Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Know the Gods

Showering Epiphany #12

I hear people wondering about how to build a meaningful relationship with the Gods. How do I pick a God to worship? How do I get to know that God? If I never see Her/Him, how can I know I'm not just talking to myself?

We all carry a Divine Spark that comes from the Gods. You have it, I have it, they have it. Pagans and non-Pagans, theists and atheists, every living creature, and even the stones. They all carry a spark of that Divine essence and it's right there, at your fingertips. It is this common spark that ties us together, and in turn, ties us to the Gods, and then binds the Gods to us.

Did the Gods create the people, or did the people create the Gods? The answer is Yes. We need the Gods and the Gods need us. We sustain each other via the common Divine Spark.

So if you are looking to build a meaningful relationship with the Gods (whichever Gods you choose), you can start by building meaningful relationships with the closest, most relate-able form of Divinity: the People.

Paganism has this popular notion that our spirituality is a personal journey: that we build personal relationship with our Gods. And while this is somewhat true, we still need each other to complete that journey. If you want more Divinity in your life, surround yourself with more Divine Spark keepers.

Find people you trust, who challenge you, who push you to be better, who teach you new ideas, who force you out of your comfort zone, who nurture you when you need it. All of these people are keepers of that Divine Spark, real-world expressions of the Gods.

If you build meaningful relationships with these people, nurturing connections with your Divine Sparks, you are building real, concrete relationships with the Gods. From that foundation, with a firm anchor in the real world, you can expand your reach beyond the physical and deepen your relationship with the Gods, and they with you. However, without that grounding anchor in the real world, the Gods may always seem vague, disconnected, far-away, and just theories.

Find your Divine Spark, seek it out in others, and nurture each other. In this way, you will discover the Gods have been around you this entire time.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Excessive Drag

Years ago, I used to participate in Dragon Boat racing. Friends encouraged me to join, we practiced, we went to races, and it was great fun.

Often these races take place in other cities. I think we had traveled to Ottawa for such a race, staying in the dorms at the university. I was out walking the grounds for some reason when I crossed another team. They spotted my team tee-shirt and one of them came over and said "Oh hey... you're rowing with the ABC team?"

"Yeah," I replied proudly. "Are you racing tomorrow?"

"We are," she said. "I'm really glad you're on their team because having a fat guy like you gives us a real edge." They walked away, laughing at how clever they were.

Honestly, there are jerks everywhere. It stung, but I quickly brushed it off and continued on. She was just trying to psyche me out and it didn't matter because my team accepted me the way I was.

The next day was sunny and clear. Our team gathered, stretched, did some warm-ups and cheered each other on. We raced a few times and did pretty well. The team worked well together, rowing in unison (which is the secret to a fast Dragon Boat BTW). It was exciting, exhilarating, and lots of fun.

** Revised **
Near the end of the day, the coach came over and benched me for a number of reasons including that it was my first competition, that I was still green, and there was a paddler limit.

On its surface, the reasons were legit, but with what happened the day before, all I heard was "The fat guy is slowing us down." Sure, there were other larger people on the team, but when you're embarrassed about your weight, you find excuses for others ("Yeah, but he's strong", "Yeah, but she's skilled", "Yeah, but I'm larger and weaker than the others").

When we got home, I quit the team. I had also been injured that season, but coupled with my own humiliation, I couldn't motivate myself to go back. I could have spoken to the coach about the incident, but I couldn't face it.
**

I get it. I'm at this point in my health because every day, I make choices. Sometimes I choose to walk more, sometimes I get lazy. The weight I am at is combination of choice, genes, and physiology. I can choose to get more exercise and try to disregard the despair and the pain that comes with it to try to achieve some amorphous weight loss number that seems impossible (even though so many of my friends have managed to do the same). I can choose to go out there and make a change, or I can choose comfort and stay in. It's my choice. It's always my choice.

But you also need to understand that it's difficult to face not only myself, but the others who see my weight as either a burden or a visual signpost of an undesired life. Even well-meaning people pat my tummy and laugh, as if to say "I recognize you're fat, but I still like you." I recognize the good intention in that moment, but the delivery needs work.

Another summer is arriving and with it comes more choices. Every day, I need to make the choice to take the bus, walk more, and maybe even take swimming again. I love the water, I love to swim, but taking off my shirt in public is one of the most difficult acts in this life.

I know that need to make these choices and I do appreciate all the support I do get for making these choices. When people say "You just need to [insert instruction here].", that's all well and good, but you need to understand how difficult it is to take and maintain these actions when you are surrounded by others who treat you like they are glad not to be you.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Gods are not to be Trusted

I have to come out and make a confession-declaration:
I have insufficient faith in the Gods.
I do have faith in the Gods, but I also realize that there are many aspects of this life that the Gods either have no control over, or into which they refuse to intervene. I seem to be alone in this belief, however, and everyone else faith seems absolute. The fact that these other people have absolutely nothing to lose is surely completely coincidental.

Context: I work with a small team to organize events in my community, so we occasionally need to make practical decisions which some people object to loudly. When we try to explain why we came to these decisions, the Gods are often invoked and our lack of faith is presented as Exhibit A.

THEM: You should organize a Witches Ball for Halloween!
US: Eeek. To rent a hall big enough, we'd need about $1500 to rent the hall and pay the DJ. That means assuming we charge $10 per person, we'd need to get at least 150 people to show up. I'm not sure we'd get enough people.
THEM: You worry too much. HAVE MORE FAITH IN THE GODS!

THEM: Why do the Public Rituals cost $5 per person? Spirituality should be free!
US: The ritual itself is free, but the 3rd floor studio that is close to the metro and has an elevator (because making it accessible to everyone is important) costs $300.
THEM: You should pass the hat and ask for donations AND HAVE MORE FAITH IN THE GODS!

THEM: You should hold this event on a piece of land that is difficult to access, but also provide everyone with return transportation.
US: Eeek. Okay, that location is about an hour away. We could rent a bus, but that will cost about $500. We could car pool it, but there's no guarantee that a bunch of strangers would be willing to--
THEM: You worry too much! It'll work because it's a great idea and everyone will buy into it AND YOU SHOULD HAVE MORE FAITH IN THE GODS!

You get the picture. When I tell these people that, if they have such faith in the Gods and their ideas, they should organize it themselves.

THEM: "Oh no... I can't do that for Reason A. Then Reason B comes into play, which causes Reason C that makes Reason A even more impossible. But I'll help you and support you if you take care of it. JUST TRUST IN THE GODS!"

In the early days of my community involvement, I used to do this. When it seemed impractical and financially risky, I tried to put faith in the Gods that it would all work out in the end. What would actually happen is that these risky events would flop, the promised support would disappear, and I would be left to foot the bill. But on the surface, it would look like everything worked out and IT WAS ALL THE WILL OF THE GODS.

So yeah... I'm left to make the hard decisions that allow events to take place, while mitigating the risks, and dealing with a loud, disappointed few (who didn't support the event at all, btw). All the while to be told that everything would be fine if I JUST HAD FAITH IN THE GODS.

Fuck that noise. I have learned that replacing an insufficient trust in the Gods with some critical thinking and realistic risk analysis increases the chances that an event will be successful. Or at the very least, I won't lose my shirt in the process.