This was originally published in Shining Lakes News, Summer Solstice 2003. Sorry I’m resorting to a reprint, but I’ve been ill today. Something new next week, I promise!
Echo: In ancient Greek myth, she was a mountain nymph whose misplaced love of the self-absorbed Narcissus made her pine away until nothing was left of her but her voice. We now use her name to refer to sounds that we hear repeated. And there’s a sound that I’ve heard so often-in voice and in the high-pitched hum of the computer monitor-that I can safely call it an echo. It’s the sound of someone asking, “Why can’t SLG and ADF be more spiritual?”
“Now, I don’t want to go off on a rant here,” as that TV host with the obscure references always says. Unlike him, though, I won’t just rant about this again. Anyone who’s read this newsletter or talked to me about this in person already knows durn well how I feel about this: that the Grove’s spiritual needs are being better met than its organizational needs, and that this misplaced focus reminds me of someone who stays up all night long playing video games or on-line chatting without any regard for their need to sleep or eat. (Okay, maybe I can identify with that a little.) It’s fun and fulfilling in several ways, but unless you take care of the physical needs you won’t have much energy for the spiritual ones. But you’ve heard it before, and I’m as tired of saying it as I bet you are of hearing and reading it. So I’ve decided to try something new.
Every time someone gives me that line, I have the same question rolling around in my head. “What exactly do you mean by “more spiritual”? I’ve learned a few things during my 13 years as a neo-Pagan, and one thing I know about the neo-Pagan definition of “spirituality” is that there ain’t no such thing. No single thing, in any case.
In a very loose sense, I would define it as “any practice that brings one into contact with the Kindreds.” Even if we agree to that definition, though, how do we do that? A monk might do it by taking a vow of silence; a Free Baptist might do it by singing a gospel song at the top of her voice. For a Buddhist, it might be sitting quietly and meditating; for a follower of the Norse gods, it might be running around a paintball field screaming at his opponents. For a Thelemite, it can mean self-improvement; for many others (and maybe that Thelemite as well), it can mean helping others. So don’t assume that I know what you mean when you say you want things to be more spiritual. For all I know, you want to want to organize a food drive by shooting paintballs at people while singing.
So if we can’t agree on a definition, is all hope lost? Of course not. This is a polytheistic group, and where there are many gods, there are many ways of getting things done. The key here, I think, is that we need to know what you want to do. I see my role as Senior Druid as one in which I help Grove members find ways to fulfill their spiritual needs. I’m not someone who’s going to come to your house and spoon-feed you “spirit,” nor should I be. Remember, if you think something is a good spiritual activity, other people in SLG and the local community may agree with you, and isn’t the point of being in a group like this that you can do these things with other people instead of doing them alone in the corner of your living room?
Now I know that people sometimes don’t feel comfortable telling me what they want when they think I won’t agree with them, and sometimes even when they think I will agree. Yes, I know I look a lot like Shrek (too bad I can’t pull candles out of my ears, though; they would make great fundraising items), but I really do want to know what the needs of my Grove are. Honest. Cross my heart and swear to Athena. Consider this article a coupon. Your
Show it to me at any Grove event, or just e-mail me, and use it. Tell me you want a monthly yoga meeting. Tell me you want to do full moon rituals. Tell me you want to organize a summer trip to some neat and exciting place. Tell me you want to organize a food drive by shooting paintballs at people while singing. (And that’s something I would volunteer for!) I may not agree with your idea, but I want to hear it. Really, what’s the worst thing I could say? Easy — I could say, “That’s a great idea, you should help us make that happen.” And that’s when you’ll know that maybe being spiritual and being well-administrated and organized aren’t the opposites you thought they were.
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF