Saturday, July 23, 2011

Animist Practice: Walking Love

Back to animist practice: today's topic is the path of love. If relationship is the crux of animism—relationship with all that lives, human and nonhuman, biological and geographical, earthly and heavenly, fleshly and greater-than-human—then relationship will be at the heart of an animist practice. I've chosen to walk the relationship path of love.

You see, I'm not only an animist. I'm also a polytheist, and I worship and follow gods of love.  I believe that love is the greatest force in the universe. Love is the one thing greater than the dominators, greater than the gods of cruelty and greed. Tyrants tremble in the face of love, love triumphs over fear, and even death bows before the power of love.

My teachers tell me that to live a life of meaning, grow in spirit, please my gods, live with honor, and enter joyfully into the next life, I can walk no better path than the path of love. Jesus of Nazareth described this practice with stark and uncompromising clarity. One must love even those who would hurt you, even those who are your enemies. He said that love was the great commandment, and that love overcomes the fear of death, and he showed us that he did not fear death, but for the sake of love went to his death gladly. I look with awe at the teachers of radical love who lived their teachings with their final breath.

But, I can’t follow Jesus where he went. I’m not ready to take up my cross or sell all I have and give the money to the poor. I’d rather give my money to my kids, so they can cover the rent next month or travel to Berlin to make music, and I find it hard to believe that any loving god would demand we surrender to torture and murder in the name of love. So, what does the path of love mean to an ordinary, common sense, 21st century animist?

I think it means finding the balance between love of others and love of self. I take care of my health, for example, even if it means saying “no” to someone, but I make the effort to take care of other people even though it sometimes demands the sacrifice of my own desires.

It means that one always acts with loving intent, so when you vote, you vote for love, you work at your job with love, you care about other people, you are nurturing and kind.

We are all given humans and nonhumans to love, and instead of whining about the people I’ve been given to love, I do my best to take care of them. Yes, that even means my ex-husband. (LOL!)

My everyday practice of love is just an ordinary, prosaic kind of consistent unselfishness. I’ve made choices for the sake of the people I’ve been given to love that have worked against the manifestation of my own dreams, but Charlie tells me that nothing I do for love is ever wasted . . . and that brings me to the wonderful paradox of the path of love.

When I make a choice to take care of someone else, to do things his way or please her instead of myself, I’m generously rewarded. So, when I stuck out my lousy job so I could take care of my family, I was forced to change. I became stronger, physically and emotionally, and more competent as a result of this job, and I benefitted from the extra money, and it enabled me to learn new things, and it saved my marriage. I stuck out the job for love, not because I wanted to, but found myself the beneficiary of my choice, and this has happened so many times that I’m convinced that what I do for others will always benefit me as well. As the Wiccans say, what you put into the world returns to you three-fold. Love is a good bet!

I may not be able to save the world, the way Jesus attempted to do (and his results are dubious to say the least), but I have this tiny piece of the world in which to create a loving reality and I’m going to do my best with it. And what if, just what if, a critical mass of human folks chose to walk this ordinary unselfishness as an everyday practice? Doors would be held open, work loads would lighten, children would be cared for, and smiles would be exchanged in the supermarket checkout lines. Fracking would be voted down. Animals would be treated kindly. Gardens would be planted and Redbud Woods would still stand where a parking lot stands now. In ten thousand subtle ways, we would tip the balance of the earth towards love. I can hear my gods rejoicing just to think of it!

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