You Are What You Believe
You Are What You Do.
We fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two statements.
We are either driven by our beliefs, or we allow our beliefs to be informed by our practices.
In this regard, there is a distinction to be made.
Many Pagans have a spiritual practice that starts from the ground up (quite literally). For them, the lived experienced and the wisdom gained from their engagement with the earth, the land, or with their own sense of self is paramount.
Many polytheists (particularly non-Pagan identifying polytheists) have a religious practice that is deity-centric. For them, the relationship with their Gods, informed as it is by the precepts of their tradition, is of greatest importance.
But some of us float in between. Some of us are not so certain of how comfortable we are with either of the extremes. Some of us are in a process of unpacking our beliefs in order to inform our practices, and close-examining our practices in order to articulate belief.
We are not simple creatures, human beings, and there is no need to try and simplify the complexities of our spiritual lives in order to have dialogue with one another.
We can remain complicated and still have community.
I am not seeking to begin a new debate, nor am I interested in hashing out an old one. This post, and the by-products of this post, will be an attempt at sparking more intra/inter-faith dialogue within and around our communities.
Plain and simple:
I want to know what your values are.
When I asked you to crowdsource Pagan theologies, you came out in droves. You represented yourselves in ways that, in my opinion, demonstrated a healthy approach to interfaith dialogue. You started with your individual perspective, and you offered it up to the community. In turn, the community responded with respect. We listened. We took in the meaning. We saw the contradictions, but we did not rush to criticize. In my view, this was a healthy and successful activity.
Now, as we approach the 5th annual Pagan Values Event that begins on June 1st, we have the opportunity to try out this approach another time.
See, I think our community gets a bad rap. There’s a story that’s told about how we’re unwilling to communicate with each other, or that we’re so hell-bent on seeing the world through our own perspective that we can’t meet others with differing views where they stand. I think some of us are willing to perpetuate that narrative because it’s familiar. It feels easy. It keeps us from holding one another accountable, and holding ourselves accountable. Respectful dialogue, especially on the Internet, requires patience and intention. The story goes that people in our community don’t have a whole lot of that.
I don’t believe that story.
My experience in community is that we are a direct product of the stories we tell about ourselves. We are the thing we describe ourselves to be, and if we decide to describe ourselves as a conflicted people, one who will not or cannot be in community with each other, then we will have that experience.
But, likewise, if we begin to work with the narrative that we are a people of respect and honor, who listen patiently and who resist the impulse to lash out at one another, then that is the people we will be.
The Pagan Values Event is a month-long event which encourages people of all traditions to share, through whatever media is available to them, what their values look like. It is, as with the crowdsourcing theology exercise, an opportunity for people to bear witness to their own inner-experience.
These are some things to ask yourself as you consider participating in this crowdsourced event:
- If you are a person who structures your religious life around a devotional practice to your Gods, how is that informed by your values? Or, how does your practice inform your values?
- If you do not see yourself as religious, but rather as a spiritual Pagan, what informs your sense of personal values? How are your values lived out in your spiritual life?
- If your tradition is being grouped in with “Pagan,” but you do not feel that comfortable identifying with that term (and all of what is associated with it), how would you define the values of your tradition? Do they line up with your values? If they are divergent, how do you reconcile the inconsistencies?
Write about these and other thoughts on your blog, or speak about it on your podcast. Once you’ve penned your contribution share a link at the Pagan Values site, on the Pagan Values Page on Facebook, or tweet @PaganValues with the URL and hashtag #PVE2013. Be sure to tag your blog post with “Pagan Values Event 2013″ or “PVE2013″. This will make it easier for your post to be curated on the site.
As you’ll see in the PVE archive, the process of curation is extensive. There is a record of dozens upon dozens of individuals sharing their values with the world, saying in effect:
This is who I am. This is why I do what I do. This is what gives my religious or spiritual life meaning.
I believe that at the heart of all of our divergent traditions is a quest for some greater meaning. We may be reaching for something meaningful in different ways, using different tools and technologies to uncover that meaning. Our vernacular may be divergent, and our viewpoints may be irreconcilable. But this desire for a meaningful life may just be a commonality that is worth greater consideration.