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.