My Love/Hate Relationship (or Part of It)
Side Note: The hardest part about writing this entry was trying to come up with an original title. I tried about four different things before I finally just gave up.
I’m not really sure what’s gotten into me with this blogging thing. I’ve kept journals before, but I guess this one just has me feeling less stressed and more focused. It also probably has to do with the end of the year happening at school. My students are in final exams and since I’m not in charge of Upstate Pride this year, I’m searching for something else to occupy my time. I can’t do the school-teacher-summertime-job bit because (well….) I’m taking a summer class, and I’m going to the beach. And both of those are more important than hour pay right now.
I’ve been searching the web for reading material and inspiration to guide me on my journey (even though I have books I should be reading). I’ve also been exploring WordPress for all the things I can do, and I did a search for posts tagged under Paganism, which lead me to The Allergic Pagan. I commented on a post of his (and then it responded in a way that made the post look really confusing). John responded and directed me to another post, which I read and then I somehow ended up here. Everything I’m quoting from Halstead today comes from this article.
A really good friend of mine, Tara, and I go out to dinner quite a bit. We use to try to make a weekly event of it, but we’ve been so busy recently that there hasn’t been much time. Our conversations generally span such topics as work, school, Pride, GLBT activism and religion. Tara grew up in a very conservative Christian household and her coming out had some ordeals with it. She’s struggled over the years with her sexuality vs. her spirituality, but she’s found her balance as a gay Christian, and we bounce ideas back and forth from time to time. (When I came out, I peaced out because my churches (yes, plural) turned their backs on me, but that’s another story for another time.)
One night at dinner, Tara said to me, “I’m so glad that I know who you are and am friends with you and that we can have discussions over spirituality and religion because if I just based what I believed paganism and what being a pagan meant on the other few pagans I know, I would have a very negative opinion of them.”
John Halstead says so many things in his post that resonated with me about what I hate about neopaganism that I really just want to copy and paste the whole entire post to this journal and just say, “Yes and yes to this… and oh yeah, very big yes to this too.”
Halstead talks about some of the things that have really bothered me over the years when it comes to paganism. We seem to agree on many of the things that make paganism seem “childish” so to speak. The reason we, as a group, aren’t really taken seriously.
What I consider “magic” is a far cry from what the majority of neopagans consider magic, from what I can tell at least. The definition of magic in the neopagan community is the idea that the world is made of energy and that we can physically control that energy through the strength and power of will. Through thought and practice, meditation and ritual, we can raise the energy around us to affect change without actually having to do anything (in some cases) extra.
As a science teacher, I agree that the world is made of energy. I agree that everything around us is energy. Everything is made of atoms. The electrons on the outside of those atoms are in constant interaction with all the other atoms around it. When we touch objects, our electrons interact with the other objects and sometimes they get stolen. Ever experienced a static shock? That’s because some object somewhere (generally a cloth-type object, like a car seat) STOLE your electrons. (How rude.) Then, when you touched something else, you got them back (that’s literal grounding). It shocks you in the process. I force static build up with a Van der Graff machine in my physical science class once a year. The kids eat that thing up.
I don’t agree that you can sit in one place, touch only the air or tools around you and then cause change to happen elsewhere. Your electrons won’t travel any kind of major distance unless there’s some sort of force moving them that’s generated through chemical or mechanical movement. You really have to have direct interaction for your electrons to cause any kind of difference. And electrons can make a difference. Just look at lightening: massive planetary static shock.
So what do I call magic? Well, I don’t really call anything magic because it’ll just get mixed up in the general and widely accepted definition, but “magic” to me is actually creating change. I work with high school children. I see all kinds of different levels of motivation. These kids range from “I’m going to do everything you want me to do before you ask me to do it and I’m going to probably do it better than you are. Giving me a 100 isn’t good enough” to “School is stupid. That’s all I really have to say. Even if you sit next to me and try to help me with this assignment, and tell me what to write down, I will still fail because I won’t turn it in.”
I’m of the opinion that “No Child Left Behind” is probably the absolute worst solution to the “education problem” that is happening in America. I’d go as far as to say that NCLB actually created the problem. We are feeding all children the same meal, and some kids don’t like spinach. It is completely unfair and unrealistic to think that all children need the exact same biology or math to succeed.
I saw an advertisement saying, “Imagine what the world would look like if everyone had a college degree!! Imagine what we could accomplish!” My first thought? We’d have a lot of underpaid workers who probably couldn’t pay off the loans they took out to get their degree.
According to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, there are nine ways that people learn. Because of the strict focus on state standards and standardized test scores, most classrooms teach in a visual-auditory style with some kinesthetic practices thrown in. Education attempts to force students to learn a specific way so that they can be tested in that way and do well on the test. And it’s very frustrating to many, many students.
So what does this have to do with magic? This is when magic happens to me: Students take control of their own future and their own destiny. They affect change within their own lives. They say, “Hey, this isn’t working. I’m going to change it.” And then they do it. That’s magic. That moment when the change actually happens. And this is something that we can do as a society on a daily basis.
“You know what? Today is going to be a good day.” And then you actually make it a good day. You make the conscious decision to make a change and then you physically make that change.
And why do I call that magic? Because it doesn’t happen very often. So many people go through life without ever affecting change in themselves. They deal with the status quo or just hope things get better, but they never do anything about it. Do something, people. See some real magic happen in your lives.
#2. No Organization
Halstead talks about organization as his number three, but I kind lump a few of his together.
Being Neopagan seems to be synonymous with a license to start every ritual 30 to 60 minutes late. I hate that Pagans seem proud of the “herding cats” metaphor. Good ritual requires structure and planning. Since no one seems to want to take charge at public rituals, they generally suck. And the lack of organization means that we cannot present a united front when facing discrimination. – John Halstead
Pagan Standard Time. When I was in college, I was the ritual coordinator and education chair for the Wiccan-Pagan Student Association. PST was just understood as how it was going to be. Back then, I put up with it. But now, being late drives me insane.
Along with just basic organization is the inability to just agree, even if it’s agreeing to disagree. I’ve been in quite a few groups that just simply dissolved because someone didn’t agree with someone else, there was a fight and then people stopped coming because the tension was too much and they wanted to “avoid the drama.” I love the differences that paganism has amongst its followers. I just hate how those differences divide us. Halstead says that the lack of organization means that we can’t unite, and I think that lack of organization comes from an inability to just get along despite our differences.
#3. The focus on following rather than thinking
Halstead mentions later that paganism has become synonymous with Wicca. Ritual practices, beliefs and ideals seem to hyper-focus the Wiccan tradition. He talks about an experience he had at his local UU church with a pagan group there discussing paganism:
And then one of them announced that despite the diversity in Paganism, the one thing we all agree on is the Law of Threefold Return. Sorry, I’m Pagan and I don’t believe in that. I had to bite my tongue through the whole session. – John Halstead
I’m not the only one! The only difference is that I don’t bite my tongue. The three-fold law is a beautiful example of simply following instead of thinking. Newton’s Third Law of Motion says that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If you push on a box, the box is pushing back on you. If you aren’t pushing hard enough, the box doesn’t move. The opposing force to your push is equal to yours. Eventually, if you push hard enough, you can overcome the force of friction and make the box move. If you still don’t believe me, go look at some Newton’s Cradle videos on YouTube. Three-fold doesn’t hold up here for two reasons: 1) it’s an equal reaction (not a three-fold larger one) and 2) it’s an opposite reaction (although, here, I’m probably really distorting the law)
I’ve heard the analogy of three-fold to ripples in a lake: if you drop a stone in a lake, the ripples start out small, but when they come back to you, they’ve grown. They expand and grow larger. But that analogy fails here: the wavelength increases as the ripples move out; therefore, the energy decreases. There isn’t this increase in the power of the returned energy if we are using the pond reference. It’s physics.
Also, to put the final nail in the coffin: shit happens. If you do all good things in your life, bad things are still going to happen to you. It’s a fact of life and entropy, the gradual decline into chaos.
So why do people still follow the three-fold law? Because they were told that’s what they should do. Anyone have any other suggestions to answer that question? I’m more that happy to hear them.
There are other things that I could say (and will say later probably), but it’s already way later than I wanted it to be.