Faitheist serves as an example to Pagans, polytheists, Witches, Druids and Heathens (I think it’s time we get our own LGBTQAI abbreve, no?) of the impact and power that storytelling can have on furthering our ideals.
Browse the bookshelf at a local metaphysical bookstore, and you will find book after book which explains the hows of our different systems. You may find a title or two that dives deeper into the why, but you will be hard pressed to find many books which unpack the personal stories of the author. We don’t do memoir very often, and I’m not sure why.
As I was reading to the end of the first chapter of Make Magic of Your Life by T. Thorn Coyle, the March BITG Book Club title (which I am enjoying very much, and which I encourage you all to start reading), I was struck with a sense of longing to know more about Thorn’s life. I was curious about what had transpired that led to these deep and expansive awarenesses.
Last week, in response to a blog comment that asked something to the effect of, “How does love permeate a hostile universe?,” Thorn quoted an old blog post of hers to illustrate her point about love’s presence:
“This week, while cleaning the old sixteen burner stove at the house of hospitality, pressing the rough green scrubber against the tough metal “I love you” rose unbidden to my thoughts. This was not some practice of connecting to the stove, this was connection to the stove. The divine presence was there.”
This is what I mean. This is what I was longing for.
To be fair, I’m only in the introductory portion of Make Magic of Your Life, and I’m not criticizing Thorn or the book. I just found myself, having moved from Chris’s memoir to what I suppose you might call an empowerment guidebook, wanting to be reading Thorn’s memoir so that I could better understand her (and, in turn, so that I might better understand myself).
Stories do that for me. I think they do that for all of us.
Stories provide context that instruction does not. Parables get at meaning in ways that user manuals do not. Our stories are what make us who we are, and the telling of our stories is what affirms our interconnectedness, our sameness, our differences, and the sacredness that weaves it all together.
A good memoir (which I believe Faitheist to be) weaves the messages and teachings that are important to the author directly into the narrative. My copy of Chris’s book has a couple dozen dog-eared pages, and the statements I underlined were (I think) the meat of Chris’s message:
“[Our world needs] people of all different stripes and convictions coming together to deal with things that matter, announcing our differences without fear, enthusiastically embracing our commonalities, and intentionally seeking out points of mutuality and understanding in the face of vastly different metaphysical commitments.”
“A bit of intellectual humility and self-awareness goes a long way; a quick perusal of human history shows that when one person’s idea of “rationality” trumps basic human decency for others, we all suffer.”
“To build a strong society, my Humanistic ethics encourage me to engage. This is much more than mere atheism, which is only a statment about what I don’t believe in. After years of witnessing the ugliness that arises when rejection-based beliefs lead to the rejection of people, I now seek out ties that will bind us together.”
These are messages that our community — that every community — needs desperately to hear.
Chris could have written a book that explained how to be a Humanist, but he didn’t. And I’m glad that he didn’t. I don’t think it would have made the profound impact that it is making on our culture. His messages would have read as platitudes, and we would be missing the valuable context.
Context is key.
I would like to see a Pagan Memoir section at Isis Books or online, and I’d like to read the stories of our teachers, leaders, magick workers, priests and priestesses. I would like to know what all of this spiritual and religious work has meant in their lives. I’d like to know when they felt doubt, or when they encountered something transformative. I’d like to read their lives and not just their instructions. I think it would be revelatory, really. (I’m putting In the Center of the Fire on my reading list.)
Chris told stories, and then stepped back to allow the conversation to begin.
And that’s what I’d like to happen here.
What story in Faitheist resonated most with you? Was there any one piece of Chris’s narrative that led you to a new awareness about interfaith work? About religious pluralism?
How did Chris’s storytelling affect you, personally?