I don’t have time for a trifling witch-war with trifling people. If you think I’m not sufficiently devoted to my gods, that by doing their work out in the real world I’m failing them, that’s your choice. Pretty presumptuous to decide you know what my gods want better than they do, but have at it if you think you’re wiser than they are. I do it for their approval, not yours, and guess what? For adults, religion isn’t about the number of blog hits one gets. But I can’t help but see Brighid’s hand in the way sad, angry, insecure little people need to be so rude about my charity work, thus giving free press to a project that has received so much support from the pagan community as a result. She’s a craftswoman, after all. She knows how to make use of tools.
And no, I’m not linking the posts in question. Giving drama queens like that the attention they want only encourages them.
I was in a quilt shop the other day, and the conversation turned to the various projects we’re working on. I was getting a bit more of the border fabric I’d run out of for one of the baby quilts, and I mentioned the star quilt I was working on, with the Mariner’s Compass block at the center. The woman behind the counter let out an ooooh. “That’s a hard one.” I shrugged. “I’m paper piecing it, so it’s a lot easier.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that’s cheating.”
I hear this attitude a lot, this idea that the value of an action is in its difficulty rather than its outcome. Your quilt isn’t as nice if you attach the bindings by machine rather than by hand. You’re not healthy enough, domestic enough, good enough, if you don’t make every single ingredient in your food from scratch. You’re too dependent on technology if you store your grocery list in your phone. There’s this worship of labor-intensity in our society. This whole concept is based on the false idea that everyone has the same time, money, skills, and resources, and that’s just blatantly false.
In competitions, I can see how it would be valuable. A competitor performing a more difficult task successfully shows that they have a higher level of skill. But here’s the thing: life isn’t a competition. So instead of being so hard on each other for choosing to do things the practical way, to “use your head and save your heels,” as my great-grandmother would say, let’s celebrate each other’s successes.
A family member, for reasons I can’t fathom, felt the need to post this link to my Facebook wall in reference to my baby quilts. It’s a woman’s reflection on the “true value” of one of her quilts. All it really did for me was convince me further that I have no interest in ever trying to sell my quilts for what they’re “worth.” I mean, I think her prices are outrageous ($30 an hour for labor? My mother has a master’s degree and makes less than that teaching disadvantaged four-year-olds, several of whom have special needs. There’s no way that the time I spend on my hobby is worth more than the time my mother spends changing the lives of small children! And don’t get me started on $15 a yard for fabric, because I have NEVER paid that, even for the designer stuff!), but that’s not my real issue with the idea.
Nobody’s going to use a quilt that costs four figures. Even if, by some miracle or while smoking crack, someone actually paid $1500 for a queen-sized quilt (which is a fair market price if a crafter’s going to get their labor out of it), that’s too expensive for something that’s going to go on the bed. There are two categories of quilts that I make: quilts for people I know and genuinely care about on a personal level, like the baby quilt for Jack and his wife, and quilts for babies whose families can’t afford baby blankets. When I give someone a quilt, yes, it’s a one-of-a-kind original, but you know what? It’s also a warm blanket. It has a purpose. If a quilt costs that kind of money, it’s too expensive to actually use, and it ends up hung on a wall for decoration. Honestly, as much as I’ve liked some of the wall hangings I’ve seen, I’d be a bit hurt if I put hours of work into a warm, comforting, useful quilt and the recipient just hung it on the wall. A quilt is, in many ways, the closest I can come to giving someone a long-term hug, and hugs are for people, not for walls. I would hope that anyone for whom I’d make a quilt is going to actually use the thing, because otherwise, all the work I’ve put into it has gone to waste.
I have to wonder about a society in which we value the dollar cost of an item so much that we’re willing to sacrifice the item’s reason for existing. And it’s not just the quilts. Think about antique cars. They were built to be driven, but instead they’re “restored” and parked in garages where people just look at them. Low mileage raises their value. Collectible toys and action figures, meant to be played with, but kept in the boxes to be resold at a higher price later on. Why do we value the price tag more than the use for which the item is intended?
I’m noticing lately that the pagan community has its own contingent of fundamentalists who give no credence to any other belief system. They want to tell the whole community what to believe instead of understanding that we aren’t one religion. We are the category “other.” If you ask three pagans a theological question, you’ll get four different answers, and that’s okay. We can have a community without having a hive mind.
Here are some of the ideas that I’ve been particularly annoyed with lately from people thinking they speak for the community:
1. Pagans should be modest and pure, because lust is immoral. Lust is sexual desire. Sexual desire is necessary for the continuation of the species. It also raises a tremendous amount of energy, as anyone who’s felt the hum of electricity in their skin at a lover’s touch can testify.
2. All pagans should be sexually open, because sex is sacred. Sacred doesn’t mean you want to deal in it all the time…unless you do, in which case, have fun, be safe, and accept that I’m not comfortable joining you. This is a highly personal choice, and a person has no more right to tell me to strip down than they do to demand that I cover up. My body is mine.
3. All of us honor The Goddess (TM) as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. No, no, no, no. Everyone has a different view of deity, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
4. Christians are terrible people, and ex-pagan Christians are traitors. Christians are people. They aren’t evil, they aren’t Nazis, and they aren’t out to burn us alive. There are extremists who make life difficult for anyone who believes differently, and admittedly, Christianity as a whole has a HUGE degree of privilege in American society, but that doesn’t mean we have any reason to hate the whole religion. It particularly doesn’t mean that we have any reason to hate people who leave paganism to go back to Christianity. Teo Bishop, in particular, has made MASSIVE contributions to the pagan community that don’t go away just because he’s gone back to Christianity. Yes, there have been horrible things done in the name of Christianity. My grandmother is completely opposed to equal rights for gay people and to reasonable access to reproductive health care, but she also serves at soup kitchens, provides school supplies for impoverished children, and volunteers for cancer charities, and when I was in Maryland, out of money, with no car, unable to pay my bills, she drove up and brought me back to NC to live with her until I got on my feet. And all of this, good and bad, is motivated by her religion. That doesn’t make her a bad person, and I triple-fucking-dog-dare anyone to say differently.
5. Atheists are the enemy. Why? Some of my dearest friends are atheists and agnostics, as well as most of the people I’ve dated. They may not be as small a minority as we are, and they may have been out in the open a lot longer than we are, but they are subject to marginalization by the majority too. And seriously, why do we need an enemy? There’s enough out there to wage war on without going looking for a fight.
6. We have to accept everyone. This one’s complicated. I mean, everyone has inherent worth and dignity as a human being, but that doesn’t mean allowing registered sex offenders to attend your family-friendly event, or that recons are going to feel comfortable at an eclectic ritual.
7. Racism/sexism/whatever-ism isn’t really an issue in paganism like it is in the rest of the world. Have you looked around lately? We are not post-racial or post-gender, and even among a group that has been marginalized on a religious basis, there are still people on varying axes of privilege who act on that privilege at the expense of others.
8. Paganism is the one true and ancient path. Which of the hundreds of paths within paganism would that be? And if you’re preaching that you have the one true way, what makes you so different from the fundamentalist evangelical Christians you so despise?
9. We all need to boycott X. Here’s the thing. Not everybody feels the way you do about whatever company you’re bitching about this week, and even if they do, not all people can afford it. Not everyone can afford not to shop at the place that has basic necessities for that much cheaper. Not everyone can afford to eat organic or to drive a 40-thousand-dollar electric car to save the environment. See above where I talk about privileged people acting on their privilege–assuming everyone has the same advantages economically is part of that.
It’s time to use some common sense and stop trying to tell everyone else how to live. The people who are making uninformed and overreaching blanket statements are not, as the phrase from my childhood goes, the boss of me. Please, if you’ve got beliefs about how to live and you want to live by them, be my guest. But don’t ask anyone else to live that way, and don’t act as though you had the right to explain someone’s lived experience to the person who’s lived it.
On a forum where I’m a regular, there was a post today by someone who’s looking to learn to shield, because they’re uncomfortable with their empathy levels. A new member posted to them that they simply needed to Manifest! Good! Energy! And white light! Because what you believe is what will be!
I have several problems with this idea. First, the fact that it’s utter nonsense. My mother, as dearly as I love her, believes in her heart that she’s going to make her fortune by winning the lottery. She plays multiple times per week, spending close to $2K each year on tickets. If she’d saved the money she’s spent in the lottery since it was approved in our state eight years ago, she’d have a down payment on a house by now, instead of feeling trapped and unable to move out of my grandparents’ house. Instead, all she has is a belief and a habit. She’s won small prizes on scratch-off games here and there, but like many gamblers, she feeds her winnings right back into her habit the majority of the time.
The other problem I have with this idea that we manifest our lives through the energy we put out is its natural conclusion. If manifesting energy is all it takes to fix one’s life, then when horrible things happen to people, it’s because they didn’t do it right. And that makes it their fault. Well, I call bullshit. My close friends who live with chronic illnesses aren’t sick because they didn’t manifest the appropriate energies; they’re sick because their bodies do not work properly. Sasha Fleischman was not set on fire on the bus earlier this month because they didn’t manifest appropriate energy. They were set on fire for being agender and wearing a skirt while displaying masculine physical characteristics, and because people are capable of great cruelty.
When I called this member on the flaws in this approach, she replied that when she manifests good-day energy, it usually works for her. She then went on to tell me that she hoped I found something that brought me the joy she’s been able to manifest in her life. Now, this isn’t the first time that one of these white-light types have claimed that I don’t have joy in my life, but the truth is, that’s not the case at all. The difference is that my joy doesn’t come from looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but from seeing the world as it is and taking action to make it better. The joy of a world where children love books is the joy of reading to a preschooler. The joy of a world in which poor people have enough to eat is the joy of taking the spare change that’s been piling up in the console of your car and using it to buy lunch for the homeless veteran panhandling on the corner. My joy is the joy of feeling like I’m making a difference. My great-uncle Roger, who helped to raise my dad, once told me that every choice we make is like throwing a rock into water. It might look small when we’re up close to it, but that ripple effect touches people in ways we don’t imagine, for good or bad. These small choices build up, and if we try to pretend we already live in a world that’s better than this one, we miss the chances to create that world.
I wasn’t going to use this fabric, because it’s some that was given to me, and it’s craft store quality rather than quilt-grade. It’s not going to hold up like the others do. But I needed A. space for the new stuff and B. to get one knocked out in a hurry, so I stayed up late tonight assembling this quilt top. It just needs the borders on it, and then it’s ready to assemble the layers and finish it. If I’d been more awake while assembling it, I think I would have done a better job of arranging the colors, but I doubt a baby who needs it will be bothered much. The biggest problem with using craft store quality fabrics is that the strips aren’t cut exactly evenly, which means that even with using a regular 1/4 inch seam allowance, the blocks aren’t uniform. But it was donated fabric, and I’m sure a family who’s on the receiving end of this project won’t mind. All it needs is to have the borders attached and the layers assembled. Doing the work!
I just want to thank the people who’ve driven my blog traffic over the past few days. It’s meant a lot to me to be able to get the word out about my baby quilt project, and the emails I’ve gotten offering materials…I just don’t have words for how much I appreciate it, both in terms of the children I’ll be able to help, and for the fact that someone besides me believes in this project. Without a Project Linus chapter in my area, and with the organization not currently taking applications for new chapters, I’ve been pretty much on my own with it up until now, and it’s so good to know that people care. On my own behalf and that of the babies I’m trying to help, thank you so much.