Sifting for Gold
It’s a soft, rainy spring day. I’m grateful for the rain—we need it—and for the lush green it has brought to the hills and meadows, the vineyards carpeted with bright mustard flowers.
These are such challenging times. The circumstances of my personal life are stressful and frightening; the broader culture is caught in the nightmare of Donald Trump’s willful smashing of all that is decent and righteous. Friends are struggling to make ends meet; my area is still grappling with the incomprehensible shock of last October’s wildfires.
As I said: challenging.
I find times like these—although, to be fair. there have never been times as extreme as these in my lifetime—to seriously challenge my Atheopagan practice and living. “What’s the point?” is an easy place to land. And in times when dystopian futures seem to dominate our fiction and our cultural media, the idea of a better future just seems steadily to be receding away from us.
More than ever, though, this is when the restorative power of Atheopagan practice is what we need.
Get out into nature. Breathe clean air and see some green, some beauty. Beauty is restorative for us humans. It helps us to carry on.
Listen to music that moves and inspires you.
Dust off that Focus (altar); clean it and rearrange it. Light a candle. Burn some incense. Put on that piece of ritual jewelry and wear it under your clothes, carrying the special secret of your spiritual life with you. Murmur magic words. Get your practice going again: just do it.
Watch something uplifting and hopeful. Read a book that makes you cry with happiness. Go to an art museum…or a natural history museum, and revel in the marvels of the works of humanity and of nature.
Spend time with those you love. Tell them so. Talk about things that are real.
Do something for the world. Volunteer for a nonprofit, or a political campaign. Spend an hour writing postcards to voters in another state: it’s easy, personal, and effective.
No gold pan ever contained nothing but gold. We must swish and sift and have patience. We must do the work of reminding ourselves how amazing, how precious it is that we have this life, and of the glittering jewels that populate it even when so much is gray.
What we can’t do is sit and do nothing as our mood and sense of wonder and joy in living slowly collapse.
Consider the recently departed Dr. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), a man who overcame tremendous physical challenges to live a life filled with wonder, curiosity, love, discovery and adventure. The outpouring of love and appreciation following his death make it clear that his was a life richly and completely lived.
If he could do it, we all can.
We are not the kinds of people who age into bitterness. We have tools and strategies to keep that fate away from us, if we choose to use them. We understand the technologies of happiness and meaning. We know how to make them; we must simply choose to do so.
There is gold to be sifted from our days—even these days. It’s on us to find ways to be happy and functional even when circumstances conspire to make it hard.
Go get the joy, friends. Rediscover what makes you happy and excited.
Be happy. It’s contagious.