We are all connected: to each other, biologically,
to the Earth, chemically,
to the rest of the Universe atomically.
—Neil deGrasse Tyson
So, I’ve written about our responsibility to the Earth. About how being who we are—Atheopagans—implies a necessary requirement that we stand up, in whatever great and small ways we can, for a better world.
And I’ve written about Atheopaganism as a path to greater happiness: an individual path of growth and wisdom. A way to open into the joy of the magnificent Universe, into celebrating the extraordinary beauty of noble, flawed, gorgeous humanity.
And those are true things.
But there is a point between the global and the individual: the social. The role of a person in a culture, in a society, in a community.
In a circle of friends.
You see, the Neil deGrasse Tyson quote above is a wonderful, inspiring statement, but it’s also insufficient. We are connected with the Earth ecologically, not just chemically. And we are connected with one another socially: as communal animals who need to belong and to feel loved and supported.
Which brings me to Terence Ward’s excellent post up at the Wild Hunt,”The Limits of Ministry”, about the question of Pagan counseling.
Is that a thing? Is it something our communities should expect from us? Or is that just an Abrahamic-religion hangover, leaving our only real responsibilities as our own ritual and activist work?
Waaaaaall…this is going to shock y’all, but: I have an opinion.
I believe that being an Atheopagan is about being the fullest, wisest, kindest, most complete, most empowered, most considered, most alive person you can be.
That includes fulfilling responsibilities, such as to the broader world…and to your friends and associates. Especially when—as will happen, inevitably—they are in extremis. When they are suffering.
Do we have an obligation to develop the basic skills to be a counselor, a confidante, an advisor?
I say yes: we do. Not because—as Ward’s article suggests—this is a part of the skill set of a “minister”—as we have no clergy—but because we are human. And this is something we should be able to offer to our loved ones and fellows, just because.
When, exactly, did we surrender the right and power to be counsel and support to our fellow humans to a professional and “ministerial” class?
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for professionals. There is. But psychological/ psychiatric professionals aren’t required for many of the challenging situations that just need a friend to have another friend’s back.
Often, all that is required is a willingness to listen. And kindness. And discernment; if someone has a serious psychological issue, it’s important to know when it’s time to encourage them to seek professional help.
Yes, Atheopagans. It’s a serious undertaking, being a complete human, here in the real world, under the cold, uncaring yet so-beautiful stars. It asks a lot of us, but the rewards are so rich.
So let us be kind with one another. Let us learn to support one another.
Beside the individual striving and the efforts at social change, we can make a better world, one interaction at a time.
It is a part of the Joyous Work to cultivate the skills of the listener, the compassion of the wise counsel. Let’s do it for our friends and loved ones, and again—always—to make the world a better place.