One of the core messages of Paganism that means the most to me is that This Life Matters. My Body Matters. Sex Matters. My Relationships — with my Landbase, my Watershed, my Bit of Earth, my Goddesses, my Fae, my Family and Friends, my Livelihood, my Magical Community, my Polis — Matter.
I grew up Catholic, in a religion and a culture that discounts this life, shames female bodies and the act of being a woman, demonizes sex, and devalues relationships with any entity other than the one, true, male God. I grew up Catholic in a religion that tells you that this world doesn’t matter; what’s important is some literal pie-in-the-sky life after death. None of which ever felt “right” to me. So finding Paganism was a revelation . “All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess” shook the ground beneath my feet. What if it were THIS life that is holy??? How would that change the way I lived? In Mr. Frost’ words, two roads diverged in the woods, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.
Which is, perhaps, an odd way to begin to discuss this week’s Republican convention, but it’s what kept coming back to me all week long as I observed the four-day hate fest. The calls to kill and/or jail Hillary Clinton (and those were the polite things they said) were like nothing ever heard at any convention before. Of course, no convention has ever faced a woman opponent before. If you think that it isn’t dangerous to be a powerful woman in America today, well, you just aren’t paying attention. Patriarchy has always called for the destruction of female bodies. Of course, Patriarchy doesn’t stop at hating women. The LGBT community, African Americans, Muslims, Hispanic people, people who aren’t Christian, anyone who doesn’t embrace unrestrained corporate capitalism, etc. all came in for their own dose of hatred.
At some point, it all begins to feel like too much. It’s all too horrible: all of the hatred, the deliberate ignorance, the whipped-up violence, the refusal to deal in facts, the purposeful choice to embrace lies, the senseless racism, the virulent hatred of women, the ancient divide and conquer tactics, the recognizable fascism, the candidate feeling up his own daughter . . . . “Why bother to stay engaged?” I asked myself. I have more work than I can handle at a job I love; my garden needs weeding; I have a lovely family and brilliant friends. There are more good books to read than I have time left to read them. I’d really love to learn how to knit fisherman cables.”
And what brings me back is Paganism’s core message: This Life Matters. The polar bears in the Arctic and the mycelium being disrupted by logging in the Amazon matter. My son’s high school friend on FaceBook trying to explain to their other friend why he’s afraid to exist while being black matters. The poems I love matter and today’s struggling poets matter even more. This polis matters. People having sex all over the globe on this Friday afternoon, people holding each other, people orgasming, people becoming drowsy in each other’s arms: they matter. The cook serving two perfectly-poached eggs on slices of fried green tomatoes: she matters. People trying to patch things back together in Orlando matter. My own aging female body: it matters. The scent of the Casa Blanca lilies that perfume my front steps: it matters. For this one Summer, it matters. It matters in the morning when I go to work and it matters in the hot summer afternoon when I come home.
And so I believe that it’s worth engaging in the struggle and avoiding the siren call of unawareness. I recommit to avoiding what Ivo Dominguez has called the enchantment of forgetfulness: the notion that any of us are separate from each other. I think this is what Rumi meant when he said:
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”
As Rumi suggested:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
I’m headed out for that field and back into the struggle. Back into the “mundane” and “boring” tasks of registering voters, doing pro bono projects, dealing with imperfect humans, trying to save a world that — at almost every turn — resists saving. Back to doing magic to bend the arc of the moral universe just a bit more towards justice.
I shan’t be gone long. You come, too. This Life Matters.
Picture found here.
* It’s likely a sign of my own white privileged that I wrote and posted this entire piece without thinking of the connection to the Black Lives Matter movement. So, in case it wasn’t completely clear, let me simply state: Black Lives Matter. They matter to me. They matter to Paganism. They matter to America. Black Lives Matter.