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Article ID: 4559
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 6th. 2002
The Long and Short Of It
It's like clockwork. Every spring and fall, I just have to do the purge. It's rather interesting that these inner impulses so often coincide with the only two Pagan holidays that I personally celebrate-Beltaine and Samhain. Whatever the reason for this is, I find that I simply cannot resist the tide. I have to clean. When my daughter, Skye, and I lived closer together, I used to call her up and say, "It's that time again!" And she would rush right over because she knew that she'd get a carload of goodies to take home. All this Stuff has just gotta go and I can be pretty ruthless about it, too. Anything that I haven't worn in the last six months and everything that I don't absolutely love to look at every day gets the heave-ho. If the folks around the apartment complex read this, they'll probably be waiting for delivery of the 'picked me up outta the dumpster bouquet' tonight.
Changing colors is also part of my 'urge to purge' ceremonies. So, it is off to the evil land of Wal-Mart for some cheap new curtains. Whoo-hoo! I have been looking all over creation for a pair of red curtains and finally tucked down on the bottom of the rack, I found them. Not maroon or wine or dusty rose (blah!), but the real 'it hurts your eyes just to look at them' Chinese Red that I had been dreaming of for months. They did take some getting used to. They are just so unapologetically red ...it's like they yell 'boo!" whenever you walk into the room. I really, really love them. For now anyway. My other purchase was a set of gauzy black curtains for the altar room. They also turned out to be a very good choice, but for a quite different reason: They were the inspiration for this week's column.
Curtains, Wren? You're really gonna talk about curtains? Well, I never know what I am going to write about until I hear something, read something or spy something that just starts me thinking. So yeah, this week it's gonna be all about curtains. Sort of. You see, when I opened up the two different packages of curtains-these were sold by the panel- I found that I had one panel that was 84 inches and one that was 63 inches even though both packages were clearly labeled 84. Sigh. Apparently someone had either deliberately switched sizes or had innocently mixed them up after looking at them. Whatever the reason, I needed two panels of 84 inches for my window and that is not what I had. And, of course, I had already spent some time teetering on the step-ladder, taking down the rod, unclipping all the little hangers and putting up the one 84 inch curtain before I discovered the 'mistake'. Sigh--teeter--teeter--aching arms sigh.
I really, really didn't want to re-enter the evil land of Wal-mart again that day, so I just put up the other curtain and figured at some point and on another trip, I'd pick up another 84" curtain. Now if you're thinking (and I can't blame you) that if you walked into my altar room right now that you would have to wonder out loud just where it was along the way that I had finally and unequivocally lost my mind, you would be both right and wrong. While there is one short curtain and one long curtain hanging there, you won't be able to tell that just by looking. My bookcase sits in front of the window and the curtains fall behind it; you can't see the hemlines unless you peek behind the bookshelf. And that is where the story line that you just knew-or were hoping that I would finally (!) get around to -comes in. (Hey, I am a storyteller. The set-up is important, okay?)
In the Zen philosophy of Paul Brunton, there are two paths to enlightenment or knowledge. One is called the 'Long Path' and the other is called the 'Short Path'. (See? Told you that the set-up was important.) The 'Long Path' is that of seeking and education and discipline. It is the years of study, the pouring over of the academic research, the learning of the forms and the techniques of a given religion or belief system. It is the brass tacks that first build and then maintain the entire structure. This is what your teachers or Elders are talking about when they tell you to read and to study. This is also what they may retort -and quite sharply, too!- when you whine about having to do all that boring stuff when you want to be out there shooting sparks from your fingertips. Too bad, they say. You have to do the grunt work first. It's up the hill with you and if you don't have the stamina for it, you won't make it here and stop wasting our time. It took thirty years to get here and we aren't about to just hand it over to you all nice and neatly packaged just because you want us to. Do the Work, dammit!
The 'Short Path' is that of sudden flashes of divine inspiration and instantaneous revelation. These flashes can come to anyone at anytime without any training or climbing or grunting at all. They are from the Gods Themselves and who knows why They choose to reveal Themselves to ordinary or untrained people in this way? That They do is evident in the numbers of people who come to Paganism after just this sort of experience. It needn't be a lightning bolt, but may have been a whisper. However it comes, it is enough so that when these folks discover the religions and paths that make up modern Paganism, they recognize within them the same Voices. They 'know' that they 'know' even if they aren't quite sure of even the most basic rudiments of the religions or systems themselves. They just 'know' that are where they are meant to be.
The real fun begins, of course, when these two Paths start hanging out together. Those who have followed the Long Path are appalled at the lack of knowledge or discipline or restraint. Those who were thrust upon the Short Path find the Long Pathers critical and stodgy and often uncooperative. The Long Path is, after all, long. And the end result of it- developing a communication with and a connection to the Gods- is just that which the Short Pathers say that they have already experienced anyway, so, sheesh already, what's the big deal with the hill climbing? Those who came via the Long Path pretty much throw up their hands at this point and walk away in disgust thinking, "They just don't get it."
The Short Pathers just look confused and feel hurt and misunderstood. Maybe even a little bit angry at having their very real experience with the Gods dismissed as just so much fantasy fiction. At any one time in history, there have probably always been more people on the Long Path than on the Short Path. The mystery schools and the modern coven structures are based on the Long Path and that is where many of those teachers and Elders of today received their training. The Long Path is what they were taught and the Long Path is what they teach. The Long Path is the path of teaching, of education and of discipline. That is what the Long Path is for: to prepare the initiate for the revelation from and the communication with and the service to the Gods.
Those on the Short Path already 'know' the Gods on a personal and intimate level. They may not know how to cast a circle. They may have the emotional maturity of a garden hose, but they DO know that a God or Goddess spoke to them-just as they were, just as they are. So when someone teaching Long Path studies comes along and tells them that this is the only way to really know the Gods, the Short Pathers really can't see why they should train for years just to get where they already are. It is the theologian vs. the mystic, round one.
Those on the Long Path and those who have found themselves on the Short Path are both seeking the same things. They have just approached it from two different places. Which, believe it or not, brings us back to those darned curtains again. If one just looks on the surface, these people are clearly mismatched just as if those curtains- the one 63" and the one 84"- were defiantly hanging side by side in my window. The uneven hemlines would be quite obviously and most annoyingly 'so not right'. And thus it is whenever a person describes their Path as being either the 'Long' one or the 'Short' one: If your public mantra is 'Long Path' and someone else's is 'Short Path', chances are that you two just won't hang well. You'll feel and look odd together. The 'Long Path' will constantly be tugging at the hemline of the 'Short Path' who will begin to get irrtated at all that picking and stretching.
But the thing is that each of us really will travel both the Long Path and the Short Path in our spiritual lifetimes. If one is serious about exploring just what it means to be touched by a God or how to translate that experience into practical use or into a deeper understanding of such matters, a journey on the Long Path is indeed necessary. That is how it is done. And since the connection with and to the Gods is the ultimate goal of most spiritual paths to begin with, the Short Path experience will always come along wherein the revelation, the flash, the voice of the Gods is so unmistakably clear that it will bring you to your knees with the sheer power and utter joy of it.
And so it is that while most of us indeed have- or will- travel both of these paths, we often just reveal either one curtain or the other when we start hanging together. It might look like we are at odds. It might feel like we are at odds. But if we take the time to peek behind the bookcases, we might just find that we all have that 'other' curtain hanging there as well. You just never know unless you really look.
So I have learned to love my mismatched curtains. I know that behind the bookcase there is a short curtain and a long curtain. They remind me that I have traveled both the Long Path and the Short Path in my spiritual life and that others will find their own way through these same Paths as well. We might not be on the same curtain length at the same time, but that needn't mean that we can't hang together anyway. The long and short of it is that all of us are on both the Long and the Short Path at any given point in our journey. I find that I can be comfortable living with that. And with those curtains.
But all of this otherstuff? It really has to go!
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, May 6th., 2002
Photo credits: Image of Ruby and Wren by Fritz Jung ©2002
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