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.

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