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.

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About Lon Sarver

Lon Sarver is a polytheist priest of Dionysos, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and contemplating (with a healthy amount of dread) making a second attempt at a career in Marriage and Family Therapy. View all posts by Lon Sarver

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