A Stoic Druid?

We all feel inadequate at times. We can’t help it – in modern Western society, with media and social media all around us, we are constantly looking at each other’s lives and making value judgements not only about them, but in comparison to ours. We often forget that we are only looking at a tiny fraction of the truth, of the facts, of the life being lived in that present moment.

People raised in capitalistic societies learn to compete from a very young age. Not all competition is wrong, but we have to take a deep look at just why we feel the need to compete in the first place. Life is not a competition, after all. We’re all gonna die, end of story. No one wins. We perhaps need to realise just what is important in our lives, and what is irrelevant. Maybe then the desire to compete will lessen, and we can free ourselves from such restrictions, supporting instead of competing, making the world a better place. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try our best; far from it. However, we might lessen our feelings of inadequacy.

Having studied Eastern philosophy for many years now, I’m trying something new. After a wonderful conversation with a very dear friend, the concepts found within Stoicism intrigue me. Already I can see how similar they are to, say, Zen Buddhism, and also how they differ. I should imagine it will be a great journey of discovery.

We spoke of value, and the importance of judgement, not externally but internally regarding our perception of self-worth. She explained that in Stoicism, it is in the striving, in the living, in the journey towards being the most awesome human being you can be that is important. This related on so many levels to what I already understood from many Eastern traditions, but also clicked in various different ways that I am excited to explore. I liken it to creating a work of art: it’s not the finished product that is important, but the creative process of making it that is the most important (and the most exciting). Relating this to my Druid path could open up possibilities I have never explored. How wonderful!

I am keen to explore the value judgements others make upon me, and how I respond to them. I am intrigued to understand more about how to listen to my own value judgements on a deeper level. This differs from Eastern philosophy, where we learn to let go of all value judgements. What is our worth? How do we value that worth? I am reminded of the root of the Saxon word, weorthscipe (worship), how we deem something to be worthy. What are the tools, the philosophy, behind this?

We never stop learning. I’ve always had a keen desire to learn history, art, biology, theology and philosophy. Indulge in your passions, for life is far, far too short. The steps on the journey are what makes the journey worthwhile; not the destination.

Relationship and worship

Within any relationship there is a give and take, an exchange of energy that flows, spiralling in and out and around, up and down and out and through. Within some practices of paganism, and dependent upon the individual, there can be too much one-sidedness in their relationship with deity, the spirits of place, the ancestors, etc. Often this is the individual asking or petitioning other powers all the time, or simply taking without giving anything in return. Sometimes it is the other way around, where a devotee gives and gives but is reluctant to ask for anything in return. I tend to fall into this latter category all too often.

My life, my rituals, my energy is utterly devoted to the land, the gods and the ancestors. They are my inspiration, they are my connection to the awen. I do not know what I would do now without them. As such, I let them know that they are honoured with daily prayers and devotions, in ritual work and in secular work. Their inspiration sings deep within my soul, feeding my own creativity and actions.

In ritual especially, I find it difficult to ask for anything. I am aware that so many people in our modern society, and indeed within paganism itself, take and take without giving anything in return. I am paranoid that I will fall into that category; that I should I ask for anything I will be lumping myself in with those who take advantage of the beautiful energy of a place, or who bother their gods, or who work magic without forethought.

I know that it is silly, even ridiculous to think this sometimes. However, I think that it also keeps me in check, keeps my ego in check, and allows me to remember my place within the web. I am a part of the tapestry, not separate, and therefore everything that I do affects the whole. Yet I can be so afraid sometimes to move some threads, to take some energy that lies within their warp and weft that perhaps my own colour fades, or becomes too thin. Reciprocity works both ways.

I am uncomfortable asking for things in ritual or in prayer. Why should this be? In my relationship with my partner, I am not afraid to ask for the things I need, for I know that good communication is key to any relationship. I need to understand, to really see and feel this truth in my relationship to the land, the ancestors and the deities as well.

Perhaps it is because they are so much bigger than I am – I am but a drop in the ocean. Yet I am still part of the ocean, whose power lies in its collective drops of water, singing and blending with the songs of wind and rain and sun. I can call upon that power for I am that power, and that power is me. I am a leaf on a tree and the tree itself – there is no separation. My gods live within me as much as they exist without. Separation is nothing but illusion.

Perhaps this is what some pagans have an aversion to when they consider the term “worship”. Taken from the Old English weorthscipe, it is the value of something – what it is worth to the individual. Weorth – worth, and scipe – condition. Worship is not bowing and grovelling before the gods, as some may perceive it to be – it is judging the worth of something in order to be able to fully relate to it. I hold my gods, the land and the ancestors in high esteem and therefore they are worthy of my attention. What I need to realise is that perhaps I too am worthy of their attention.

I’m working on it…