Can I tell you a secret? Something I rarely say out loud, something I often wonder might be the elephant in the room?
Sometimes, when things have been quiet or hard, sometimes when I feel overwhelmed with all the doing, I wonder, “What if we’re just making it all up?”
What do I mean by “all”? I mean, the gods, the spirits, the striving, the masks and nuances, the performances of normality and culture: all of it.
Fake It Til You Make It
How many of us go through our lives feeling like a fraud? As if any day now, any moment, some one is going to suggest that you are not wearing any clothes? I have felt that way, and still do sometimes. You might be surprised at the number of college professors – people with PhDs who are experts in their fields! – who also feel this way. I still can’t believe that people not only read my blogging, but continue to encourage me to write. I mean, what do I know?!
What if I’m making all this up? What if I’m just lonely, with an active imagination, too sensitive to function in the “real world”? You wouldn’t be wrong if you think those things. But the “real world” is also made up. We made up money and debt and gender performance. We make up hierarchies and popularity and style.
“Faking it til we make it” isn’t living a lie, it’s often a really great coping mechanism, a personal pep talk, or way to try on an attitude, idea, or an actual physical item for size. Sometimes it’s a glamor.
Occasionally it is wise to let the glamors go and ask What have I assimilated and what do I need to set aside? Do I want to keep wearing this? What is one true thing? The moments of feeling like a fraud are humbling, but they make the bright moments of deep truth all the more precious.
Another way to make things up is to tell stories. What story are you telling? What story are you a part of?
There is a type of postmodern theology, narrative theology, that looks at the larger cultural narrative in a given religion. We find ourselves retelling the stories we’ve chosen to be part of and then, through our own lives, continuing that story. I often laugh that many Pagans seem to be living out Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. I used to mock this tendency among Pagans to engage in fantasy until I realized that we’re all living out the stories we are part of. Some of us have changed the narrative, the narrator, even the genre.
One of the beautiful things I’ve seen in Neo-Paganism is the idea that we can embrace a narrative outside the overculture’s standard story and mainstream aesthetic. If it’s all made up anyway, I want to choose what fantasy I’m living. More power to you if you prefer a quasi-medieval world! There is nothing wrong or silly about striving to align your daily life with heroic virtues, tales of epic quests, and battles with dragons, for who among us doesn’t have a few beasts to slay, tame, or befriend?
Re/enchantment as Re/Weaving the Narrative
I want a life filled with enchantment, dedication, beauty, relationship, reciprocity, hospitality, and resistance, and liberation. These are values I associate with witchcraft and the best of Paganism. I want to believe that the voices heard and the spirits seen were real. I want to believe that my intuition and feelings are as valuable as my reason. I want a world where there are gods, where the realms are interdependent.
So I act like all of those things are true. Some days it feels like meditation is nothing more than a mental litany of to-do lists and the suffering of pins and needles in my legs. Sure, I’ve read various articles on the science of meditation. Some days laying out offerings on my altars and saying my good mornings to the gods and spirits feels more like me wasting money I don’t have on flowers and talking to a cupboard.
I’d rather have a world where the Land is acknowledged, where Forces of Life and Death and Liberation are honored, where beauty is cultivated. I want shelves and corners fill with feathers and rocks and icons. I want holidays that reflect the flow of our seasons and celebrate the narrative of the story I’m living – not the story that my neighbors are living.
We are creative, creating, created beings. I boldly choose to destabilize the narrative I’ve been given and I press on, writing a new narrative with each step I take.