OK, maybe you are. Most people are, in one way or another. This is a follow-up to my poverty post, which didn’t say all of what I wanted it to. I think it would be possible to come away from that post thinking that I am saying that if you haven’t had some type of intense experience of pain and deprivation, then you couldn’t be a Really Spiritual person. Or, conversely, that if you had that experience, then you are such a person. I don’t actually think that.
There’s a particular myth that occurs all the time among Pagans and others who have experiences with nonordinary reality. It’s the I’m Really Special narrative. There are different versions of the story – “I was born to a long line of seers, it runs in the family all the way from the Old Country” “I got lost in the woods as a child and the spirits came to me and I’ve been able to speak to them ever since” “I’m the seventh son of a seventh son” “I was contacted by angels from the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius.” The point of the I’m Really Special narrative is to make the teller into some sort of Other – someone who is nonordinary, who has been especially selected by the spirits or God or the aliens or whoever in order to communicate with, dominate, or enlighten the poor benighted mundane people of the world. I’ve heard the “I’m Really Special” story many times.
I think people like the idea that there are Chosen Ones in the world. It makes successes more exciting (“I can do this because I’m Special!”) and failures less painful (“well, I’m not one of those Special People, what do you expect?”) It also makes hard work unnecessary – part of the myth of the genius, after all, is that greatness simply falls out of them with no particular effort.
A discussion on RJ Stewart’s mailing list last week about injury and illness as an initiatory experience – whether an injury could also be an initiation. RJ’s response was precise and wise:
“… it is best to be practical and think that most things are just the way of this world, and that most such events are not signs of spirit. However, there are always some exceptions, and these must be judged not by the accident or the illness itself, but by the dedicated spiritual life that a person chooses to lead as a result. Or not.”
Whatever your circumstances, life experience, or temperament, a dedicated spiritual life is available to you if you want it. An initiation is a beginning – it’s whatever sets your foot on the path. Whether you keep following that path is up to you – even if your life has been totally and absolutely ordinary up to that point.