In Defence of Pretty Things

There are people in the Pagan community who feel that we need to get away from all the lightweight fluff and focus on that which is dark and serious. In fact, so great is our need for darkness, they believe, that they will supply it by wounding, attacking, attempting to humiliate and denigrate. Now, being someone who does not believe there is a one true way, I think everyone else’s beliefs are their own business. I’m delighted to share ideas, to listen to other views, I’m always open to taking onboard new ideas, but I can’t be converted because of that ultimate disbelief about ultimate truth. I’m also not going to try and convert you, because I don’t know that there isn’t one true way and maybe you have found it – if so, all power to you. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to accept psychological violence.

I could write you thousands of words about the dark things in this world. Pain and suffering, injustice, cruelty, those who died too young and those who died too slowly. The things that went heart breakingly wrong, the beautiful places now covered in tarmac. But you know this. You know it because you have your own stories too, of things you have survived and horrors you’ve seen second hand happening to people you care about. Odds are you’ve listened to the news, and there’s material enough there for weeping over, most days. The world is not short of dark things, or of suffering.

Most of us cannot hope to make much difference in face of that. Getting up every day with the intention of doing something good is not fluffy and lightweight. It is a heroic commitment to combatting outrageous odds. It is a daily battle with apathy and despair for many of us, and yet we show up and try anyway. To take your pain and try to transmute it into beauty – as so many creative people do, is an act of courage and defiance. I have read your poems, and seen your art works. I have listened to your songs, and I know something of the bravery of inspired effort that goes on, under-recognised, day to day. It takes guts to keep doing the right things when the systems themselves create pressure to cheat, lie, abuse, crush, denigrate and generally ruin. The short cuts and easy options abound, and most of them have a dash of dishonour in the mix. The right things often call for effort, a little sacrifice, a lot of caring. Day in, and day out. Thats not fluff, it’s often the most important work we do.

I love the cute, fluffy, warm-hearted memes that float around on facebook and other such places. I love the phrases of affirmation and the pictures of pretty landscapes people post. When I am low, I go to facebook for comfort, safe in the knowledge that there will be a beautiful bit of art to look at, or a gorgeous craft item to feel inspired by, or some warm bit of humanity that someone has shared from George Takai. Best of all, there are cute pictures of cats coupled with amusing captions. A reminder that there is more to life than the darkness. That humanity is capable of loveliness in many forms. That my friends are splendid human beings who care, and who, in small gestures, are trying to contribute to the good stuff, not pile on the shit.

To people who think we need to experience more darkness, I say this. You are making assumptions. You don’t know what the rest of my life looks like, or anyone else’s. You don’t know how ‘real’ the rest of it is – you measure realness by suffering, and yet you have no way to measure what portion of pain anyone else has been served. I can only assume that people who champion darkness actually have very cossetted, comfortable lives and have yet to be broken open by something awful. If you want darkness, get off facebook, step away from the social networks and go listen to the news. Step outside somewhere you can encounter other people for real. Try looking at a swan’s nest surrounded by plastic bottles, just as a small and easy start. Try looking for a creature that is extinct already. The real world is full of pain, it is out there waiting for you and all you have to do is care enough to let it in. Better work on that than trying to put the rest of us ‘right’.

When your heart has been broken enough times, perhaps you will come to realise that sometimes, the best thing to find is a pretty thing that some other human being has seen fit to make, in defiance of the shit.

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

11 responses to “In Defence of Pretty Things

  • Woodfox

    Sometimes just being positive and happy in a world determined to bring you down is a challenge.

  • John Andersen

    Wonderfully insightful. Yes, if you want pain, the world’s systems will be happy to provide it. I, too, look to my extended FB friends as fellow travelers on this journey, capable of, and accomplishing so much more than the world would seem to allow. Let the good in and discard the rest.


  • Dawn Diaz-Ruiz

    Thank you for this!

  • cat

    What wonderful words, and so so true, thank you, I am now off to post more cute pictures of my cats with a much lighter heart!!! Lol x

  • Iodhan Silverbear

    Wow. This post makes me feel very good. I believe that there are times when sharing something that cuts you to the bone has it’s merits but when it is more doom and gloom than light and pretty it says a lot about who you are and where you are at. I happen to believe in Peak oil, the concept that our supply of oil has come to the point where we have less than half of the available resource left. It’s a hard sell and I’ve stopped going on about it for many of the reasons that you outlined above. In short, those that know me, understand my feelings about it and either don’t care, don’t believe or believe and don’t need my input to continue doing so. On the other hand, I also use facebook to communicate the things that are important to me, the issues that I feel have merit. Social networking can be a powerful tool for that though I don’t get the impression that’s what you are talking about. I feel good because I have embraced the earth. I do what I can to reduce my energy consumption and I try not to browbeat people into doing what I do. What I do is a personal choice that I hope others will make but do not expect them to.

    I have had my run ins with this type of thing before though. I used to have a tumblr blog and once I had the audacity to express my disappointment over someone cursing another person because they hated that person so much. Big mistake, I was made to feel that they have every right to hate someone and use ritual magick to make them pay. My objection to the practice notwithstanding (perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut but hating someone for stealing your parking space in a mall seems a bit over the top to me), I was summarily denigrated by the other Pagans on that site in such fashion that it was made clear to me there would be a voodoo doll with my name on it should I fail to mind my own business. I cancelled the account more because I realized that the maturity level of the people I was dealing was a bit more on the juvenile side than I expected. Again, judgement on my part, summary execution of my opinion on theirs. Sometimes the loudest voices are the ones that have nothing good to say. Cheers to another great post!

  • deb

    Wonderfully said.

  • Alex Jones

    Truth is relative, but the truth of nature that can be observed and demonstrated seems a good foundation to build truth.

    Nature does not exist in Facebook, it is the junk yard of human detritus, people who rather live in a world of rainbows and unicorns than in the hard reality of nature.

    If an individual is pagan or Druid then nature is the foundation for truth in my opinion. Nature delivers on a plate to you death, violence and sex, these are three hardcore truths. The fourth that can equally be hard is I struggle to find words to describe… renewal, becoming, what you are doing now.

    Be in the middle of a dark forest in the dead of night on your own, lost, then you will see the reality of nature, and then most will run screaming for the security of their beloved Facebook.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve walked forests in the dark, and I’m night blind. I know about pain and darkness, I’ve bled enough and prayed to die enough. I’d rather be in the spaces where there is love and inspiration, and there can be a lot of inspiration online. Furthermore, I would never look at another human being and assume their love of the cute represents a lack of knowledge of the other stuff. I know too many people who I have seen crawling through hell when bits of their lives fell apart, and who come back and make fairies, and cupcakes and draw pretty things.

  • Inhabitant of the fairy forest

    […] /* */ /* */ In Defence of Pretty Things […]

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