Feet of Clay (part 1)


I wrote this three part series after teaching at the wonderful Florida Pagan Gathering several years ago - 2009, I believe. They've been sitting in my old LiveJournal account. Given recent events, it seemed prudent to offer them a more visible home. I would likely write them differently today, but will leave them as they are.
Also, this recent piece felt like Feet of Clay (part 4). We all have feet of clay. Myself included.
Thank you for reading. I hope this series is useful to our ongoing discussions about ethics, both personal and in community.
- T. Thorn Coyle, April 2014
Edit: I link to the Frost's contested text in an addendum at the bottom of Part 3.
This will be a long, three part post, so bear with me, or simply move along.All of us need peers. All of us need to learn. All of us must grow, and be in our processes. All of us have blind spots. Every single one. And sometimes we become, or seem, intractable, staunchly defending our mistakes rather than attempting to learn from them.

This causes consternation for many of us, myself included, when we are faced with friends or lovers who's egos work overtime to defend. This also comes up around works or teachings that have inspired us created by people who's flaws seem egregious. And what do we do then? Do we discard the inspiration because of the person's actions? This is a mixed bag for me. I do not seek out those people anymore. I do not accord them capital "T" teacher status, though I can still learn a lot from them. I still listen to their music or view their art... But when it comes to shaping my soul, I want to spend most of my time with friends, lovers and teachers who are aware of their own flaws and try to live, work, love and teach from their own best natures. I wish to be around people who are making attempts at integration, at walking their own talk.

That said, I still sometimes quote the Roshi who slept with students and did not apologize for it. Picasso's misogyny does not erase the power of Guernica for me. I still like T.A.Z. even after finding out that Hakim Bey is a pedophile, though I read him with a more jaundiced eye these days. Heidegger should have detracted and explained his involvement with the Nazi party. He never did, but I still read his work - though I admit to loving Hannah Arendt much more, partially because she lived her life and philosophy more truthfully, I feel... despite the fact that she loved Heidegger.

I try to live with as much integrity as possible. I keep friends and peers around to use as sounding boards. I seek out teaching. I also have my own regrets from mistakes I've made that I am still trying to learn from. There are people by whom I have felt hurt and those who have felt deeply hurt by me. And life goes on. I show up in meditation every day and sometimes that is what I sit with. And other times not, because life does go on. We all have feet of clay.

And sometimes we need to try to make amends. Sometimes we need to say, "that was a mistake" or "I apologize".

And sometimes our apology is accepted and sometimes it is not. Either way, our process continues. We all can try to engage the processes of forgiveness and compassion. Including, often hardest, for ourselves.

All of this thinking not only comes from my own life, of course, from profound shifts of soul I've been through, from losses of friendship and painful breakups with lovers and partners. You know, the stuff we've all been through. The stuff that changes us.

But I am writing about this now, specifically, because I met Gavin and Yvonne Frost at the Florida Pagan Gathering. And I am writing about this now because I chose to record the panel I organized which I also chose to have them speak on. That podcast will post next month, once the video and sound are properly edited. Since this has been on my mind, however, I thought I would write about it all now.

The panel theme was "Paganism: Past, Present, and Future." I had organized it knowing that veteran Pagan speakers Chas Clifton and Margot Adler would be in attendance, as would relative new comer Lydia Crabtree, and therefore the panel would be an interesting mix of ideas. Well, I got an email one morning saying "Please call" one of the organizers about a possible addition to the panel. Who? Gavin and Yvonne Frost. Ah. Yes. Two venerable teachers who have also had folks foaming at the mouth over the years. I was on my first cup of tea and still a bit bleary, but after some Libran waffling, the ACLU-donation-giver in me said, "Put them on!" A/ I don't believe in censorship and B/ having a couple who have been around as long as they at the gathering and not having them sit on such a panel would have been simply silly.

But. They are controversial for good reason.

Those who know me, realize that I try to stay out of Pagan Politics, battles, and "he said, she said" sort of activity. I would really rather just do my own practice, teaching and learning as best I can. I also recognize that people grow and change and I generally try to not hold someone to where they were in their growth process five years ago, let alone thirty. I hope folks allow me the ability to change, as well. We all make mistakes and have our learning curves, and the times when we were not at our best, including some of the times I have been teaching! So, in general, I would simply let the Frosts go on about their business, assuming they wrote something almost 40 years ago that they may not even agree with any longer. But then I find that they do. Gavin stands by the words in question, that I will get to. And I chose to put them on the panel and to record the whole thing for posterity. So I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak.


And here ends part one of this long post, which will continue shortly.

4 Responses to “Feet of Clay (part 1)”

  1. Daily Stuff 4-3-14 | Ancient Light's Daily Stuff

    […] where most of us are going, don’t deserve to have publicity! Thorn’s article is here http://www.thorncoyle.com/blog/2014/04/01/feet-clay-part-1/ Please read all 4 parts of the article. 3 were written some time ago and then the last within the […]


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