Saturday, January 5, 2013

Heathens, Pagan, Community: Musing/Rant

I read alot of comments on this weeks posts and social networks about the Wild Hunt's recent article about people who call themselves "spiritual but not religious" and how they might possibly be allies for those who follow more traditional pagan paths. I've seen a load of opinions both positive and negative about the article. For me personally, I feel kind of ambiguous about the issue itself. I mean honestly I don't feel like I need allies or others who somehow agree with me in a spiritual sense to feel as if my path is a meaningful one.
Byrum Art: Ron and Sherry Byrum

The thing which struck me most of all about all these discussions was the number of times I saw the word "community" being thrown around. I really loath terms like the pagan community or similar denomers. Maybe its just a personality thing but its something that has been bothering me alot more recently due to some comments I've been reading on various forums and networks which seems to be if not a general consensus atleast a well recognized one. This is the idea that for the heathen or pagan path, community values are somehow more important than individual growth.

"We need more people like this because it strengthens the community" or "I feel like my interaction with the community is the most valuable part of being heathen," etc. are just a couple common views I have seen thrown about lately. And to be totally honest it feels a little shallow to me. This idea that just because I belong to an online group or forum, or even am a person reading a blog post, I automatically become a member of some people's idea of the "pagan community." I just don't like it. It doesn't feel honest to me and to be honest in most cases it is meaningless.

I'm sure there are many solitaries out there that feel the same way as I do, be they recons or eclectics, or anything else on the spectrum. SO many times I read introductions where people say they are solitary, but then end up giving excuses about why they aren't "interacting with the pagan community." Hel, I've given the same excuses in the past. Just lately it is something I have started to question myself about more and more. How do I feel about the idea of "community?"
Sorry but I think I'll pass on the invite this time...

And to be totally honest, today I really feel like I don't give a rats ass about this generic "community" of pagans which seems to exist in some people's minds. I don't really feel like a group of random strangers whose avatars I might recognize in passing have any palpable impact on my own ability to come close to the gods, nor do I feel like being part of a community is a necessity of pagan spirituality, or any sort of spirituality for that matter.

Maybe it's cold but if I'm honest I've never found much happiness in the company of human beings in general. I have a select few individuals who are a constant in my life that make it beautiful. But to be honest I could count them all on my fingers. I also have maybe another ten individuals I interact with online who would be my toes, whose opinions are intelligent and whose discussion I value. Outside of that the idea of community is pretty meaningless to me.

The people who read and follow this blog are also important to me, simply because I started this blog as my own way to give to others some idea of the great value I have found in the Vanir and their ways, and to help others who might be looking for information and advice that is relevant on their own paths. In a sense this blog is my service to the gods in my mind. Only now I am writing these things and letting others read them instead of hoarding them away in my own journals and notebooks.

I have no desire to recreate a lifestyle that is dead and gone. I do not wish to emulate dead religions. I am a modern individual with modern values and modern ideas. I wouldn't survive a day in the Viking Age, and I seriously doubt they could survive a day in my life. To me this has no bearing on the gods. They are as alive now as they were then. They are not static and neither am I. I don't need to prove to them I'm an awesome heathen by building a "community" where I can see how many random strangers actions I can be accountable for until destroying myself under the pressure. Altruism just isn't my thing.
AHHHH, That's better...

I think I've just come to the final realization that as heathen as I may ever be, I will never be a good candidate for community membership. And that's ok. We shouldn't have to apologize for being solitaries in any path. We shouldn't have to listen to BS insinuations that we need to get out and get involved in some arbitrary community effort before we can pass the "I am a REAL HEATHEN/ PAGAN/  WICCAN/ANYTHING" Test.

I know some would argue that paganism or heathenism can't grow to its full potential without some sort of organization. But to be bluntly honest, I'm not sure I want it to grow just for growth's sake. I don't want to see a person coming to Vanatru because they are "spiritual and not religious," and are just looking for something to call themselves, someplace to belong. I want pagans to be pagans because they believe in the gods and honor them, for their own sake and nothing else. I want people to come to Vanatru because they found the gods like I did, and never looked back.

I hope anyone reading this understands that I'm not downing anyone who finds value in community with others. If that is what helps you evolve in a spiritual way then do that. But it doesn't work for me. And it doesn't make me any more or less of a pagan or heathen because I don't care for community or organized religion.