Monday, July 15, 2013

52 weeks of art journaling: week 24

This week's prompt: Harm None

This is such a common quote within the pagan community. Do you adhere to it? Do you believe in it? What does it mean to you and how do you practice it if you do?

In many ways, I think it is absolutely impossible to harm none. Nothing in our modern lifestyle is conducive to living outside the realm of harm. From the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the homes we live in, we are causing "harm" on a daily basis.

Why do I bother even exploring this idea then? Because I think that some take this maxim too literally or not literally enough. I think it's impossible to harm none, but that a reduction of harm is a goal worthy of aspiring to as long as we don't become sanctimonious in the process. The minute we become sanctimonious, I think we have started a whole new level of harm, one that is worse than just measuring our carbon footprint and finding it wanting.

I'm going to on a tangent here, so bear with me.

I always sign off my posts with the word Namaste. Why? Because I love the simple elegance of recognizing the divine in our counterparts. In fact, I think it is a wonderful reminder to see the people around us, whether we like them or agree with them or not, as being part of the divine. They are just as much the God and Goddess as you and I, even if they may not be aware of it (or perhaps too aware of it).

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a reminder that I find easy to remember. The student who sits in front of me, fully self-entitled, expecting me to do the work for him/her, isn't winning any "thou art divine" medals from me. Nor do I find it easy to see my Mother-in-Law as divine, particularly when she starts up on her emotional passive aggression. Hell no, in fact, I veer so far from remembering her divinity that you'd never believe that I think it's even possible that she is a manifestation of the divine.

And yet, every now and again, namaste or harm none, pops up in my daily awareness and I try yet again, to seek out ways to honour their divinity (while still respecting the necessary self-preservation boundaries) by letting them walk their own paths. This doesn't mean that I don't muck it up or that I don't work on ways of sharing my own views with them. But rather, I accept that their realities are real to them and equally valid for them.

For me, this is what harm none has come to mean. It's not a vegetarian or environmental rant, albeit I do admit to doing these things from time to time, I'm not perfect, but rather, it's an acceptance that the other's path and beliefs are just as valid as mine, even if they rub me the wrong way! Harm none has come to mean, in some ways, taking a less confrontational path, stepping back and letting the other be, and just plain old minding my business. (That said, I'm not about to let people walk all over me either... don't worry). I'm just working on finding the middle ground more in order to foster understanding and a shared space on some level.

If you want to eat meat or shop at Walmart, those are your decisions and I'm not going to judge you for them because there are a myriad of reasons for your choices. However, if I want to raise my son as a vegetarian, I'm going to ask you not to judge my choices either. If we can't see eye to eye, I'm just going to walk away because the ensuing conversation will cause more harm than good for both of us. Thus, I recognize that we are both entitled to that basic level of respect, which is what, right now, harm none means to me. It might change, but for now...


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