Monthly Archives: March 2014

Washing the Stink out of Politics

My father is in local government for the small town in Pennsylvania where I grew up.  His position is appointed by the elected town council so we didn’t have to deal with campaigning to keep his job, but this did mean that, at the whim of the council members, he could have found himself unemployed.  Luckily, he’s good at what he does and various members of councils for the last few decades have kept him in the position he’s held for much of his adult life.

I remember while growing up that his stories of council meetings and the issues that they dealt with were fascinating in a lot of ways.  Here was a group of people working together to try to solve the problems of my own little home town.  Back when I never imagined ever moving away from home, I always thought I’d run for council one day and be one of those people.

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Dogmatic Foodies

roundtableHere at Pagan Activist, we cover the issue of food frequently. That’s because 100% of Pagan Activist authors eat food.

Author’s here have a variety of diets. I eat paleo. Jason eats vegan. Soli eats traditional. Debra avoids GMOs thus avoiding processed. Our commonality? We all want to eat as healthy as we can.

Whose health are we talking about when we use the loaded word “healthy”? If the discussion is about Earth’s health, some argue eating meat isn’t healthy for Mother Earth. Some argue eating grains is the real detriment. Still others lament at the high carbon footprints of trekking vegetables from below the equator to above it to feed the wealthy north is the real culprit.

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Cognitive Dissonance

Not-ListeningNo matter how good your ideas are, people may just not be listening. And it’s not really their fault.

The brain has a lot of work to do. Right now it’s processing signals from your eyes and constructing a conscious image of the world. It’s also scanning that information for signs of danger. If it sees any, it will trigger your fight or flight response and then deliver the danger message to your conscious mind. It’s taking in auditory and other sensory input. It’s building up a map of your body and its exact position in relation to other objects in the world and constantly updating this. It’s monitoring your body for any signals that something might be wrong. None of these things are simple. If you’re reading, you’re also constructing meaning out of text-symbols and engaging in abstract thought.

There’s only so much work it can do, and anything it can do to lighten its processing burden, it will do. Something it does not want to waste time on is revisiting things it already knows to be true or false. That’s why when you contradict someone’s beliefs, they tend to ignore you. The brain considers the matter settled. It doesn’t have time to reevaluate all of the thousands of facts it has accumulated on a daily basis.

Knowing this has helped me not take it too personally if someone doesn’t believe me about something, even if I’ve painstakingly researched it. It’s not necessarily a sign that the other person doesn’t like me, or that they’re particularly belligerent or willingly lying to themselves. It’s just that it takes a lot to convince the brain that it’s time to let go of old concepts.

It’s called cognitive dissonance when evidence conflicts with our beliefs. It’s really uncomfortable and the brain wants to end the dissonance. You can do that by examining the new evidence carefully and either changing the old belief or discarding the evidence as faulty. But more often we ignore the evidence. We say it’s untrue or irrelevant, rationalize it away, or just plain forget about it. Or, worse, we’ll dig in our heels and do more of what the person is hoping to talk us out of. And that’s true for the best of us.

I’m sure we’ve all run into cognitive dissonance in others. It may have seemed like stubbornness or hypocrisy. Maybe it’s Pagans who worship the Earth but don’t recycle. Maybe it’s people who passionately hate wolf hunts but eat cows. It’s a lot harder to see in ourselves, but I assure you, our brains are also trying to conserve time and processing power.

The cool thing is that knowing about cognitive dissonance can encourage us to take a moment and reflect before we toss out uncomfortable ideas. It can also help us take a breath when a friend, loved one, or a stranger on the internet ignores the world-changing information we’re trying to share with them. The brain doesn’t want its world to change. You have to give it a good enough reason to try, because cognitive dissonance really is painful. If your worldview has ever shifted you know how hard it can be.

Something to keep in mind is that the person doesn’t evaluate your evidence, decide you’re right, and then decide to keep believing something false. The evaluation never happens.

We’re even more likely to dig in our heels if someone contradicts a belief that’s important to us, or that challenges the way we view ourselves. This comes up all the time when discussing animal rights. Let’s say a person is really compassionate or loves animals. If you recommend veganism she may feel like you’re slighting her compassion, and now she’s no longer listening. And let’s face it, a lot of times we really are slighting her compassion. A lot of activists do this. I know I have. Have you?

That’s why shaming almost never works. We often use shaming tactics because we hope threatening a person’s self-image will motivate them to change, but it’s because self-image is so important that people resist.

Is it just me or does human communication often seem counter-intuitive?

Finding Their Motivation

I was vegetarian-leaning long before I became vegetarian, and later fully vegan. Nothing about my opinion towards animals changed. So what did? I turned 18 and then finished high school. I felt empowered to make my own choices. If people didn’t want to cook vegetarian for me, I was now in a place to do my own shopping and cooking. It was as simple as that. I didn’t feel powerful enough to act the way I wanted to act before. But that’s not what I told myself. I told myself we need to eat meat; that humans and animals have a sacred predator-prey relationship in the web of life; that my becoming vegetarian would never affect anything. For a while that litany was a constant meal-time ritual. Instead of saying grace over a meal, I made excuses.

So it’s not always immediately obvious why a person does what they do, even to themselves, or what they might not like about your suggestions. I wanted to be vegetarian since I was 14. When I was 17 and started hanging out with vegetarian friends at the Theosophical Society, I told them I admired vegetarianism but could never handle the commitment. Within a year I had made that commitment, have kept it for over 13 years, and intend to continue. I didn’t talk myself into it. I didn’t have an awakening – I’d already had that when I was 14. I simply felt ready. So maybe sometimes that’s the way you’ll be able to help someone who’s going through cognitive dissonance. They may already agree with you to some extent, but need help feeling up to the challenge.

Other than a few accidents or a few slip-ups as I was transitioning, I haven’t eaten meat since I became vegetarian or animal secretions since I became vegan. But I sure do eat a lot of corn chips. And ramen, candy, soda. As it turns out, it was pretty easy to structure my life around compassion for others, or to put it another way, around duty. Turns out, I’m not as willing to do it for my own health. I felt great when I was briefly eating by the Eat to Live diet, a diet low in fat and salt and centered around leafy greens. But my own health wasn’t enough to motivate me.

Maybe what I need to do is reframe the way I view my own health. Remind myself that the more energy I feel, the more good work I can do in the world. The more fun I can have with friends and family. Make it relevant to what’s important to me, not what seems like should be important on paper.

So maybe your passion is recycling. Someone you’re talking to may not really be concerned about plastic going into landfills. After all, covered-over landfills are kind of cool. They don’t look toxic; they’re big hills that you can stand on and survey the surrounding land. They have pipes spouting fire. Fire! But maybe this person is really into efficiency, and you can point out the inefficiency of constantly grabbing new resources when the ones we already have can be reused but are getting tossed in the dump. Maybe they’d care about the damage done when extracting new resources, and how reusing could prevent some of that.
It comes down to knowing your audience. I’m not suggesting you sit down and give them a litany of reasons to do whatever it is you want them to do. No one wants to sit through that. You have to know the person you’re talking to and what motivates them. Unless of course you have a blog, or a book, or some other platform and can explore these things in their own segments.

Since I find I’m most willing to do things out of a sense of duty, it helps to remember my larger goals and think of smaller things as part of them, as duties. Other people might benefit from thinking in terms of bringing a sacred vision of the world into being, like Starhawk suggests. They might be inspired by the goal of personal excellence, being their best self, or helping others be their best selves.

If you’re trying to reframe your own passions in a way that appeals to others, it’s important to still have a genuine conversation instead of a canned speech. Something else you can do is actually listen to them if they bring up objections or counter-points. Sure, you may have heard the objections a thousand times, but they weren’t there for all that. You’re expecting them to sit and listen to what’s important to you, have an open mind, and be convinced by the evidence. All while they might quite passionately disagree with you or have some strong other reason not to listen. Will you do them the same courtesy?

When someone behaves in a way that we find abhorrent, it’s so easy to conclude that they don’t have any values. But people do have values. (Even sociopaths value themselves, but that’s an academic point. I’m not suggesting we can get through to everyone). Whatever worldview you’re trying to promote might be completely relevant to their values, but since your values are different, you might never have seen it that way. It’s a good opportunity to see things from a fresh perspective.

In other posts I’ve mentioned that I kind of hate that humans don’t just calculate what’s best and then do that. I resent that we have to find out people’s motivations, engage their passions instead of presenting a topic in symbolic logic. Then I remember that I talked myself out of what I thought was right for four years. My initial reason for going vegetarian, and then finally feeling powerful enough to do it four years later, was entirely emotional. And as Sam Harris points out in his book The Moral Landscape, to be convinced by logic, we have to emotionally value logic. We’re emotional creatures and I’m learning to accept and embrace that. That acceptance, including an acceptance of cognitive dissonance, has made me much more at peace as an activist. Instead of resenting human nature I can work with it. I’m not as angry all the time.

Embracing some facts about human nature – that we all make decisions emotionally, that we have values even if we seem belligerent or rude, that we want to do the best we can but might have some obstacles in our way – helps me come from a place of love and service instead of judgment. And as I’ve said before, I think people can really hear that in your voice and in your writing. I’ve also accepted my own foibles and that I need to renew my commitment sometimes. To veganism, by watching videos of animal agriculture that are emotionally hard to watch. To helping people be their best selves, by listening to psychology podcasts and writing blogs like these. Sometimes there’s nothing so inspiring as a deadline!

Speaking of deadlines, when you have an activist conversation with someone, do you expect change instantaneously? I had been 18 for some months before I went vegetarian. Heck, I’d wanted to do it for four whole years. Sometimes people need more time to let it sink in, more time to contemplate it, more time to deal with cognitive dissonance. Getting inappropriately mad or judgmental isn’t likely to motivate them, at least not in the direction you want. Do you want to be an inspiration or a task-master? You don’t have to support x behavior, but you can respect someone and how hard change can be.

If you’re an animal advocate, you probably didn’t just suddenly start loving animals one day. You probably loved them for years, and that love blossomed into veganism – probably vegetarianism first. I liken this to a Buddhist teacher’s thoughts on relationships I learned in an episode of the Interdependence Project podcast. This teaching says that in a relationship, it’s not truly love until about ten years into it. Before that point you may like them, and you may love the way the way they make you feel, but that’s not the same as loving them. I agree, but I am still perfectly comfortable calling it love much earlier. Why? Because there are many types of love. A younger love may still be very self-involved. It might not be unconditional yet. But it can still be something wonderful and important to you.

Telling someone, “You don’t really love your spouse yet,” is insulting. Telling them, “Just wait. If you work at it, it gets even better – more committed, more about the other person and less about you,” isn’t an insult. So if you’re vegan and tell your friends, “You must not really love your cat because you eat cows,” it’s not going to accomplish very much. But it’s not an insult to say their love for animals could use some deepening. Couldn’t all love use some deepening?


Cognitive Dissonance


An Animal-Friendly Ostara

As I write this, Ostara is right around the corner. For those who celebrate Ostara, Easter, or similar festivals, here are some ways you can make your celebrations friendlier for the animals.
How to Have a Vegan Easter

Rational Activism

This article may make some of you uncomfortable, but I hope that before you jump to conclusions about what it is that I’m saying, that you read for a few paragraphs after you feel uncomfortable. We seem, today, to live in a world that is largely black and white. Whatever sort of800px-PeacePark activism it is that we take part in, it seems that we must be all-in, or we are heretics – not really part of the movement. In doing so, we may often alienate many potential allies – just because we don’t take the time to understand each other.

If we’re going to be effective in our activism, it’s important that we have not only passion for what we’re doing, but a solid understanding of what we’re doing, and why, as well as a willingness to understand – if not accept views that are different from our own. We live in a multifaceted world, where it is rare that a single solution for any problem will not affect some other part of our world or society in a negative fashion. Nor is any truth right for everyone – if it were, there would be only one religion, only one form of government. We have all of our beautiful and marvelous diversity precisely because there are many ways of being and many different answers to the questions and struggles that we face.

Too many of us have developed and held on to an orthodoxy that binds us, that locks us into a particular way of seeing things. In feminism, or in working for racial justice, or in environmental issues, in political activism, or in just about any form of activism, it is often the case that if one does not toe the line, if a person disagrees with the accepted goals, one can be quickly ostracized.

Look at the term GMO; as soon as many of us hear it, it’s met with almost a visceral response. If asked “what do you think of GMOs, many of us would immediately respond that they are evil. We’ll hear arguments that “our bodies don’t know what to do with them”, that “Monsanto is destroying the planet”, and “The biotech industry is dangerous”. In some circles, we hear that “the medical industry doesn’t want a cure for cancer” because “they make more money selling us drugs that will not heal”, and “they spend money to cover up natural cures because they can’t make money off of them”. When it comes to energy, we hear that there are technologies that have been developed, but the government doesn’t want us to know about them. If we disagree with the idea that there are secret agendas, we may face scorn.

In many of the arguments that we hear, there may be a grain of truth, but certainly not always. It’s almost certain that when we hear the conspiracy theories, that things are overblown. Consider this: Physicians and scientists working in the pharmaceutical companies receive the same treatment that we do. I can’t imagine any researcher going to work for a company who is there to make money for somebody else – the pay is often too low, and the chances of huge rewards are miniscule. Most who go into biomedical research are there to seek out cures for illnesses – because that is what they really want to do. If they were “covering up cures for cancer” in order to prevent knowledge of natural cures from leaking out, why is it that they don’t use these “covered up cures” when they are faced with these diseases? Why do they either use the same treatments we receive – or opt for no treatment at all? What researcher, facing cancer, or having a spouse, child or parent who is facing such a horrible disease, would even consider hesitating, when they knew that cannabinoids were an easy, safe and effective treatment for all forms of cancer?

The truth, when it comes to natural health, or any other arena we might get involved in, is that it’s not a black and white issue. Certainly the laws and regulations here in the United States can be problematic. When it’s illegal to say that White Willow bark can be used as an analgesic, something is seriously wrong; it shouldn’t require a company to spend millions of dollars to do a double-blind study to make this claim when the truth of the matter is that White Willow bark was the initial source for aspirin. We do need to work to change such laws, but to make the outrageous claim that the only reason we don’t have actual cures for disease is so that other people can make money is far from the truth.

The other side of the natural health and alternative cures discussion is that there have been countless fraudulent claims by those selling these “natural cures” that have been fraudulent as well. Certainly this isn’t limited to the natural health arena – drug manufacturers have done quite the same. The truth is that ALL of those who have been pandering cures without evidence to support their claims have poisoned the well – sometimes literally. And the default position of the government now is that evidence must exist prior to making claims, rather than attempting to disprove claims after the fact.

Let’s now look again at the term GMO. Basically, the term means any living organism that has been modified via genetic engineering. This can certainly mean Monsanto’s corn, but it also applies to the bacteria that have been genetically modified to produce the insulin that diabetics are taking every day. I don’t believe that any of us would wish to condemn to death or misery those who are currently being treated with insulin that is obtained via GMO bacteria.

It’s important to fight – not the use of technology, but rather the irresponsible use of technology. What’s wrong with many GMO crops is not the simple fact that they are genetically modified crops – there may well be many genetic modifications that are quite worthwhile. The problem with many GMOs right now is that they aren’t designed to be inherently better for humans, but rather to be more tolerant of other dangerous chemicals. Products that are Roundup ™ ready are resistant to glyphosate, which is an herbicide. (Glyphosate is the generic name of Roundup). Use of this chemical permits farmers to use more glyphosate in their fields, and as of 2007, in the United States, some 180 – 200 million pounds of this toxin are used on an annual basis. In February of this year, that same chemical was linked to Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and irritable bowel disorder.

Other GMO crops have been designed to produce their own pesticides; they are actually poisonous to the insects that might eat them. Such organisms are classified as “Plant Incorporated Protectants” (PIP). The Environmental Protection Agency is the responsible agency for registering such products, and claims that extensive testing has been done on registered PIPs, but one needs to wonder how much testing could possibly be done on a product that has only existed for some 20 – 30 years.

The point of this is that when we direct our activism against GMOs, it’s important to be specific; what is it that we actually object to? The reality is that we don’t object to GMOs – but, rather, to products that may be dangerous, which haven’t been fully tested, and which may not be as safe for human consumption as they have been advertised.

Other GMO crops may well be welcome. Crops that are disease or drought resistant could certainly help feed a hungry or a warming world. Such as these are certainly more welcome than seeds that are incapable of producing another generation of fertile seeds – which are designed such that farmers need to purchase new seed each year.

Let’s look at energy. The Keystone Pipeline project is in the news right now, and certainly more tar sands oil on the market is a cause for concern. Is the pipeline necessarily a bad thing?

I’d say that it’s problematic to put something that could fail, and destroy a major aquifer right where it can do the most damage. And certainly our dependence on fossil fuels is a major problem. So, what are the alternatives? Let’s say that the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t built. Will that stop the taking of oil from those sands? No. Will it eliminate the possibility that a major aquifer isn’t contaminated? Well, maybe one of them, but that oil will get out – by trains, by trucks, or by other pipelines. I’m certainly not saying that we need to build the Keystone XL pipeline. But what I am saying is that if we don’t, we need to accept the responsibility for whatever means are used to get the oil from where it is to where it’s going. Will it mean more ships in dangerous waters? Will it mean another train derailing and destroying another small town – or a larger part of a larger city?

I think that most people who are reading this are likely against fracking – and with good reason. Many wells have been destroyed, a number of earthquakes have been found to be the result of fracking. But once again, the problem isn’t the technology, but the irresponsible use of a technology. Corporations are permitted to keep secret the chemicals they are using, and releasing into the environment. They are permitted to use this technology, often in environmentally sensitive areas. For the sake of profits, they are able to cut corners, even when the technology, albeit more expensive, might exist to prevent some of the problems we have already seen.

In the LGBT community, right now, there are many who are filled with vitriol over Jared Leto’s portrayal of the character Rayon in the film The Dallas Buyer’s club. The argument is that it’s an insult that a non-transgender woman shouldn’t have played that part. Certainly, from one point of view, Leto’s portrayal of Rayon was an insult to trans women. There have been transgender actors and actresses at least since 1981 when Caroline Cossey (aka Tula) played one of the Bond girls in For Your Eyes Only. Could a transgender woman have done a job equal to Jared Leto in The Dallas Buyer’s Club? Almsot certainly! The question though, from a marketing perspective, is whether such a choice would have made as much economic sense. Would the film have been as successful if people had known that they were watching an actual transgender woman on the screen playing that part. Unfortunately, we won’t know – at least not for this film. But it is important to keep fighting.

On the other hand though, some of the outrage is decidedly NOT good for the transgender community. The fighting, the outrage, the attacks against Leto really make the transgender community look bad. When the arguments are vitriolic, and filled with hatred and invective, transgender people are seen as exactly what they are dishing out – angry, hateful and not very nice to be around.

Sometimes the work we do as activists can be very reactionary, and very divisive, and we might well alienate potential allies. When we become so dogmatic in our efforts that we are unable to have a rational discussion with someone who sees things 75% our way, we have sacrificed the good on the altar of the perfect.

We live in a world with increasing energy demands. There are more and more people living on Earth each and every day, and they will all need to eat. Abortion will continue whether it remains legal or not. We will still need to heat our homes. All electric cars are still not as convenient as gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, and won’t be for some years to come. So it’s up to us to advocate for solutions that will work. No matter how we see things, no matter what the perfect solution might be, the perfect solution is useless if nobody will adopt it.

There is no single answer to every problem that those of us who count ourselves activists are involved in. There is no one answer that is right for everyone – with pretty much every problem that we face, someone will be injured in its solution. But the point is that we who consider ourselves activists, on any level, need to recognize that there ARE multiple viewpoints for everything, and that simple solutions usually only exist in textbooks.

Stage Fright

1965023_10202554374633361_1099403725_nIt’s that time again. My post for Pagan Activist is due soon and I am revisited by inertia, a blank page and a major case of procrastination in tackling my promise. I should add that writing for Pagan Activist is something of which I am extremely proud so this isn’t a case of putting something off because I don’t want to do it. I’ve tried to figure out where this comes from and finally got a glimpse into the cause last Thursday morning when a friend came over to interview me for a class she is taking about female spirituality.

Cassie is a friend of mine who came into my life via Occupy Hartford and when the formal interview was over our conversation turned to all sorts of things. I heard myself say “I’ve lived most of my life with a giant case of stage fright”. At that moment, lots of things began coming together. I was flooded with memories of that sick to my stomach feeling before dance performances and before entering the house of a 911 caller when I was working as an EMT. What is it all about?

I think it is all about wanting to do everything perfectly, with precision, leaving no room for criticism or anything less than acceptance, wanting assurance ahead of time that failure is not a possibility. How grateful I would be to join the ranks of those who are able to say they did their best and move on from there to the next performance or project needing attention without the paralysis that often precedes eventual action.

As a Pagan following a solitary path, I had the luxury of constructing my personal rituals as best suited me, often as I went along, giving no thought to how my efforts might be evaluated by anyone else. Just a few months ago I was very honored to be invited into a small coven. My first thought was that I didn’t have nearly enough experience or knowledge to even be considered. Stage fright manifested itself in the question of what could I possibly have to offer to other members who no doubt were far more worthy than myself. One of the sisters who extended the invitation explained that there is more than specific experience that we all have to offer. In my case, it was very much an appreciation for my energy to be involved on a Pagan path. As we take turns gathering in different homes for ritual, we also take turns being responsible for preparing not only the space where we will gather, but the ritual itself. A couple of weeks ago, ritual was scheduled for my house. Stage fright in this instance resulted in doubting that I knew enough to put anything meaningful together that would be appreciated and up to the standards of my sisters. As I dove into the project however, using the guides of past rituals and lots of questions to a sister or two, I accomplished my task. As usual, I found at the end that my worry was unwarranted and my efforts were received in a spirit of sincere appreciation.

As an activist, I find myself deeper and deeper in projects requiring actions for which I often feel unprepared. Stage fright shows up in assumptions that someone else can do it better because they have more experience, better community connections or some un-named personal characteristic that will make other people take them more seriously than I should ever expect. My most recent brick wall came last week as I was preparing for a call-in radio interview on the subjects of GMOs and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, two subjects in which I am well versed. For two days leading up to the interview, self doubt about carrying this off in a truly informing and reliable manner spun its way through me. Nervous stomach, difficulty sleeping, inability to give other tasks my full attention were all part of my conscious experience. Ultimately, the one hour interview seemed to fly by. Questions were answered, resources were shared and I felt successful. My stomach settled down and I slept soundly.

There are many examples of stage fright attempting to undermine my abilities. Some of the things that recently required my attention included speaking face to face with a congressman to express annoyance that requests for a meeting have gone unanswered, contacting union representatives to suggest collaboration with Activate CT, a group of which I am a proud co-founder, offering to be the liaison between Activate CT and ConnFACT (Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass – another group of energetic and very capable activists from whom I’ve learned so much) as well as sending letters to the editor of my area newspaper about matters of local and national concern. After all, who am I to think I have what it takes to make a difference? Well, I acted on all of the above examples. A meeting with the congressman is on the calendar, union representatives are enthusiastic about collaboration and my work with ConnFACT is becoming a true partnership. I just received notification that my letter to the editor will appear on line and is being considered for print publication.

I offer this post, not as a shout out to myself for the things that I’ve accomplished, but rather as inspiration to others who may share the onus of self doubt either in their personal, spiritual or activist experience. Our efforts are needed in so many ways. We need to act if we want to make progress as individuals. We need to act if we want to contribute as world changers. We need to act if we want to truly feel alive.

I suggest we all listen to all of our sources of encouragement and share that encouragement with each other. We must remember that doing our best will always be more effective than doing nothing. If we let stage fright prevent us from taking to the stage and giving the best we have to offer, not only do we let it prevent it from us from making a potentially vital contribution to our community but we stand to lose the opportunity to grow, realize our strengths and expand our experience along the way.

Karma, The Just-World Fallacy and the Magick of Action

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez
I am an avid social media user. It’s one of the best resources at my disposal to conduct business, keep up on the latest news both personal and worldwide and to see pictures of kittens and puppies wearing sweaters and hats…for science, of course. Facebook also provides a unique opportunity to take a look at the trends in thought processes and tropes.

Some more thoughts on community and dialog

I’ve been scarce for a while. My absence can be summed up in one sentence. I was helping to care for my mother who had terminal metastasized cancer and she went to the ancestors in November. I tend to be introspective as a matter of course, but losing your one surviving parent will make you even moreso. And then just two months later, my friend Eddy passed away from a sudden heart attack.

My thoughts are inspired by seeing people rally both around me and Eddy’s partner and mother after these two deaths, and this is where it led…

The day after my mom died, before saying anything publicly about it (aka the social media declaration), one of my local friends got in touch with me. I was supposed to get in touch with him that Monday about getting together and when I did not, he knew something big was happening. The year before, he helped his own mother as her health failed and she died. My mother’s tumor had moved into her lungs, and his mother had sarcoma of the lungs. So he knew, better than anyone around me, just what I was going through. The funny thing is, he was one of the last people I would have expected to support me.

And that is where community comes in. During the last few months, my support has come from people all over the spiritual map, from monotheist to atheist, to agnostic, to neopagan, to polytheist, to African traditional religions. I feel so thankful that I have been able to draw from such a diverse group of people during this time and some of those differences fall away. Which is why the vitriol I see among pagans and polytheists have been driving me to a particular level of crazy. Our communities are not all that big enough that we can afford the level of divisions going on. This is not to say we should all sing Kumbaya and asking why we can’t all just get along. Nor should we try to make some grand meta-tradition and put aside our own practices, whether they be modern or rooted in history.

What I am saying, and wishing, is that we can learn how to communicate and try to work together a little better without turning to cattiness and attacks. I want to see us as a community learn how to talk to each other and listen. I want to see a continuation of inter- and intrafaith work happening. While I was not able to participate, seeing Christine’s work on Pagan Tea Time is what we need more. Not people retreating into their circles or potential echo chambers.

My own spiritual community is quite varied. As far as I know I am the only Kemetic Orthodox hedge witch, so trying to find someone doing exactly what I do is not going to happen anytime soon. But I do have people with whom I can talk, exchange ideas, and remind me there’s a bigger work. I have Antinoans, Discordians, Neopagans, Thracians, even former Dianics. Do we always do the same thing? Not by a long shot. Do we always agree? No. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together and support each other more. We’re minorities within minorities, and potentially within further minorities.

Maybe with some of the connections forged through Pagan Tea Time, we can get more dialog and forging of bonds, and find deeper levels of support. From those places can we best be activists, with a firm foundation under us.