I think “eschatology” is a funny word. Speaking it out loud makes potty-jokes come to mind. Say it, and I remember being 5.
The definition of eschatology, “the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind,” is much less funny. It, one might say, is a party pooper.
Seriously though, when thinking about the End of the World it doesn’t hurt to throw in a dose of humor. Severity has its place, but I don’t think it belongs in every place.
If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m not afraid of making things heavy. I’ve been upfront and honest about my own spiritual journey, asking questions about relevance and confessing doubts about community. This has been a space where I’ve encouraged dialogue, and practiced, as best I could, a kind of even-mindedness. It’s a practice, and it isn’t always easy.
Author, Michael York, writes in his guest post on The Wild Hunt that we are on “the brink of catastrophe.” He’s not altogether wrong. Pay attention to the science (or follow Archdruid Greer’s well-written blog) and you will agree that if there was ever a time where action was necessary, it is now. And for those of us who see our G/gods as being intrinsically connected to the land, you’d think we would be at the forefront of the movement for ecological awareness or preservation.
York’s post stirred up a great number of responses, many of which were quick to point out that the post sounded like “fear mongering.” They, too, are not altogether wrong. But fear is not completely out-of-place in this discussion, either. Drought is scary. So is the thought of a lack of nutrient-rich topsoil (a real, and growing problem). The ecological crisis, when it comes down to it, is no laughing matter.
But fear does little to inspire.
Frame the crisis as evidence of the End Days or the End of the World, or chose to look at one man’s decision to step out of leadership as evidence of the Beginning of the End of the Pagan Community, and you miss out on an opportunity to encourage dialogue, or contemplative introspection. From where I stand, it would be better to draw the focus back to our own motivations, our own choices, and encourage us to ask ourselves how we think we arrived at this point.
York says that,
We are disappointingly unimaginative as a communal voice despite some exemplary individuals among us.
I say, that kind of language doesn’t help. If anything, this is an example of a missed opportunity to be imaginative.
Leadership need not be relegated to the few, or to the charismatic, or to the “exemplary individuals.” Leaders need to be self-aware, self-empowered, and considerate to the needs of their people, their land, and the planet. If this is true, then the task at hand is not to chastise one another for our ignorance or lack of imagination, or to point out how we have failed; but rather to help cultivate our own self-awareness, to find new ways to inspire and empower each other, and to spend time in contemplation so that we might better understand which of these “needs” require our attention first.
So, ignore the title of this post. The End is Not Near, nor is it really an end. We are in a process.
The questions to ask yourself are, “How can I become more engaged in this process? How can I exercise my will to affect what is happening around me? How are my individual choices connected to the health of the various ecosystems which I inhabit? Begin with the questions. Sit with them, and then observe what comes up.
Should it start to get too heavy, say the word “eschatology” out loud, and giggle like a preschooler.
The problem is the terminology and how diverse we are. “Pagan community” doesn’t exist anymore. We have Alexandrian Wiccans, Gardnerian Wiccans, non-initiate Wiccans, witches of diff trads, Strega, Asatru, Hellenists, Romans, Druids, Celts, Kemetics, and uh…that’s the short list, not to mention the factions and offshoots within each. And some of us don’t even know whether or not to continue using the word “pagan” because it’s so nebulous and beginning to lack any real meaning.
I think a lot of us now that we are so numbered are beginning to split off amongst those who are closer to what we practice and believe than the general “pagan community” and I think that’s a good sign! It means we’re increasing in numbers and it’s totally natural that this will happen. I think that we should all continue to support each other as a whole and have more “Pagan interfaith community”, as that would be a more natural approach.
Just my $0.02 worth from someone who has been in the Hellenic Pagan community for the past fourteen years and the more general “pagan community” for the past nineteen… . 🙂
I think this is spot on, as one who has been a part of the Celtic polytheist community for about 6 years now, and can very much appreciate the difference between this and the general neo-Wiccan pagan community. I really like the idea of Pagan Interfaith Community, and encouraging dialog along that vein. This way each of our choices and differences is respected by its structure, and we can each have a platform for supporting the other. This would be a great way to move forward with a new beginning.
It’s a matter of perspective, as always. Sometimes the ‘child’ or ‘growing community’ doesn’t merit a patient guiding hand but a slap on the ass. Both York’s post and your’s serves a vital purpose–a kick in the butt and a point in the right direction.
In the end (no pun intended) it’s up to individuals to decide if they care enough to DO and not just navel gaze or have a flying mouth.
Lamyka, you took the words right out of my mouth but stated it much more eloquently than I could have. :))
A “flying mouth?” I love that! 🙂
Thanks for summing up a lot of why I hated that article. That, and he was basically insulting the lot of us.
Yes, me too. It’s not that I disagree that we are at a time of absolute imperatives, but I think that got lost in the defeatist attitude, the insults, and the connecting of a personal choice by a Pagan leader to something wholly unconnected. It just all seemed so bizarre to me. So, thanks for this post.
[…] a lot of doom and gloom. Michael York’s statements, and the responses of Star Foster and Teo Bishop, and then a post today at The Wild Hunt on a white buffalo calf…verily, the mind reels. (And […]
I think a lot of folk just, as you write “see” the connection of ‘gods’ to the land, without a feel of the connection at a visceral level.
Another point is that ‘Modern paganism’ generally has a squeamishness in regards to exercising ones will to influence or affect what is happening around one.
The idea of a pagan interfaith group or organsation appeals to me as well . Altho Wicca is the best known Pagan faith , there are many divisions within Wicca itself . Not to even mention all the other faiths within modern paganism . I am a Celtic Recon myself . We as a community are quite diverse , We need a process or place to united as a group when the need arises.As a fairly large group we could have a fair amount of political clout if we had a way to come together and make our voices heard , rather than just being scatterd smallish groups as we are now .I am in no means advocating forming big pagan churches or anything like that , all i’m talking about is a way to come together when we need to. Kilm