Thirty Days of Druidry 2: Targets for Humanness   Leave a comment

mosses

“Microcosm” — Mike Fletcher photography

We look for things that will acknowledge and value and nurture the overflowing spirit that is our humanity at its best. We literally grow larger than one self in our relationships with other beings. This isn’t merely a lonely, impotent and mortal self desperately seeking an echo, a mirror, before the dark comes on, though that can be one part of it. Our curiosity and empathy mean we can feel ourselves into the oddest and most splendid corners of the universe. And then keep going even further. Because we can. But just as much because those corners are there, endlessly inviting. The cosmos beckons. “House made of dawn,” says the Navaho night chant, “house made of the evening twilight …”

Of course, other humans offer a ready first “target” for this quest. We fall in love, we bond, we befriend, we seek connection. What’s remarkable to me is not the number of times we face disappointment or disaster in our human relationships. You might almost expect that, given the universe around us where fish spawn and the majority perish before reaching adulthood. Nestlings don’t all make it. Flowers and trees cast thousands of potential offspring to earth and wind and water, and how many survive?

But the number of times things actually go well can astonish. Life, quite simply, abounds. It beats the odds. And even looking narrowly for a moment at just the human world, at friends, family, co-workers, allies, strangers who perform those random kindnesses — well, live among other humans and we can strike you as a varied and quarrelsome bunch at times, to be sure, but more remarkable still for wanting to connect, to be counted, to know and be known. And we talk endlessly about it all, thinking words will bring us together. Sometimes, surprisingly, they do.

And the natural world? Both womb and tomb, it still manages to be other enough that our super-enlarged brains have plenty to do to figure out whether we do or don’t really “belong.” Hence the need for wisdom, for something more than the givens of a human life: birth, food, sleep, learning, sex, work, play, illness, joy and death. Because to the question “Is that all there is?” the answer is almost always “No.” That “no” is so reliable, in fact, that things like Druidry provide marvelous tools for exploring the “all that is.” But if Druidry or Plan B doesn’t happen to work for you, by all means find (or make) something that does.

Zamyatin

Yevgeny Zamyatin

We can go and quite readily have gone to other people’s faiths and ideologies and isms that offer answers and creeds and dogmas. But we can also look, more provocatively and more productively, for great questions. As the Russian writer and philosopher Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) remarked, “Dealing with answered questions is the privilege of brains constructed like a cow’s stomach, which, as we know, is built to digest cud.” Foolish questions are a risk along such a path, of course, but they are only “foolish to a civilized man who has a well-furnished European apartment with an excellent toilet and a well-furnished dogma.” Better a few foolish questions along with many more useful ones. And far better than no questions at all. Yes, that’s next door to a dogma in my book, if you want to know.

“In a storm,” Zamyatin observes, “you must have a man aloft. We are in the midst of storm today, and SOS signals come from every side.”* It’s no accident that new forms of spirituality sprang into existence over the last 50 years or so. From a Druid perspective, you might say, like a bird or bush moving into a new ecosystem, a niche opens and life explores it for fit, changing it or changing itself. Or both. A trust in the power of spirit to manifest new forms at need is one of the gifts of Druidry. And the lifelong learning to work with that spirit and those forms is a fitting Druidic quest.

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Image: “Microcosm” — Mike Fletcher photographyZamyatin.

*Zamyatin, Yevgeny. On Literature, Revolution, Entropy and Other Matters. 1923. The translations here appear in Ginsburg, Mirra, A Soviet Heretic : Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1970).

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