My wife, Judy Olson Linde, and I appeared as guests this year at the Heartland Pagan Festival near Kansas City, Mo. I wrote this article for their newsletter, which was also published in their festival guide. It is excerpted below; The theme of the festival was “Dawning of a New Day” and I was thinking about what it would take for us, as a Pagan Spiritual community, to achieve that dawn.
The Heartland Theme this year really attracted us to contribute differently this year, as guests. In recent years most Pagan communities, organizations, festivals, and even small groups have experienced some kind of internal turmoil, and so have we. Our easiest reaction to this is to withdraw to personal isolation. We attribute conflict to, “Just politics, Pagans can’t agree on anything”. We may have just stuck our head up and tried to get involved in a community just in time to get it bit off, so back we go into the safety of isolation. If you persist and stay involved in community work you often see the same destructive processes repeated over and over. Working together to build a community of support, something beyond ourselves, can seem a hopeless task.
Respectful disagreement is a sign of change, and can be a motivator toward moving in new directions. When change can be so beneficial, why does it so often end up being harmful to individuals and communities, instead of an opportunity for growth? Is it an essential truth that Pagans working together is like ‘herding cats’? It doesn’t have to be. Working together doesn’t have anything to do with ‘herding’, and, have you ever seen film of a pride of lions hunt? Differences don’t need to be a source of disruption. Diversity of views in decision-making can be a group’s greatest asset.
There are a whole list of real and specific things we can change about ourselves, and to insist on when working together, that can transform destructive ‘politics’ into community growth. There are tools, both for individuals and organizations to learn to use to reach that “Dawning of a New Day” . We don’t automatically learn when growing up the skills it takes to empower ourselves as individuals, and as groups, with a vision and with values. Even with the best of intentions, we can end up mimicking the same destructive environment we may have experienced in our family of origin, or have experienced and accepted to make our way in the world.
I am a spiritual being, and experience that as witch and a Pagan. I expect my Pagan path to be that which guides me to a deeper understanding of myself, my community, and spirit. It is that which helps me be a positive force, to offer gifts within all these spheres. If being a Pagan is an excuse for anything, for personal failings, for being unable to serve others, for acting in destructive ways, well then I can’t call it part of being Pagan. Excuses are just self-realization and change waiting to happen, not part of my spiritual path, not Pagan.
Well it is a new day, today. We can start and make personal change and take action that helps to build a Pagan community of support, establish groups that flourish, and that will help all of us blossom. I believe we start by recognizing and practicing the many things we in our hearts know to be essential. I try to listen fiercely in every conversation. I practice patience and respect with every word I speak. I subject myself to ruthless self-examination, to reach for that highest self, and acknowledge when I fail. I hold myself, and everyone I work with in groups, lovingly accountable to our commitments, shared vision, and values. I practice living from the heart.
What can make that New Day dawn for you?