon there will be only a harsh rhythm there,
while the soft melodies that roll
Gently off the tongue, on the faintest of sighs
will be carried off; and then, we’ll all act surprised
when our lives have no meaning, and seem flat and dull,
empty of beauty, and no longer full
of anything apathy has not compromised.

21 FEB 2003

I seem to be fascinated, as of late, by the myth of Odysseus, particularly with his interaction (or adamant lack thereof) with the Sirens. In the book The Third Ear: On Listening to the World, one of the ideas put forward is that the Sirens, having no audience for their song, simply gave up singing (and since their singing was their purpose, they then retreated under their rocks and died). This is advanced as the plight of those who would appeal to the ear, a much more honest organ of interpretation than the eye. In our vision-based culture, where we seek to penetrate outward into the world, rather than listen, and bring the world into us, the hypertrophy of the sense of hearing in favor of seeing causes all sorts of maladjustments and (to use a vision-based word) misperceptions.

“I see,” said the blind;
“I hear,” said the deaf;
“You’re a liar,” said the dumb
— punchline from a joke my grandmother used to tell

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