Paying the Price

If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling

If you follow Patheos Pagan on Google+, Facebook or Twitter you know that I generally post some Pagan music and a quote each day. Sometimes it’s merely Pagan-ish. I needed some unapologetic rock this morning, and the best I could drum up was Jethro Tull. We really need a Pagan equivalent to Green Day or Aerosmith. As for the quote, I’m peckish for some Kipling today and thought I’d find a lovely nature quote from him, but instead I was struck by the above quote.

Sure Kipling might be talking about buying socks, but his quote has deeper, spiritual implications. Let’s look at the quote again:

If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling

This quote is kind of knocking my socks off and leaving me speechless, but I’m going to do my best to expand on it.

In studying Thelema I am revisiting the idea I first encountered in Witchcraft, that your Will is different from your whim. When we want something, we have to decide if it is our Will, or merely our whim. A lot of Pagans struggle with this.

Devotees who find themselves called to serve a god. Women who find a deep conviction to veil. Anyone who leaves the faith they were raised in. Pagans who find themselves called to some form of leadership and are unsure of what that means in communities who find themselves conflicted regarding authority. Pagans who come in our communities through one of the more sparkly gateways, and then find themselves hungering for stronger meat. Pagans who want more, and don’t know where to find it. Pagans who need more, and find they have to create the things that they need from scratch.

I admit many times I have found myself in a place of deep spiritual hunger or altruistic ambition, and I have balked at the price. There are a lot of things I need or want that I don’t think I can afford. I can’t afford the time. I can’t afford the stress. I don’t have enough optimism, energy, tact, compassion, endurance or material resources to get those things. Unfortunately, for many things which are truly important, you cannot bargain over the price.

You will never find peace of mind on the clearance rack. You won’t get a deep, supportive sense of community Buy-One-Get-One-Free. There are no coupons to clip for spiritual fulfillment.

So not only can I not afford the individual things I need, I can’t afford all the things I need. If I budget carefully, I can get my basics taken care of, like my personal practice and some long-distance fellowship with Pagan friends. But I can’t always afford to stretch beyond that. It’s not enough, but it’s what I’m able or willing to pay the price for.

Of course, we can always pool our resources. We can split up the stress. We can divide the time. We can each donate a bit of energy. We can each pitch in a smidge of optimism. We can each reserve just a touch of compassion. We can realistically plan to spend a little of our material resources.

We could do this, but we often don’t. Sometimes we find we don’t really want it. Sometimes we simply aren’t actually willing to pay the price when it comes down to the wire. But often, I think it’s because we don’t understand the price to begin with. We don’t respect the price. Not the full price. Not the sweat, energy, tears, compassion, optimism and other payments that are not so obvious from the outside. We don’t take these costs into account. We don’t know our own capacity and income and reserves, so we don’t know what we can really afford.

I feel like there’s a good meditation here. A good spiritual and mundane exercise. What do you need? What can you afford? What do you find you don’t really want after calculating it’s true cost? What do you find important enough to re-budget your life so you can pay the price?

And here is the big one: can you afford what you need if you can share the cost with people who are equally informed and committed to the price?

We can’t really bargain over the price of the important things. We as individuals can’t afford everything. It’s important to recognize the full price, and to know what we can afford.

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