Winter having deceived us with mild temperatures up to now, the time of frozen earth was truly starting to bite – but that meant a clear and sparkling night sky, and a moon so tender and bright you forgave the weather for its treachery.
I used to be one of those people who would take the word of authority as…well, the Word of Authority. This may come from being brought up to be a scientist, which is to say, being brought up to Believe the Patriarchy/Machine/Civilisation.
I no longer take an ‘authority’s’ word for much, but I will indeed listen to experience as well as theorising – then go away and make up my own mind.
Being a slow learner, I have burnt myself many times when willing to follow an expert’s word. My partner has never been this compliant. He listens, mulls it over, then goes and does what his own experience dictates – an attitude I could do worse than copy.
So for two hours we sat before a roaring log fire in a lovely farmhouse style lounge, while our trainer – a woman perhaps ten years older than I am – held forth on various topics related to animals in general,dogs in particular and our puppies in detailed particular.
She’s an avowed follower of an anthropocentric, scientific method, which holds that an animals overwhelming drive, and all its behaviours, are the result of something Richard Dawkins dubbed the Selfish Gene. I grant that this view holds some truth, albeit a pretty narrow sliver of it. And please, while I think of it, don’t try to equate a pride of lions with our canine companions. The one is a species of feline, the other have been with us, evolving side by side, for thousands on thousands of years now.
The scientific -and necessarily anthropocentric – view is not so much wrong as limited. I have come a long way since I believed that we could learn everything important about our universe, our selves and our trajectory from the pages of a physics textbook.
Animals are our co-deities, being of Life and they are all in here with us. Together we – animals, plants, human animals, stones, subatomic particles et al – are all making and shaping and growing together. Sometimes on planes and in states other than the material, or the graspable by science.
Scientific explanations are good and useful as far as they go, but they are like one room in a mansion of many.
The Pagan Value I’m looking at here is not only the tendency to Question Authority, but the ability many of us have to hold more than one world view at one time. The scientific as well as the spiritual. The one-eyed as well as the binocular. And the knack of knowing that it’s hardly ever a case of either/or, but much more likely both/and. Like the many-dimensional deities we are, we can exist, create and understand on many levels or in many three-dimensional rooms at once, each overlaying the other.
Riding home in the coldest night of the year so far – I didn’t stop shaking for ten minutes after leaving the warm trainer’s house – I realised that I was comfortable holding this non-cut-and dried view. This many-layered paradigm is, it would seem, something Pagans have less trouble with than, say, monotheists or atheists do.
And I’m left with the distinct impression that, whatever the truth of the matter, it’s hardly ever as simple as we would like.