I am a Fool. I go to extremes in everything, hold nothing of myself back. I think and say and do things others don’t, won’t or can’t — and often for good reason. I embrace all that is wrong to show what is right. In other words I devour filth and shit out rainbows. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
There has been a lot of conversation lately about people who desperately want to be god-bothered but aren’t. A lot of excellent points have been raised. Modern Western people — and Americans especially — seem to feel that we are entitled to whatever we want and that things should be egalitarian. If one person has or can do something everyone ought to be able to — even though this just isn’t the way the world operates and earlier societies were acutely aware of that, especially as regards the sacred. Not everyone has the necessary wiring to have regular encounters with gods and spirits — and most of those who do have had to make excruciating sacrifices and have rigorous demands placed on them as a result which others cannot or will not meet. A society comprised entirely of shamans won’t thrive — it requires leaders and priests and warriors and artists and craftspeople and doctors and farmers and homemakers and people doing all the simple, unglamorous and supportive work too. The faith of those who do not directly encounter the gods and spirits is stronger and in some ways more dear to them than that of those who do.
These and other noble sentiments have been expressed during this community-wide conversation — but so far there’s one argument I haven’t really seen anyone make. No doubt that’s because the people participating in this are fundamentally decent human beings and so are understandably reticent of coming off like assholes. Thankfully I am not so encumbered.
Perhaps the reason gods and spirits don’t communicate with you is because they don’t like you.
Ouch. That really stings, doesn’t it?
And I bet right now you’re feeling really angry and defensive and have stopped listening because you’re too busy thinking of all the ways you’re going to tell me off.
Okay. I’ll wait over here until you’re done.
Feel better after getting it all out?
But I hate to break it to you — everything you’ve just said doesn’t change a damn thing.
It’s the black, horrible, secret fear all of us have in our hearts, especially when things aren’t going the way we want.
And for some of us it’s the truth.
Gods, spirits and all the other divine beings are, at their core, people. Granted, they are a kind of people very different from you and me, but they still possess personalities shaped by individual preference. Divinities, like every other category of being in the cosmos, like certain things and dislike certain other things. Mythology is full of stories of what happens when divinities clash over their preferences which shows that they are not all in agreement about what is or is not likable. The great thing about polytheism is that your fate is not entirely tied to being liked by a god. Odysseus, for example, was profoundly disliked by Poseidon and yet through all the adversity he faced as a result of that Athene was right there by his side, guiding, advising and helping him in whatever ways she could. Considering the vast number of divinities that are out there, chances are pretty good that at least some of them are going to like you.
But there’s no guarantee.
Even if you go to extraordinary lengths to make yourself likable — it may not be enough.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is working a scam. Trust me, we con-men can smell a scam cooking from a mile away.
Now I’m not saying that this is definitely the case. I may well be an arrogant bastard with low morals but I would never presume to speak anything on behalf of the divinities that they have have not communicated and directed me to say.
And no one has told me that you or anyone else is universally disliked or at least regarded with indifference.
But it’s entirely possible that that’s the case and even if it’s not it’s something worth considering.
At the very least thinking along these lines proves a corrective to the presumptuous notion many have that they are somehow entitled to divine favor by dint of birth, that all the joys and blessings of life are theirs simply for the asking.
It don’t work that way.
You are owed nothing in life but death.
That is an absolutely essential concept, so let me repeat it for you: you are owed nothing in life but death.
Everything else is either a result of hard work or grace and grace is a rare and precious divine gift which we should never take for granted. In fact just because a god chooses to like you or has shown favor to you in the past does not mean that you should ever stop striving to be worthy of their favor — because they can always change their mind and revoke that blessing.
More to the point you should never stop striving because you will never be worthy of that grace. That’s why it’s grace. If you were worthy of it you’d no longer be a mortal but a divinity in your own right. Some gods are extremely generous and promiscuous in their favors — Dionysos comes immediately to mind — but that doesn’t mean that we should relax our efforts. If anything that should inspire us to try harder as an expression of boundless gratitude.
But what if the divinities don’t notice or care about you? What do you do then?
Well, then it’s time to make a tough choice.
You either decide that worship is something good and right and worth doing regardless of the personal results you receive from it — say because it’s something you enjoy doing, something that provides you with a sort of aesthetic value or else to show appreciation for the blessings the divinities have dispensed to others — or else you decide not to do it and you go off and live your life the best you can in a purely secular world. Those really are the only two options as far as I can see.
And who knows, maybe if you try hard enough, long enough, and do all the things you’re supposed to with a properly reverent attitude then maybe you’ll get the results you desire. Maybe. But your decision should not be contingent upon that expectation because you’ve got no guarantees it’ll work out like that.
One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is nothing. No good will come of sitting in front of your shrine and feeling mopey because you aren’t receiving the attention you feel you deserve. That is an indulgent and fruitless emotion, an utter waste of your time. Instead give your all without regard for the results — or walk away.