Your superior druid, shrink wrapped

Yesterday there were debates on facebook, a question that perhaps it was not wise to ask in a public place, and a backlash. The details don’t really matter for the purposes of this post. It got me thinking, however, about those oft-recurring issues around authority in druidry. Every time our community, or some bit of it hits a crisis, someone will comment that it would be nice if there was a proper governing body to sort it all out.

This can mean one of two things. Firstly it can mean wanting someone else to shoulder the responsibility and come up with a magic fix. That’s a very simple, human response to difficulty. Sometimes we all want to be children again and to find a parent who will make it all better for us. The more troubling motivation is based on the desire to control the beliefs and behaviour of others.

I’ll freely admit I had a moment yesterday of wanting to be the one who could lay down the law and tell everyone what they ought to think, and do, and believe. I get these bouts of hypothetical megalomania, and if facebook is indicative, so does everyone else. We all know we’ve got it all figured out, we have the right way, the perfect solution, if only everyone else would listen. Except they don’t, and most of the time we’re wrong, and the ’perfect’ solution would not work for everyone.
One of the dangers on any kind of spiritual path is that you start feeling important. You know more than those around you, and this makes you a better sort of person. Being better, wiser and whatnot, you are then, in your own eyes entitled to lead. It’s not a big leap from leading to dictating. I will also admit that when I first came to druidry, many years ago, that desire to be important, special, ahead of the pack, was part of what motivated me. I wanted to matter. Again, I suspect I was pretty normal in those feelings and aspirations. I sought responsibility because I wanted opportunities to shine and impress.

The idea of being, or becoming ‘better’ is inherent in a lot of spiritual traditions. The idea of the chosen few, the special ones, the ones god will save and give the cushy afterlife to. The whole point of some forms of spirituality seems to be betterness. In being better than we were, we are surely becoming better than some of those around us. We can look at their actions for evidence of our own superior wisdom. We have the moral high ground now. It’s not a long walk from there to words like ‘master race’. Spirituality that feeds arrogance and self importance, is not really that spiritual at all, when you stop to think about it.

So I get angry and self important, like everyone else. I am thankful today that I did not say anything yesterday that I have cause to regret. The more I think about it, now that the initial frustration has passed, the clearer I am that I don’t want the responsibility of telling other people how to live their lives. I have no desire to be the person who says who can, and cannot call themselves a druid, or what druidry means, or how to teach it. I’d quite like to be part of the process that is a living and evolving tradition, but nothing more than that.

Does that make me a better sort of person than I was when I came to druidry? Can I now hold this up as proof of my improved state? Ah ha! Betterness is not about getting out front with self important titles. Betterness is all false modesty and sitting back, not getting my hands dirty and being smug at a distance. There are other daft ideas to run around, other ways to feel bigger whilst doing nothing of any great significance. Other ways of deluding the self.

Who measures the betterness? Me? A deity who might or might not exist? The druid community or its leaders, should we appoint them? And what does that betterness achieve? What happens when we make qualitative judgements about the worth of one life compared to another?
If everything has spirit, how can one manifestation of that be better or worse than any other? How can any existence be more or less valuable than another?

And yet, weigh against that the notion of excellence in all things. It is impossible to seek excellence without having some awareness of how what you do compares with what everyone else is doing. We find our goals by looking at each other. We measure ourselves by contrast. So much depends on what we want that excellence for. Do we seek it for the good of our community and the enhancement of the world, or to raise ourselves up above everyone else? That, I think, is the critical difference.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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

3 responses to “Your superior druid, shrink wrapped

  • druidcat

    Lovely! There’s also that sense of mutual happiness and achievement when you see another be or become ‘better’ at whatever they’re doing – selfishness doesn’t provide that 🙂

  • bish

    That whole post had me smiling from start to finish. Smiling with you and at me. Thank you! Sad that said debate seemed to get deleted… that wasn’t us as far as I can tell. It was a truly interesting exchange of ideas, many of which I wanted to follow up (and may still…)

    • Nimue Brown

      🙂 There are a great many things that would not work at all without someone feeling the need or inspiration to get up front and make them go. And you are without a doubt one of the least pretentious ‘glorious leaders’ I have ever encountered, and all kudos to you.

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