Category Archives: community

Druid Community

Is there such a thing as Druid community? It’s a question I’ve revisited repeatedly. I’ve been a member of The Druid Network and Henge of Keltria – my inclusion or exclusion dependant largely on whether I am willing to pay for membership. Technically I will always be a member of OBOD, but unless I pay for the magazine, I don’t have much direct contact. I believe there are boards I could use, but I spend too much time online as it is. Experience of physically meeting up in groves and groups has also demonstrated to me how easy it is to come in, and to leave.

Communities have to have permeable edges. If people can’t come in, or move on, then you have something stagnant and unhealthy. But at the same time I think that it’s too easy to solve things by leaving, by letting people leave, and thus by not really sorting things out at all.

For me, community means working together to maintain relationships. It’s not simply paying to access the same space, or temporary allegiances. Community means dealing in some way with our conflicts, differing needs, issues and so forth, rather than rejecting anyone who isn’t a neat fit outright. How far we are willing to go to include and to look after each other is a question I think we need to be asking.

Thanks to the internet, and to modern transport most of us aren’t obliged to deal with the Druids around us. There are no real pressures on us to work together. And if the ‘problem’ just leaves, problem solved! I think in this way, Druids are simply reflecting the rest of how things work generally. We move on, we leave jobs, we move away from difficult neighbours, we cut off friends we’ve fallen out with… These are all things that individuals in conflict have little scope of handling well.

Peace is something we talk about a lot around Druidry, but it’s not something we all practice. We don’t all seek peaceful resolutions for each other. We don’t all tend to intervene to resolve things, we often just let the problem move on, or encourage it to. Let the awkward person go somewhere else. Let the person who lost the argument quit.

Mediation is hard work. It can call for challenging people, and for investing time, care and effort in trying to resolve things. To do it, we’d have to really care about each other… like we were some kind of community or something.

(I expect there are Druid communities out there that do this for each other, but mostly my experience has been of the other sort of thing.)


Tips for Collaborating

I’ve done a lot of working with other people – I’ve co-written, been illustrated, written for comics and done a lot of music with people. Collaborations have the potential to result in something that is more than the sum of its parts, if you can get them to work. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Are you thinking about a single project, or a working relationship? Either is fine, but it helps to be clear about your intentions at the beginning. Your intentions may of course change as things develop. Stay clear about them.

Pick people whose work you love, and who love your work. Collaborating is about letting something new emerge. If you don’t love each other’s stuff and don’t respect each other as creators, it won’t work.

You have to make room for the other person’s creativity and accept that they will do things you never imagined. I find this really exciting, but it is also a loss of control. If you want to be in control you’ll end up with people who work for you and that’s not the same as collaborating.

Pay attention to how risk is shared out between collaborators. Does more of the cost (of money or time) fall on one person more than another? How can you balance that out to keep things equitable?

Know your own boundaries and respect other people’s. Especially with reference to the time and money you are able to invest in a project.

Be ready to really listen to your collaborators. Be open to negotiation. Don’t expect it to work by magic.

It may not work perfectly straight off. That’s not necessarily a problem. You may need to invest more time in figuring out how to work together to best effect.

If working with someone inspires and encourages you, that’s excellent. It could turn out to be tiring, demoralising and a grind. Some of this depends on finding the right people, but it also depends on being the sort of person who thrives on working with others. You may not be who you think you are, and some things you only find out by doing them. Mistakes are essential, room for mistakes even more so. Never get so attached to the idea of collaborating, or a specific collaboration that you can’t consider it properly.


Eternal Student

Is there a point where we can rest on our laurels and feel that we know it all? Obviously not, because there’s far more to learn than any one person can know. Is there a point when we know enough that we can consider ourselves an authority and not study further? Then it gets interesting.

Of course the most obvious risk if you stop studying is that what you know becomes out of date. Other younger, sharper, hungrier creatures will outlearn you and pass you by. You’ll become irrelevant. The applications for this in any aspect of work are pretty obvious, but it’s easy to think that in spiritual matters, the person who has it figured out doesn’t need to keep on sitting in the student seats.

The person who knows it all, who is wise and enlightened and really spiritual, doesn’t need to keep studying. Or so it may seem. There’s a point of achievement imaginable that says now you are the authority, the guru, others should learn from you now. For me, that’s a bit of a warning sign. I don’t think any of us humans ever get to be so clever and wise that we have nothing more to learn. I do think there’s something distinctly off when people aren’t excited enough to want to learn.

To learn is to admit that you didn’t already know. Or that you weren’t the best you could be. It requires a healthy ego, able to aspire, rather than fragile and unable to admit there’s more to do. To my mind, being human means there’s always more scope. There’s something very healthy about taking off the authority, the teaching role, the status, and rocking up somewhere as a student. It’s releasing. It allows us all to be imperfect works in progress. Also, learning new stuff is great fun.

I read other authors to learn from them. I’m going to some writing workshops this summer because I know I’ll learn things by doing that. I’m doing a free online course in eco-linguistics. I like picking up new craft skills when I can. I like the challenge of learning a new job.

I also really like what happens when, within a community, people pass the ‘teacher’ hat round and take it in turns to hold temporary authority. I like it when everyone is able to sit down and listen to someone else’s teaching. I like how it reduces feelings of hierarchy, superiority and power over, and increases feelings of mutual respect and recognition.


Etiquette and bodies that don’t conform

Manners are nothing more than a set of rules for social situations. The function of a lot of these rules has nothing to do with making social situations flow smoothly, and everything to do with demonstrating that you know the rules.

If something that constitutes good manners could equally be expressed as kindness, and being nice to people, then there’s no issue. Once we get into which fork to use first, and how to eat a banana with said fork, the only point is to demonstrate that enough time and money has been thrown at you to turn you into the sort of person who can eat a banana with a fork, and that you are therefore not a commoner.

I’m a commoner, so, sod that stuff!

What troubles me, is that so often, ‘manners’ are full of assumptions about the kind of body you have. I was sat in the dining room at a school my son attended some years ago, and there was a poster about the proper and polite way to hold a cup. You have to do it daintily, by the handle. You must not grip it in your fist. I have an intermittent shake, and nothing sets it off like overloading a few fingers. If I hold a cup daintily, the odds of my daintily spraying everyone with coffee in a sudden hand judder, are pretty good. I consider it better manners to hold the cup in my hand, or in two hands on really bad days, and not oblige anyone else to wear my beverage.

It’s a small example, but it illustrates the point. The more assumptions there are around acceptable manners about what a body can be asked to do, the more people it excludes. The more demanding the manners are, the more people are pushed out, socially embarrassed, made to feel awkward over things they have no control over. For every daft rule about what we’re supposed to do at the dinner table, there will be people whose bodies really can’t work that way.

My personal standards are based on kindness and utility, not any desire to prove my ‘breeding’. On those terms, I can’t think of many things that are ruder and less polite than shaming people for not being able to jump through pointless etiquette hoops.


Celebrity fundraisers and why they suck

Before I get into the proper ranting, I should mention the things that do not annoy me. Namely, when a person with a public profile uses their platform to draw attention to an issue, or a cause. Most usually this happens because the celebrity has been touched by the problem in some way, and is thus able to speak about it meaningfully, creating empathy and increasing understanding. There are too many causes and issues in the world for anyone to keep up to date with, raising awareness is useful work.

I’ll cite as an example the steady supply of famous people willing to speak up for trees, and write articles for The Woodland Trust’s magazine.

Celebrity fundraisers on the other hand, aren’t always about awareness. They are at least as likely to focus on something we all knew about already. The fundraising may work out primarily as a PR move for the celeb who wishes to be seen as kind, helpful and all that, and who can generate a great deal of low cost publicity for themselves by latching on to some recent tragedy and raising money for it.

Which brings me to my second area of issue: People with a lot of money fundraising by helping people with considerably less money give some of it to those who have little or nothing. Why not just write a cheque? And of course some of the wealthy and famous of the world do simply get their wallets out rather than milking it for attention, but the truth is that poor people give more as a percentage of what they (we) have to begin with.

Now, it may be that fundraising is only part of what’s going on. I offer the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert and Ariana Grande’s recent benefit concert as examples of events where raising money was part of the mix, not the whole project. In both cases these were events about remembering the dead, Freddie Mercury’s tribute was about raising awareness of and de-stigmatising Aids, and in the second example, it was also a push back against what had happened. At which point, why not do some fundraising at the same time?

By contrast, doing a charity fundraising single in the wake of a disaster, can be seen as cashing in on the suffering of others to raise your own profile.

One of the great things about not having a television, is that fundraising marathons like Comic Relief and Children In Need now pass me by, but I’ve seen bits of them when younger. People with more wealth than I’ll see in my lifetime getting on the screen to encourage the audience to donate. It’s not a good thing. Surely it should fall to those who have most, to give most? Surely it should be people who have far more than they need who pick up the tab for helping those in crisis? Surely those who can easily afford it should be the ones to fund the needful things? I think we have to stop rewarding them for ‘helping’ us help each other.


Reblog – floating

Not so long ago I suggested people could flag up posts to re-blog, and I’ve had this lovely suggestion to share a post on – Evie Patterson’s  Floating from A Light In The Mist. As it’s a blogspot site, I can only emulate the reblog function, so I’ll give you the first couple of paragraphs as sample, and then the link across. Enjoy!

Floating

It’s amazing what a release of strain it can be to move with the undercurrent of life. Not being swept away by it, not being tossed in opposition to it, but genuinely moving with it.

This is not to say the undercurrent holds only hues of negativity. Strain can follow in the wake of the positive just as well, but often people can become so caught up in the sense of difference from the more easily recognizable negative that they cling to it. Though a relief, this mental and emotional intoxication can also blind and numb the perception of reality that may be necessary for the placement of the next sure step.

The positive and the negative should be able to move in and out of life with the same ease as inhaling and then exhaling. Like breath, these moments are necessary to move forward, to think, to feel, to live. However, if you held onto any of these beyond their necessary purpose, like holding a breath, it can become toxic.

Politics without borders

I thought I’d write about this because it’s something cheering and hopeful, and I think we could all do with a bit more of that!

Not so long ago, I shared a petition relating to UK politics, it was shared by someone not in the UK with a comment that they might have online friends to whom it would be relevant. I see this all the time. I’ve signed petitions to challenge coral reef destruction, and rainforest logging and many other things of that ilk. I’ve signed LGBTQ petitions to try and defend the human rights of people in other countries. All over the world, politics is crossing borders.

This is a wonderful thing. It’s a recognition that our shared planet and shared humanity are real, whereas borders and countries are just ideas we had. The great evils cross borders – pollution, climate change, loss of resources, extinctions, oppression, exploitation – these are not issues for single countries, but for all of us. What happens in one place can and does affect us all.

The internet is a mixed blessing, but without a doubt, the power to connect with activists around the world, to share issues that aren’t on our own doorsteps, to support causes and actions without borders is an amazing thing. Funds can be raised internationally to get things done – be that adverts, paying for lawyers, answering aid needs or anything else productive. Information, knowledge, tactics and successes are shared, because those cross borders with ease, too.

Increasingly there are people who are citizens of the world, who will challenge injustice, exploitation and destruction any place that needs fighting with whatever means they have to do so. That’s exciting. That’s a radical change with massive implications. It’s worth taking a moment to pause and savour it.


Community and Creativity

Every now and then I get to write the acknowledgement section for a book, and I usually start it by saying that no book is written in isolation. You’ll find a number of books that specifically mention how important this blog is in my writing process. These are workouts, tests, development sessions, they help me build towards those bigger projects. The feedback I get here enlarges my knowledge, broadens my perspective.

Of course it’s not just books. We are all doing whatever we do in a wider context. Most of us are supported or encouraged, or inspired by some else. Most of us are interacting with others, in whatever way makes sense. We’re engaging with other people who do the things we do so that our work is rooted, and relevant. We don’t have to slavishly copy what everyone else is doing but at the same time… books by authors who have read nothing in their field are easy to spot, and seldom good to read.

In any project, we stand, if not on the shoulders of giants, then on the shoulders of our many ancestors of tradition. It’s interesting to think about who they are and what they have given us.

I’m very, very lucky in that I belong to a number of creative communities that support me and give me places to put down roots. Moon Books, my Pagan publisher, is very much a community of writers and fellow travellers. I feel connected to the wider Pagan community, too. I feel a strong sense of connection with the Steampunk community, it inspires me, and means there’s a group of people I feel I’m creating things for. There’s comics community, and folk community and local community and these are all part of my mix as well.

What’s proved even more powerful for me is to be a part of a creative community that shares – be that in gathering together to air poems, stories and music, or co-creating art, or passing written texts back and forth. People who are willing to make larger and deeper connections around creative process. You can read Kevan Manwaring’s It Takes a Village to Raise a Story – about a project I’ve been involved in recently.  It’s an excellent reflection on collective creativity.

I’m also in the process of building a collective creative space, as hopelessmaine.com slowly draws people in to its dark and crazy world. People are coming to it from all the places I call home, and that’s heart warming. It’s important that there be safe spaces for people to stretch and develop, and this is one such.

The image of the lone genius, set apart from the world, making their thing in isolation, is not a healthy image. It’s not a sane image, or an image that offers the creator much joy or comfort. Some of us do need to retreat to the high tower now and then, but if there’s no one waiting for you to come out bearing the fruits of your labours, it is a sad and lonely sort of business. It’s a lot easier to keep creating when someone else believes in what you’re doing, and when what you are doing is part of some greater whole.


Dear Three Thousand

As I write this, there are very slightly more than three thousand of you signed up to get this blog as an email. So first up, a big thank you to everyone who has supported me by deciding to come along on this madcap adventure. Some of you have been with me from the very early days and have stuck it out, and that means a great deal to me. Others of you I hope to get more familiar with through comments and so forth as we progress.

If you ever find I’ve not explored something in enough detail, if you think I’ve got it wrong, or haven’t gone far enough or missed an aspect, please, please comment. It really helps when people chip in to expand the conversation and share details I don’t have, and rare is the post that wouldn’t benefit from this (probably just the poems!)

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all that I do take guest blogs, I reblog, and I support Druid/Pagan projects, cool creative stuff and interesting authors. If you could use this platform, just leave a comment on a post or one of the pages and I’ll see it and email you. If I can help, I will.

I don’t and won’t ask for donations. I write this blog because it is something I can give, and I enjoy it and I think it helps achieve things I want to get done. And it’s way cheaper than therapy. If at any point you feel an urge to be supportive back, buy a book. I google really well, I have all kinds of books. But at the same time, one of the reasons I blog is that I know full well that not everyone can afford books, and if that’s you, please know that you are totally welcome to rock up here and take what’s offered and feel no guilt. I believe in gift economy, this blog is something I can put in the collective hat.

I had a great idea about hunting around online to find some exciting example of what a group of 3000 people have achieved in some context or another. Unfortunately all I found were articles where 3000 had been the death toll, and lots and lots of facebook hiring people. So there we go, there are no easy precedents to work with. Perhaps that means something!

Thank you for coming here, thank you for staying, thank you for everything you share. Onwards!


Mapping the territory

For some years now I’ve been interested in mapping the things that we don’t normally make maps of. I ran into the idea first in Jane Meredith’s Journey to the Dark Goddess where she talks about mapping the journey to help others find their way.

Sometimes, all we have is our own story about an experience. How big, important, unusual it seems may be entirely due to having no map. Further, without a map of some sort, where do we go in the new territory we’ve entered? Much of our standard mapping comes from the cultures we inhabit – consider the romance map, the maps we have for success which are all about owning big shiny things. There was a period when politicians liked to talk about their moral compass, but a compass without a map is of limited use and a direction that makes good sense in one context won’t always work the same way in another.

At the moment most of my personal mapping has to do with the body. I’m looking at the diversity of how bodies work, and the narrow path we give as the map for what we are supposed to do. What helps with this is when people share their stories with me. I’ve found putting things on facebook and on here is really effective for generating stories. Of course there are always people who respond to questions by feeling the need to tell me what to do, which is less helpful. That kind of response comes, I think when we assume the map to be small, and one person’s experience likely equates to what everyone else gets.

When we share stories about life experience, what rapidly emerges is the diversity. I’ve been talking about what we eat, and body size and stress, and exercise, and the breadth of what people want, what they need, what worked for them – we are so incredibly different. We can learn a lot from each other without having to succumb to the idea of total similarity.

When you offer the map of your own terrain (here’s what happened to me, here’s what I did, here’s what happened next) the person gifted with your map is free to take up any bits that connect to their map, and not explore territory that isn’t theirs. There’s no judgement implicit in saying ‘this is what happened to me’. There’s none of the power-over that comes with saying ‘this is what you should do’. We’re entitled to our own choices, even the bad ones. I’ve been round this with the issue of heavy periods, told I should get myself medicated into not having a problem – it is useful to know the medication exists, it is essential to have the right not to have to normalise my body on those terms.

A year ago, when deep in depression I asked how you tell when to seek antidepressants. A great many generous people shared their stories with me about what they had done and why, and as I worked through that, it became apparent to me that medication wasn’t the answer I needed. There have always been people keen to tell me that medication was the answer for me, but I’ve found the answer is to deal with the underlying causes, and that’s working well, finally. What the majority of people on or who had used antidepressants told me was that it gave them the time and space to sort out the issues. Not a magic cure, just a holding place. It only works as a cure for the people whose issues are fundamentally chemical in nature. That’s some of us, not all of us.

When we share our stories, we help each other put experience into context, and that can make it far easier to make sense of what’s going on. So, a big thank you to everyone here on the blog and out there on other social media, coming back with stories and insights, and to everyone blogging your own maps of the territories you have encountered.