When I ran across the Pagan Values Blogject, I was at a loss. I have never been able to grasp the marriage of religion with ethics. They have always been two entirely different spheres for me, which makes more sense if I add a little note here that I am rather fond of Nietzsche. (His idea here being that it falls upon the individual to find truth without the use of virtues established by religions; one must find out for themselves what qualifies as “good” or “evil”.)
I thought for a while, and decided that I may not be able to say that I have a particular value because I am pagan, but I do have values, and I am a pagan. I debated writing out a kind of personal manifesto, when I realized that one value I hold rises above all the others: authenticity.
Authenticity is holdover term from my existentialist days, and has been defined in relation to that philosophy as “a mode of being that humans can adopt by accepting the burden of freedom, choice, and responsibility and the need to construct their own values and meanings in a largely meaningless universe.”
I mentioned it is a holdover, right? Right. Because I have since had spiritual and religious experiences tied in with being pagan, that have shown me that the definition I just provided does not hold water for me. My moral code did not originate in a vacuum, and it is not arbitrary, but picked up from my past experiences in relation to dealings with the Universe, Necessity, Wyrd, whatever you want to call it (and yes I realize they are not all the same). My values were not so much constructed solely by me, but originate from deep within me; that part of myself that is divine, and that embodies an archetype, and is intricately tied in with the wide weaving of absolutely everything. I have tapped into them through experience. Through living. And it is up to authenticity for me to put those values into practice.
So let me provide a more personally suitable definition of authenticity, as provided by the same site as above:
The quality of being genuine and true to one’s own values.
Because values are nice. They provide a compass for navigating through life’s often chaotic waters, and they can even contribute to an overall sense of meaning and purpose. But what good are values if you never actually do anything with them?
My own values are often not aligned with the modern society I live in. I am genderqueer, demisexual, pansexual, and polyamorous. I am fat, but think I am beautiful (most of the time) and do not need to lose weight to be so. I have little moral or existential angst in owning fur products (and I am a leatherwork artist), eating any kind of meat, or living in a big city. I do not find human sacrifice barbaric if done properly, and much, much better than shipping off thousands of youths to kill even more people across seas over an abstract, subjective ideal. The work I do in spirit form involves many taboo subjects, including but not limited to death, incest, and cannibalism.
So as you may imagine, having the strength to stick to my values when they are so often against the majority’s, is important for me. I have less of an issue holding any given value, than I do having that same measure of strength to walk the talk, so to speak. And while I do not go around shouting any of my values from the rooftops (because, really, why?), I do not cave in if they are challenged, either.
And that strength, that authenticity to live my life according to my own beliefs, is the ultimate value for me. And it imbues my life with intention, direction, meaning, and purpose.