One of the things about learning, in any subject, discipline or aspect of being, is that the information changes. This year’s splendid insight becomes next year’s embarrassing mistake. To learn in an ongoing way, it becomes necessary to be willing to challenge, poke, reinvent and sometimes entirely throw away beliefs and ideas to move on. Deciding whether the new information is rubbish, or the old idea is outdated is never easy. I’m no more in favour of the philosophy that old is wrong than I am of clinging at all costs to what we think we already know.
The act of quitting the mainstream for any alternative view of the world, requires a person to ditch a lot of assumptions. Druidry calls for this. You have to reconsider your relationship with the land, your ancestry, the future, and everything you interact with. This takes a while, and there’s a lot of pressure to go back to the familiar old ways, to the life of TV, commute, work pointlessly, and consume.
Shifting towards a life of contemplation, meaning, minimal consumption and looking for work that has innate worth, is demanding and challenging in so many ways. It also rewards us in ways we could not have imagined before we started.
Of course I did all of that years ago. It would be very easy to get smug and comfortable with what I have now, to assume that I know it all, have it all figured out, am living in the best way possible. That would be a druidfail of significant proportions. The thing about learning is that you don’t get to do it once and have that be it. Learning is a process and a way of life, not an event. There are always new things to learn, deeper truths to find, insights to explore and changes to make. I can always aspire to do better than I have done, to go further. I can always challenge myself. The day I decide I’m good enough and can stop trying is the day I cease to be a Druid.
I’m currently wrestling with perceptions about my own body and identity. I have long carried the belief that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. I’ve been told I have a low pain threshold, make a fuss about nothing. I also fear that I’m lazy and that if I don’t feel like doing something that has more to do with idleness than illness. And so last week when I started feeling ill, I just kept pushing to carry on as normal. Unless a fever actually puts me in bed, that’s what I always do, to make sure I’m not acting out of hypochondria or laziness. What’s happened is that I’ve progressively got more ill, to the point whereby I have to consider that I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill and that I really do need to stop.
This has been hard for me. It takes me deep into some long held beliefs about myself. Those are safe, familiar beliefs and I know how they work. They go with a bunch of other beliefs about worth and ability to judge. Even though these beliefs are having the effect of making me more ill than I evidently was, I still want to cling to them. I don’t think that’s unusual. This is my reality, my sense of self. If I relinquish that, who am I? What have I got? What do I know? Scary stuff. I would have to start from scratch and figure a lot of things out again. I’d have to admit how many years I’ve been going round holding a wrong belief, and I’d have to feel a bit stupid for having done that, which is also threatening. It would be easier to carry on being who I had been, holding my beliefs, doing what I’ve always done. Except there’s a real possibility that if I keep disbelieving my own body, one of these days it’s going to kill me.
Letting go of belief and assumption is not easy. Just recognising that these are ideas and opinions, not unassailable facts is a pretty hard process. Changing beliefs that I’ve held for years is alarming, and difficult. But here I am, in the duvet, and I’m trying to think differently.
Everything I thought I knew could be wrong. Every day is a new opportunity to reinvent both myself and my entire understanding of everything. It’s both liberating and intimidating.