There has been much talk in the heathen community about intentional community, or forming heathen only townships. It was inevitable once our numbers reached a certain point for the draw of being able to live in a community of people whose ideas about duty, faith, and community were shared, rather than as a minority in communities whose Christian trying-too-hard-to-really-be-a-majority tend to view us with suspicion. I have always been against participating in such communities, because I believe heathens and heathenry is required to bring our communities back into the balance that they have lost between individual freedom and personal responsibility.
Christianity gave a community model based on external authority, you had to do your duty as a Citizen because Yaweh would punish you eternally if you didn’t, or because it was what he said was the right thing to do, depending on your nature. During the post WWII generations, the unquestioning adherence to authority came under attack, and personal liberties were taken back from the State and its pillar, the Church. This was good, but while removing external authority for belief and choice, that generation separated the ideas of individual rights in the community from individual responsibility to the community; a separation about as natural and sustainable as separation inhalation from exhalation. You either breath both in and out or you don’t breath at all, you either enjoy the freedoms that your responsibilities towards your community have earned or you swiftly have neither the community nor the freedoms. There is no way to do only one part and not the other if you wish to survive.
Heathenism has always been about personal responsibilities. Neither our kings nor our gods commanded our conscience; always we remained responsible for our own choices and for our own success and failure. Our Hamaval is not filled with rules to obey, but guidelines and strategies for building and sustaining community, for building and strengthening relationships, and showing us how even wealth and status should be used to both improve your worth or standing and improve the community.
Worth that glorifies and individual and serves the community, is a heathen concept. Heathen ambition serves the community, because it defines its success by the status granted by the community for its deeds. In enhancing your personal worth as a heathen, you are advancing the fortunes of your whole community, and justly reaping the rewards. Not so with outward North American society. Worth and status are something our society is struggling to deal with now. We have rid ourselves of the rule of the aristocracy, and of the nobility, but after centuries of preaching humility as a virtue, those who seek celebrity in this age are not often worthy individuals. We have a secular society that worships celebrity in its own name, while hungering for worth it will not find within celebrity. We have a society that teaches children that there are no winners or losers, that everybody is equal, or at least we must pretend they are. In this way we have stopped rewarding success, stopped granting glory to those who achieve, stopped recognizing worth in those who are advancing the community. At the same time in the adult world, competition continues to be fierce, and success going only to the winner. Success being separate from worth because of a childhood without context for worth being born from success in community supported struggle, modern success is deemed equivalent whether the means and ends are worthy or not. Secular and Christian society having stripped away worth from success have replaced community leaders with personal ambition. Rather than ambition serving the community, now it is hurting it.
We heathens are like chrome in the raw iron of ill forged communities. Under the fire and hammer of life, a little chrome can act to harden the raw iron, and turn it into the steel our ancestors once knew. Last night I was called by my neighbours because there was a suspicious van, all blacked in, lurking just out of the entrance to our 44 unit complex. The local wives sent their children to summon me, and I went to find out who was lurking. While I was seeing to this, another one of the husbands was dispatched to back me up, because we have each other’s backs in this community.
Having a celebratory beer afterwards, we saw one of the children in the complex have a serious bike accident, and I attended as an Industrial First Aider to deal with the spinal/head trauma, backed up by another parent who was also a trained first aider. I called for supplies, and whatever child was at hand grabbed what we needed from their own unit, and for an hour or so we maintained our casualty while waiting for our “20 minute” ambulance. After packing parents and siblings off in the nearest minivan to follow the ambulance, the mother of the injured child asked if I could go into her house, grab her keys and lock up her place for her.
In fourteen years of living as an open heathen, soldier, community volunteer in this townhouse complex I have been part of forging what is the modern equivalent of an ancient heathen village. Our kids play in our own playground, under the eyes of the collective parents. While not all children have parents who care enough to modify their behaviour, or are able to protect their children, the community as a whole has leaders that it turns to, to make sure that all women and children are safe, and our little communities interest are protected with local school boards, city and utility planners, and that those in need are getting the support required from the community and government agencies. I am one of those leaders, but by no means the only one. Through years of struggle I have proven my worth to the community, and shown those who would join me how to find their worth in the doing. Each heathen is a torch; Kenaz, from torch to torch light is kindled. Where once I stood alone, now I am assured that even when I am not there, others will stand in my place.
In pulling heathens out to form our own communities, we would be taking the chrome out of the iron, leaving it weak and ill forged where it could have been strong and flexible. Rather than being a key part of strong and vibrant communities, we would be little functional knots in a sea of struggle. Our security lies not in withdrawing from community, but in helping to build and heal them. Our nations have forgotten the meaning of worth, the duties of citizenship. The folk are no lesser now than they ever were, they just need teachers and leaders to show them how to do what the best of them hunger to do already; build community.
John T Mainer