Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Working Within A Community

Working within a community means listening to the voices. It doesn't mean conformity to them, but it means taking them into account and consideration, weaving them into your own thoughts, and responding to them. Working within a tradition expands the range of the community to the ancestors, to the voices that have become before us, recorded in oral history, in written history, and even through prophetic insights, insights that can be gained through sitting-out, meditating, and feeling the ancestors speak up through the rocks, through the earth, and through the bones.

It's a whole different way of thinking than just thinking in terms of how you, as an individual, think about things, and it's also very different than just being a people-pleaser and capitulating to the average of what everyone else. It means to go deep, to be polyvocal, to really be listening to the many voices of worth and responding to them, out of respect, out of a desire to not be aggressive and impose one's own way, but to be present to the many different ways that make up a community, and acknowledge those different ways.

Even in the midst of critique, to be fair, and have good faith towards those voices spoken in good faith that are different than our own. Where positions and practices have a leaning towards ill, or a potential for ill, we can speak of that, but we still must be rigorous with ourselves to be fair, and to have good faith towards those positions, by imagining ourselves within them, and then imagine the best within them. Then from that position, of imagining ourselves within the best of the voices within the community that we are critiquing, being able to assess from an internal standpoint what the gap is between the best within that particular position and what's actually being posited.

This fairness to a large degree is really what Baldur represents --- being true to the whole breadth of the community, not imagining through the eyes of slander and through the eyes of pain, but with good credit, extending benefit of the doubt. Many imagine that Baldur is a kind of weak, bleeding heart. It's not a matter of being a bleeding heart. Baldur's boldness is about being broad-hearted, and that's strong!

In a heathen context, tradition is not about having to find a precise precedent for everything, in which everything is rule-bound, and you have to be able to point to a precise rule that allows you to do anything. That's a legalistically-regulated via positiva. Heathenism here is more like a via-negativa ; there are a few things you shouldn't do, and as long as you observe those, you are free to do as you wish. In that regard, religion is a matrix of practices and principles, and a ritual context that gathers all of the different recipes that can be made from that large and ample menu.


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