Snark in three, two, one….
I will never forget that time I joined a Pagan organization and single-handedly caused it to fall apart with my blatant disregard of sacred Pagan values and support of oppressive mainstream concepts such as “officer roles” and “actual organization.”
I know, I know, how dare I!
To my knowledge, the other people from that group, though they formed another attempt at an association that excluded me, never accomplished anything. How could they, when they couldn’t bring themselves to accept that structure just might be necessary in order to get anything done?
Sometimes, the idea of Paganism as a religion of freethinkers and free spirits does more harm than good, in my opinion. Which is not to say people shouldn’t be those things, but it’s okay to be those things and also like a bit of structure. I’m a Taurus. I like structure because it brings stability. Not claiming to always achieve stability! I just really prefer it to chaos.
This concept that being individualistic and free means one must always disregard anything that looks like an institution is, quite frankly, adolescent. Right now, there are Pagans who are trying to move forward, and help our religion become something to be reckoned with in the larger spiritual community. Then there are the people within Paganism caught in an adolescent state of being, where the only goal is to throw off the restraints of those religions that came before (please, let’s not get into a discussion of modern Paganism as “the Old Way”). Those of us who realize we can’t continue to survive this way can feel like our voices are lost in the crowd of other voices screaming “You’re not the boss of me!”
At least, it feels that way to me sometimes. Or a lot.
Maybe I’m being a bit unfair. After all, there are plenty of Pagan organizations that don’t fall prey to this attitude; I’ve mentioned before the Temple of Witchcraft, and ADF, both organizations that are actually organized. Both show the strength that comes from a union of purpose and spirituality by being long-lasting, true forces of good in their communities (the ADF community being the world, considering they’re so good at organizing that they’re international!). I spoke in that previous blog post about community as connection; how on our green Earth can we hope to have connection if we can’t be bothered to build? Building takes patience, structure, and above all, planning.
For me, I don’t understand why individuality automatically means a disdain for organization. It makes no sense to me.
Perhaps those people would say it’s really a disdain for any authority other than their own. In fact, I do remember that word being thrown around. “Authority.” So many people were concerned about giving up their personal autonomy if someone were actually named the president of this organization. One person actually said “I only take orders from the Goddess!” Good luck with that, dude.
Seriously? Grow up.
In the real world, to accomplish anything there needs to be structure. In any kind of organization that involves people, those people need to take on specific jobs, understand those jobs, and what the boundaries of them are, so they don’t go stepping on the duties of someone else. Especially if you’re forming what you hope will become a non-profit organization, because the reality is that NPOs must have a board of directors, with officer titles.
And in the real world, when Paganism becomes a religion of service, there comes a time when to serve you must set aside yourself. Not always, and not forever, because it’s still true that to help others, one must help themselves first.
When you set about to help others, though, leave your ego behind.
If that means that, for this moment, for this goal, for this service, you must acknowledge that someone else is in charge in order to be involved, then that’s what you have to do, Pagan or not. In that ill-fated organization, everyone wanted to be in charge themselves, or they want no one to be in charge, and the physical world simply does not work that way.
We are Pagans, we are mystics, shamans, Witches, magicians, diviners, and seekers.
We are Pagans, and we are also lawyers, doctors, cashiers, writers, carpenters, veterinarians, and cooks.
We live in two worlds, and there needs to be balance between them. Personally, I see no problems with doing so; we can be mystics and lawyers, shamans and doctors, Witches and cashiers, without one having to subsume the other. It seems easy to me to be an individual while also serving the community, to be free while acknowledging the authority of another. The trick is to know that their authority isn’t over you, it’s over the goal all of you are trying to achieve together. If you can’t do that, then you won’t be able to accomplish anything.