Currently viewing the tag: "in the world"

I spend a good bit of time in airports. Culturally speaking, airports offer an interesting glimpse into the generic, surface-level identity of any given place.

As I write this, I’m surrounded by Canadian Maple Leafs, shelves of syrup, stuffed moose toys, and — strangely, but not surprisingly — Starbucks.

Canada is a big country, as is the US, and I’m sure what I see around me does little to represent the diversity and complexity of the nation. But, that isn’t really the point of the merchandise. The point is to touch on the key markers, and to provide consumers with physical objects (for purchase) that symbolize the spirit of the place. But, they aren’t really the spirit of the place; they’re a replica, or close proximity to the spirit of the place.

Pagans often identify themselves with the world, in a religious sense, as “a part of” rather than “apart from”. We are earth lovers, Land Spirit worshippers, or sometimes simply people who are willing to walk with a deeper level of awareness of the holiness of any given place.

But that makes me wonder about this airport I’m standing in. There is a kind of worldliness to this place that feels somehow discordant with a Pagan approach of being “in the world.”

Airports may be liminal — neither completely in one space of the other — but they are also quite utilitarian and secular. They seem very much rooted in the earth, although not in that dirty, gritty, soil-from-the-garden kind of way. They’re carpeted and fluorescent-lit. They are worldy places in that they are filled with things which are of the world but which do not necessarily glorify the world, or even make it more beautiful.

I’m aware that the word “worldy” is used negatively in many Christian traditions, and I may be slipping into that framework here with talk of what does and what doesn’t glorify the world. But, when considering the idea that Pagans see the world as sacred, I can’t help but wonder what might be considered to be un-sacred, if there is such a thing.

Gift shop goods are mass produced stuff, often imported from outside of the location which they elude to represent. They are, in that way, disengenuous; a kind of deceit.

Also, there is a sterility to airports, as well as in office buildings, shopping malls and many other public spaces that feels out of step with the natural world. I don’t take that to mean that those locations are out of step in the same severe way that Christian theology would describe a “sinful” person being out of step with God. But, there still seems to be a disconnect.

If the Divine is immanent and present in all things, how is it then that certain environments feel devoid of anything sacred? Perhaps our experience of sacredness is so heavily subjective that we (or me, in this case) are unable to find the evidence of that sacredness in physical things that don’t blatantly represent our limited, preconceived notion of what sacredness looks like.

If the gift shops were stocked with crystals, or tarot decks, or hand-made rune sets, or some other such Pagan accessory (forgive the irreverent term) would I feel more sacredness in this place? Perhaps. But then, another person with a different set of tools, icons, and symbols might feel little but discomfort in the presence of such things.

I have no problem accepting that the world is to be celebrated, and not rejected as outside the realm of the Divine. What does seem problematic to me is understanding if there are parts of the world that are worthy of more celebration and adoration than others, or if I’m to walk through every airport terminal and food court across the land with the reverence of a monk, the piety of a religious man, the attitude that where I stand — beside the Coke machines, the potted ferns and the ventilation system – is holy ground.

Is every place on the earth sacred? Is it inherently sacred, or sacred because we believe it to be so?

During the month that Occupy Wall Street grew from a small gathering to an international movement I mostly stayed home, busy with the work of selling our house.

Protesters gathered around the Capitol, camped out with their hand-made signs and their earnest expressions, and I sat at our dining room table, worried about whether our eighty-four year old house would pass inspection, frantically scrolling through Craigslist ads in search of a place to live, wishing this would all just end.

When people ask me why we’re moving I tell them it’s because, “we’re entering a transition period.” The line is short and convenient, but incomplete. It’s a tweet more than it is an explanation; fewer than 140 characters, and lacking the details which show just how complex this situation is.

I say it to spare the inquisitor the burden of hearing how financial decisions were made based on promises that were, ultimately, not kept, or that – simply put – we need to spend less money every month. I say it because it’s easier than explaining the whole truth.

I say it to spare my pride, too.


The how we got here is always more complicated than we make it out to be.

I have this thought when I drive down Broadway in Denver on the way to our small, storage unit, passing by what was first a humble Tent City and what is now a large patch of grass and sidewalk occupied by hipsters and activists and ex-hippies, interchangeably dressed, and carrying signs that read,



EAT THE RICH! (a personal favorite)

Three words here, four there. A tweet, drawn out in Sharpie ink.

The words call out to passers by — We’re entering a transition period!!!

But it’s always more complicated than we make it out to be.

I don’t suspect I will understand exactly how I got to where I am now, to the selling of our home just three years after buying it, until I have a little distance from the situation. I know I share part of the responsibility – a good portion, more like. I could have made different choices, anticipated different outcomes. I could have been more frugal at moments, and more calculating. But, I made the choices that made sense to me at the time.

I wonder if the protesters are at all willing to own up to their own contributions to the system they rail against. It’s easier to place blame on this idea of “Corporate Greed” than it is to examine how our buying habits influence the world we live in. We are all complicit, to a degree.

Unpacking Our Baggage

It would be naive to say that our circumstances are the result of any one single choice, or that a small group of people are the only ones to blame for the world’s ills. Those are easy answers to very difficult questions, and they keep us from being accountable to our own lives.

Part of what I identify as a Pagan Value is being fully present in the world, fully present to all of what is happening around me. In the world has negative connotations to some, but to me it feels like the path of choice, quite literally.

I choose to face this change of life without resentment or blame. I choose to acknowledge how painful it is to let go of the comforts of this house. My choice is over and over to be honest about what is happening, and not to scapegoat anyone.

This approach to living is by no means exclusively for Pagans, but for me it does feel like an extension of my spiritual growth and practice.

The Movers Are Here

We are all entering a transition period. There is evidence of it in the streets, in our homes, in our pockets and in our hearts. This is an inevitable progression, and it will likely continue to be difficult and challenging.

But it presents us with the opportunity to be fully engaged in the living of our lives; our complicated, messy, mistake-riddles lives that are also magical, and substantive, and worthy of more than a sign-slogan, a tweet, or an easy explanation.

What we do with that opportunity is our choice to make.