Acceptance and Resistance

Today was a blustery, sunny day. My girlfriend and I went out. I waited in the car rereading passages from Hermias and did a 15-minute Headspace meditation on acceptance while she navigated the line at a store to buy office supplies. People entered and exited every few minutes with balloons. She said that the interior was filled with socially distancing Mother’s Day shoppers fighting over the balloon filler. Someone in the checkout line mask-checked a woman who was wearing hers incorrectly.

The sky continued to arc deep and blue as we pulled away. At the grocery store afterward, 98% of people had their masks on correctly. I bought rosemary and oregano plants with some store brand potting soil outside. Every year, I try to grow something on the windowsill even though I always lose the plants to the insects that vampirize the leaves, leaving silvery skeletal structures in their wake. Inside, all of the soap refills were out of stock. The toilet paper aisle was plentiful, stacked to brimming, limit one per person. Gluten-free bread was back in stock in the freezer section.

I pray to Demeter and Persephone on the seventeenth day of the lunar calendar. Today, I prayed to Hygeia because I now pray to her whenever we go grocery shopping. Please let us remember hygiene. Please keep us mindful of the rules. I have a delivery service that brings me about 90% of what I need, but it’s not as useful when it comes to staples like oil and butter, gluten-free bread, or paper goods. Maybe reciting the words you are growth and blooming (Orphic Hymn 40) compelled me to think about the plants today.

Right now, I have three more sessions of the Headspace Acceptance package. It uses a single second-person question after one warms up with meditation: Who or what are you resisting in your life right now? We’re supposed to repeat it in second person, as if we are not ourselves. The answers have been interesting — everything from things I should be resisting to things I shouldn’t. The word resist itself has brought up many feelings on its own because after 2016, I started to associate it with demonstrations and political resistance.

In the wake of today’s meditation, because I was already thinking about it in the shower earlier, I got to thinking about my resistance to some of the commercialized, Fandom-like qualities to modern polytheism and Neopaganism that spurred me to write this post. I then considered why I have a visceral reaction to some types of countercultural behavior (especially “I’m doing x but I’m really just rebelling and will drop paganism/polytheism once I have that out of my system” behavior) when people touch things related to the Gods.

The clear and concise reason is that I’m a straitlaced person — my mom’s eldest who always followed the rules growing up, who was doing the laundry and most of the weeknight cooking by the time I turned thirteen, and who waited to get into a serious relationship until I was done with school and had a job. I followed all of the rules. In polytheism, my shift from the Wiccan practice of my family to Hellenistic Syncretic Polytheism was driven by the desire for more structure, firm theology, and the Gods I love.

Except I did not do everything right, so the actual baggage is a bit muddled. We often resist and judge the things in others that we most want to ignore and forget about ourselves, be they ourselves right now or the ghosts of who we were when we were younger. I had the advantage of growing up going to Circle and even taking on ritual roles long before most people my age even decided to buy a book on paganism. At the same time, I relied too much on the books I was reading and not enough on the community around me (partly because the books were written for adults who had to hide, and as a kid with overactive mirror neurons, I picked up on that and didn’t process it in a healthy way). I believed some things after engaging with online communities that showed a lack of critical thinking skills until I was 20 or so, which is why I am so cautious with what I allow into my mind. Most rules I broke were ones that I couldn’t see due to ignorance and lack of self-awareness or self-control. I’m jealous of the young people in antiquity who had well-worn structures for going deeper into religion, especially the officiant structures. I occasionally kick myself a lot for not reading Sallust until I was 20. I really wish I’d read Plato’s Alcibiades I and Gorgias when I was in my mid-teens. I wish there had been a standardized curriculum.

That said, we cannot change the path we take, as easy or as difficult as it may be. The ghost of who I was when I was younger is a girl who was trying hard with the best she had available to make sense of things and do the right thing, but who didn’t have the best information or the social accountability from people she respected to process what information she had and who sometimes behaved irrationally due to unprocessed trauma and being a teenager. At the same time, she did have community and did have social accountability about things like ritual and practice.

I see things sometimes online that remind me about things from that period of my life that I haven’t accepted or made my peace with, and my reaction is generally to close social media and go breathe. If that is something I’m resisting, what should I do with that resistance?

Increasingly often, I’ve wondered about the best way to express my feelings about some issues — tradition and innovation, rebelliousness and straitlaced-ness, and so on. Paying forward lessons one learned when one was younger while being compassionate and constructive is really hard, and it’s no wonder that many people sound judgmental and condescending when we try to do it. Today, with passages from Hermias on purificatory madness tumbling around in my head and the sun shining brightly through the fast-moving trees, I considered the parallels between hitting the right balance with advice and doing effective cathartic ritual. In both cases, even if some bits hurt in the middle, the end result is beneficial. There are some things that I could never say compassionately without framing it in narrative and fiction, painting portraits of never-were people and seeding each of them with the barest breath of that question. Of course, we are in a pandemic, so there is some level of urgency to making sure that we have all said what we need to say. Acceptance does not mean doing nothing.

Stay safe, may the Gods grant you health, and may your storerooms be filled with an abundance of toilet paper and soap.


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