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Hiding in Plan site
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: PAGANS DOING GOOD IN THE DOMINANT CULTURE:
"Let the beauty we love, be what we do" - Rumi
There are many Pagan people who avoid the dysfunctional Pagan groups and many who are naturally solitary who still choose to work for the good of all. These folks will often choose to do their community work with mundane groups.
Some of these people choose to become active in interfaith work. Others volunteer with animal rescue efforts or environmental causes. Some choose to work with social or charity organizations (such as battered women's shelters) or become involved in political causes (such as voter registration drives). Others choose to work with their local schools, educational foundations, or groups that support reading and the arts. Others among us have their hands full trying to raise healthy, happy, creative, free thinking children in a culture that teaches just the opposite. These folks tend to operate on the idea that they have more in common with a healthy, functional Buddhist or (gasp!) a progressive Christian than they do with the dysfunctional Pagans down the block. One community activist named DragonLady wrote this:
I work with many good Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist people within the Feminist and the Ecology movements. I see these people working at women's shelters and soup kitchens, lending a hand on coastal clean up days and volunteering in our local animal shelters and I choose to stand with anyone who does this sort of work and who respects my rights. What they do matters. What they call their deity, or whether they even have one, makes no difference to me at all.
There are positives and negatives to living in-cognito. As long as solitary, functional Pagans choose to keep their identity under wraps, their skills, example, and wisdom are lost to the larger Pagan community. However, they still serve as public examples of Pagan Pride, they just prefer to do this one-on-one, and among those co-workers and friends they trust. Happily for us, they continue to do good work and we all benefit from this. We refer to them as The Great Hearts. May the Goddess bless and keep them.
FUNCTIONAL PAGAN ORGANIZATIONS - YES, VIRGINIA, THEY DO EXIST:
"You know, it's kind of fun to do the impossible"
Functional Pagan organizations, (both large and small) face a unique set of challenges. In the last 12 years I've worked (and become acquainted) with several Pagan groups which truly empower people. Ironically, they do this so well, that often the core staff work with them for a year or two, learn what they needed to learn, gain new powers, confidence, experience and friends, and then go on to fulfill their personal dreams. This leaves the Mother Group with an immense sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, and pride and the problem of replacing really good, hard working people. Such people do not grow on trees. But they are out there. I know this because I've had the privilege of working these last five years with some of our best very and brightest.
In Part I of "It's A Mystery" I said this:
"Some exceptions to this lack of any real Pagan community can be found among a small number of well-run Pagan festivals, groups and events, often as not, among the dedicated volunteers. These folks tend to be funny, tough minded survivors, the kind of people you'll also find working in a MASH unit or teaching kids or working in the theatre; you'll find them pretty much any place that requires both practical talent and true grit. "
(For further information on this subject, read Professor Sarah Pike's insightful anthropological study titled Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the
Search for Community.)
If we want real community and we have something to offer, then now is the time to step up. I recommend that volunteers do their homework and find a group that a) supports what they care and about and b) is functional, well organized and fair minded. A volunteer should come prepared to play well with others and be willing to follow through on their commitments. If you are interested in becoming either a Pagan Organizer or a volunteer, I recommend reading my essay titled "Pagan Doers: How To Get Things Done".
For the sake of this discussion, I will point out some key points contained in Pagan Doers.
Over time, we've found others who share the vision and, equally important, they are people who share our work ethic. . . . We always knew in our hearts that responsible Pagans were out there and they've proved that to us.
Flaky people are everywhere, not just in the Pagan community. Alas, they are often the most charming and enthusiastic people we encounter.
Some people come to us and want to give us their power. To this we say "Thanks, but no thanks". None of us want to be Gurus. We believe that being Pagan means accepting responsibility for yourself, your actions and for the quality of your life. We believe that it means claiming your own power and not giving it over to someone else. Ideally, it also means that you use your power to better the world you live in. That's what Pagan Doers do.
Not everyone has healthy tools placed in their Life's Toolbox during childhood. Some of us have to add them in as adults. I know many Pagans who can claim to have 50 books on ritual techniques in their library but they don't own a single book on conflict resolution. I believe that this is one reason why so many Pagan groups don't last. So, I ask our people to read books on subjects such as Active Listening, Positive Confrontation, Codependency & Dysfunctional Family Systems, Group Dynamics, Stress & Anger Management & Effective Management Techniques.
When we do use a title such as "Leader" we have a Wyrd way of defining it. A "Leader" at Full Circle is the one you see doing the donkeywork. This comes as a shock to some people. We've had folks approach us who want to have all the "fun" of leading, that is, they want to pick and choose all the interesting tasks for themselves and they want to have other people do the dull and boring jobs. Other types think that leading means telling other people what to do and doing nothing at all themselves. Here at Full Circle we think differently. We think that being in charge of something means that you do the most work of anyone in your group. It means you're the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. You do whatever needs doing. If that means you clean the toilets before an event, then so be it. Don't laugh, I've done that. The closest I've ever gotten to holding a Staff of Office is that toilet brush.
Here at Full Circle we have always insisted on things like accountability, responsibility, and kindness. We also have a wicked sense of humor and a collective bit of life wisdom. Using these, we were able to support one another (sometimes as friends, sometimes as colleagues, often as both) through some very rough times. (6) Are we perfect? Gods, no! Have there been tensions or disagreements among us? Well, sure, we're only human. But we do our best to work out any conflicts with honestly and respect. We also believe in empowering others, and in sharing responsibility so our more experienced staff members often act as mentors to the new folks. This means that the work we do at Full Circle is mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging.
We've been lucky because we tend to attract people who are willing to do their emotional homework, and who recognize the need for healthy boundaries. This wasn't easy, and in some cases it took us ten years of going to various Pagan events for us to find each other. I should also note that by the end of 2004, the staff was profoundly tired from five years of active service here at FCE. Last year, I choose to use my winter meditations to do some inner work and discover what was next for us. These essays (specifically the section coming up titled "What Pagan Doers Are Doing Now") come out of these meditations.
4/29/2006, 2:03 pm
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