I’ve always been a seeker, and a couple of years ago, I realized that personal truths are evasive because we’re constantly changing. On this blog, I’ve written about pagan ideas and observed practices along the lines between paganism and Unitarian Universalism. Each has its beauty (and flaws), and after years of leadership in those traditions, I felt the desire for a radical faith community that would give me space for introspection. I left behind the UU community and its seemingly ever-present infighting in favor of The Society of Friends.
The Quaker practice of sitting in silence together was at once new to me and completely natural and welcome, and the value placed on mindfulness, nonviolence and a non-dogmatic experience of divinity (only sometimes called “God”) met my needs. Does this mean I’m no longer a pagan?
Not at all. Interestingly, the practices have more in common than not.
I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality lately, especially after attending Ostara rites with Reclaiming LA a few weeks ago. Some folks have asked elsewhere what it means to identify as paganish-Quaker, and after my long years as a UU pagan, that’s a very good question.
Too much is going on in here! I’m still thinking and working on the new story, “Her Bones, The Bones of the Dead,” which I was half-hoping to finish in time for submission to Clarion (San Diego) by tomorrow’s deadline. However, I’ve been UU-ing all weekend and feel a bit used up!
It sounds weird, but more than one person has told me lately that I’m a good leader and would make a good minister, the kind of thing I was thinking myself, late last year. I’ve pushed that into the background so I could stay focused on writing. Now, I’ve been asked to serve the UU in a greater capacity (though, of course, not as a minister), and I took three whole days to think it over before saying “yes.”
I’m still writing because writing means a great deal to me. That is unlikely to change. I can’t explain why. It’s hard to describe although folks are always trying (read some of the responses to Jamie Grove’s “Writing Is…” post to see what I mean).
I actually found myself wondering what would happen if I wrote about UU stuff. Maybe this is not entirely off-base, as there’s at least one sci-fi story out there that deals with UUism in the future. Wish I could remember the title! BTW, Kurt Vonnegut, Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury, among others, were UUs.
Unitarian Universalism is trying hard to be the religion of the future, but they’re not quite there yet. I was proud to be present for Rev. Bonnie Devlin’s talk today, in which she charged UU folks to grow up and get off their butts so the message of UUism can get out there into the world.
A little while back, I mentioned my interest in seminary training, and last week I had the opportunity to speak at the UU on the topic after another speaker canceled.
Not like I’m an expert or anything, but the idea that the diverse and independent family of earth-centered traditions could use some educated spokespersons is not new. It is, I think, getting more attention lately as the population of folks identifying as pagan grows.
You can listen here if you’re interested in pagan ethics or my opinions on the need for clergy.
I’m really struggling with the NaNoWriMo novel. I’m making more time to write, but I keep getting frozen. Sometimes it’s there, and I write for like crazy for an hour or so. Presto, a decent scene happens. Other times, I’m just staring at it, and nothing is working. I have an outline and everything! I’m not feeling it, but I know it’ll come back because it has before.
I’m supposed to be at +15K, and I haven’t quite rounded 6K. I’ve changed tense and recently, point-of-view. Both changes were good, and I did not waste time going back to edit in the new modes. I’m trying to be optimistic, to believe that the plot will snap into place and everything will flow the right way.
Admittedly, I’m distracted by other things (teaching three classes, homeschooling, rebooting our pagan group, gardening), but at least I’m putting the time in. I’m pleased to report that I’ve officially quit one of the committees I was chairing at the UU, and I’m working on letting go of two other obligations. Very liberating, although it was very hard to initiate. I hate letting people down.
I spoke about this recently at the UU in my area and thought other folks might find it insightful.
Have you ever been asked what you believe? It’s not a very easy question answer. Before I came to this church a year and a half ago, I identified as a pagan and Wiccan, and I was asked about it frequently. People are generally curious because they’ve seen too many bad movies and TV shows about teen witches; many of these use pagan terminology like “rule of three” and “craft of the wise.” It’s also difficult for many people to imagine a religious life outside of their Christian upbringing, an upbringing I lacked. The most common question was, “SO, do you believe in God?”
I developed a rehearsed sort of answer that explained what paganism isn’t (for example, not Satanism). Or I explained traditional pagan holidays and rituals, and that, YES, I do believe in god (just not with a capital “G”), and that to me, god is female and male, named in ten thousand ways across cultures, and present in all matter in the universe. That god is present within me, and that salvation, heaven and hell don’t make a lot of sense to me. I explain that I think the gods love us and they’re waiting for us to express our own divinity. That WE are the creators, who create ourselves in the world, everyday, and we are always evolving, whether we realize it or not.
Now I’ve become a UU because its principles align with my beliefs. This is also confusing to people, so I have to explain THAT, especially since I can be a UU and a pagan at the same time. But these explanations I give are pretty much everything a person could just as readily obtain by searching for the terms on the internet, if they cared to.
So I don’t want to talk about what paganism is, because the definition of a faith or an explanation of its practices is not the same as what the individual practitioner feels inside.
And I feel connected, I feel alive, I feel joy. Most of the time, I feel the absence of fear. When I came to it, paganism was a homecoming. Wonder, if we welcome it, is a revelation, and the natural world presents so many opportunities for wonder. Scientific understanding of nature doesn’t dampen my sense of spirituality, it heightens it. Matter is in motion, from the spiraling of the galaxy, to the revolution of our planet around a life-giving sun, right down to the motion of cells of our bodies. It’s thrilling to know I’m a part of that.
We also have so many everyday gifts and wonders. I’ve read somewhere that Benjamin Franklin said that existence of “beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.” Well, I would amend that to say that the existence of bananas, black beans and avocados is proof that the gods want us to be happy. We’ve evolved in conjunction with so many delicious things.
I don’t have to believe a literal truth like explicit creationism to appreciate it and learn an important lesson. I guess you could say I believe in conscious evolution. We call the earth our mother, and we call the goddess our mother, we call the sun our god, but we know it’s a ball of hot gas. Without it, we would not be, and that is enough reason for reverence.
You know it’s bad when I get too busy to write. I’m sure “lifestuff” is the death of many a blog, but not this one, thank goodness.
Major developments include new responsibilities as co-chair of worship at the UU, and the realignment of my entire house to accommodate new housemate. Between these two, I’ve been a little pre-occupied.
Maybe I was also avoiding the blogosphere so as to shield myself from the amazing good-times stories of folks who are at this very moment blogging the writing life at Clarion Writer’s Workshop. I want to know, but I don’t. I got over the politely worded rejection I received a few months ago, and I’ve trained my brain on next year’s possibilities and this year’s publication efforts. Reading about the adventures of the “got-ins” may send me in the wrong mental direction.
I’ve also been logging lots of gaming time, which takes me out of my world and problems for a while and translates as quality time with friends and spouse. Big-time, late-night fun playing Spirit of the Century and Arkham Horror, eating junk food and laughing. On the downside, I’ve been driven insane and devoured by Yog-Sothoth.
Has it really been a whole week since I posted? What have I been doing?
I met this guy at the UU, and this guy at the UU in Clearwater, and those were very engrossing experiences. I have been actively increasing the size of my garden, which is now yielding tomatoes every day that my family can eat.
A bit of writing and some reading, but nothing remarkable. On Wednesday, I had a meltdown of sorts over trying to coexist peacefully with my Aspie offspring. It’s very weird, driving down the road and sobbing at the same time. It feels oddly intimate and isolated at the same time when you’re sitting at at traffic light, next to other drivers, with tears running down your face. Isn’t that the name of a band, “Drivin’ and Cryin'” or something like that?