Tag Archives: action

Our Cousins the Chimpanzees and Bonobos

Bonobo group hug

Bonobo group hug

I think it’s safe to say most people reading this will have heard that humans and chimps are more than 98% genetically identical. We’re just as close to bonobos, another great ape, though they’re not the same species. Like two distant cousins, we share the same amount of genes with each, while they remain distinct from one another. They are about 99% identical to one another, and together are the only two species in the genus Pan.

As Jane Goodall points out, chimpanzees are more like us than they are like gorillas. Like us, they have long childhoods in which they form intense bonds with their mothers and siblings, usually forming life-long relationships. Chimp childhoods are full of play, learning, and seeking reassurance and attention from their family. They reach sexual maturity relatively late in life, compared to a lot of other animals, again like us. While research is showing more and more that animals other than humans have emotions, we’re better able to recognize this in chimpanzees because their facial structure and expressions are so similar to our own. They show joy, sadness, and even signs of clinical depression.
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Pagan Activist Starter Kit

(by Courtney Weber)

There is no shortage of Pagans willing to make their world a better place. There is a shortage of practical how-to manuals that can show us how to do this work. Whenever I share a story or a statement about something that I believe needs the attention of my community, I’m often met with a worried or even cynical face that says, “But how???”

I don’t have perfect answers, but I have woven in and out of different grass-roots activist causes over the years and now I work full-time for an institution that equips faith leaders for social justice work.  I made the list below in hopes it might help a few willing people get started!

The Pagan Activist Starter Kit: If you can acquire these things, you are good to go!

1.)   A local cause and concrete goal

“Think globally! Act locally!”  It may sound cliché, but it works. No one person can collect all the carbon emissions from the atmosphere, but one person can push a local initiative to enforce stricter fuel emission standards in their state. For years, it infuriated me that same-sex marriage was not legal in most of the country. Federal battles take years and most often respond to the will of the states. I couldn’t force fifty states to do what I want, but I could work to force my own state of New York to get on it! Once gay marriage was attained in New York, many other states followed suit. The country I live in is one step closer to being the one I want to live in because these states allow same-sex marriage.

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My Lost Art of Doing Things

I’m a homebody at heart.  I even telecommute to my job.  It’s fairly common for me to be inside for days on end and not just because winter storm Nemo dropped about 22 inches on me a week ago.  I also get fairly anxious when I step out of my comfortable home regardless of whether I choose to leave or if circumstances take me away from it.  I’ve even talked myself out of attending concerts for which I’ve already purchased tickets!

I’ve been watching PantheaCon from afar this weekend and envied the people in attendance for the experiences they’re having and questioning, as some at the convention have done as well, the importance of reaching out online to the greater Pagan community.  I’m never going to stop involving myself in the online community, in a lot of ways I consider you all to be my community, but I do question sometimes if there’s more that I could be doing.

We call this site Pagan Activist.  “Activist” implies action; implies doing.  But, too often I find that I feel like I’m not doing enough.  For months I’ve been working with members of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy on the formation of a Pagan chapter for it.  I’ve spoken with other Pagans on the topic as well, but things have stalled mostly due to my own resistance to doing things, toward acting.

To idle is to find an illusion of safety.  To be static is to find a subtle consistency that change, that action, foils.  To act opens us up to the possibility of failure, humiliation, ridicule.  To act seems so difficult, and the way I’ve found to make sure that I do so is to make it clear to others that I’m going to act or to involve others in the acting.

This past Wednesday was the first meeting of the Southeastern Massachusetts Pagan Night Out.  We met at a local bar and grill, the eight of us, and had good food, good drinks, and good conversation.  We left looking forward to the following month’s get-together.  I was nervous about setting the whole thing up, but various online social networks reduced the difficulty of action and made it more easy.  And, but creating a situation in which others relied on me to be a part of the action, I felt duty bound, for lack of a better term, to act.

And that’s part of why I mentioned the FRD above.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the process and my goals for it.  Perhaps motivating myself through a sense of obligation and the possibility of guilt if I don’t meet those obligations is not the best way to get myself going, but sometimes if I do go with what works, I worry that my art of doing things will be truly lost.