Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Path to Paganism: Part 1: Writing As Understanding

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

For many years, my wife has taken part in the November writing challenge known as National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. She has a small city of fictional characters living in her head at any given time, and November gives her a chance to sit down and try to put some of their thoughts into words. She's written several novels, most of them in the genre of paranormal romance, and has self-published a few. You can see what she's been up to at

It's been a tradition for her to put out a post on social media every Nov. 1, announcing the beginning of NaNoWriMo and encouraging others to join along. I decided I might give it a try this year, but in blog form. While the creative goal of the program is to get people to flex their creativity and tell their stories, the mechanical goal is to write 50,000 words during the month, which works out to 1,666 words per day. That part I can do, or at least attempt to do. I keep threatening to write a book, but so far I haven't found the time to adequately organize my thoughts to make that happen. So for now, this is perhaps the next best thing.  

You can go look up more on NaNoWriMo if you like. There's a website. But I'm not going to link to it because it's saturated in intersectional woke ideology. From reading the site, you'd think that everyone who's not a straight white male has been prohibited for all of history from ever writing a single thought down. The more identity boxes you can check off, the more the NaNoWriMo folks seem to think your stories are worth. It's really gross to see all the divisiveness and upside-down discrimination on display, but unequal treatment and the elevation of "right" immutable characteristics to the level of sacraments is what "progressivism" is all about these days.    

In spite of my dislike of the views of the people putting on the annual event, I do enjoy writing, as evidenced by 11 years of this posts at this creaky old blog. I find that writing often helps me process and streamline the thoughts rattling around in my head. In fact, I frequently find myself going back to blog posts I wrote months and even years ago and thinking, "That was really well expressed. Good job, me."

But one thing I'm not is a novelist. I never will be. I just wasn't gifted with the art of fiction-writing. I've known this about myself for a long time, and I've come to accept it as a personal limitation. So the No part in NaNoWriMo is a non-starter for me. But there's no one saying I can't adapt the concept for blogging -- creating my own NaBloWriMo, if you will. 

See, I cut my teeth as a journalist. I'm good at presenting facts, and in my blog I take those facts and shape them to express my points of view. But if you asked me to write up a fictional character in a fictional setting, I'd end up writing something that has all the warmth and personal touch of a Wikipedia entry. It is what it is.   

So I figured I might just give the 50,000-word goal a shot. Not just because I'm bored and have nothing to do -- quite the opposite, in fact -- but because I think writing is important. It forces you to take the formless ideas in your head and translate them into something meaningful and tangible. If more people took the time to do that, to work through their thoughts. pushing them out from their heads through the conduit of their fingers and enforcing some kind of shape and structure on them, maybe the world would be a little more rational and sensible. Anybody can spew out a post on social media that takes little to no thought to express, but actually forcing yourself to sit down and think through what you're trying to say gives you ownership of your ideas, ideas that you can now perhaps elaborate on and defend if someone challenges you. A person who knows what he thinks and believes, and why, can remain standing cool and assured, while everyone else degenerates into a morass of name-calling and doubling down on ideas that you ultimately can't defend because you never took the time to think them through. If you let someone else do your thinking for you, whether it's a political leader or a preacher or a talking head on TV, that's inevitably what's going to happen to you. You need to exercise your brain and your critical thinking skills, and you have to be unafraid to challenge even your most dearly held beliefs. If you challenge them and they stand up to scrutiny, then they're worth keeping. If they don't, then it's time to reassess. Writing helps you do this. It's a tool that helps facilitate better and clearer thinking. 

So what the heck am I going to babble about for an entire month? Well, anyone who's spent any amount of time with this blog knows that my three favorite things to write about are religion and spirituality, politics, and music. To that end, I just recently posted here about how I'm struggling to hold even a symbolic attachment to the Christian tradition I was raised in. From the time I was a little kid, asking questions that neither my parents, the priests, nor my catechism teachers seemed to want to answer, I've been the kind of person for whom "just have faith" was never a satisfactory answer. I'm fascinated by the religious and spiritual systems people adhere to, and by what people believe and why, but I've never been much of a believer, I've always felt like an outsider looking in. When I go to a religious service, I feel like a reporter taking notes, or some kind of impartial UN observer. Granted, I can feel a sense of comfort and peace in a reverent service taking place in an aesthetically beautiful surrounding, and I enjoy the welcome familiarity of watching the time-honored rituals play out like an ancient drama. I've even had a few incidents happen to me over the course of my life that others would probably describe as religious experiences. But none of it has ever allowed me to get over the hump from interested observer to true believer. 

Sometimes I feel envious of the folks who can so fully and without reservation give themselves over to their religious tribes and feel a sense of solidarity with the people around them. But at the same time, I feel as if to do so would require me to be more naive and gullible than I'm willing to be. I can't just check my brain at the door, nor can I embrace some tradition or philosophy or belief solely on someone else's say-so. I just don't work that way. I never have. I have to test things out for myself, and more often than not I end up finding some flaw in the argument that unravels the whole thing and prevents the idea from taking root and the magic from manifesting. 

Living life this way can be hard. You very quickly come to understand why most people take the easy road of just believing what their friends, families, and social groups believe. Life's hard enough without having to constantly analyze and challenge the things that other people take for granted. Sometimes it sucks to be this way. But I don't think there's anything I can do about it. 

Anyway, I mentioned in that last post that I also had some spiritual ideas bubbling in my brain. Those ideas have to do with the pagan path, and that's what I'm going to write about this month. 

I think it's fair to say that I've been a pagan-adjacent person with my wife for many years. She considers herself a Taoist and has long had an interest in Norse mythology. Together we celebrate the Wheel of the Year that's central to the pagan revivalism that sprang out of a number of mid- to late-20th century spiritual movements. Those groups looked back to the pre-Christian past to try to create a spiritual framework that attunes us more to the natural world around us. We are, after all, a part of nature. Acknowledging that simple fact about our existence holds the potential both to make us better stewards of the planet and to help us embrace the natural rhythms of our own lives. Those are both tangible things that can produce benefits for us and our world in the here and now, as opposed to our mainstream religions that encourage us to focus so much on some distant afterlife, one that may not even exist, that we never fully engage with this life.

I'll talk more in another post about why I'm fed up with Christian thought. But it's not just Christianity I'm exasperated with. I'm just as fed up with the irrational authoritarianism of wokeness, which has become a de facto religion to fill the void left behind by Christianity as it declines in the West. I'm also tired of how capitalism reduces everything, including religion and spirituality, into a commodity to be bought and sold. And I'm really tired of how technology is increasingly detaching us from nature. All those things, along with my personal mindset and my chronic physical ailments, have combined to bring me to this point. And I'll endeavor to devote 50,000 words over the course of the month to talking about it, which I think will also help give me some clarity on how to step forward into what might end up being a fresh new way of seeing things. 

One thing I know about myself is that I'm not comfortable calling myself an atheist, but I also find religious literalism ridiculous and the claims of most mainstream religions ludicrous. There has to be a middle ground in there somewhere, and I'm going to try to find it. If I wade deeper into some kind of pagan practice, I know it can't be for superstitious reasons. Life's hard, but I also have no interest in burying my head in the sand and trying to soothe myself with wishful thinking and comforting lies. This path has to have a practical, real-world application. Otherwise, I could just LARP as a literalist Christian and call it a day. And I have less than zero interest in doing that.    

I know that nobody ever reads my blog posts, but I still invite anyone who's interested to join me on the journey.

[WC: 1,782]

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