I could write much about last weekend’s Pantheacon gathering, but want to focus on one random event:
An acquaintance greeted me as I was moving from one thing to the next on my Pcon agenda (the state of most people at the con at any given moment). I paused to talk for a moment, enjoying the air on the promenade of the hotel before diving back into the lair. In talking about the energy of the Red God Revel that I orchestrated with several priest/esses on Friday night, one thing stood out. This person said that the energy was interesting because many of the people attending were not ‘serious seekers’, and were drawn there by my ‘marketing success’. I tried to explain that in a convention of 2,000 people, a 400 person ritual was to be expected and that people tend to enjoy the rituals people like Anaar, Morpheus, and I put on because they know they are usually well done, and that of course those 400 people would bring varied energy to the working.
Then I moved on to what was next on the day’s agenda, because that is the way things go. But the conversation stayed with me for a few reasons, the main one being that phrase, “serious seekers”. I think I know what ze meant by that, and we’ve all complained at various times about “party Pagans” and the like. But this weekend, I realize that I’m changing the tune to which I might sing this song.
What makes a “serious seeker” and at what point does someone cross that invisible threshold from casual to intense? As a person who is drawn to those with diligent practice who dedicate time and energy to their personal and spiritual quests, I comprehend wanting to celebrate with the like-minded. Personally, I’d rather be in a room full of people having what I consider to be smart and considered conversations – whether funny or sublime – than with people getting loudly drunk. My friends are all smart along with knowing how to have a good time. I value both qualities and want range and depth in my cohort.
But I’m not so sure that those “other” people at Pantheacon only want to party. I’m not so sure that those “other” people at Pantheacon are not seriously seeking. Perhaps they are seriously seeking. My sense is that their hearts and minds and souls are looking hard for something. Whether they’ve found the something that clicks with them on a more permanent level, I don’t know. But damn it, they are willing to try. They are showing up and opening to the energies at hand and saying, “yes, I may not yet be at a place where I’m practicing daily, and I may not yet have found a stable home in a tradition, but I am open to the power of the Gods and to the search of my own soul.” Their feet are on a path, whether I see the path or not.
We all have our own journey to the sacred within. Who am I to say that one person’s journey is less serious than my own? Trust me, I’ve done my own fair share of carping about people whom I want to respect but who’s methods, outlook, or “fruits”, I don’t quite understand or may even disagree with. But I simultaneously have to admit to myself that I simply cannot know the core state of their hearts and souls. Unless they come to me for advice, I simply must say, “their path belongs to them” and then decide whether or not I want to lend time and energy to that relationship or not. What I cannot do is decide definitively whether or not their search is “serious.”
For example, sometimes the serious is found in the extremely silly. Discordianism is not my cup of tea, but that does not mean that people aren’t changed by the powers of chance and the powers of laughter. Of course they are! Possibility is available in any moment. I happen to believe and experience that diligent practice helps us to be more present to these moments, but that doesn’t mean that serendipity can’t knock the unsuspecting on the head, particularly if something deep inside of them has longing for connection.
Which brings me to this: sometimes the serious is buried under systems of avoidance. These systems present themselves in varied ways: dilettantism, excessive partying, self-abnegation…. but that does not mean the seeker is not there, perhaps feeling trapped and alone, until some combination of events happens to break even one link of the chain that will begin the process to set her free.
Perhaps that happened this last weekend. Actually, I have no doubt that out of 2,000 people it happened for several. Maybe even at the ritual in question. Or while listening to a panel. Or in conversation in the hallway. Or during lunch. Or at a workshop.
I may sometimes judge the surface of your process, but I will try to never harshly judge what is at your core. For me to do that would be hubris. Besides which, I have my own process to take care of. As the wise, funny, and sometimes poignant Lon Milo Duquette said this weekend: “The best thing I can possibly do for all of you is to get my shit together.”
For now, I’m going to trust that we are all doing our best. Seriously.