Following on from yesterday’s blog discussing the idea of Druidic life-arts, I’m going to pick over the 9 arts in more detail.
The beginning of relationship as art, is simply recognition. We can start with our most obvious and visible human relationships, and move out from there to look at ways in which we exist in relationship with others, human, and then not human. Sharing space and resources puts us into relationship. Consumption creates relationship with that which is consumed. The epic scale of our connectedness to other things is almost overwhelming. Seeking to understand it is an epic task. So we do what we can, known what we can, seek what we can, and the journey into awareness, no matter how far or how slowly we go, is where this art begins.
Once we recognise relationship, we can be consciously involved with it. We can think about our impact, and work with that more deliberately. We can imagine, using other ideas from our druidry, how these relationships could be. What would it take to be the very best kind of pagan parent, or pagan child? What would be the most meaningful thing we could give as druids in marriage, or a work relationship? How are we expressing our druidry in our friendships? What mythic, historical or contemporary examples might we draw inspiration from? As we start to consciously shape relationship, we are also engaged in a process of shaping and changing ourselves. Any art we practice outside of us, must affect what is inside.
There all kinds of qualities we might want to bring to our relationships – that will be different for each of us. Honesty, passion, compassion, respect, patience, understanding, learning, teaching, setting an example, following an example, giving, receiving… so many of these things come in pairs, where the good stuff is passed back and forth between those involved. This is as true of our relationship with land or water as it is with parent or human nature. We can ask questions like ‘how do I want this to be?’ ‘What do I want this to add to my life?’ ‘What do I want to give?’ and the more we consider the possibility of any given relationship, the more we can do with it.
Using tools of listening and good speech, patience, respect and care, we can deliberately craft relationship as though we were making a sculpture or improvising a shared dance. We weave in and out of each other, mindful, attentive, not always dancing to the same drum, but able to work around that too. We do not need to be the same.
Part of the art of relationship involves recognising where our on boundaries are. What do we not need? What is a waste of time? What is pointless, unfair, or downright harmful? If we take nothing for granted in relationship, if we look hard at all we have, then the worthless and demoralising becomes as visible as what is nourishing and joyful. Life may not make it easy to step away from the relationships that cannot be nurtured. But in knowing, we can hold our own boundaries, refuse to be drawn in to point scoring, back stabbing and other acts of poison and disrespect. Walking away is also part of the art of relationship, along with being able to say ‘no’ and being able to hear ‘no.’
When relationship is practiced as art, we may well be working with people who do not have the same consciousness. But, if we are serious in our artistry, we can aim to inspire, to lead by example, to create the space for others to become artists too. And when we are sharing with a fellow artist, choreographing the most delicate, nuanced dances of interaction, that is a wonder. Seeking for beauty and awen in relationships opens the way to new kinds of living, new depths of trust. It becomes safer to share ideas, possible to gently challenge without injury, possible to take risks even. An artful relationship is not a fearful one, because every moment of art feeds our ability to trust and understand each other. Then we are not just dancers, we are tightrope walkers, trapeze artists swinging in and out of each other’s hands, jumping, catching each other, able to do far more in co-operation than we would be able to do alone.
Relationship as art is the breeding ground of dreams. Moving beyond fear and assumption, moving beyond the normality of taking everything for granted, we can look further, to the trees and the sky, and wonder what we could do there. We open doors to possibility, we nurture hope, and we enable each other. This is just the beginning.