Monthly Archives: January 2015

The “Charlie Brown’s Football” of the Soul

What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?

The major hurdle used to be getting past my own doubts. Actively pursuing devotional work used to almost always get derailed by me tripping over questions like, “Is that voice a god, or just me talking to myself? Am I crazy, or worse, just lying to myself for egotism’s sake?”

When I voiced that last bit out loud to Ember, she cackled for a bit and then told me, “Of all the problems you might have, I can’t imagine egotism being one of them.” Apparently, persistent self-doubt and feelings of low self-worth are good for something. Who knew?

At any rate, those doubts are no longer the major hurdle. They’ve been demoted to minor hurdle, or perhaps alternate hurdle, if one of the other hurdles is ill and thus unable to impede me on a given day. See? Progress is possible.

But I digress.

The major hurdle I have now is a difficulty in establishing habits of practice. I can get a schedule of daily prayer and libation going for a week or two, but something comes along and distracts me, or somehow prevents me from following through for a day or two, and all that progress is lost. The habit has faded.

Thinking about other habits I have–like taking my diabetes meds every night–gives a little insight. I remember the medications because, if I were to forget to take them for days at a time, I’d get ill. There would be physical consequences impairing my ability to concentrate, lowering my overall energy, and (eventually) costing me a foot or a kidney. So I take my meds, every night.

However, the complementary pattern–doing something regularly to attain some good thing–doesn’t seem to work too well for me. Doing exercise every day for weeks and months so that, eventually, something good will happen just doesn’t motivate me. Maintaining my spiritual practice so that my sense of connection to the gods will become stronger is not a lasting pull towards good, regular practice.

So I do it, on the best schedule I can manage this week, this month, for whatever period of time I can do. Sometimes it’s just a brief, confused prayer. Sometimes it’s an eloquent, impassioned prayer. Sometimes, it’s a vague wave towards the altar as I pass by.

I don’t know how to beat this one, yet. As much as doing it just to do it sounds good on a philosophical level, it doesn’t make much sense in a feet-on-the-ground way. Doing it because the gods need it makes less sense–they were here before I was, and they’ll be here still after I’m gone; how badly could they need it?

Life has been too often like Lucy pulling the football out from in front of Charlie Brown. Except not all the time; life holds the football in place often enough to give some hope that this time I’ll get to kick it. As a result, avoiding a bad thing generally feels more reliable, more real as a possible outcome, than finding a good thing.

I’m not saying I want the gods to start shouting their disapproval at me, or bedeviling my dreams if I miss a day. I have plenty of ordinary, mortal insecurities for that.

I just wish that the hope of some kind of good coming of it, some improvement, felt real.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at
her blog, Embervoices.

In Support of Theologically Diverse Community

I just finished reading this article by IanC over on Into the Mound. Ian is giving his general take on Atheist Paganism (yes, it is a thing), and I pretty much agree with him. Hop on over and read his article for details on his view; I’m going to talk about mine here.

Also, thanks to Morpheus Ravenna for the link to IanC’s article.

I’m not overly concerned with what you believe in your heart of hearts. What matters to me is whether or not we can find a way to practice together, should we care to do so, without either one of us feeling preached-at or hypocritical. If you want to debate theology, fine, I love that sort of thing. Meet me in the bar after the ritual. From my point of view, it’s disrespectful of our honored guests (you know, the gods) to squabble about unprovables when we’re supposed to be hosting. Your point of view may differ, but I think in practice we can agree that it harshes everyone’s mellow to use ritual as an opportunity to weaponize our theology.

This does bring up the question of why we might want to do so. For me, it’s bout maintaining the diversity of the larger Pagan community. We could swear off dealing with people whose metaphysics are incompatable with our own, and I certainly see many good reasons for having at least some part of our practice be reserved for worshiping with people who do believe as we do. But to circle only with same-minded folks, aside from enhancing any echo chambers, invites a certain social distance, and strengthens the us/them feelings that polarize communities.

A diverse community is a resilient community. A diverse community is capable of coming at the same problem from multiple angles, and is not restricted to a limited tool set when dealing with issues that arise. Many of my personal realizations about my own practice come from comparing it to the practices of others. Not in a “whose is better/more authentic/more theologically correct” way, but using the comparison to understand my own practice from angles I might not have thought of without the contrasting example.

When we can come together in common ritual practice, in a way that leaves no one feeling pushed aside for believing or not believing a certain way, we reinforce the awareness that, while we are not identical with one another, we do have common ground and common interests. We have things to share with each other. Hell, if we can find something useful in historical and religious scholarship by non-Pagan atheists (not to mention scholars writing from within one of the dominant Abrahamic religions), surely we can find something to share with those who are part of our larger Pagan culture, despite our theological disagreements.

There have been atheists, as near as I can tell, since long before the dominance of the Abrahamic religions. So it seems that Athiest Pagans are on good historical ground, at least insofar as the idea that one can have a Pagan practice and yet not honor (or even believe in) any gods. These ancient atheists were part of their communities, just like everyone else. I don’t see why modern Pagans and Polytheists can’t accept Atheist Pagans in the same way.

Happy (Secular) New Year

Happy new year! Let’s try and make this one better than the last one, yeah?

On the personal front, I’m planning on doing this with more active polytheism, in the sense of working much more with others than I did last year. First stop: Leading a Dionysos devotional at Pantheacon in February. Also: starting a devotional circle for Himself, and getting active with a group of local polytheists.

Getting back on a regular blog schedule is also a goal. I’ve let things slide through the end-of-year holidays, and I don’t want anyone to think I’ve faded.

I’m also getting things together for an attempt to blag my way into Stanford’s Religious Studies PhD program. Divination suggested that even the gods think it’s a long shot, but they really want me to try, anyway. If anyone has any advice on that, I’d be grateful for the help.

What are you doing to be awesome in 2015?

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