Hello, beautiful creatures.
Welcome to Spring, 2020. The Sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and a vast majority of the populated world is in the grip of a pandemic. Coronavirus disease 2019—variously known as novel coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2—is everyone’s least favorite, most tiresome conversational topic. For some of us, COVID-19 has become an unwelcome guest in our homes and workplaces. For all of us, this is the reality of our lives.
I’m not here to share with you the uplifting insights we can glean from our Pagan or polytheist practices, nor to sell you on a bucolic vision of the world healing from the ills of humanity. For the former, there are writers far better suited to the task, here on Patheos and elsewhere in the Pagan/polytheist blogosphere. The latter is essentially a stalking-horse for ecofascism, and I hope you all know me well enough by now to guess how I feel about that pile of feces.
As the pandemic forces into hermitage all of us with any kind of reasonable survival instinct and jobs or circumstances which allow us to do so, I’m here to ask a favor of all of you reading these words:
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article for Llewellyn about life lessons I’ve learned from doing magic. The fifth and final lesson was, “Whenever possible, be kind.” I summarized it as follows:
Perhaps it sounds corny, but it’s true: all of us struggle at one time or another, and few of us are at our best when we’re struggling. It behooves those of us who would seek to hold and wield power, magically or otherwise, to let kindness be our default setting, especially when dealing with those who have less power than we do.
The world is a scary place at the best of times, and I think we can all agree that right now, these are far from the best of times. Folk are dying from this disease, and more are going to die, largely because our scientific researchers are starting at a disadvantage and our medical infrastructures are overwhelmed. People I know and love have contracted COVID-19, and more are going to. The same is almost certainly true for you. Some of our loved ones may well die.
That’s a horrible thing to read. Believe me, I know. It’s a horrible thing to type. That it’s a true thing makes it no less awful, and it’s an awfulness we can’t rationalize or argue our way out of. Nature, red in tooth and claw, makes no concessions to morality, ethics, virtue, values, character, or pleas for mercy. If we want mercy, if we want kindness, we have to extend it to one another.
So, all you beautiful creatures—longtime fans, first-time readers, personal friends, and scathing critics alike—please, please be kind to one another. Practice kindness, until it becomes as much a tool in your arsenal of survival skills as social distancing.
What does that look like? Well, it looks different for each of us, and in all of our circumstances, and I can’t give you any set rules. However, like any good pirate, I can suggest a few guidelines.
Remember that we’ve all been thrust into this radically uncertain situation together, and we’re all scared. Scared people act and react in unpredictable ways which don’t reflect the clearest thinking. Try to be patient with others. Take a breath before responding to things, and never ascribe to malice what can be adequately chalked up to fear, anxiety, and bad information.
Speaking of bad information, there’s a lot of it out there, much of it coming from the highest offices in the land. I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to disregard any and all medical advice or opinions that isn’t coming from medical professionals, or from people who are following their express recommendations1. Starting places for reliable scientific information include the World Heath Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.
And I know it sucks being forced by circumstances to do things you don’t want to do, or to not do things you want to do, and I know that the loss of income is a real threat… but unless you work in a field essential to the continuance of society—that is, unless you’re a first responder, or unless you work in healthcare, infrastructure, food, and so on—for the love of all that is sacred, please, please stay home. Stay safe. Don’t get yourself sick, don’t get anyone else sick.
That, too, is kindness: “a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others,” as Wikipedia would have it. “It is considered a virtue, and is recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.”
Of course, the myriad traditions and paths which make up the modern Pagan and polytheist spiritual movement have no unifying moral code or set of values intrinsic to their practice, but they do share at least one commonality: they’re all practiced by human beings. And right now, all of us human beings could use a little kindness.
Until next time, dear ones, be kind. ♥
- Yes, I’m telling you to ignore anything the President of the United States has to say. (You’re shocked? Oh! Sorry, you must be new here. As a general rule, I tell everyone to ignore anything that buffoon says. It’s kind of a whole thing with me.)