When we created Pan Society, we gave mindful discussion to the name. Names are important. We chose “Pan” because pan means “all.” Animism is the belief that all life is sacred, connected, and One. It doesn’t end with the lifeforms that you don’t like, aren’t popular, or aren’t nice. This belief is why we allow “those people” in Pan Society.
So, who are “those people?” They could be anyone: pale skinned people, dark skinned people, Jews, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, homophobes, racists, sexists, disabled people, homeless people, Travelers, black sheep, outliers, weirdos, etc.
Why? Here’s why.
Growth doesn’t happen in comfort and safety. It happens through challenges, sweat, and tears. You don’t always know if you are the teacher or the student, but if you are in the game, the chance for you to grow always exists. So let people and experiences into your sphere who shake you up. Let life challenge and thrill you. If not, is it a meaningful life?
People with different beliefs and cultures are a gift. They bring us ways to see things in different ways. Don’t shrink from that. Embrace it! (if you dare) Remember that our most sacred teachers are the outliers.
Love Always Wins
I have had a lot of conversations lately about who is right on political and social issues. We all think we’re right, but we never really know until we’re often so distant from the issue that it doesn’t matter anymore. Just because something is popular or legal doesn’t mean it’s good, just, or right.
- Segregated schools were legal in the USA until 1968.
- Millions people looked the other way and/or directly participated in the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War II.
- Slavery existed for millenia before it was finally abolished in most of the world.
- There are laws now to protect handicapped, elderly, women, and homosexuals against discrimination.
None of this could have happened without public approval. It’s always good to be willing to be wrong. When in doubt, love it out.
Everybody Deserves to Maintain Their Dignity
Frank Barron said, “Never take a person’s dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.” Sound advice.
The Germans were thoroughly humiliated at the end of World War I. This created a breeding ground for the hate that resulted in World War II. The same can happen to any group that is marginalized, isolated, and reviled.
Bullies become bullies because they were bullied. Hurt people hurt people. Shunning people perpetuates the cycle. Giving people a place at the table and treating them with dignity ends the abuse through compassion and understanding. It doesn’t happen overnight, but without that opportunity, it doesn’t happen at all.
You Still Have Your Sovereignty
If someone says something you don’t like, you can elect to ignore them. Just because we all have a seat at the table doesn’t mean you have to engage with everyone. We all have different triggers and levels of tolerance. Use your sovereignty to choose if and how you want to engage.
I have to say that we’ve had some high spirited conversations in Pan Society, but I’ve never seen anyone be disrespectful. There is a difference between thoughts that some think are unpopular and harmful or abusive behaviors. We aren’t condoning harming anyone, and we aren’t the thought police. Both can be true at the same time.
So many people want to live in the Summer of life where we’re full of power, beauty, and abundance, but nobody gets there without going through the pain of birth, growing pains, and then it’s all followed by the pain of decline, loss, and death. Life’s dirty and painful. Everything is a mirror of this. Relationships, too.
And animism is a relational spiritual path. We can’t expect to be friendly with everyone, but if we have great boundaries (sovereignty), then deep, meaningful connections become possible. So, we take the good with the bad, and do the best we can to be good neighbors. There is no place that is just love and light. Nature doesn’t behave that way, and that’s okay.
We All Have a Shadow
The person who points the finger at another for being “X” is not in touch with his Shadow. Let me tell you, we all have a Shadow.
Look at the Sun. We only know it’s light because of the dark. Without darkness, there would be no way to define the light. So, they go together.
We cannot love what we do not accept. Self love is perhaps the hardest love to achieve. The easiest way to get there that I’ve found is acceptance of the Shadows that you see in others. Trust and believe they are also in you even if you can’t see them.
Acceptance is not the same thing as condoning. It doesn’t mean we allow abuse. It doesn’t mean we don’t advocate for changes that we believe in or let offenses pass. It just means that we live in the grey. We accept the person as a fellow human being of value even as we disagree with his beliefs or behaviors. Sometimes it means we create distance so that we can feel safe.
I know it takes a great deal of courage to be whole. It’s easy to be angry, judgmental, and put up walls. If you want to feel the fullness of your self in the greatness of the world, I invite you to try another way. Relate to everything. Accept everything. Let yourself and others be their authentic selves. See what a beautiful world it is then.