Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lessons, and Teachers, and Visual Metaphors

Sometimes, when it's been a while since I've felt.... religiousy, I guess, I develop this attachment to the idea of a lesson plan, or program, or structure or something. I suppose it's something of a normal pattern: you lose your drive for a while for whatever reason, your religious practice suffers, and you come back to it with something of a desire to start, if not back at the beginning, then with some sort of program.

Part of it is probably related to some innate feeling that if I have a lesson plan, I'll follow it, I'll get shit done. Which is ridiculous because I've always procrastinated with studying and essays and I never did any of my readings. It's part of the whole "This semester, things will be different!" that you always get at the beginning of the year. Things aren't going to be different. Things will be the same. You'll buy the textbooks in a paroxysm of optimism and never take it out of the plastic wrapping. 

So here I am again, come full circle. Or almost. And despite knowing I probably wouldn't go through with it the way I should, readings and rituals and everything, I still crave the "lesson plan". I've never yet found a system or anything that I actually like. They all seem to be geared for a different sort of person. I had high hopes for the "A Witch Alone" one, but.... it is not a good book, and I think it assumes you live in Britain. And the instructions for the exercises are incredibly lacking. 

It makes me think back to the Pagan Blog Project. In a way (before I got bored of it like 6 months ago) that sort of thing is a good project for new Pagans. You can set yourself a subject each week and research it. Part of it, I think, was just me getting tired of some of what other people were writing. It stuns me that there are Pagans out there who hear the word "faerie" and genuinely think about small sparkly things at the bottom of the garden. Seriously. They'll talk about setting up little houses and so forth, as if faeries were endearing, as if they were something you wanted all up in your shit. No. 

It's been a long time since I posted one of those 30 Days of Paganism entries, too. I should get on that.

I always come back to lessons. I liked university, and the way it was taught compared to college (what Americans call high school). Maybe it's related to how much I enjoy documentaries. And I've always been academia-oriented, to a point. So I always come back to pushing and searching and wondering who or what is out there to give me some structure to get back into things. I tried a mentor once; it didn't work out. He moved too slowly for me mentally, and I had to explain everything, and I didn't give him enough personally (some people just don't understand when others are private individuals), and I think he thought I was unintelligent by way of being younger than he is. He put himself on a pedestal. He would speak to me in a way I wouldn't speak to a small child. I was willing to give him respect as a mentor just as a matter of course, but his manner grew quickly tiresome, and I hated having to slow down to wait for him to catch up, and all other things being equal, he failed me as a teacher. Which was more irritating than disappointing. But in some ways it was as much my fault as his. I came into it with expectations that were possibly too high, and didn't properly inform him of those expectations before we started. So he never had the chance to tell me what he was prepared to do and not to do. And we were a bad match. That's life.

I'm not really a mentorry person, anyway. I knew that before I started. But I set that aside, because it's important to try things out and challenge one's preconceptions. It was right to do it, at least so far as personal growth and personal knowledge go. At least I can say I tried.

I guess that's another problem with teaching programs and lessons generally. The teachers don't always know what they're doing. Particularly if they never had a proper teacher themselves. I think, for part of what I do, at least, a teacher misses the point. In my Hedgecraft, a lot of it is about finding your own way. Exploring the shadows. Looking and listening. The concept of a teacher, especially at this point along the path, is counter to the whole idea of the thing. You'd end up following someone down the wrong way, and have to find your way back. 

In my spirituality, and in some other things, I understand concepts in a very visual way. Not visual learning, or anything - I mean I interpret them through visual metaphor. The path through the woods is a good one, and a common one. Sometimes I think of the path through the woods to see and understand where I am. Once upon a time, I stood in a clearing at the edge of a wood, surrounded by long grass. I knew I would have to set out in some direction or other, and take a well-worn path. There were paths to left and right. I set out through the long grass, and made my own path between them. When things go well, the path through the woods is wide and clear, and the sun filters down through the leaves. When things are hard, when I feel like the Gods aren't listening and I cannot find my way, the path is dark - it is night, or the sky is filled with storm-clouds - and I can barely see my way. The path is very narrow, and roots reach up to trip me, and branches smack me in the face. I stumble often. Now I'm past the woods. I'm in a big, wide clearing. I've been in the clearing for a while. The sun has been shining, but clouds travel across its face. There are more woods on the other side, but I don't know if I will ever enter them. I stand in the middle with my stick, and look at the sky. The path in the woods metaphor is fairly straight-forward, but I'm not sure what the clearing means. That bothers me, because I've been there a while. Am I meant to pick a direction again? Are there other places to go, than through the woods? Do I wait? I guess I wait. I wonder who I'm waiting for. 

And how long I'll be waiting.

It took a long time to travel through the woods. Years. But I walked the whole way by myself. I enjoyed the walk overall, though sometimes it was frightening, and upsetting, and it was dark and I was cold. But I think if I'd followed someone else, ironically, I would have gotten lost. And how difficult it would have been, through the bracken and the mud, to find my way back to the way I'd been going. All paths might, really, be going to the same place, but there are some paths you have to walk alone. And if you choose that one in particular, if you chose mine, for example, I couldn't lead you through it. The point of it is to walk it alone. That's part of the lesson.

At least, to begin with. Now, I'm not sure. Who am I waiting for? Or perhaps it's a what. Perhaps there's something to see, up there in the sky where I've turned my eyes. You can't see the sky in the woods. Not properly. 

I like my visual metaphor. It teaches me things. I guess I'll wait.


  1. I like your post, very thoughtful. It resonates with a lot of things I've both noticed and felt, especially the visual side of things.

    I am only just catching up after seven months break from the pagan blog project, I understand how you got bored of it, quite a few of the posts are new people but there's one or two who have more than the equivalent of 'ooh sparkly and new' stuff to say. Anyway I have you bookmarked and look forward to more posts from you :)

    1. Thank you very much! I appreciate your input on the visual stuff - sometimes I wonder if I'm expressing myself very well when I talk about that sort of thing. :) I'm glad to know I'm connecting with it and that other people can relate.