Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
Photography (c) Joanna van der Hoeven 2019
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
Photography (c) Joanna van der Hoeven 2019
Globally we face some very challenging times. Whether it’s politics, climate change, religious persecution, war, famine, poverty and homelessness, we know that across the world things are moving in a direction which to many increases the fear for our future. The uncertainty, for ourselves, our loved ones and our planet makes us feel like we’ve lost hope, or that the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Generations of people are pitted against other generations, the old against the young. The blame game is heavily underway, and there are many casualties. Tempers are high, the stretching point is at near maximum. We head into a new decade filled with uncertainty and anxiety.
So what can we do about it? Here in the UK, we’ve been rocked by a recent Trump-esque election result. We’ve seen it happening across the world, with a swing to the right in other countries. There’s a lot of anger and blame raging across the political world. However, it’s not just in the UK and America: in India, in Australia, in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines, the hard right is winning. If we simply blame one leader or political party such as Labour in the UK or the Democrats in the US, we miss the main point that we need to address. We are working with a very unfair system, ruled by media oligarchs and the billionaire press that use lies and sleight of hand to win elections and the votes of those who would previously never cast their lot in that direction. We need to look to countries that are framing the model that we wish to achieve, such as Finland with their new Prime Minister and their resistance to fake news through a very effective digital literacy campaign that has been underway for the past few years for people of all ages. George Monibot explains this very well in his video for the website, Double Down News. He also offers up the beginnings of a solution, at a grassroots level that seems to be emerging worldwide.
From my perspective, we also need to remember to close the ranks when it comes to our progressive, left-wing allies. In the UK, the Tories are extremely good at closing ranks when it comes to opposition, and on the other side, the opposing leftist or centrist parties are just too busy trying to bring each other down in order to take the Tories place. Instead of working together, they’re too busy fighting each other. It’s utterly ridiculous. No one will win against those odds.
So we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone who opposes the status quo. We need to support each other in order to succeed in creating a progressive, fair and equal system that works for everyone. How do we do that?
With our everyday words and deeds. It’s not just our vote in elections that matters. It’s how we live our lives. And yes, our lives will be altered and framed within the current political context, for sure. We’ll be worse off unless we’re part of the 1% that are receiving tax breaks and sending their money to offshore accounts. We’ll be fighting to put food on our table to feed our children, to keep our houses warm while receiving a tiny state pension, combating those who say that despite disability people need to return to work and then suffering the consequences horrendously while having their benefits cut or removed. It’s not going to be an easy decade. But we can start at home, with each other, with our everyday words and deeds.
We can be kind to one another. We can support one another, despite political views, religion, race or creed. We can stand in solidarity for everyone in order to make this world a better place. It all starts with us, on a personal level. It means engaging in dialogue instead of closing it down because someone’s opinion is so different from our own. We have become so used to policing each other that it has led to a culture of echo chambers, where we just won’t listen to any other point of view or tolerate a different opinion. We know that We Are Right and that They are Wrong. We are creating such division from this perspective. We become good guys vs deplorables. How can we ever create unity when sowing the seeds of such discord?
Instead of looking out for number one, we look out for each other as well as ourselves. We see this working in Scandinavian countries, with a healthy social welfare system and free healthcare. It is a more egalitarian society than what we are currently witnessing in the UK and in the US. In Sweden, they have a wonderful word that encourages balance in everyday life. It is known as lagom, which means understanding the right balance. Not too much, not too little, but just enough. The word lagom has two potential origins: one from the Viking era, when a communal horn filled with mead was passed around and everyone took a small sip in order for there to be enough for everyone, and another possible origin, which derived from the Swedish word lag, meaning law. Both show an understanding of community and how rules and standards, both spoken and unspoken, can help us achieve the task of no one being left out or left behind.
And this is what I will personally be working with in 2020. I’ve already started, but I will be bringing the concept to the forefront of my consciousness in everything that I do. I might even start blogging about my adventures with lagom here, in order to keep my words and thoughts in right order, and to share them and receive feedback.
At the moment, I’m just beginning with a lagom attitude towards 2020. I know it will be tough, and for many people exceptionally difficult. I know I am blessed in many areas of my life. I will accept these blessings and return them to complete the cycle. There may be good luck or back luck ahead. There will be ups and downs, challenges and achievements. But working with lagom means that I work with balance. I’ve done so for many years with eastern philosophies, and so I’m experimenting with a different approach here.
It begins at home. It beings with daily interactions with people. When someone is railing at your political views, for instance, with lagom you can see that there is anger and misunderstanding, and that you can either get upset back or work towards the benefit of the whole. You can support those who need support, and get support back when you need it. It’s very similar to Druidic philosophy, of being a functioning part of an ecosystem, working for the benefit of the whole in a holistic sense. It’s not taking too much, and giving in return. Looking out for everyone.
So, my resolution last night was to incorporate more lagom into my life. In my relationship with my husband, my family, my friends, my community and the wider world. To meet the challenges that are coming with this balanced frame of mind, and to help to make this world a better place for all. To understand lagom in terms of running a household, a marriage, a business. To understand lagom in politics, culture and religion. To live lagom and not just think about it. I may disagree with someone, I may want different things out of life and for my community, but I will learn to work with people in a lagom manner in order to benefit the whole. To find lagom in the raging hormones of my menopausal, 45-year old body. To find lagom in work, and in fundraising and charity. To find lagom in the food that I eat. To find lagom in my environment, and spend as much time as I can ensuring that it’s not just the human community that I am applying this philosophy to, but to the entire sphere of my own shared existence.
I look forward to this journey, even though I know that the challenges are there, waiting for me and for everyone. But I have hope, coupled with a good dose of reality, in a very lagom kind of way.
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Right now the politics in the UK has created a huge divide between the nation. I imagine it’s similar in the US, and in other countries throughout the world where the left is clashing with the right. It’s probably not helped by social media, where everyone is shouting their opinion and condemning anyone who doesn’t agree with it. When Hilary Clinton called all the Trump voters “deplorables” towards the end of her campaign, and when the lefties here in the UK are calling everyone on the right “Nazis”, we have reached an either/or situation. We all know that things are not so cut and drawn, that because someone disagrees with you means that they are pure evil. No, we must be more mature about how we react to those who disagree with us, and instead of trying to destroy them, listen to them.
It’s an exercise in learning how to judge correctly. It’s learning the difference between judging someone’s actions rather than judging someone’s person. If we can’t differentiate the two, we will never have proper discourse, and we will never find a peaceable place where real change and transformation can happen. We’ll simply be shouting at each other all the time, labelling each other in neat little erroneous boxes that simply support our misguided arguments. We’ll never be able to bridge that division in order to do what needs to be done. When it comes to politics and parliament, we see this example clearly. If it’s all about party politics, nothing is achieved and it’s simply a shouting match. When we are able to talk to each other and really make an effort to hear and understand each other, then we are working for the best interests of all, which is why (hopefully) one got into politics in the first place. But egos and power struggles keep getting in the way, and we can see the real mess that this creates first hand.
So, who are we to judge? Well, as humans we need to judge situations in order to respond correctly. However, we now live in a culture where reaction, rather than responding, is the norm. Reacting to something isn’t thoughtful, it isn’t mindful. It can have all sorts of associations such as past hurt and trauma rising to the surface that has nothing to do with the present situation. When we respond, we first have to listen. We have to put aside our ego for a moment, in order to truly hear the other side. We can then influence the pattern that we wish to create on our lives with more intention, weaving in that which is beneficial, rather than that which is destructive or which has no bearing on the present.
Each side in a difference of opinion thinks that they hold the truth. But what we are really holding are perspectives, a slice of the pie and not the whole thing itself. We are not omniscient; we can’t really know all the facts. We can research and learn all that we can about a situation in order to respond with awareness, sure. But we have to allow that margin of unknowing, the fact that we do see things from our own perspective, coloured by our past, our society, our intellect, our privilege and more. And in some situations, we have to allow our emotion to help us bridge the gap between what is right and what is right for us.
What do I mean by this? I mean that we cannot simply judge a situation based on the facts. Because, for starters, we will never have all the facts. We will have the facts that are presented at the time, and as we all know, new facts are discovered all the time. So we have to rely on empathy, on our gut instinct sometimes in order to judge a situation correctly. But this is tricky business, because we’ve been taught that our rational minds are all that matter. What really matters is the truth of a situation, and we can only know a portion of that truth. When we open our hearts to others in empathy, we will then see another slice of that pie, another slice of the truth and then our perspective shifts. We cannot do that without trying in some way to relate to the other person, instead of de-humanising them.
In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered that Twitter is the perfect litmus test for this experiment. When someone whom you’ve enjoyed, perhaps on a television show or in a certain community suddenly spouts political rhetoric that you utterly disagree with, what do you do? Do you instantly unfollow them? Disregard them based on that one opinion? Do you judge them as a person based on their political preference? How does this judgement of them affect the situation as a whole?
One thing I’ve learned is that when we judge others, we don’t define them. When we judge others, we define ourselves.
I’ve always had a problem with the saying, “All the gods are one God, and all the goddesses are one Goddess.” I think this is because I am a polytheist, and recognise that each god and goddess are whole and separate, and that I also related this saying to a monotheistic sensibility. Having reflected upon the saying further in the last year or so, I can kind of understand the meaning, but still have problems with the wording.
Moving from hard polytheism to monism has been a large part of the work I’ve been doing in the last year. This is not monotheism, which states that there is only one god, but rather more after the fashion of the first Hermetic principle: “The all is mind; the universe is mental.” Spirit is everything, and life is simply spirit in its most dense and material form. That life force, “the all”, spirit, whatever you wish to call it, is inherent in everything. This also sits very comfortably with my concept of animism. All that exists comes from a consciousness, and this consciousness, for me, is a shared one, inherent in all beings. It is the life force itself.
This life force can be split, and in Wicca and some forms of Witchcraft deity is seen as being split from the One or the All into God and Goddess. This correlates to the fourth principle, the Principle of Polarity: “Everything has its pair of opposites; Like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths, are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.” This “All”, this life force can be seen to be split, to be polarized, so that we can see all the varying degrees in between the far extreme swings of a pendulum. This helps us to broaden our views, to see better that which is the “All”, the life force, in all its manifestation.
This also relates to the seventh principle, that of gender. “Gender is in everything; Everything has its masculine and feminine principles.” Again this correlates to the above two principles, in that everything is found in the “All”, and that with polarity we can relate to all the varying degrees between the poles.
So when I view the sentiment, “All the gods are one God, all the goddesses are one Goddess”, I can kind of understand where they are coming from, but still think that this is perhaps simply worded a bit clumsily. In this wording, we can easily mistake the idea as disregarding or even dismissive of the ideas of polytheism. Perhaps it could be better worded, in that “all gods are part of the divine masculine thought, and all goddesses are part of the divine feminine thought, and both are part of the All, the life force itself”. Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily, but for me it manages to make it less broad and vague, and possibly less insulting to hard polytheists.
Shine, in the coming darkness. Let the spark of awen light the flame within your soul. Guard that flame, the truth against the world. Let it be your guide, let it be your light, to shine out into the world.
There will be challenges. There will be challenges against you, against the world. The flame of others may not shine so bright, for they have not discovered the beauty and promise that they hold. The flame within their own hearts has not been set alight, or has been dimmed by pain, by the past, by worries of the future. Seek to light the flame in others, even as you hold fast to your own inner flame. Support and nurture the spark within, to allow truth into the world.
Only you can allow others to dim your light, to weaken your flame. And they may try, especially when you shine so bright. For we live in a world where competition and dissatisfaction is rife, where if someone else is succeeding, it is perceived as personal failure in our own lives. Drop this illusion, and fan the flames within and without. If one succeeds, we all succeed. Two flames burn brighter than one, and blowing out someone else’s flame does not make yours burn brighter. When you burn bright, and others seek to dim your flame with their own pain, their own wounds, then burn all that much brighter, to guide the way in the dimly lit corridors of the mind, and the heartache of the soul. Know that in the action of dimming another’s flame, there lies a wounded heart, and often a frightened soul. Keep clear in your boundaries, but also be compassionate in your words and deeds.
Shine on. Nothing can take that away from you but your own self.
May we be the awen.
I made a little video for my Down the Forest Path Video Blog yesterday, about my previous post, “Dealing with Bullies.” Big love to you all!
Bullying in any shape or form, whether in person or online, is a very difficult thing to deal with. I’ve had my fair share of it, with trolling on my social media sites and the occasional personal attack/character defamation (mostly from people whom I’ve never even met). This has again happened to me very recently, and thankfully it’s only the second personal attack that I’m aware of using myself as the subject. It’s a slog to get through it all, and can make you despair at the human race entirely, but I’ve come up with some ways to deal with bullying, which may help you if you ever find yourself in such a situation. If you are in physical danger, please contact the authorities at once. Here are 10 ways you can work through this situation, should you find yourself being bullied in any shape or form.
I hope that this helps, if ever you find yourself in such a situation. If you do, remember that many people have experiences this, and that you are not alone. Get outside, look at the birds flying overhead, the bees in the garden, and notice nature all around you. You are never alone. You are part of something truly beautiful, so do try to focus on that. And have a big, virtual hug from me.