Posts Tagged ‘john beckett’

I’m a regular reader of John Michael Greer’s blog The Archdruid Report. I’m also a regular reader of John Beckett’s Under the Ancient Oaks. I’m going to refer to them as JMG and JB because they are both named John. (If your name is John and I should be reading your blog too, leave a comment.)

JMG’s is the Archdruid of AODA, and his blog is about peak oil, sustainability, and the decline and fall of “Western Civilization” (Depending on how you define that) especially what we see of it here in the United States.  It comes as no surprise that when I read his posts on Thursday mornings (or Fridays, depending), there will be discussions about civilization in decline, what you can do about it (hint: not much other than try to be prepared), and the wry amusement one can derive from other such topics.

JB is an OBOD Druid, and his posts usually have a more spiritual tack. But recently, he’s been talking about decline, sustainability, and what we as pagans can do for the future as well.

It’s got me thinking. I work in the Oil and Gas industry, and there’s a whole lot of head-in-the-sand thinking that goes on around here. The industry is contracting, even as more oil floods the market, and the side of the business I work in (consulting) is getting squeezed on price and scope pretty hard. (My husband works in Aerospace – a similarly challenging industry in the face of peak oil.)

I also drive 35 miles each way, in traffic, to get to the office. I drive a small, efficient car that I keep in good repair, but it’s still about 10-12 gallons of gas a week. I try to telecommute when I can, but that’s hard in an office where they expect you to show up for all the meetings.

I also live in a house that’s got a lot of windows, no longer has shade trees over the roof, and is fairly poorly insulated (though I’m trying to convince my husband to re-do the insulation and help me line the blinds to help with the windows).

On the other hand, I grow some of my own food, preserve my own vegetables and jams and pickles, and own both a sewing machine and a spinning wheel. There are good solid survival skills there.

I just can’t help but wonder what this is all going to look like in 5, 15, 25 years. I’m 31 years old – if I’m lucky, I have at least another 40 years on this earth. What is that earth going to look like as I age? (I don’t have kids, and don’t intend to, but I am an auntie, and I do care a lot about what kinds of things I’m handing down to the next generation.)

The system that eventually replaces [the current one] will not be designed through a consensus process, nor will it be debated and adopted through a democratic vote.  It will evolve over many years through billions of decisions made by millions of people.  Those decisions will reflect their hopes, fears, dreams, and especially their values.

This is where we can make a difference for our descendants:  by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come – and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made.  – JB

So how does My Druidry, and Our Druidry – if I’m talking about our protogrove and study group – handle the big questions like this. Surely we can go on having high day rituals and doing park clean-up days and not really tackle any of these big questions. ADF certainly doesn’t force us to. But I WANT to tackle these questions.

What will our community look like as the world changes? What choices will people make about coming to ritual when it means driving an hour or more to get there (Houston is a REALLY FUCKING BIG city)? What choices will people make when it comes to educating their children, to participating in a wider community?

What is the role of a priest in all this?

Obviously the role of a priest is not to quit my job and live under a bridge, or try to turn my (poorly drained) back yard into a farm, or get kicked out of my house for owning chickens (which is against the community association). As much as I’d like to go “off the grid” that comes with its own risks and serious consequences.

I need to explore more on the side of things I can actually do, rather than deciding it’s all too big a change and abandoning the idea. The world is going to change whether I’m in on it or not, and choosing to opt out of preparing for it just means the crash will come all the harder.

A living example.  People will figure out how to live without oil in a hostile climate – necessity is the mother of invention.  But figuring out how to live well in an era where the material standard of living is in constant decline?  That’s a much harder task.  As people are looking around for ideas and suggestions, what can we show them?  Not what we can tell them, but what we can show them by our living examples.

Let’s demonstrate reverence for Nature now.  Let’s build strong, vibrant communities now – and let’s support them even when it’s not cheap and easy.  Let’s honor our ancestors now.

Living a life that requires less stuff won’t preserve Western culture – nothing we can do will accomplish that.  Consumer culture is inherently unsustainable and it is going to collapse.  But if we’re that dissatisfied with mainstream culture – and I certainly am – let’s start building a better culture that is sustainable right here right now.  -JB

*For those curious about Cat Vacuuming, a good definition is here. You could probably make a case that this post is the exact opposite of Cat Vacuuming, but it’s become a good mental shorthand for “mental meanderings” and it makes me laugh.

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“Cat hoovering (also Cat vacuuming) – 1. any excuse to avoid writing, even vacuuming the cat (Gerri); 2. A pointless exercise used to avoid real work. (HughSider)”

I was reading this article by John Beckett (if you don’t read his blog, you should) on what priests are and aren’t. He said the following:

A priest serves as an exemplar.  He should model the behaviors and lifestyles he advocates.  He is human and will not be perfect in any of this, but he should strive to live a life in alignment with his highest values and in the spirit of the Gods and Goddesses he serves.  Or, to borrow a phrase from my Baptist childhood:  “practice what you preach.”

A priest will be a counselor.  Show a little competency in leadership and begin exemplifying the Divine to any extent and people will begin telling you more than you want to know about themselves.  One of the most valuable services a priest can provide is simply to listen and be an unanxious presence.

While a proper mixture of divination, prayer, ritual, and counseling can be helpful, a priest can’t solve people’s problems for them.  What he can do is to be with them and support them until they can solve their problems themselves.  A priest must also recognize the limits of his expertise – is what you’re hearing a spiritual problem or is it mental illness?  A priest must know when to say “I can’t help you – you need to see a mental health professional.”

A priest serves as an organizer.  He should make sure the trains run on time:  rituals are performed, offerings are made, classes are held, this-world actions are taken.  A priest doesn’t have to do all that himself (nor should he, in most cases), but he should make sure his religious community does the things it needs to do.  People can – and should, and at least occasionally – be allowed to fail.  Communities can never be allowed to fail.

Now, to start all this off – IANAP. I am not a priest. (or a priestess.) I am a Druid, and an ADF dedicant, and a student working towards Initiation. After which I intend to do at least the first circle of clergy training, so someday I will (maybe) be a priest.

However, I’m doing a lot of things that are similar to the work of priests right now (as would anyone who is in a position of leadership in a pagan group), and gradually getting more and more familiar with that role. But it’s a hard one, and one that I contemplate a lot. I don’t know if I have the personality or the credentials to do this “right.”

And I’d be lying if I said that my mental illness didn’t sometimes factor into my worries about my future in ADF. There’s a reason I started with the IP – Initiates are called to individual service, where Priests are called to community service. Individual service lets me set more boundaries to my own availability and time.

Plus? I’m a human being. I screw up. I get frustrated and say angry things that I don’t mean, or use a tone of voice that makes people feel defensive and hurt. I’ve only been working in an ADF community role for about 9 months, and I’ve already done that at least once that I am aware of. I haven’t had the chance to make amends about it either. (Having done so makes me feel doubly unqualified to do this work.)

I know this is what the virtues are for. They are guides, things to strive for, things to judge my actions against. Have I been a good host? Have I been a person of integrity? Have I shown wisdom? What is my vision? I know I did a bunch of essays on this in my dedicant work, but somehow I still feel like I’m redefining and reimagining those things in my life. As a solitary, the virtues were very personal, and were thus much easier to write about. In a position of leadership (even of a small group), the virtues get stickier. How do I maintain my focus and still be open to others? How do I maintain the traditions of the group but allow for change and growth? How do I respect that my local group has been around for 10 years (but not had much/any growth) but still convince them that growth is possible?

Yngvi would say (and has said) “We do the best we can with what we have, and the rest will follow.” And he’s right, but there’s a lot of in between to that kind of thing. Plus it’s getting hard to juggle supporting the protogrove, planning lessons for the study group (which includes dedicant mentoring), my increasingly complex daily practice, and my own studies on the IP. I’ve completed two courses, and I’m tackling the journaling portions of Liturgy Practicum and Divination II right now, plus the reading for I-E Studies (which will probably be my next submission). Things have changed rapidly from my writing some essays over a year into Druidry taking up a big chunk of my life – which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something to think about. (And maybe think about ways to maintain my identity as a person who is more than just a Druid.)

I’m probably thinking too hard about this, but it feels like I’ve gone from being someone who can do as she pleases with very little or no ramifications to anyone else to someone who is now *responsible* for stuff. And I dunno if I always like that feeling. But then, I also know I get a lot of fulfillment out of the work I do for the study group and the protogrove, so perhaps it’s a trade off. It’s one I think I’m glad I’ve made, but sometimes it’d be nice to not have to think deeply about every action, and just fly by the seat of my pants for a bit.

Lots of thoughts, not all of them productive, I’m sure.

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