At long last spring has arrived. The cold polar wind from the north-east has finally abated and is now replaced my something different entirely. Last week, the rains came rolling in from the Atlantic west, as it should, and softened the bare dry ground. Yesterday was the first pleasantly warm day with a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius and it being my mother’s birthday, it was a time of merry-making in good company and with equally good Belgian beer to quench are thirst. And for sunshine and easy fun, we were very thirsty indeed
Weeks behind schedule finally some green is appearing and the daffodils are in full bloom. Unfortunately this sudden warmth is causing trouble for some animals. The tomtits are in danger running out of food for their young ones. Many have yet to lay their eggs which hatch only after twelve days, but the caterpillars, their source of nutrients, turn into butterflies overnight. But watching the clouded yellows, I cannot let these matters weigh me down.
Spring has lifted my spirits.
Or rather, it had.
This morning I went to work relatively cheerfully. A beautiful sunrise and a good night sleep made it possible for me to rise at 6.15 h. without feeling my head had swelled up to twice its normal size. And despite my job being a low and low-paid telemarketing , I felt re-markedly grateful for it, or at least for the money and the colleagues it brings me. But when I arrived at the office, ready to do my part, my bosses told me to go back home.
The company that our company works for is at fault for this. The product that we have selling for them is also faulty, or worse, a means to rip people off. Last week I was sent home as well on account of a computer system failure, but apparently this was just a rouse since the complaints have started to flood in. My bosses are looking for new clients but it is yet uncertain when work is resumed.
I am not a salesperson at heart. And from the start I have none this was a product that is making the world worse rather than better, even if our company did not know that this particular client was bending its own rules and lied to us about their services. So, though I am pressed for money, I am rather relieved. My moral compass tells me, this is not what I should spend my time on Earth doing. Selling stuff to some fools who do not bother to check where their money goes … was not really the issue. It could even be fun, a game, a competition. But providing a listening ear to people who share their disappointments in life and then to use their insecurities to make a sale, well, I was not at all comfortable doing that.
And I never, before taking this job, could imagine myself doing this. But after months of being on the job hunt, it was the only company that offered me a place and the colleagues were agreeable, the managers supportive and relaxed. How far would I go to make ends meet? What’s worse, spending my savings in order to receive financial assistance of the government afterwards, or working a job that makes the world just a little bit poorer.
This is what ethics is. It isn’t thinking about what one would and should do in certain hypothetical circumstances, it is about acting today and taking responsibility. And I think about all those people who form part of a system that almost forces them to impoverish life on earth,to prevent their kids from living in poverty today. How can I possibly blame them? And it makes me very sad, and almost without hope. And our political leaders are too busy identifying and framing the present economic troubles to start solve them. Perhaps I should go into politics, for it is too depressing to merely read about it and do nothing.
I remember a speech in the film The Kingdom of Heaven (the director’s version, you mind, the theatrical one sucks). The King of Jerusalem, brilliantly portrayed by Edward Norton, addresses and teaches the hero of the story:
A king may move a man, a father may claim a so, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, “But I was told by others to do thus,” or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice.
This hit me like a brick.
Most Pagans acknowledge that we are but little things in a much bigger interconnecting web. Experiencing this interconnectivity, to be able to connect the dots, is an exhilarating thing. My most valued religious experiences have been like this, feeling yourself to be in the flow of things, knowing that it will bring you where you need to be. To work with Wyrd instead of against it, to be in sync with all those other acting voices, that is my dearest wish and purpose. This is what started my interest in Paganism.
Our souls extend beyond ourselves, and thus are in inevitably the hands of others. Yet there is still truth in this quote.
The present political-economic system of which we form part of is not, and never can, be in full service to the flow of life. It is not equal to Wyrd. But neither is Wyrd itself a Utopia or even a democracy. There are always others who have power over our fates, those who can make the flow reverse if they would wish it so. And it is our smaller actions that lend support to this system. To be a Pagan activist, is to recognize these sources of injustice and fight them. Even though we recognize we have to be practical in the choosing of our first duties, we cannot just say ‘virtue was not convenient at the time’.
That’s too easy.
“But I was told by others to do thus” is often a poor argument, whether those others are fellow pagans, powerful rich men, or gods.
I feel the need of atonement. I wish to do well, like in my former employment, I helped people gain control back over their household and over their lives. All I did was cleaning houses, but at least I made a difference.
I used to be an idealist, and now I am turning into a cynic. And I do not like it. But my soul is in my keeping and instead of blaming the system for my feelings, I should use these feelings to prompt myself to action. I have sharp mental faculties, I have education. They should be put to work, into true service. If I put myself down, I limit not only myself, but also the good I can do for others.
So as of this week, I am a Pagan activist, in search of an active service.
And if there are experienced activists among my readership, please feel free to ask for my service if you think I can be of any use. (Do please remember I live in The Netherlands). Furthermore, keep an eye on http://paganactivist.com/: a pagan activist collaborative.