The Illogic of Straight Lines and asking hard questions

After a lot of consideration and discussion with Anne Newkirk Niven, who edits Witches & Pagans magazine and oversees the Pagan Square collection of blogs, I’ve decided to refocus my blog there to be more of a Pagan Studies endeavor. The first post from my newly renamed Refractions is about the illogic of straight lines, where I start with the observation that the programming of my GPS is stubbornly committed to the idea that a straight street, with lots of traffic lights, will be faster than a meandering parkway with no obstructions. Taking this as a spark of illumination for refraction through the academic lens of closed vs. green worlds, I argue:

One of the great gifts Paganism has to offer the world is the restoring the value, in our own minds and hearts, of green space. Not just physical green space, but this kind of metaphysical green space, a green world, which we desperately need. Taken to extremes, many forms of rationality will turn inwards on themselves until they become self-defeating and even self-destructive, threatening the very safety of the creators ensconced inside the structures they thought would protect them from uncertainty. Sealing ourselves away intellectually is inherently dangerous; we have to live with some openings, and we have to go back to the boundaries to refresh ourselves with the green world.

I wrote this post as a totally apolitical statement. In fact, my move to Pagan Studies was motivated in part to get away from mixing politics and Paganism in certain ways. But rereading this, and especially reading Hecate about how the truth will out, (go do that – I’ll wait), it sounds political. In the wake of Tuesday’s election we’re being reminded that wishful thinking is not reality, flapping your arms does not make you fly, and math is the best way to count things. We’re seeing that being sealed inside an intellectual bubble away from those realities is unhealthy, futile, and dangerous.

I want to repeat Hecate’s call for Pagans and Pagan organizations to take this to heart, and not just in the sense of criticizing others. I was recently at a gathering where the ritual role of Dragons in the Reclaiming tradition was brought up, and one of the things that was discussed was the way Dragon work can be about asking the hard questions: do we have the people, do we have the resources, and are we using them in the best possible ways? Sometimes just asking those questions is enough to make one unpopular, and answering them with a firm “no” can be enough to get one ostracized.

Of course, this can be a lot less of a problem for Pagan organizations where perhaps the worst possible outcome is that an endeavor fails, than it is for the Republican party who are threatened by their own looming irrelevance, or than it would have been for us as a country if we had swallowed Republican falsehoods and cleared the way for rape-excusing, gay-hating politicians to make more oppressive laws. But it’s still a problem. And in this season of introspection between Samhain and Yule, I suggest that we put this twist on our usual examination of what we need to release. Ask the hard questions; try to be objective; get an outside opinion. What truly isn’t working, and what are you being unrealistic about?

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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