Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Pagan community here.
I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which causes panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Because of this I don’t write as often as I should. I get scared of the invisible crowd of angry critics. It isn’t that I don’t write well. It’s that I’m my own worst enemy when I let myself conjure up these people with no faces who stand before me with rage.
It is much easier for me to deal with people in person then in theory unless I already know I can trust them. For example, I had a great time at the Pagan Picnic in St. Louis. Everyone was so kind it really felt like we were a large community. I found out from coordinator Charlynn that about 2000 people attend over the course of the weekend. I was only a little bit nervous in the crowd because I live in a small town and I craved the presence of people like me. My people.
I suspect there are a few older select Pagans in my town but they haven’t invited me to their circle yet. I understand their secrecy since there is a church on every corner here. I’m out of the closet and haven’t had any difficulty. The book I edited, Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, is available for sale at the local museum and it’s available for checkout at the main branch of the county library. I also post Pagan topics to my Facebook page and there are townsfolk on there. Heck, even the members of the Friends of the Library Club, where I’m the secretary, know about the book and my religion and haven’t said anything to me. But I am missing the most important thing, a spiritual community.
I received the sacred blessing of community at the Pagan Picnic, especially since the theme was Dancing with Gaia. She is a Goddess, the creatrix of the universe, and we live on part of her body, the Earth. She is the only thing that can sustain us. Other possible–and just possible, mind you–planets are light years away. We are spiraling through the galaxy on one of the most unique places ever created.
Just as I have trouble socializing, there are people who have trouble connecting with nature. They are the ones who don’t think twice about littering, or spilling toxins into rivers and oceans, destroying clean water with fracking, destroying mountains with coal removal, and on and on. There is also the problem of climate change.
What can we as Pagans do to help prevent the destruction of our planet?
We must embrace deep ecology.
Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological and environmental philosophy characterized by its advocacy of the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, and advocacy for a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas. Deep ecology argues that the natural world is a subtle balance of complex inter-relationships in which the existence of organisms is dependent on the existence of others within ecosystems. Human interference with or destruction of the natural world poses a threat therefore not only to humans but to all organisms constituting the natural order. (Wikipedia)
The Deep Ecology Foundation has an eight point platform that is worth reading. Deep ecology is more than just recycling. It is a way of life. Embrace a relationship with nature. Live more simply so you make less of an impact on the environment. If you feel called to activism, stand up for what you believe in.
It’s time our community remembered our relationship with Gaia and included her in our tribe. Just as I miss having a local spiritual community, humanity is desperately in need of rebuilding our natural tribe. It will heal the deep sense of loneliness that we are so used to we struggle through it without a second thought. It hurts to care sometimes, especially when facing so many dangerous changes.
Caring can also be a powerful experience. At the Pagan Picnic the opening ritual was “Dancing with Gaia.” We moved our bodies and finally gathered in tightly: friends, relatives, and people who were once strangers became part of a greater tribe. We chanted her name, voices lifting up in praise, “Gaia, Gaia, Gaia,” and our feet consciously touching the sacred Earth.