[NOTE: This post has NOTHING to do with the current iteration of the perennial “who’s pagan” discussion; I don’t have the energy for it, and I honestly don’t care enough what other people call themselves – or me – to be bothered.]
What I have been thinking about a bit recently is my own personal sense of belongingness (new word!) – where do I put the majority of my time and energy, and where do I go when I need to get my energy back? And what does that say about where I really fit into the world… and is that different from where I *think* I fit?
Looked at more or less objectively, the bulk of my life falls into three main areas – family, church and dojo (plus work, which pays for all the others). There are occasional extras, of course – Temple choir leaps to mind – but on a day to day basis, I am probably spending most of my time in one or more of those three areas. An outsider, looking at my life, would probably conclude that I am – at base – a middle-aged Unitarian family man with a serious martial arts practice and a needlework problem. And he’d be right.
Of course, this reality does conflict a bit with my lingering self-image as a Pagan intellectual and amateur philosopher, but the reality is that I’m not truly that guy anymore. My basic philosophical orientation is still pagan, within the UU framework, but as far as religious practice goes, it’s really just plain UU. I’m on the worship committee, I’m a songleader and – being completely honest – I’m one of the people that gets turned to when something needs to get done. My religious life is, amazingly to me sometimes, once again in a church.
And that’s not the only part of my identity that has been shifting… where I used to haunt the second-hand book stores, now I’m likelier to head to the dojo for a workout as many nights as I can fit it in. I belong there, too – after almost six years I am starting to become a senpai (senior student), and that carries responsibilities to my fellow students as well, not just to my own practice.
Do you see a common thread there? I have jobs to do, actual responsibilities, in all the places I belong: at church and at the dojo – and certainly in my family! In fact, I have a theory – that having responsibilities is one of the markers of truly belonging somewhere. If I spent significant time with a group and nobody ever asked me to contribute in a meaningful way, or really expected much of me, then I would question whether I actually belonged there or was just a glorified visitor.
On another note, as my self-definition shifts and changes – as the Pagan philosopher gives way to the UU martial artist, my relationship with my books is also changing. As I said to my wife recently, I’m starting to realize that being “the guy with all the books” has been an unconscious part of my self-image for… well, most of my life, and certainly for the three decades since I was in high school. And I think it’s a part of my identity that I am ready to trim down, if not part with altogether (I cannot imagine myself without books at all, but I can certainly see myself with a lot less than I have now)… so I have been going through the library and culling, almost two bookcases’ worth so far – a lot of it specialist material that I needed or found useful when I was an active Hellenist, but that is now more or less superfluous – much of it is data I no longer need to be able to access, and the most important bits I have as working knowledge in my head.
So, I may be having a small book sale soon… most of the collection can go to the used book stores for trade credit, but there are a handful of volumes that I think might best go to folks who I know can make proper use of them – books like Jennifer Larson’s outstanding work on Greek Nymphs, Phillipe Borgeaud’s The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece, and so on… I will probably pull together a list in the next week or so and post it. Stay tuned.