Thursday, 19 May 2011

Non-Judgment Day Is Nigh

You may find this hard to believe, but once upon a time I was the most tolerant of individuals--if only because I simply didn't give a damn what anyone else was doing, so long as it wasn't discommoding me in any way. People often confessed the most alarming things to me, perhaps because they recognized me for the outlier that I was and felt that I would hear them and accept them through some sense of misfit solidarity. And unless I thought they were doing something that might be actively harmful to them, I was invariably accepting--albeit less out of a sense of universal and altruistic love than of a sublime disinterest in anything that didn't negatively impact me directly.

I'm afraid that statement makes me sound like a monster of selfishness, and I don't think that I am all that bad; it's not that I didn't care about what was going on with the troubled people who chose to confide in me. On the contrary, I am empathetic to a fault--to such a painful degree that I had to learn early on how to compensate for that lest I drown in feelings I had no clue how to process. As a result, I next developed a reputation for being "cold." Alas! (And people wonder why I identify with Dr. Brennan up there; that's who the writers crafted her to be, at least before they began to systematically destroy her last season. But I digress.) Still, I was open-minded and tolerant of things that others might have considered aberrant. But that changed somewhere along the way. Gradually my bullshit tolerance faded away, if only because I'd finally had too much shoveled at me for too long. I didn't ever want to be so open-minded that my brain fell out, and I could only suspend my critical reasoning skills and analytical nature for so long. Paganism did me in, I'm afraid; long-term exposure to a wide variety of mental issues being thrust forth aggressively as everything from lifestyle choices to "religion" nearly destroyed my capacity for cheerful disinterest and benevolent acceptance. It's not entirely gone, but I have to work damned hard these days to find even a glimmer of it.

Now, I started this new blog shortly after I started working with the concept of temperance last year, and a big part of temperance is balance. I hate imbalance, intemperance, immoderation; these conditions feel unnatural and uncomfortable to me; these things are not Ma'at. Extremism is so rampant in our larger culture these days, filtering down from the political sphere to infect nearly everything else, and I hate it (and yes, I understand the paradox of expressing the extreme emotion of hatred against other extremities). I feel that I have become extreme, unbalanced, my expressions skewed in the direction of intolerance and judgment. My task, then is to find the balance between blind acceptance of complete bullshit and utter condemnation based on the subjective criteria of what is ultimately my own personal preference. It should be easier now to go back to my old way of saying "not my kink" and moving on, since I have little exposure these days to the aggressive types of people who like to demand you "accept" their behaviors no matter what your personal values might be--and by "accept" I mean you're usually expected to embrace said behaviors, lest you be dismissed as being somehow not really pagan or whatever shaming technique the manipulator brings to bear. This doesn't mean I won't speak out against things that I perceive to be dangerous or damaging, but I won't pursue them unless they're in my face and causing me a problem. Otherwise, not my kink, and others may do as they will. I won't endorse it or participate in it, and I won't attempt to "change it from within" (that trick never works), and if someone asks my opinion I won't lie, but I'm tired of being so consumed with negativity and anger over situations long since past. It's time to balance that with things that I find positive and enriching and delightful, time to moderate my own behavior and perceptions, and restore Ma'at in my life.

(Gods, does this mean I've embraced the Wiccan Rede at last? I honestly can't find much fault with the philosophy at the moment: an' it harm none, do what you will. It seems like a sort of noninterventionist policy that I can get behind right now. Being a crusader is so exhausting.)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Faire-Weather Pagan

I frankly derive more spiritual satisfaction from visiting a Renaissance faire than I do from attending any events that are marketed* toward pagans. The Ren faire has no pretensions; it's straight-up fantasy, no more and no less. You can choose your level of participation and know that it's very unlikely that anyone will hassle you over it. It doesn't try to paste a veneer of nobility over ignoble motives. You simply put on your chosen persona, walk around, look at cool things, have a drink, listen to some music, and have fun. At the end of the day, you don't feel like you've degraded yourself, or dropped a handful of IQ points, for having had the experience. It's every kind of good.

These days I'm more inclined to find the spiritual in the secular, and to look for it in places you might not ordinarily expect to find it, than I am to go seeking out a prepackaged religious experience. Just like anything else that's been heavily processed for consumption, those things tend to be not only lacking in nutritional value but often actively bad for you. At the very least you're getting empty calories, something superficially satisfying that leaves you lacking that which you actually need. The 4000th how-to book rehashing the same tired tropes, the public ritual parroting the same tired themes (that the organizers took from one of those 4000 previously-mentioned books), the workshops that range from mercenary exhibitionism to crafts day at the looney bin; it's all like fast food, masquerading as a gourmet meal. It's unnecessary, and more than slightly disgusting when you think about it.

I'm sure I'm not the first person whose state of gnosis leads them to bewail the lack of authentic spiritual experience, or whatever the hell it is I'm trying to get at. Having abandoned my search for that authenticity, I'd rather embrace the flamboyantly fantastic; the food and the costuming are generally better, the programming is more professional and punctual, and there's no denying that it is an entertainment product and a moneymaking venture. Pour me another tankard of ale, please; I think I see a Maypole dance starting!

* Yes, I used that term very deliberately.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Defining Insanity

Sometimes--more often than not, these days--I look at the definitions I've attached to myself and wonder if any of them are still accurate, or if indeed they ever were. I used to feel myself indefinable, ineffable, and chafe so strongly at being labeled or pinned down; and then I went through a period of trying on some labels, because it seems so hard for other people if you can't provide them with a convenient capsulized explanation of yourself, but nothing ever quite fit exactly right. That's still the case, and now I wonder why I bother trying to define myself at all. The meanings shift from day to day as I examine the aspect that best fits where I find myself in the cosmos at that moment, and as I feel some things slipping away, others start to come into stronger focus. What am I? Well, what day is it? Let me get back to you on that.

I've used the term pagan (or sometimes even neo-pagan) as a general descriptor for quite a long time now; it isn't quite right, but it's the closest I've been able to come to a generally-understood word that encompasses at least a good portion of what I'm about. Unfortunately, the term also carries with it other associations that are incorrect, imperfect, inappropriate--things that are emphatically not me and not what I do or think or believe or perform--and those associations weigh more heavily on me these days than they did earlier in my life, back when I was perhaps a bit more idealistic and energetic and less generally stabby in demeanor and outlook. I still hang out under the pagan umbrella, but I'm scooting ever closer to the edge, and I'm not entirely covered anymore, a side or so of me hanging out exposed to other elements. (If I may carry my imperfect metaphor that far.)

I think I'm just tired. Tired of the realization that in many ways, I was right from the start, and what I dismissed early on as knee-jerk reactions born of imperfect understanding and lack of gnosis were in fact the simple truth. It's galling and disheartening to me, and sometimes I feel like the biggest damned idiot that ever walked, feel like my stupid yearning heart has betrayed me yet again when I accidentally let its demands override the certainties of my brain (which knew all along that only fuckery and foolishness awaited down that road). I'm cutting ties--physically, symbolically, ritually--to these elements, but it's hard, and shaking off the anger, not only at others but even more so at myself, seems the hardest part of all. Everything in me says it's time, finally, to try for a different outcome (Bones fans, you know this one). And maybe I need to write down the date on which I think I'll finally be ready to be free of all this and burn it, so the Universe gets the message:

Just like that.

The fact is, I just don't fit well amongst the local pagani, most of whom seem like displaced Christians who want a congregational model with a Sky-Mommy as well as a Sky-Daddy, with regular services and potluck dinners and craft projects and skits. I'm also particularly unsuited to hang with the more, eh, ecstatic types; cerebral control-freaks don't do well with ecstasis, and all the unbridled behavior really awakens the psychologist in me and puts me right into an analytical frame of mind (yeah, I know, like I ever leave that frame of mind). I'm Apollonian, not Dionysian, and I'm old enough to know that nothing is likely to change that. Everyone in this gig seems to be out for something, and I don't want to be the one to provide it, even inadvertently. I don't want to hang around with the sex-obsessive festival hippies, or the congregational pagans, or the secret-club trad-types. Where does that leave me?

I want to sit on a big rock with my harp and play a song to the sky. I want to burn incense before the serene golden face of a goddess and shake the sistrum for her. I want to drop all the pretenses and all the ill-fitting labels and feel my spirit soar the way it once did, long ago and far away before I'd ever met another person claiming the p-word for their identity. My husband keeps saying we should just call ourselves Kemetic Druids and I always think he's joking, but what if he's not? And what if we just refuse to call ourselves anything at all, and just be who we are--whoever and whatever that happens to be on any given day. What then?