Government Shutdown and the Willow Pentagram

photo by Evelyn Simak via Wikimedia Commons

I have two very Pagan-oriented posts in the works:  a review of a provocative book that just needs some editing and a piece on the Goddess Danu requested by a friend that still needs a bit more research.  But I’m so angry about the government shutdown I can’t seem to work on either of them right now.

There are plenty of places where you can read political analyses and rants.  So for a change I’m going to take my own advice and attempt to return to center.

Perhaps you’d like to join me.

First, do no harm.  I’m angry, but I’m not scream-and-throw-things angry.  I’m not likely to cause any harm to myself, to anyone else, or to do anything that will make the situation worse.

On the other hand, this anger is distracting me from productive work and this state of agitation is both unpleasant and unhealthy.  That’s more motivation to work through it and return to center.

Feel what you feel.  I’ll say it again – I’m angry over the government shutdown.  I’m angry that Congress refuses to govern.  I’m angry that a handful of reactionary Republicans are so opposed to the idea of collective responsibility for health care that they shut the government down in protest.  I’m angry that the mainstream Republicans are afraid to stand up to the reactionaries.  And I’m angry that this argument is over what is a poor substitute for single-payer universal coverage.

I’m a political moderate and a political realist – I understand that in a democracy, elections, legislation and court rulings don’t always go the way I think they should.  Political loss is reason for disappointment, not anger.  But it is reasonable to expect that government will do what it said it would do and when it doesn’t I get angry.

I’m angry and I own my anger.  It’s what I feel and I won’t deny it or downplay it.

Accept what is.  The idealistic youth who still lives inside me doesn’t like this step – it feels like giving up.  But fighting against a tornado is unlikely to yield favorable results.  Likewise, there are powerful forces at work in the political and economic arenas and we do ourselves no favors if we pretend they don’t exist.

The American empire is in decline, just like every empire that preceded it, and every empire that will follow it.  We’ve run up against soft limits – we can still do anything we want, we just can’t do everything we want.  As we move down the long descent, as resources are depleted and as other nations and other empires demand their share, the sum total of what we can do will continue to shrink.

The rich and powerful will do everything they can to remain rich and powerful – and what they can do is substantial.  The middle class – what’s left of them – will cling to the status quo rather than risk something new and different.  The mainstream religions will continue to offer charity instead of justice and spiritual opium instead of transformative experience.

Even if this shutdown is resolved quickly and the Affordable Care Act is implemented on time, this trend will continue.  As soft limits give way to hard limits – the amount of oil in the ground, the amount of fresh water available, the amount of food that can be produced safely and sustainably – human greed will become harder and harder to keep in check.

This is what is.  You don’t have to like it – I certainly don’t like it.  But it is the environment in which we work, and we cannot deal with it effectively if we pretend the future will be fine if we can just put the right party in power.

Do what must be done.  The facts are the same for all of us, but each of us must respond in our own way.  We all have to pick our battles and politics is an arena in which I am not likely to prevail.  I will vote and I will advocate as seems useful, but in the end I’m not a politician, an activist, or an analyst.  I’m a Druid and a priest.

I must continue building and supporting my tribes.  The power of collective identity and collective action is great, and while no tribe has the resources to do what the federal government can and should do, there is much we can do for each other on a person to person and family to family basis.  As the empire continues to decline, the support we can count on from institutions will decline with it.  Those who build strong networks of mutual aid will do well.  Those who attempt to be lone wolves will discover the limitations of even the strongest and most rugged individuals.

I cannot defeat the tribe of the rich and powerful, but I don’t have to.  I simply have to make them irrelevant to me and mine.  Success does not depend on ever-increasing material wealth.

Return to center.  I am a Druid and a priest.  I pray, I meditate, I make offerings.  I tell the stories of my gods and goddesses.  I honor Nature and the spirits of Nature.  I read and study and lead ritual.

These are the practices that keep me connected to my center.  These are the practices by which I manifest my True Will.  The sooner I can accept what is and do what must be done, the sooner I can get back to the real reason why I’m here and the real work I need to do.

The Willow Pentagram.  This abbreviated process of dealing with frustration is one method for returning to center.  I call it the Willow Pentagram.  There are five steps – each one is a line connecting point to point, forming the five-pointed star.  Like the willow tree it does not ask us to stand stone-like in the face of unfavorable winds, but rather to turn and bend while remaining rooted in the Earth.  And like the pentagram of esoteric practice, it banishes unhelpful energies and invokes the good.

I’m still annoyed by the government shutdown and I will remember this dereliction of duty at election time.  But after working through the Willow Pentagram I’m no longer obsessed by anger.

Time to get back to work.

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.

  • Jeremiah Myer

    wonderful article thank you for putting it in a place I could deal with. thank you I am so looking forward to the Danu piece… she is my Goddess
    Blessings

  • Mikal

    It’s unfortunate that as a society we’ve come to expect our leadership to act like children, even more so is our acceptance of their inaction in the face of serious issues. Going back toward a tribal concept to render all this nonsense as minor as possible in our daily lives seems to be the most logical step, and I’d welcome it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Unfortunate, yes… but seemingly inevitable. I’m tired of banging my head against the proverbial wall.

  • Eilidh Nic Sidheag

    I think this is something I’ve needed to hear for a long time. Thank you.

  • Lisa Dunn

    Thank you for this wonderful post! You put into beautiful words how I have been feeling for a long time.

  • f_galton

    Your tree magic is strong, I can feel it.

  • Bunney

    I found this enormously comforting. Frightening, yes, but comforting to know that it isn’t necessary to defeat the whole, but to survive.

  • Penny Homer-Hays

    Thank you for this. As a federal employee, I have to embrace the anger (there is a lot) and resign myself to the fact that I’m not going to get a full paycheck any time in the near future, work toward getting the unemployment claim completed and try to move past the frustration that these people can hold me as a pawn in their games. They are holding us all this way, but my pawnship is more immediate. I’ve already lost over $600 in take home pay this year due to sequestration — another invented crisis. It’s really hard to bend when you feel like it’s always us that has to bend, but what choice do we really have? I can retire in about 13 years and I only hope I can hang on that long.


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