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What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

June 2, 2011

This post was written for the 3rd Annual International Pagan Values Blogging & Podcasting Month.


I had thought about discussing how our various traditions prescribe values, but it didn't feel quite right. I considered addressing Star Foster's sense around a "schism between values/community based traditions, and those based on individuality/magick" -- that's something I still plan to do, because it's something I've observed as well and was grateful to see in writing, but the words just weren't coming.  There's so very much to be said about the values that ground us as Pagans, and I went to bed last night feeling disappointed that I hadn't found my hook, hadn't come up with something on the first day.

Then, this morning, I woke up with a song in my head, and the direction I wanted to take for my first Pagan Values post began to take shape.  While I'm largely a very pragmatic person, I've also been accused -- affectionately, I hope -- of being a sort of post-hippie idealist; the song that's been haunting me speaks to the need to strive and search for better in the face of despair.  I want to talk about hope as an underlying Pagan value.

One of the better definitions I've seen of the word "hope" is "a wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment"; theologically, it is also defined as "the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help."  My experience as a member of the local and global Pagan communities is that we're really, really good at hope, regardless of which definition we use.  One explanation might be that our practices empower us: one of the first paradigm shifts a new student in some, even many, branches of Paganism experiences is the teaching that magic is real and can be used to shape our world.  This is particularly true of the various Wiccan and Wiccanate traditions which have exploded over the last twenty-some years.  The notion that we can direct our will and cause change is an enormous leap of faith, but we make it, and fashion ourselves into co-creators of reality alongside whatever gods or spirits we revere.  Even those of us who don't practice magic (and I include myself in this number) carry the certainty that we are not powerless, that we can contribute.  This is powerful stuff!

The world we live in is scary.  It always has been, of course: our ancestors shared our experience of fear, oppression and sadness, even if their challenges were different.  Our commitment to hope is what allows us to carry on, even when we can't keep calm.  Hope is not, of course, an exclusively Pagan value.  Nothing is, any more than any value is exclusively Christian, or Buddhist, or of any other religion.  I think it is fair to say, however, that one of the distinctions between Earth and Sky religions is that in Earth-based practices (and I don't just mean ecological spirituality -- I wish I could find, or even remember who wrote, an article about the differences between the two being more connected to immanence vs. transcendence), we don't privilege the next life over this one, or the spirit over the physical world and experience.  To me, one of the chief expressions of hope in Pagan and other Earth-based religions is our connection to the present, physical world.  That we continue to try, and that we have activist traditions like Reclaiming, speaks to me of our deep commitment to maintaining hope.

Let the rest of the world despair over the state of things.  In the midst of fear and hate and despair, we can be Pandora's boxes, each of us, offering a safe haven for hope.


As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.

I ask myself is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walked on through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes  

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?  Sweet harmony.

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

Go Back

"I think it is fair to say, however, that one of the distinctions between Earth and Sky religions is that in Earth-based practices (and I don't just mean ecological spirituality -- I wish I could find, or even remember who wrote, an article about the differences between the two being more connected to immanence vs. transcendence), we don't privilege the next life over this one, or the spirit over the physical world and experience. "

DING! Nail, meet hammer. :)



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