Archive for ‘Politics and Social Activism’

September 22, 2011

Responding to Troy Davis’ Death: Community Responsibility

The death of Troy Davis, a recently executed and very likely innocent man, has sparked discussion and writing from my friends in other faiths. But, as far as I can tell, no Pagans are writing about the situation.

Being un-organized is one of the Pagan community’s defining characteristics. Liberated from rigid perspectives, we can move intuitively, shaping a practice and our perspectives organically. With no system of transference, education and spiritual development must come from each of us – deeply personal by definition. We are responsible for ourselves.

So, what do we lose?

Although we are a diverse community, the importance of the Earth and the recognition that we are pieces of a whole – whether that whole is divine, biological, or some combination – is a common idea I find across modern earth religions. Theologically, the execution of a potentially innocent man (seven of the nine witnesses later recounted their testimony, and clemency was still denied) should spark outrage among furious Pagans everywhere.

And perhaps it did. Perhaps many of us, independently, signed petitions and challenged those around us to see the imminent injustice.

But what could we accomplish as a community? And is there anyone out there writing on the death penalty from an earth religious perspective?

So much of what I see online and in the average bookstore is focused on spells without much theo(a)logical grounding; and too often a false history. At best, you could make the case that most of that writing revolves around identity formation, which is a consequence of the lack of organization.

I won’t deny that I found the earthy path as a teenager. It took time to develop a religious understanding and identity, and that is important work. I don’t want everyone to think the same, or lose the potential and significance of the personally developed. But we cannot stop there. We need to move forward, grounded in our ideas and practices, towards social justice and community responsibility. We need to put our voices out there, calling for equality and humanity.

Because we are earthy. Because when you are a piece of the whole, a human on Earth, a soul in the Divine Nature, being responsible for yourself demands community engagement.

July 10, 2011

One World, One Body

In my experience of the earthy path, we toss around some ideas all the time — words about the interconnectedness of things and the cycles that tie us all together (see my section on trees). When I was studying the connections between astrobiology and Communitarianism, I read What is Life? by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Among many ideas suggested by the authors, one struck me as particularly relevant to earth spirituality: the concept that the biosphere itself can be considered an organism.

Backing up… the smallest form of life is a cell, complete with a barrier that distinguishes it from the rest of the world. Inside, organelles work together, fueling processes and facilitating its reproduction as a whole. Margulis and Sagan point out that current mitochondria (a particular organelle in a cell), originally independent, were absorbed long ago and now cannot exist outside the cell. Now think of your body as an organism. Your skin, like the cell membrane, delineates what counts as “you” — yet you are composed of many, many cells. In modern Western life, we have been taught to view ourselves as separate beings, our minds obediently in step with the Liberalism of Descartes and Rousseau. My professor, H.P. Steeves, wrote on these ideas, and suggests that perhaps Communitarianism (where we are constituted by our roles and relationships), could better explain the origin of life. This extends to the nature of life as manifested on Earth.

Communitarianism relates to some core earth religious ideas. It is not simply that other people are nice to have around – our interactions with those around us are the core of our identity, our being. Part of being earth religious, as I experience it, is recognizing our connection to the Earth, to the world around us. We are a part of Nature, whether we live in downtown L.A. or rural Indiana. This recognition winds its way through every concept, from spirals to holidays.

When Margulis and Sagan explain that, scientifically, the biosphere of the earth is considered an organism, this concept is realized. Like the mitochondria, they argue, each of us is a piece of a greater whole; lines, like a cell membrane, mark a separation of sorts, but not the boundaries that we have materialized through Liberalism. The atmosphere is our skin, the rocks our bones, and, like lungs, we cycle the air with plants.

We are one body.

With this information, perhaps we can fully embrace our identity as a communal being. Yes, like a cell, we can find a point of separation. But if we let these thoughts seep into our actions, into our minds and hearts, the social impact could shift us globally towards peace. We Liberal folks are bent on self-destruction through war, pollution, greed and cruelty. Every act against the Other is an act against ourselves. Those who shunt environmentalism aside as a fad or only for the granola, wage war while calling themselves “pro-life,” and/or feel  free to poison produce with pesticides, do not work to see the whole.

Since we fail our own particular bodies — make them swell with junk food and harmful chemicals, fail to suppress those awful, vindictive thoughts that eventually creep in before the mirror, push ourselves to exhaustion for work,  only propped up by caffeine –  are we even capable?

Sometimes, one of my greatest challenges is to not see humanity as a cancer upon this earth.

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