I’m a pretty smart person. No seriously, my IQ has been tested. I’m pretty smart. I’m also pretty educated. Not on par with my big sis the PhD. Nor do I have an actual degree under my belt to net me more moolah. But in my years of travel and learning, I’ve picked up a few things here and there. Some of it is very very helpful. I can cook anything with no issue (except cake. Don’t ask.) I can carry on an esoteric conversation about classical opera or art or linguistics. I know how to bandage a horses hoof and do CPR and identify birds and plants. I can tell you how to kill your neighbor with a few herbs or how to see the gods with a few more. As my high school english teacher drilled into our brains “The mark of an educated man is one who knows a little bit about everything and a lot about something.” I cant remember who the quote comes from but I can quote it like I know something.
So it might boggle your mind, gentle reader, that I have been pagan for 10 years now and only recently stumbled into an opportunity to receive a formal pagan education. I know, don’t gasp in horror too hard there and hurt yourself. I really really like this group I am studying with but I have a confession.
Intellect and education have made me a snob.
I really did mean to write about receiving a pagan education, but apparently I am going to talk about ego instead. So sayeth the Goddess. Don’t tell anyone, I really do want them to read this blog and if they have gotten this far, chances are they will keep reading.
Ego is such a Freudian idea. Ego is what holds us back from making an ass of ourselves and concurrently living life to the fullest. Ego is why the diet industry is a billion dollars a year… thing and why self-help books fly off the shelves at your local bookstore. Ego is the snickering voice inside my head that makes it that much harder to relate to the people around me. I often liken it to my mother’s voice, but the truth is its as much a part of me as the rest is, however much I wish it wasnt.
Some people equate ego with self-esteem, the more you have the better. Isn’t that soooo in line with our western ideals? Suddenly ego isn’t a bad thing but a mark of our zest for individualization and nothing more than a self-satisfied pat on the back. But its not. Ego can be deadly. You let ego go far enough and you get Hitler or Stalin or Kim Jong Il. You chose not to reel ego back in and suddenly we are slathering genocide with a covering of god-approval. I assume most of us here are pagans. I assume most of us remember the Burning Times and the Inquisition from the pages of our history books. That, my friends, is unadulterated ego.
So how did we leap from education to ego? For me the path is simple. Education in my family breeds egotism. Diplomas become signs of breeding. The clearly delineated line is drawn smack dab between those who can afford to be educated and those who cannot. And as the cost of an education continues to rise, I fear that more and more people are following the same ideas. Pretty soon only 2 types of people will be able to afford a college education: those who have the money for it and those who have the genetics for a scholarship.
Don’t get me wrong, I think education is not and should not be defined by what we learn in the halls of higher learning. I think an AA or a certification is just as good, if not more applicable, to the new world we are living in. But guys, the truth is, I stumbled into the job I have now, the one that pays more than enough to support me and my family, the one that requires experience instead of a degree.
I have a friend, lets call her S. ( Hi S!!) S has a degree from an outstanding university, double major double minor. But is S able to find a job with this brilliant degree in a topic she adores? Nope. S is now slaving away for “the man”. My boss, who has a masters degree, makes 2 dollars an hour more than I do. TWO dollars. That’s only approximately 4000 more a year than I make. And since I can make overtime, that gap closes faster than you can blink. My older sister with the PhD (remember her from the beginning of this rant?) has other friends with PhD’s who can’t find jobs in their fields and are working for minimum wage, or close to, in the nearest mall. My baby sister with the BA in psychology found a job right out of school scooping poop at the local animal shelter.
Lets face it folks, there is no reason for us to equate education and degrees with anything except a bigger pile of the national debt. And yet we insist on doing just that. I catch myself doing it all the time, even when I don’t mean to.
I have a very angry, nasty little critic living inside my head. I suspect she is stuck in her teenage years, the way she rolls her eyes and snaps witty retorts. Sometime she gains control of the mouth, usually I bottle her deep and pray no one else can hear her.
She is the one who becomes impatient when someone else doesn’t get one of my highfaluting concepts. She rolls her eyes at what she deems sheer stupidity. She judges others for their ideas, their education, their behaviors. I really don’t like her all that much, even if she is really really funny every now and then. But she is there and I am so overtly aware of her. Like, right now, she is laughing at all the big words I have used in this post.
How does this go back to a pagan education of all things? My pagan education has made me keenly aware of my propensity towards egotism. The classes and assigned reading are designed for people trying to figure out if they want to be pagans or not. The essays are from all sorts of pagan walks, from Wicca 101 to historical accounts of King Arthur and the Knights. The classes cover the basics, what color is associated with what emotion, circle casting with the elements, etc. Of course I am yanking at the bit here! My edumacated mind is too brilliant for this snails pace!
And that right there, that single thought, is the place of stumbling. Ego doesn’t allow us to see where we have been, let alone where we are going. Ego is where the Goddess strikes me to my knees and reminds me that I am no better than the people I watch over each night. Ego is the chink in my armor that allows true learning and growth.
I read an article today that said the following:
“Shamans are the kindest, most forgiving, most understanding and often the wisest form of priest you will ever meet. Shaman have learned the importance of living firmly in this world, while maintaining a very strong connection to the spirit world and seeing everything and everyone through the eyes of the Divine. Shaman also know the fullness of the value of fun and humor, and almost never at another’s expense (there are some Shaman who use humor to teach a lesson, and it will sometimes be at the expense of the student.) There is a certain balance that a true Shaman does not need to struggle to maintain, because it is a natural balance. A Shaman who does not embody these characteristics is not a true Shaman, even if such one was called to the Shamanic path. Only the strongest are ultimately called a Shaman.” http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usca&c=trads&id=14747
Um yeah right. Are you kidding? Shamans are still humans and humans are fallible. We make mistakes, we fail, we get back up and dust ourselves off. Every snarky thought in my head is an opportunity to learn compassion. Every time I roll my eyes is an opportunity to stop and really look at the person in front of me. I don’t want to be “the kindest, most forgiving, most understanding and often the wisest” in the room. Hell, I don’t even want to be one of the smartest most of the time! I want to keep learning, keep growing, keep improving.
And that, if you have made it all the way to the end of this essay, is the entire point of this rant. Ego is our opportunity to really learn. Ego and education go hand in hand. When we allow ego to become our beacon, pointing out our weak spots, we invite the education of a lifetime.
Too often in the pagan community, we get caught up in who has what title and who is really a high priestess and who has what lineage. Those aren’t the important questions. The questions we ought to be asking are the ones that allow us to grow connections between ourselves and let down our walls.
How willing are you to drop your ego and find a connection with that “fluffy bunny”? Does that person who aggravates you at circle get your undivided attention or does the snarky in your brain distract you? Are you willing to walk away from someone who has posted stupid on the internet or do you find yourself spending hours trying to combat the wrongness of their statements? We have all had these moments. Even people who have been at this pagan thing much longer than I have find themselves in these traps. Traps or learning experiences? Its entirely up to us to forge them into what will make us better people and help us grow.
And now that I have used two “E’s” in one week, what do I write about next time?