The subject of conversion came up recently on the Cauldron, and there’s no new beginning quite like converting to a new religion. It’s had me thinking about my own seeking process.
The thread is an expression of annoyance regarding new pagans looking for an existing religion to convert to, in lieu of being an individual and creating one’s own glove-fitted religion. The OP seems to imply that conversion is a simplistic approach, an easy-way-out, a path of hand-holding and blind acceptance and obedience. I find it a frustrating, and detrimental, point of view. Well- I’ll not recap the thread, it’s there for anyone who wants to read it. What I’m more interested in is what I can take away from my failure to find a religion to convert to.
My early seeking years were all about finding the Right Path. In high school this included the requisite high school angst, primarily over the fact that I didn’t know anything outside of (book) Wicca existed, and so I went irritably through the cycles of trying to make myself fit that system and despairing when I could not. After finding TC, I went through a lot of labels, trying on different hats with increasing frustration when they failed to fit in one place or another. Finally I gave up, and started working on compiling my own thing.
One thing I can take away from the whole mess is that I didn’t spend enough time asking why. A hat didn’t fit, I moved on. I failed to examine in any particular depth what it was that didn’t work, and whether that bit was crucial enough to make the whole thing worth discarding. I labored under the assumption that it was all or nothing, an assumption I doubt was unique to me. I wonder, now that I have secured myself in my own little niche, whether I could have made one of those prior paths work for me. It’s hard to imagine, from where I am now- but given how little reflection I did, how can I really know?
Aside from learning to take the time to examine things regardless of whether they work for me, I think it’s also worth internalizing the fact that something doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful. I am a perfectionist, and I struggle constantly with how to move forward when something does not work out precisely as I had planned or expected. I must learn how to be less rigid, how to accept things as they are instead of how they could be, and how to recognize that just because something (or I) fails to live up to my expectations, doesn’t mean that it (or I) is worthless. If absolutely nothing else, every failure is a chance to learn how to do better next time- as long as I take the time to ask why.
Something mentioned in the thread was how some conversions are processes that can take years; it surprised me, honestly, because I’d always thought of conversion as a moment, an active specific choice. Sure, many of those moments had lead-ups- religious classes, personal exploration- but I always considered the actual conversion as a specific moment one could look back on and pinpoint. I always considered myself to not have actually converted, because- aside from never having something to convert from, another piece I thought inherent to the process- I have never had any particular moment like that. It makes me wonder, as my path continues to grow in change over the course of my life, will I look back on this period of (relative) progress as my conversion? Will I remember joining TC as the moment everything changed, or is there another moment in my future that I will someday think was the spot where my religious life shifted forever? Or will I always look back at the twists and turns and see a seamless path? Can a conversion last a lifetime?
Things to think about. (For me, anyway.)