Benefit the Community, Not Yourself

The previous post was an experiment, mostly due to a personal desire to avoid using first-person pronouns: I, me, my,  mine, etc.  Since this is a personal blog about my own views, experiences, and thoughts, I wished to see if it was possible to write a post or an article without using those pronouns, one that discussed a heavy issue in the community.

Something I’ve noticed, when it comes to writing and reading through these “articles” on this blog, is a strong desire to use “I” and “me” and “my” – in this post alone, I’ve had to rework a sentence to avoid using them about 7 times now, outside of pronoun lists; “I” has already occurred three times since this post began.

While it is true that this is a personal blog, using those pronouns too much makes it come off as too self-serving. In years past, this thought may have never crossed my mind, but a couple of years ago, during a required writing class, the professor told us to circle every time “I” showed up in the personal essay that was due that day in red pen. Looking at the paper that day, I shuddered at how selfish the writing seemed when you highlight that letter like that. Since then, “I” has become a losing word, rather than one of personal experience.

So while writing “Fuck Your Ego,” it only made sense to avoid personal pronouns. It was a plea to remove your Self from the community, rather than emphasize it as we are prone to doing.

But something seemed to be lacking, even so. There were many things left undiscussed, unmentioned, that seemed necessary to talk about. So this post serves as a “Part II,” if you will, a continuation of this issue, but from the personal perspective.

May 2012 was my graduation from university. During my time there, I served on the Executive Board of the Pagan student group there, first as Treasurer and later as President. I dealt with many issues, from heading discussions on personal spirituality to coaxing two young women into visiting the administration to file charges against another member for sexual harassment. No matter what the requirement of the day, I tried to approach it without my own ego getting involved – I’ll admit, I failed sometimes. But whenever I could, I took the blame for something, made myself into the position of the Bad Guy who would take no one’s shit because she was there to Serve The Group.

I like to think I succeeded in that, at least a little bit.

Then I graduated and moved to Virginia. That lack of a community, of others my age – and older – with whom I could talk to and discuss the nuances of our faiths hit me hard.

So out I went, looking for a group. And for a bit, I thought I found one.

I was invited to attend a Board meeting with this group, to interview for a volunteer position with them, and then to sit in on the meeting to see how they worked and how I might fit in. There were four other people: the Chairwoman, two committee heads who appeared to serve as Secretary and VP, and another woman who had just stepped down from a position but was attending the meeting to give her information to keep the Board informed. And as I sat there, I began to notice things. The Secretary and the VP kept fighting over little issues, both assigning blame to the other before one would say something like “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” The woman who was leaving often said she didn’t know the answer to a question because her co-worker had done it or she hadn’t gotten around to figuring that out. And the whole time, the Chairwoman kept trying to get the meeting in order, though lacking any real authority. She seemed tired and more than a little annoyed, but resigned to the status quo.

And all I could think of was how poorly run this organization was, how much better my student group had handled these same issues. Each time the fighting began again, I wanted to snap at them to behave themselves. After all, these were men and women in their early forties or older; surely they must have learned how to behave themselves and work with people they dislike, rather than against them?

But sadly that is not the case.

I’ve visited many Pagan groups since moving to Virginia and each of them seem to have this same issue. Much of it manifests in the form of a clique-atmosphere, the same thing that many of us dealt with in high school. It saddens me to see this high school one-up desire to arise in what should be a beneficial to the group and its members, rather than just a few individuals who think they’re in charge.

And it isn’t just here in Virginia, either. I’ve had the opportunity to hear the gripes of others who complain of the ego certain high-profile members of the Pagan community; whatever X says goes, and woe betide the one who speaks against it. If the individual themselves doesn’t get you, their followers and fans will rip you to pieces before you even draw your next breath. It doesn’t seem to matter if the issue at hand is detrimental, to the point where people are aware that it will do more harm than good. The only thing that matters is who suggested it and how many people adore them. It’s a popularity contest and little more.

Thinking on this saddens me deeply. I wish that we could all learn to work together, without the ego that each of us carries alongside us, without this desperate need to feel special and unique and be recognized for it. I wish we had better leaders and that each of us could be trusted with the leadership of a group, while still able to step aside if someone more qualified comes along.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

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9 Responses to Benefit the Community, Not Yourself

  1. Grace says:

    What you said here is important, but sadly the problems aren’t limited to the pagan community. We have a society that emphasizes the *I* so much that it seems we’ve forgotten how to be a functional *we*. And brava for the work you did in your college group–proof that it can be done if people do more than complain about herding cats!

    • Well, to be fair, it is a lot like herding cats. 😉

      Your response is actually exactly what The Boyfriend brought up when I was ranting about this on Saturday, that it’s the larger community that causes the problem. While I do agree with that, I think it’s necessary to look at one aspect of the larger community, in this case the Pagan community, and work to fix that. Small changes often lead to big changes, so if we can work on removing the “I” and the ego in our work with one another in the Pagan community, we can apply those skills to the other communities to which we belong.

  2. Sarenth says:

    I think in no small part this is a work of attrition. We have an uphill battle against some fairly insidious cultural forces that insist on the primacy of self. Indeed, our economy more or less relies on selfishness and greed to keep itself afloat. Multi-generational households are a threat to the status quo of single-family large homes that are often packaged as the American dreams as much as unified ‘we’ oriented communities are threats to companies and other entities looking to fill the holes left by our hyper-individualistic culture.

    • Well, again, as I stated to Grace above, I’m discussing the Pagan community here, not the community at large. I do believe that working to make the Pagan community less individualistic will carry over into other, non-religious aspects of people’s lives.

      Personally, I have many problems with society on the whole, but as this blog is intended to be a Pagan blog, rather than a greater social commentary blog, I’m sure you can understand my hesitancy to call out the greater community as a whole, at least here.

      It is, however, an uphill battle, as you say, as we must fight against the greater societal pressures that insist upon living in a certain way.

      • Sarenth says:

        No I definitely understand the hesitancy. I think that, though, is the potential power of a vibrant, healthy Pagan community; it can engender all the change we, by virtue of following the path and living authentically within ourselves and within the Pagan community, need to change the larger community from within. I look at this as both a challenge that the Pagan community/communities can rise to, and an opportunity it can, and in my view, should embrace.

  3. bloody unreadable against this background

    • The theme I have for this blog is black text on a white background, so I’m unsure why it’s unreadable for you. Are you accessing this blog from a mobile device? I’ll see if I can adapt the mobile design.

  4. Pingback: Ego Revisited | The Crossroads Forest

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