The year is turning. Fruit is heavy on the trees but leaves are starting to fall. There’s a scent in the air of Autumn, waiting to happen as the days slowly shorten. It’s Harvest-time.
The regular News programmes are beginning to tell of the difficulties of farmers this year, with the wide and varied extremes of weather that we’ve suffered clearly having an impact on crops (and so prices of food). However, some have fared better than others. The apple trees near me are groaning with fruit; the blackberry bushes are thick; that which grows on high seems to be ripening and ready.
It’s this balancing point which is becoming clearer to me these days. While grain and root crops may become more valuable through comparative scarcity, we still have the sweet and sharp fruits to nourish us freely. While very few of us have actual money to spend on easy frivolities, more of us are discovering the joy of personal creativity.
I’ve observed that there’s a sharp difference in the attitudes of people right now, as shown both in personal statements and media generalities. There’s slow-burning frustration, anger, impotence, powerlessness – and yet also great pride in accomplishment, ability and possibility. We have the confused relationship between Government and individual (in many countries, not just the UK). There’s the comparison of huge funds and corporate sponsorships for the recent London Olympics versus the sheer public awe at the achievements of athletes (and musicians, engineers and creatives) in the formulation of an event that will be remembered by so many.
The individual is striving to be heard; groups are forming, like-minded folk, wanting to bring ideas together to make powerful difference. And it’s not easy – but the sense of ‘maybe we CAN do it’ is gradually growing, overcoming past cynicism and doubt.
I do think that in this case, the macrocosm and microcosm reflect each other – ‘society’ and ‘local community’, Nature as a whole and the needs of a single species. We are having to become more aware of our relationships with each other. People are acting based on need, hope and drive – because complacency is just not an option any more. We have to do, or it won’t get done.
In recent years, I’ve actually been proud of how such considerate and mature attitudes have allowed growth. From a Pagan perspective, we have grown as an identifiable community and also achieved so much in the wider world. Our beliefs are heard, thoughts considered, voices noted as valuable. Those who remember when we were simply dismissed as ‘fringe loonies’ stand proudly, infectious smiles on their faces. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
I’ve been pretty shocked lately at the unwarranted bile, vehemence and sheer contempt shown by some community members to others. Specifically in the Pagan online community, but also in the wider world. Certain folk are not standing up as good examples of integrity, ethical strength or even common sense. But how far are they allowed to get away with it? Yes, they have the right to a voice – I firmly believe that we all do. But how far can sheer empty noise and volume prevail against considered thought, meaning, discussion and genuine caring? How far are we willing to challenge ourselves, to admit our faults and work for change? We might be full of anger, but without focus that rage is simply firing blindly… and unintentionally hurting those caught in the crossfire (and indeed ourselves).
We gather our Harvest and consider what will sustain us through the winter. I feel the flows of energy, both in the cooler breezes and the tones of voices raised to be heard. Mine is one of them, here, of course. I’m aware of the responsibility that this brings, in my small way. But I’m also aware of how my own practice must be strong in order to contribute well to the wider community song.
How much of what you say is actually true? How well do yours words reflect yourself, really? There’s a lot of meaningless chatter out there – phrases such as ‘oh, you know’ (no, I don’t, tell me) and well-meaning, merry but incoherent ‘it was, like, y’know, sort of, like, Stuff’… we can laugh and satirise, but there’s still a story trying to be heard amidst the jargon.
Shouting down those we don’t agree with through casually cruel insults or flippant remarks, ‘jokes’ that aren’t. The freedom of relative internet anonymity encouraging ‘trolls’. Words that achieve nothing except pain, sorrow and even more anger. Not listening before we retort. We’re all guilty of this, some more than others. A question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: ‘Is ignorance an excuse?’ Is it so hard to apologise and try again, to open ourselves up to learning and a different point of view? Or to stand firm, strong in our own beliefs, yet flexible enough to allow challenge, to laugh and share common ground?
As Pagans, we stand up to identify with a particular spiritual path – and the ethics, the responsibility, the impact of representing that. Would we be proud, if we were to see ourselves in the eyes of others? Or ashamed of foolish superiorities, paper-thin self-image, actions taken without true understanding? Why do you do what you do? When asked how you’re celebrating your Harvest, what will you say?
Poison and empty words don’t sustain us, nor those around. Some songs are more valuable than others, but all can be worth hearing if sung honestly. What nourishment do you bring to your community? How will you keep that fire burning through the winter ahead? We all have the capability; if that ‘family’ (whether blood or friendship) is to remain strong in its shared intention, what ingredients do you bring?
We stand together, made up of individuals. In shared reading of this little essay, written by my hands, inspired by so many others – our relationships move and flow forward.
Let us sing together as the nights grow longer. Let’s see what inspiration comes from single flames burning brightly in the dark.