Something broke today: a levee on the inside. My heart, tight and clenched for days, softened.
And when it did, I knew…
I have to leave ADF.
I spoke the words out loud, and they sounded right. They didn’t sound easy, or pretty, or anything remotely uncomplicated.
They just sounded right.
I’m not leaving because it’s convenient. Quite the contrary. Leaving ADF means, by extension, stopping my work for the Solitary Druid Fellowship.
That kind of terrifies me.
I have built this thing, virtually all by myself, and I don’t know what will happen to it. I don’t plan to take it away from ADF and have it be my own Druidic group. ADF leadership always feared I’d do something like that, and I assured them I wouldn’t. But more than that, I don’t really feel called to keep doing the work.
I’m in the middle of a 7-day series called “Shared Gnosis” that was supposed to wrap up with the release of a new liturgy. The High Day — Summer Solstice, the Feast of Labor — is in less than a week. But this series was a desperate attempt to re-inspire myself into doing this work at all. For the better part of the past month or two I’ve felt almost completely disconnected from the work of the Fellowship. I’ve been trying to encourage others to dive into a liturgical practice when I, myself, have begun to question the relevance of liturgy. I’ve been talking about hearth cultures and High Days, and I have felt almost no connection whatsoever to any of those things.
I’ve been doing ADF drag.
Leaving isn’t convenient, and it isn’t pretty. This doesn’t make me look good. In fact, this looks very much like a repeat of what is becoming a trope of Pagan culture:
• Person finds Paganism.
• Person finds tradition.
• Person is inspired by tradition, and moves into leadership position.
• Person has a crisis of — what? — faith? (I thought we didn’t have faith.)
• Person leaves tradition.
• Everybody rolls eyes and says they saw this coming.
I’ve been around for only a few years, and I’ve already seen the cycle more than once.
And now here I am.
Shutting down the thing that I created.
Starting the cycle all over again.
The thing is, this is my life. This is me, right here, trying to be human.
And I think my biggest challenge in being a part of ADF was that I didn’t feel like there was anyone really speaking to the challenges of being human. In a devotional religion, the emphasis is placed over there, not in here. The things that cut deeply for me, that are real and sometimes really difficult for me — things like compassion, despair, forgiveness, hope, kindness, patience, honesty — I don’t feel like we spend any time talking about these things. I think we experience these things, but they always feel secondary to “right relationship.”
Frankly, I don’t care about right relationship. Or right action, for that matter.
I think those concepts are distraction from the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.
I didn’t think I could earn my way into Heaven when I was a Christian, and I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way into good standing with the Gods.
It’s the same thing to me. It’s a repeat, and it just feels wrong.
I can try to do well and I often fall short, but — amazingly enough — when that happens I experience a deep, profound, spiritual understanding that, in spite of what any ancient person said…
I am not at the center of the cosmos.
I cannot will things into happening exactly as I would like. My life, at times, feels really broken, and I don’t know how to proceed, and I need to own up to that.
But all of these things, these inner conflicts that I will mostly likely continue to process through here on this blog, are extremely personal and contextual to my own life. I can believe that ADF needs to place a greater emphasis on matters of the heart, matters of the psyche, the soul, with the same level of rigor and intensity that they’ve been looking at academic texts about Celts and Norseman for twenty years, but that’s not what the organization is all about. I can think, “who cares what the ancients did?!” every time it comes up in an ADF e-mail list or Facebook group, but the truth of the matter is that some people do. Very much. That’s very, very important to them.
And I respect that. I don’t want to try and dismantle that, simply because it doesn’t hold much (or any) importance to me.
So I’m choosing to step aside.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Fellowship. There are a number of people who have contributed to the life of this project, including some ADF members on the path to the clergy, and I’d gladly let them take the helm in they feel inspired to do so. If this project — this idea of uniting solitaries of a variety of traditions around a liturgical practice — is something that has a place in the world apart from me, then it will continue to live on.
If not, then it has done its work.
I have different work to do.