As humans, we can’t really help but view many of our relationships as transactional: I give you X, and you give me Y. If I’m extra-good/nice/obedient, you may give me Z. It’s how we learn to relate to our parents, and sadly, many adult relationships are still based on a transactional model. If they were not, there would be no such thing as diamond jewelry.
As Atheopagans, we understand that we are part of the broader Universe. We thus have relationships with one another and with the Universe as a whole. But we know that the Universe isn’t listening to us, judging us, expecting us to “evolve” or develop “wisdom”, or anything of the sort. The Universe simply IS, churning along through its myriad processes insensate and utterly uncaring about the fates and desires of little old us.
Yet we love it anyway. We revel in its beauty and intricate wonders, in the delightful surprises that come as we discover more about it. We watch the stars and planets, and wait for the comets. We revel in sightings of wildlife, in the rich displays of sunsets and autumn leaves even though they are mostly the same, year after year. They never grow old to us.
In our rituals, we celebrate the turning of the seasons and the meanings they evoke in us. We mark the passages in our lives, celebrating, hoping, grieving, giving thanks, committing ourselves to the values and principles that we believe will make us better people, and our lives richer and more beautiful.
We love the Universe.
We love because it makes us happier to love. It makes us better to love. Even knowing that there is nothing coming back but the simple fact of existence: air to breathe and time to live, for awhile. This gratitude and love is not only good for us, it contributes to a better world, and it shows us the way to something closer to unconditional love…love that isn’t based on the assumption of getting something back.
And that is good practice for our human relationships. The truth is that expectations can be poison in a relationship; far better for us simply to love another because of who they are than for what they can give us. Far better to be generous and giving not because we expect something in return, but because there is pleasure in it of itself.
Loving the Universe—loving being alive—is a way to practice the art of love without expectation. It’s a rare discipline, a lifelong effort to master, and a key way station on the road to a life lived in the fullness of kindness.
Atheopagans don’t have the psychological bolster of believing in invisible, powerful entities which might respond to their entreaties. But what we do have may in the long run be something better: a guide to a way beyond worship, beyond bargaining, beyond prayer.
A guide to love itself, for its own sake.