Equipment for Living   Leave a comment

rhodo-5-20

rhododendron, 4 June 2020

Some bloggers on spirituality are taking heat for not addressing the protests in the U.S., or the larger political context. At the same time, some of you have told me in personal communications that one reason you keep reading this blog is because it (usually) offers a refuge from current controversies, or supplies a perspective or practice you can use or try out as you consider you next steps, how you will spend your hours, what you will prioritize as most deserving of your time and energy and love.

John Beckett addresses the present moment in his June 3 post titled “Why My Practice Includes Both Devotion and Politics“. I admire John for his thoughtful writing, and if that title speaks to you, please do read it.

Equipment for Living

My purposes here on A Druid Way are specific. A spiritual path worth following equips us for living better, in my experience, than anything else. Such a path helps us explore the cosmos in light of what ideally are “best practices”, the accumulated wisdom and insight of centuries of trial and error, inspiration and discovery, perspective and growth. That includes political action, relationships, affiliations and memberships of all kinds, care for our bodily and environmental health, our means of livelihood, our stance toward a world of Others, and so on. I focus here on what can fortify and strengthen us to make good choices along whatever paths we choose to pursue.

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front lawn this a.m.

For such reasons, this isn’t an education blog — I’m not urging you all to pursue a career in education and teaching as I have done. We obviously need more than just teachers if we want to eat, to clothe ourselves, to find shelter, and then to express our humanity through language and music, art and dance, games of physical skill and prowess, to improve and enrich the lives of our neighbors and ourselves, and to agree to law and good custom. In the same way, you may support a range of political candidates, and you may hold a number of different political opinions, but this isn’t a political blog, and I’m not running for office with solutions for political problems.

Clearing Your Way

If what I write here helps you do whatever you do more thoughtfully, compassionately, wisely, lovingly, skillfully, then I’ve achieved my principal goal. Any good teacher doesn’t try to dictate others’ choices, but to clear the way for them to make good ones. If you don’t already habitually desire and seek a path that encourages you to be thoughtful, compassionate, wise, loving, and skillful, then you’re probably not reading this blog anyway. Despite what we read and hear, there’s no “single path forward”, any more than evolution, as some sort of stand-in for deity, has “chosen” or will now “focus on” just a single species. Humans will continue to be as diverse and varied and contrary as we’ve ever been. But our genius and our unique “species-strength” has always been cooperation, compromise, consensus, collaboration, community. There’s a reason these are all “co-” words. They reflect what we do best, and we fall to pieces whenever we forget that fact, as our tumultuous histories show.

marigold

marigolds among the squash

A single crop is susceptible to pests and destruction. We know enough about agriculture to see how companion plantings work better — marigolds among the veggies, for instance. Likewise, a mono-myth rarely serves a culture well — multiple stories that demonstrate resourcefulness, that multiply our ways of perceiving and responding to life, almost always prepare a culture better for the flexibility and adaptability it will need to survive and thrive.

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May’s full moon over our rooftop, looking east — night filter

The “equipment for living” of any valid spiritual path includes daily practices to build resilience and a reservoir of strength. It also sets before us a number of recurring seasonal and annual celebrations to mark planetary changes as we move through the personal and historical changes of lives lived in time and space. Such observances remind us to reconnect to the center and the heart of what matters most. The full moon tomorrow is one such opportunity, for those who look to patterns in the cosmos as guides for living, and each valid spiritual path offers many. Jesus offers an earthy, agricultural metaphor that accords with Druidic sensibilities as a means of identifying any good path: “By their fruits you shall know them”.

[Philip Carr-Gomm “Tea with a Druid” 128, 1 June 2020, on the Druid Prayer and the Call for Justice | my Moon Ritual Scrapbook]

Change We Desire

Whatever we may think of the present reality, things still manifest in accordance with the law of harmony. Like begets like. We see this in family patterns continuing from generation to generation, in the vegetables we harvest from the seed we sow, in the societies and civilizations we live in as a consequence of the structures we’ve established and the ideals we’ve prioritized. “As we sow, so shall we reap”: these can be hard words, a difficult principle to internalize and live from, but also a great signpost for how to proceed. We forget that any change we desire manifests in exactly the same way as our current reality has come about — through effort and choice, consensus and imagination on a large scale. And that’s a potentially joyful undertaking, working for what we desire.

The Qur’an, no surprise, echoes the same wisdom: “God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Surah 13). The cynic in you might say “What’s a god for, then?” Or you can say that Spirit manifests precisely in the efforts at change we make when our previous agreements no longer serve us. (Certainly those dedicated to particular gods like the Morrigan don’t lack for divine prods to action from outside the self.) Political action can bring change, but it’s the spiritual foundation underlying any political action that will make that change a wise and loving one. Absent wisdom, it’s hit or miss.

PrinceOfFoxes

Wikipedia — fair use.

“To be alive at all is a reflection on our character”, quips the wry Mario Belli in Samuel Shellabarger’s 1947 novel Prince of Foxes, a historical romance set in the medieval Italy of the Borgias, a time of violence and upheaval and change. Put another way, you might say that each of us is born during a particular historical harmonic because we’re attuned to its overarching dynamic. I’m here now, and not at any other time, and so are you — for a purpose. And we get to shape that purpose. It’s not imposed on us, not separate from who we are and what we do.

It’s an interesting possibility: our presence contributes to maximizing the effect of each moment on and for ourselves and others. My participation and yours stamp a particular character on each moment, giving it a unique shape and effect, a distinct contour and identity. When the times turn especially dark, we may well say, along with people like Hamlet: “O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!” Or we resist or abdicate. But always we affect the time and place we live in. It’s our burden and our strength, our obstacle and our great opportunity.

How we live is what we choose. And vice-versa. We are always “responsible” in the sense that we are able to respond. We never wholly forfeit that power, no matter how harshly life batters us. Our strength lies in that choice, the one freedom we never wholly lose.

Clearing the way. What will I choose right now, and going forward?

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For a different take on this project of being human, take a look at Four Seasons as a Guide for Manifestation.

Posted 4 June 2020 by adruidway in Druidry, spiritual practice

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