We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, oh spirits and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.
I was out with the Sapling Bards today for a mistletoe rite. It was a lovely gathering and I had the pleasure of meeting a great many excellent people, putting some faces to names I already knew, and reconnecting with some dear friends. It was a lovely day in a lovely space, and the rainbows were more than compensation for the rain.
We used the Druid’s Prayer, as above. It’s a common feature of Druid rituals and I have said it many times in the past, in the company of many others. I found myself reflecting during the prayer – it’s repeated three times so there is time for a fair bit of thinking – about people I’ve shared that prayer with in the past. Good friends I’ve not seen in too long. People I met once and have not seen since. And those other, more troubled connections where peace and love did not get much of a look in, when it came to the crunch. I wondered, as I often do, what I could have done that would have been better.
I care about peace, especially the sort that comes from cooperation, restorative justice and compassion. Retribution is just a way of extending the suffering all round and that never struck me as being a good idea. But when people fall out in extreme ways and become unable to tolerate each other, where is there room for compassion or gentleness? What happens when one heart is so closed, impenetrable or incomprehensible to another that no amount of ‘heart to heart’ seems to help? What happens when the peace and love we swear not only to those in circle, but to anyone we want to be in honourable relationship with, is betrayed? I don’t have any answers.
Sometimes its not within the gift of a given individual to make everything right. We are beings of finite power, and seeing the wrong does not means being able to fix it, and wanting to fix it isn’t always enough either. We have to forgive the people who are not able to be what we want them to be. I know, that to move forwards I have to forgive myself for the things that I had no control over and no means to repair. I think its when we start to imagine that we *should* be able to set all to rights that we can start driving ourselves mad with a sense of inadequacy, or having to lie to ourselves to make us seem like we’re better than we are. Worse still is what happens when someone is so desperate to seem right that they lie to everyone to hold that illusion, wreaking emotional havoc as an inevitable consequence rather than admit to being human. I’ve seen what that one can do and it isn’t pretty.
People of integrity and good heart make mistakes. Often for the best of reasons and with excellent intentions. I’ve had some horrible things done to me by people I know thought they were acting for the greater good. I don’t feel good about that, but I’ve tried to understand it. I’ve been on the wrong end of self importance, and power gaming, and people driven by fear and all manner of tricky human things. I have misunderstood things in ways that caused pain to others, I have been rash, inconsiderate, short sighted, I have made a thousand and one tiny errors of judgement that will have caused unnecessary suffering. As do most people. The trick is to try and learn, and not beat yourself into an ineffectual pulp in response. We all mess up. It’s the point when we choose to believe that we’re on opposite sides to some fellow human being that we’re really in trouble. When there are sides, you make losing inevitable and no one really wins at all. Where there’s cooperation, there is also hope, and scope for improvement.
Today I swore peace and love to a group of people I mostly don’t know. The odds are that will never be tested in any significant way. But when it is, you find out whether your oaths were strong enough to hold, and sometimes they won’t be. But without the hope that I could offer those bonds of love and peace, I could not get into circle with anyone. I have to be able to say it and mean it and trust that those around me are meaning it too, even though I know that sometimes those words are not upheld.
Mark, oh spirits, and hear us now…
And never let me become complacent about what any of this means.