In his blog post Retreat and/or Advance by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says
While spiritual practice is ultimately meant to be integrative, I wonder if this so-common-it’s-ignored notion that spiritual practice does take place separately from the “everyday,” the “mundane,” and so forth ends up hampering spiritual progress and “advancement” more than it aids it.
I couldn’t agree more. Lupus points out that a retreat should not make one long for the joys of vacation, but create excitement about engaging more deeply with our lives. It is important to have fun, but if fun is so lacking in our daily lives that we do not want to return to it, then something is wrong! In his book Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World Joel Salatin describes the why of this lack of joy in our lives.
He discusses the profound abnormality of constantly being plugged in, the failure of child rearing methods that exclude real challenges, and cognitive dissonance of having more plastic than food on his airline meal tray. Mr. Salatin is a life-long advocate for farming. He uses methods that not only produce far more food per acre than conventional farming, but that increase the health and beauty of the land, and gives primary consideration to the well-being of the animals that spend their lives on his property. His methods deliberately mimic nature, and he has a dim view of Dominionism. Salatin sings the joys of family connections (he has never owned a TV) and power of being responsible to bring self-confidence and satisfaction with life. Make no mistake, Joel is a happy guy.
One of the things Lupus touches on in his post is that so often in Pagan magical practice, we isolate ourselves from the world. I will comment on that in another post, but for now, my question is, how do we create our world to be a happier place? I do not assume here that everyone can be happy and I do not believe the mandates to that effect are beneficial. As Pagans while we often seek change in political action, this is a poor method for finding personal satisfaction. I advocate for starting at home. Before seeking change in the greater world, one must be the change. If you want people to be nicer, improve your own communication skills. I still find that a person yelling in my general direction will reduce me to tears. But so what? Tears do not stop me from standing up for myself, and telling that person that yelling at me is not acceptable. If you want a cleaner planet, don’t eat food that contributes to that. If every day we take something into our flesh that contributes to the very problem that we see, no amount of external activism will give us peace.
I’m sure my readers have heard the expression “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” But anger is a miserable and unhealthy state in which to live. Mr Saltin is not an angry guy, despite the absurd blockades he experienced in course of his work. It can serve as a useful alert that a boundary has been crossed, but beyond that, it becomes a rock in the road for us to trip over. It is not anger that changes the world, but action. And we cannot sustain effective action unless we have skills, integrity, and joy. Without joy, why bother? When all of our actions are in integrity with our values, we are far stronger, able to calmly assess a challenge. When we are happy, our well is deep, and we have more to give. We cannot Advance as Pagans unless we are strong and happy.