by Maerista in Dark Ages
"A person’s happiness is not derived from power, wealth or comfort, but from how he relates to the people around him."
The prophet Shamshiel, from the archives of the Runic Terra Society
Shamshiel spoke these words over 2 millennia ago, just before the drowning of Hy-Brasyl. Alas, the people were hungry for power and control over the elements, and they did not listen to him. The result of their selfishness is a matter of cold historical fact. Today the circle has turned and it is we Aislings who must now make the same choice. What is to be the future of Temuair? The desperate individual search for power and wealth? Or a true community of Aislings, dedicated to harmony, friendship and creativity?
As I write, in the summer of Deoch 6, our beautiful land has become embroiled in chaos. A great number of Aislings have arisen with power as their only goal. Whereas once there was unquestioned co-operation, now competition drives the wedge of mistrust between us. How can we be our usual open, kind-hearted selves, when the Aisling who wishes to befriend us may simply be looking for an easier way to stab us in the back?
But let us not be too harsh. From my encounters with many of the new Aislings it is clear that they have never really experienced the joys of harmonious Community. How, then, can they be expected to choose the path of peace and harmony when all they know is the endless hunt, and the fear and respect that comes from power? It is our duty, therefore, to teach as many Aislings as possible the wonders of community and the intense fulfilment and happiness it brings.
How can one describe such a jewel to those who have never experienced it!
I wish that somehow I could impart even the tiniest experience of community into the soul of every Aisling. I fear that all the words in Temuair could not do it justice.
I have attempted to explain the joys and benefits of Community so that the pain that precedes and accompanies it will not seem so bad. Yes my friends, attaining and maintaining community can be one of the most difficult and stressful things an Aisling can ever try to achieve. In comparison, the Hunt is a fun day out for mere children. All I can do is testify that Community is worth every moment of pain endured to reach it.
So, how can we Aislings create Community among ourselves? Sometimes we are lucky and that magickal sense of belonging ‘just happens’. This is usually the route by which many fall in love with the experience – thereafter forever seeking to recreate paradise. Once an Aisling has experienced the sensation of being completely accepted, loved and trusted, she is changed as much as when she first experienced the Aisling spark and ceased to be mundane!
There are those among us, myself included, for whom creating and seeking Community is a way of life – in fact I would go so far as to say that it is the very purpose of our existence. Nothing is more important. For these, my wonderful family of soulmates across all of time and space, I humbly offer this treatise based on my own experiences of trying to move from being a mere social creature to a community one. We are forced to relate to each other for our own survival, but most of us do not yet relate with the openness, inclusivity, vulnerability and commitment that allows us, and those around us, to be completely accepted and loved for who we truly are.
Firstly, make lots of friends. Friends are the raw ingredients from which Community is born. It is impossible to tell which friendships will deepen and which will remain shallow, so don’t try to force a shallow friendship to become deeper, or feel distressed when a friendship doesn’t work out. Perhaps they will lead you on to someone else with whom you feel an instant connection?
Be aware though that these tentative friendships, even the apparently deep ones, are mere shadows of what can be. Initially, we always seek to form Community by trying to fake it. We attempt to create our dream instantly by being incredibly nice to the people around us and avoiding all disagreement, either by not saying anything that could cause argument, or by simply changing the subject. What we are doing is failing to acknowledge our differences. If a friend says something that annoys us, we pretend it never happened. After all, that’s the polite thing to do, is it not? We are trying to take a shortcut on the way to Community. Unfortunately, it’s a convenient shortcut to nowhere. Many groups of Aislings never move beyond this type of behaviour. They remain forever afraid to be themselves, afraid of what their friends might really think of them, terrified of rejection. Such groups enforce a terrible conformity on their members, sometimes cruelly (and often unconsciously) punishing those who demonstrate individuality.
I find myself hesitating to write of what comes next. It is painful in the extreme, and is the reason why so few Aislings ever achieve Community, even those that make a deliberate effort.
You see, in order to break free from the claustrophobia of conformity, you have to say what you really think. It doesn’t matter what about. People, events, religions, yourself, whatever is under discussion. But you have to become open and vulnerable, or you will never see the rewards that await those who are brave enough to be themselves. I shall be blunt about what can happen. Other Aislings, your friends even, may disagree with you. They will attack your views, probably offending and hurting you in the process. If you have expressed an opinion, they will try to convert you to their point of view. If you have told them of a hurt or a sickness, they will try to heal you with ineffectual words of comfort. Perhaps they will be afraid of what you have expressed. Perhaps they will hate you for it. Here, you must be courageous. There is no other road forward. Do not retreat safely behind the walls of your mind, back into conformity. If you do, you will have achieved nothing. Be irrepressible in your declaration of who you are and what you believe in.
Often, the whole group will descend into a chaotic melee of argument, hostility, concession, attempts at healing and resolution, more argument, and even more desperate attempts to fix everyone to be just like each other. But our way out is not to re-establish the etiquette of ignoring our differences. The goal is conflict-resolution, not conflict-avoidance. We must seek to accept the differences between us, not ignore them. Only then can we truly be ourselves.
It does help a great deal if a group of friends seeking Community knows beforehand the nature of the pain they are bound to experience along the way. Then they will be encouraged to push on when the pain begins, rather than withdraw and hide.
Eventually, after a period of time that varies from minutes to days, when all attempts to heal and convert have failed, and everyone realises that no one can cure difference and disagreement, there is a period of Despair. This is crucial to the creation of Community. During this period, all involved must make a choice. Do we give up our expectations and prejudices, our precious ideologies – empty ourselves of our need to convert, fix, solve and control? Do we accept and allow vulnerability in those around us and become vulnerable ourselves? Do we claim the ultimate prize of a safe place in which to be completely ourselves, or do we retreat in fear to the well-known boundaries of mere social etiquette?
When a group chooses Community, it is the most incredibly liberating and peaceful experience one can imagine. Suddenly, everyone can admit their failings and weaknesses without fear. No one is condemned for who they are or what they believe. You can be yourself, completely, without fear of rejection. Perhaps you’ll cry, or laugh, or sing and dance. You have finally come home.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Before I end this treatise, I feel I must add some words of warning for those who seek to follow the path I have laid out before you. When your Aisling friends have moved into that initial period of conflict with each other, you must resist the temptation to unite the group against a common enemy, be that a person, guild or god. Enemy formation, as it is known, will temporarily make the group feel more secure, but this is just another form of exclusivity, and it will prevent Community from forming. After all, how can you be completely yourself if you have a secret sympathy for those that your circle of friends has chosen to despise?
Also, try to avoid choosing leaders among yourself to shoulder the responsibility for making everything ‘better’ for you. A Community is always a group of all leaders. Everyone must shoulder their own share of the burden. A hierarchy or leader only exacerbates competitiveness and the fear of rejection, which is the death knell to any Community.
Finally, remember that even once you are enjoying Community in all its fullness, it is not a permanent thing. It can be lost, or stolen from you. Be constantly aware of the health of your Community and friendships. If a fight is needed to restore openness and honesty, do not be afraid to fight. Do it quickly and Community is easily restored.
Be Yourself, who you want to be.
Priestess of Deoch, 2nd Circle, Member of the Runic Terra Society
Summer, Deoch 6