Thursday, August 31, 2006

What gets me through the night

Rev. Sean will be hosting the Third UU Blog Carnival, and he’s chosen as his topic “ “What gets you through the hard night?” More specifically, what is it in our faith tradition, that brings you the strength and/or comfort you need to face difficult times?” UU Blog Carnival #3

I do have some favorite prayers from childhood, and some favorite hymns- Morning Has Broken never fails to raise my spirits, make me feel as fresh as that first morning. But what really gets me through that long dark night are my Pagan beliefs, truths I instinctively knew even as a child before the term “Neopagan” had ever been coined.

Neopagan faiths are called “Earth based religions”; most people think that means we worship the Earth itself. Some in fact do- there is that old joke that Wiccans make the best lovers, because they really do worship the ground you walk on! But it also means that we are oriented on this world, not the next. The Abrahamic faiths teach that the next world is the real one, that this life is merely an entrance exam. Most Neopagans believe in a form of reincarnation- either as an entity, or that the energies we have gathered are recycled, like a rock band breaking up to form new groups with new sounds. Even those that do believe in an afterlife- primarily those that call themselves heathens- believe that any judgment they face is based on their performance in this world, not on the mental gyrations they went through to prepare for the next. The essence of all these possibilities is one reality at a time... if you make yourself truly worthy of this world, you have nothing to fear from any other.

But there is yet another depth to the term “Earth centered”- that we must live in the present tense. Here is what I have written in my personal Book of Shadows:

The Divine has given you this day; do not waste it by attempting to live in the past. Reliving glory days is not harmful per se, but misty eyes are blind to the joy of the moment. If overindulged, it can sap your will to drive for new accomplishments. Obsessing over past pains or guilt is worse still. You are required to learn from your sorrows, to incorporate whatever lessons can be gleaned from them; but having done so, it is your duty to The Divine to move on. Do not squander the gift of the day.

Living in the future is equally futile. It is your duty of the day to make plans for the future; but having done so, lay them aside and enjoy the moment. Anticipation of future joy is foolish. The expected event may or may not happen; if it happens, it may or may not live up to your expectations- in which case the joys it did possess have been spoiled.

Fear of the future is equally foolish. Again, the event dreaded may or may not happen; if it does, it may be better or worse than you imagine. Either way, there will be plenty of time to suffer when the time comes- are you so eager for pain that you must borrow it from the future to spoil the day? To live in fear is to suffer the pains of injuries you have not received. Make what preparations you can do today- and then let tomorrow deal with tomorrow.

And the pains of today? All pains are growing pains, all experiences are learning experiences. Sometimes we are lucky enough to learn from the pain of others; sometimes we must be the lesson. I know that this too shall pass, and that I will be a different person tomorrow. I may not understand the lesson today; perhaps not even in this lifetime- perhaps this must be entered into that enormous volume of things I do not understand. My duty is to try to learn; I have not failed if I die still trying.

Lastly, I know that my responsibility is mine alone; no one can take it from me even if I wished they could. Nor can I take responsibility for another, even if I wish to make the sacrifice. If I have done all that can be expected of me today, I can sleep soundly... if the world goes to Hell as I sleep, it will be my sorrow in the morning, but it is not my responsibility tonight. I trust that whether or not it is clear to me, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.

1 comment:

Jess said...

Hi Joel - I've quoted this post for today's Best of UU. Thanks for such an inspiring reflection!