The greatest divide in the Pagan / magical community isn’t polytheists vs. non-theists and it’s not liberals vs. conservatives (or more relevantly, leftists vs. liberals).
It’s hustle vs. chill.
It’s “be all you can be” vs. “if it’s meant to be.”
And all of a sudden I have a strong personal interest in this divide.
Last week I had a waking dream / UPG message about “do the work.” Later in the week I heard a successful musician talk about the importance of discipline – about mastering your craft. And then the main working in Saturday’s Beltane circle (which I did not write – Cynthia Talbot did) included the famous line from Into The Woods: “wishes come true, not free.”
Author Ian Fleming had one of his characters say: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Or in this case, three times leaves no doubt in my mind that Someone is trying to get my attention.
But why, exactly? My paying job is busy, my teaching and consulting work is busy, and I’m still blogging and putting out a weekly newsletter (it’s free – sign up for it if you like). I haven’t had a free weekend since the middle of February and it’s not clear when I’ll have another one. I’m not complaining – I’d rather be busy than bored – but it’s not like I’ve been laying on the couch binging Netflix every day.
The answer lies in some alchemical blend of hustle and chill. And in a community that can be polarized one way or another about this, I think that’s worth exploring in public.
This is a personal post, not a political post. It discusses what I need to do and what you may want to do, not how we should structure society. I want to live in a world where everyone’s basic needs are met and no one has to hustle to live in security and dignity. But we don’t live in that world, and in any case I’m not talking about meeting basic needs.
I’m talking about living how we’re called to live and how we want to live.
Skills require practice
The musician I mentioned above was correct. Skills require practice. Not one-time practice and not occasional practice, but regular, consistent, dedicated practice.
I have some natural ability at writing. But go back and read some of my blog posts from 2008 and 2009 – most of them aren’t very good. My writing got better with practice.
I work magic every month at the full moon. If I wait till I have a need, I end up going long stretches without doing any magic, and then when I do have a need I’m not able to do what needs to be done.
This is one of the reasons I can’t stand the “natural born witch” claims. Part of is it people wanting to feel special but another part is people wanting magical skills without putting in the work. Yes, some people have more natural talent for magic than others. But those with average talent who practice diligently can almost always “out magic” those who don’t practice.
If you want the skills, you have to practice. There is no other way.
Building requires work
Are you completely satisfied with the way things are right now? There’s something to be said for the elimination of desire… or at least, for its moderation. That’s one of the core ideas of Buddhism.
I’m a Pagan – I think desire is good. Desire for the pleasures of life is good. And so is the desire for a life that’s deeper, richer, and more secure. That desire for more is how we moved from the Stone Age to the Information Age in a few thousand years.
But none of that happened on its own. It happened because people imagined a better way and then worked to make it so.
What is true on the scale of humanity is also true on the scale of the individual human. If you want something more, you have to build it, and building requires work.
Rest is a necessity
If you’re building a house, you only make progress when you’re actively working on it. If you’re building your body, doing the work is only one part of the process. I’ve never been a body builder, but I was a runner, and the process is the same: work stresses the muscles, but rest allows them to grow stronger. No amount of “toughing it out” will make you stronger if you don’t get enough rest.
In an emergency we can keep going on short rest, for a while. But the fact that we can overdo it in an emergency doesn’t mean we can overdo it all the time.
And the older I get, the less time I can go in “emergency mode” and the longer it takes to recover from it.
Rest is not a reward and sleep is not a luxury. They are necessities and we need to plan for them and schedule them the same as we plan and schedule our work.
Not all hustle is created equal
I’ve spent almost 40 years working in a corporate environment. “Work hard and get ahead” was a lie in 1984 and it’s a lie in 2023. Don’t do anything and you’ll get fired, but nobody gets promoted because they work hard. Some people get promoted because they generate exceptional results. Most get promoted because they fit the mold – they look and sound like someone at the next level looks and sounds.
Is your hustling benefitting you or is it benefitting someone else?
Time is limited
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a year. How do you want to spend them?
I want to spend the time I have intentionally. I want to spend it on the things I want to do and not on the things other people want me to do. Yes, I still have to spend a significant amount of time working my paying job – that’s a choice I’ve made, albeit reluctantly. Again, this is not a political post. But it’s one thing to spend time the way my boss wants me to spend it in exchange for a salary. It’s another thing entirely to spend my time the way Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk want me to spend it, in exchange for… what, exactly, am I getting from them???
This isn’t an anti-social media rant. I find social media useful and mostly a good thing, although I’m starting to question if the information I get from Twitter is worth the anger that information often produces.
But there are only so many hours in a day… and in a life. Am I spending them the way I want to spend them, or the way someone else wants me to spend them?
We want what we want and we don’t all want the same things
If there’s a core principle in this post, this is it.
Some people want to be all they can be and some people want to just be. Neither approach is intrinsically better than the other. It comes down to what you want.
I’m happy with my middle class job and middle class life. I don’t need to be rich to be happy. Maybe you need more. Maybe you’re fine with less. What do you want?
I’m glad I was able to be an athlete for a few years. Now I’m fine with walking for exercise, and because I enjoy it. Maybe you’re not interested in this at all. Maybe you have a need to compete (even if only with yourself) and to push your body to more and more accomplishments. What do you want?
I take great satisfaction in my work as a writer and a teacher. When I retire from my corporate job (whenever that is) writing and teaching is going to be my full time job. Is what I’m doing now enough? Honestly, I’m not sure it is and I’m not sure it isn’t.
I am fulfilled by the spiritual, religious, and magical experiences that I have, that I facilitate, and that form the raw material for much of my writing and teaching. I feel like I’m contributing to something that’s bigger and more important than myself. Is what I’m doing now enough?
And someone – or Someone – is letting me know that it isn’t.
What will it take to get there?
What exactly do I need to do differently? I don’t know. What I do know is the direction in which I need to move. Sometimes a direction is all we have and we figure out the rest as we go.
I trust the Gods I serve. They aren’t asking me to cut back on sleep, or my paying job, or anything else that’s necessary to live a decent life in our contemporary society. They’re telling me to find the time I need to do the things I’m called to do – that I really want to do.
It’s not about hustle vs. chill. For all that our community is divided on that question, it’s mostly a false dichotomy.
Hustle where it’s important. Chill where it’s not. Accept reality, especially the reality that rest is a necessity.
You get to decide what’s important.
And then order your life to show that it really is.
Which is what I need to do right now.