People Should Do Stuff

My latest Sense of Place post is up: The Past is a Place We Still Inhabit

People in the past worshiped gods and spirits, raised shrines and built wells and went on pilgrimages to holy sites. They left offerings for ancestors and house spirits, said prayers and charms to protect against malevolent beings, held processions and festivals to honor the (mostly) unseen beings who existed alongside them. That is, they worlded the earth along with the gods and spirits.

But, we’re “modern and enlightened” now. We have smartphones and landfills, computers and fast food, human rights and nuclear weapons, high fructose corn syrup and teeth-whitening strips—that is, all the man-made artifacts of our conquest over our primitive past. Thus, the gods and spirits and all the Other which inhabited our world must have either gone away, or we’ve risen above them, or (in a particularly pernicious reading many Pagans are also guilty of), either never existed in the first place or were only cultural metaphors for natural forces or our psychological inner-states, as if people in the past were too stupid to understand the world around them.

This was one of those essays which demanded to be several times longer than I could make it; in fact, it’s already 400 words over the proposed word-limit for Patheos articles, even after extensive editing and excising.

Shortening complex discussions into 1000 words leads to all sorts of problems, not least of which is the necessity of leaving important statements un-elaborated or defended.  Also, connecting logic becomes one of the first things to get cut because it takes up so much space.

An alternative would have been a series, perhaps, except I tend personally to lose interest in an installment-essay.   I fear, then, the only way around this is to actually write books.

The Progress narrative isn’t addressed enough, or definitely not within Paganism with the obvious exception of John Michael Greer, whose blog I read irregularly (I really like his theological work, but I often detect an unfortunate dismissal of very valid critiques of capitalism and the actually-existing challenges to it.  Also, his comment section makes it seem like his readership is unfortunately very volkish).

I made the mistake of telling someone last week that some obviously important vital and necessary project should be done, and he nominated me for it.  That’s what happens when you say “people should do stuff.”  Still, somebody should write more on the Progress narrative, maybe collect his writings on the subject, expand them to their proper length, and publish it.


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