It’s been an interesting month. I said on August 9 that I was cleaning out the deadwood on my old spiritual path, and the Cosmos took interest. On Saturday the 18th I went to a program “Compassionate Peoria” at the Peoria Public Library:
Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion is a project designed to engage the public in contemplation and discussion of the importance of community, civility and compassion in their daily lives. Have you wondered how Peoria could benefit from compassion? How do we change?
Like the Peoria Reads:Don’t Shoot!, Building Common Ground has been working this summer to dial down the disrespect that leads to rage and violence in Peoria. The subject for this particular program was Karen Armstrong’s book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Armstrong has written a couple dozen books on religious affairs. In 2008 she received the TED Prize: $100,000 and a wish for a better world. Armstrong’s wish begot the Charter for Compassion, which has been signed by almost 90,000 people around the world. It begins
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
In 2010 she published her Twelve Step handbook. Since I had totally run out of compassion for both my friend Lucy and a professional colleague, this was a message I desperately needed to hear.
AND THEN on the very same day, Brendan Myers, Ph.D, did a guest post on The Wild Hunt: “Humanist Paganism on the Rise?” According to Myers, Humanist Pagans “want to be a little more intellectual about their practices, and they really don’t care about the ‘woo” anymore.” –I could not have said it better!
Humanist Pagans tend to be uninterested in ritual, or energy work, or developing psychic powers. Some still practice magic (you don’t have to be religious to do that), but will approach the matter with a critical, scientific eye. And speaking of science, they tend to be interested in astronomy, quantum theory, evolutionary biology, and the like, and will take inspiration from Neil DeGrasse Tyson and from Bill Nye right alongside Starhawk or Crowley. Those whom I have met tended to be in their 30′s or older, educated, earning a lower-middle class income, and raising small families… Social, political, and moral causes tended to be more important to them than supernatural ones.
But they love folklore and mythology, they love going to pagan festivals, and they subscribe to pagan moral values like the Wiccan Rede, and the Heroic Virtues. They’re perfectly happy to shout “Hail Thor!” with an upraised drinking horn. They don’t care whether the gods exist or do not exist: for as they see it, the existence of the gods is not what matters. Rather, what matters is the pursuit of a good and worthwhile life, and the flourishing of our social and environmental relations. They are a kind of pagan that perhaps has not been seen since classical Greece and Rome, and their place in the modern pagan movement may still be marginal and unclear, but they are a kind of pagan nonetheless.
SO! In the course of one day, I get a new label for my practice and a spiffy description, courtesy of one of the smartest men in Pagandom, and I get a roadmap from Ms Armstrong for my path!
Life is good!