Yesterday, when I wrote about conceptual progress in paganism in response to Peter Dybing’s article on leadership and de-coupling some of the concepts from “priesthood” that have hitherto been yoked to it (and not always comfortably or sensibly), I was hoping to build toward a point that I didn’t actually make, nor make clear enough, and so I just want to expand on that for a moment.
One of the things that is an advantage, I think, about specialization amongst people is that it then means that people cannot be completely and totally independent and self-contained. It is an almost uniquely American individualistic notion that everyone SHOULD BE totally independent, self-contained, and thus “can do everything (themselves)” rather than having to rely on someone else. This may have been a really good and useful ethic back in the 1850s, when people were headed out to the Western frontiers of the U.S. and might not have neighbors for miles around, with all of the skills and services that they can provide. But now, most of us live in communities where the diversity of people likewise offers a diversity of services…
You might be saying, “But I want to be independent and self-contained!” Okay, that’s fine; but then, don’t complain about the lack of pagan community that results from this. If we don’t have a need for each other (and I do mean “need,” i.e. as in for survival purposes), and a genuine desire to form bonds with one another, then the pagan community that everyone lauds and wishes would exist more will never come about. Because everything is “opt in” at this point, we’ve not been forced to try and get along as well as possible with everyone, because no one “needs” or relies upon the others in the community who have the essential skills or talents we might be after in a given situation.
Forming communities is not a sign of weakness, a loss of autonomy, or a failure of the American self-contained individualist ideal, and until we get that message on a deep and primal level through our heads and hearts, then a viable pagan religious community is never going to be a reality.
So, yet another reason why the priest/esses amongst us should not have to “do it all,” nor want to “do it all”–if they do, there’s no need for anyone else to do anything, and without any doing, then our practice-based religion cannot really exist. (And, for those who are advocates of the notion that “everything can be/is sacred,” it’s all the more reason to have other people doing things with us–if holiness is equally in putting away chairs after a ritual as writing the ritual or performing the prayers and sacrifices at it, then that ideal also becomes a reality.)