Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet

May 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Where all the rich Pagans? Why do Pagans always seem to be so poor?

I first heard this back in the late 1980s. Since that time, I have heard so many variations of it, I just cannot keep track of the iterations. Nor would I want to. This statement has bothered me since that first time that I heard it. From my mind’s eye, there is a touch of unfairness attached to it, as well as a heavy coat of broad-brushing one individual’s implications of the concept of “success” on to everyone else in their chosen community. Since I recently had this implication thrown at me in my own workplace, I thought it might be time to tackle this in the open field.

Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet

Aside from being one of my favorite 1980s albums (Rick Springfield – don’t judge me), the entire perspective that success can go to someone’s head is quite a real concept. As I mentioned over on Life With Trickster Gods, one cannot be afraid of success, nor should one be afraid of failure either. Both are wonderful aspects of one’s experience, particularly in ritual and magickal working. When you find something that works – or tends to work, because not everything succeeds every single time, you want to keep using it. Without those measures, you cannot really understand what is useful for your workings, and what becomes more a working theory.

For instance, I code for a living. My primary focus is writing snippets for retrieval language to get data from a data cluster at my job. By no means, I am an expert. There is always room for growth. I am lucky enough to be provided an environment where I can dabble in things I call “theory queries”, which are essentially me trying out a concept to see if I can retrieve the appropriate results. Usually, these theory queries are designed to shorten the amount of time it takes for me to gather data for a specific need. One theory query I wrote is nearly 500 lines of code, contains over fifty virtual tables and takes approximately 45 minutes to run. For a SQL query, that’s literally an eternity. For me, forty-five minutes of a running query provides a snapshot of enrollment for a semester – a task that took me close to four days to accomplish in small snippets. It took me nearly two weeks to write the entire query. It was the first time I had ever used virtual tables. So, for me, I was unsure it would run or even be correct. I cannot tell you the number of times it did not work correctly. Nor how many times I amended and rewrote sections of that query. Currently, the query is listed as ‘v4.2’, but those are only the major revisions and additions that have happened since then. Since then, I have written dozens upon dozens of other queries. And while I am much more confident of what I write, I still check and verify the results that I get, because I refuse to let my success at one giant undertaking to color my ability to still get things wrong in smaller, far easier to write queries.

When you get a ritual framework or a magickal process that works, do not be arrogant enough to think that this framework or process will ALWAYS work. Be open-minded and flexible enough to alter what you need.

One Person’s Triumph Is Another’s Defeat (Or Can Be)

What does this have to do with rich and poor Pagans? Well, it’s an example of using processes to get success. But the more obscure point is that what you define as “success” can be interpreted differently than someone else. As another instance in the difference of definitions – a group plans out a public ritual and eventually does this rite with members of the public attending. One individual might define success as how the crowd reacts to the ritual both during the ritual and after it. The feedback is a critical component. Another individual, from within the same group, might consider the ritual to be successful if the entire group makes it through the script without having to read lines. In other words, managing their parts from memory. Continuing in that vein, the fewer flubs and moments where people space out on their parts – the more successful the individual may see the ritual in their eyes. Both individuals are part of the same group, have the same desire for a successful public ritual, but have a different criterion of what makes the ritual a success or not.

Perhaps a better of working through that would be for the group to determine what makes a ritual “successful” or not. However, I would point to such defining measures as potential stifling aspects towards individual members’ being able to provide some off-the-cuff improvisation to their assigned parts. But now we are diving into ritual theory. Let’s take a step back towards what might be considered as “successful”.

Money Really Ain’t Everything

In today’s modern, uber-capitalistic society, how much someone brings home from dispensing their individual skill sets in the workplace seems to be the be-all, end-all in the definition of success. Yes, I have heard the statements that “money is evil” and that “money should be abolished tomorrow.” I hold both statements as being true. I do agree that monetary compensation is an evil in our world. That, perhaps the world would be a far different place if we removed compensation of money for skillful employment. This would bring back the barter system, which really is not that much different than the current monetary greed we have. Certain skill sets would be prized above others, and a class of individual would still rise within our society – just based on a different level of concepts. So, yes, we need to make money to survive to a certain degree. Our modern society believes in the concept of hoarding those results, accumulating more money than you would ever have a need to spend. And that total of accumulated wealth is the measure of how “good” a person you are. Really?

And What About You, Tommy?

See, this is where I wind up with the issues over the “where are the rich Pagans” lamentation. For me, I can truly only speak for myself, Paganism, Polytheism, Druidry…all of that is wrapped up in my personal Spirituality. This is where I draw my personal values from, where I find the indicators of how I should approach the greed-oriented aspect of our modern world. My definition of a “successful” person is someone who achieves what they put their mind to. If the accumulation of money is your goal, then bless your Ferengi soul. My goals are to be the best possible Druid I can be. To help others on their own personal paths within their own Spirituality. I know for a fact that I do not have the answers for them. I am still seeking out the answers myself. That does not stop me from being supportive of others. Being there to listen when they need an ear. Providing my own personal perspective when they ask for it. I am not the “be-all, end-all” nor do I try to bring myself to any such airs. But I am there to be someone’s friend when they need it. I am there to hold them when the times get bad, and to help in whatever capacity I potentially can. For me, that’s a level of “success” and “riches” that not one penny or quid, or pfennig can provide me. That is only achieved by letting yourself be vulnerable.

Where are the Successful Pagans?

So, where are the successful Pagans? Damn folks, they are everywhere around you. Some of them are more well-known than others because they have albums, podcasts, successful blog sites, write books, do very open work in the public…just because they happen to add some income to their pockets for the things that they provide to the community or achieve some air-time on television or radio waves does not make them any different than other Pagans. They hurt. They feel. They continue to learn. They just happen to be able to be more out in the open than others. There are many other Pagans that are just as successful. The ones who gather together in coffee houses to talk about every potential topic under the Sun. Those who grab their staff or hop on their bicycles and travel through the woods and the backroads of their communities, just to be outside. They are there to help those that need help moving from one town to another because the living is cheaper or the new home may be closer to work. They show up at the Pagan Pride Days and serve drinks from behind the counter with a smile. They volunteer to help their various organizations in roles that are so far behind the scenes, that their names may only be known by a select few. They are the Pagans who volunteer their time, put their names on contracts so that events can happen, sometimes assuming risks for those events, that very few event goers even realize exists.

Yes, there are plenty of folks that need a hand in our community. Some of them happen to be the organizers of events, musicians, writers, authors, bloggers, podcasters…and so many folks assume that these folks are “happy” and “well off” because they make money from the sales of what they provide to our wide community. The reality might be very different from that. Because malady does not just approach us in the form of money. Loneliness, depression, cancer, illnesses by the scores can also be issues that need to be dealt with, both individually and collectively as a community.

Where do you find successful Pagans? All around you. You might even be one of those “successful” Pagans that I am speaking of, and not realize it yourself. You know, being “too close to the trees to be able to see the forest” and all that rot. Success, from my perspective, is in how we treat others. Not just within our community, but even those that align themselves against Paganism because of a misguided notion or misunderstood perspective. Paganism will not appeal to everyone, nor should it. But how we treat those who dissimilar to ourselves will define who we, as Pagans, are far greater than how we treat one another (in my opinion).

Do I consider myself to be a successful Pagan? To a large extent, yes. But there is always room for improvement. A LOT of room….

–T /|\


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