Fighting trousers or bending reed?

I’ve just read Jo’s excellent post http://octopusdance.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/meh/ where she talks about achieving detachment so as to be more in control of our emotions, and our lives. She makes some very good points about the ways in which our desire to be in control of things and people we have no control of, can prompt really unhelpful emotional responses. I’m sat here nursing a bucket load of those – fear, anger, resentment, fear, more fear. I’m not good at situations where I feel entirely unable to control what’s happening in my life. I’m very tired of facing situations where assorted official bodies have the power, at least, to strip me of every last thing I care about for reasons that have a lot to do with their subjective views and my failure to be quite normal enough. Meh indeed.

In my teens I explored Tai Chi and a little Taoist philosophy. One of the ideas I encountered was of yielding rather than resisting. It underpins the Tai Chi discipline. We bend, and by doing so, overcome the force and aggression of others. In not fighting, we triumph. Now, compare that with what we get in the Celtic myths, full of strident warriors out doing crazy heroic things. Cu Chulain tied to his rock and fighting until he dies. Macha running the race that kills her. And even Rhiannon, offering to carry all comers as she takes punishment for a crime she never committed, doesn’t seem to be yielding so much as enduring. My impression of the Celts is of a proud people who, when challenged by life, faced it down or died trying. Often the latter. Assuming the mediaeval tales are any kind of insight into Celtic mythology, they suggest an ethos all about doing what honour demands, and dying if needs be. On the whole that’s easier to do when your enemy is also holding a sword, or happens to be a wild boar. Trickier when you are fighting against the hideous tides of paperwork, red tape, crazy laws, kafka-esk systems, a society that doesn’t have room for you, or any of the myriad other things a modern druid can wind up banging their head against.

The scope for going out into the world and fighting injustice with a big weapon, is not what it used to be.

While I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself a ‘druidry and something’ druid, there are other influences. Aside from the Taoism, there’s existentialism in my head, and post modernism, green politics, a fondness for rationalism, a profound respect for humanist and atheist thinking and probably a lot more. Inevitably I am to some degree a product of my own times, and my own reading.

Do I bend in the gale to avoid breaking, or do I make like a Celtic warrior and fight to the death? Nothing I am up against will give a poo either way. It’s a case of do as you’re told, or be harassed, threatened, and legally forced to comply. There are a lot of situations in which a person has no legal right to decline, or to hold an opinion. There is yielding, or being flattened. The pragmatist in me does not see a great deal to be gained in being flattened. The powers that be are indifferent to heroic gestures, or principles other than their own. I know of people who have given their lives for causes they believed in, and I have a depressing sense of how much difference that makes. Being alive, and continuing to make a nuisance of yourself appears to be more productive.

Being a druid is of course not entirely the same as being a Celtic warrior. There’s the whole peace angle to consider for a start. Usually there are other paths aside from direct conflict. Sometimes conflict is the only way. All I can hope for is the wisdom to figure out when to be a Taoist and yield before the unstoppable forces, and when to be a Celt, and dig out the fighting trousers and refuse to go quietly.

I owe the idea of Fighting Trousers to an excellent chap called Professor Elemental, who you can find on youtube, and, should. Today is not the day for donning the fighting trousers. Tomorrow, who knows?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

One response to “Fighting trousers or bending reed?

  • cadno

    I found this through a speculative google search for “druidry + taoism” – and I’m glad I did 🙂 I practised T’ai Chi as a teenager – a lovely lady in our village was a teacher – and was especially inspired by Taoism in those formative days of thinking things through. When I first encountered modern, pagan druidry, I remember thinking that it captured everything that inspired me about Taoism, without shifting the focus away from this land that I love. I still revisit Taoist ideas, without (like you) considering myself a “druidry and something” druid, and I think the reason I revisit other faiths and philosophies is that druidry places so much emphasis on finding your own way and taking responsibility for your own growth; sometimes a little inspiration from a more established path reminds me of what got me started in the first place, which helps me see the way ahead more clearly.

    Still wish I had a pair of time-travel trousers, though 🙂

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