When Community Eclipses Polarity by Kate Brunner


I recently accepted a new position at my local public library and yesterday the duties of that position happened to include staffing our library’s Eclipse Viewing Party. From about 10am to 1pm, I answered countless questions about the eclipse, helped people of all ages make pinhole projection viewers out of everything from cardstock to saltine crackers, loaded & reloaded NASA’s footage that we live streamed on the big screen, & handed out moon pies. And, of course, encouraged the couple hundred folks who had descended on our little library to be good neighbors and share the fifty pairs of NASA-approved eclipse glasses we’d managed to get our hands on the week prior.

The eclipse was stunning. We were able to experience the temperature drop, the change in the quality of light, and a safe view of the peak of the eclipse, which was at about 80% here in the Four Corners area. But what really struck me about the experience was the spirit of community I witnessed.

Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/CI Lab

Folks shared eclipse glasses with each other freely, passing them around beyond the friends or family they had come with to people they didn’t necessarily even know. “Did you get to take a look?” was a phrase I heard everywhere I went as I wove through the crowd, helping wherever I was needed. “Here, use these and then pass them on.” Kids broke moon pies together, splitting them into pieces to share with those who hadn’t snagged one before we ran out of those as well. People spotted shadows of the eclipse naturally projected onto the ground or on one gentleman’s white cowboy hat by the sun’s light as it passed between tree leaves and happily showed each other. Elders taught children they didn’t know how to use their pinhole projectors just like they did when they were young. Everyone cheerfully & excitedly helped each other get a different perspective on this moment in time in order to better appreciate the ever-shifting relationship between our Earth, Moon, & Sun.  

The Kybalion, a “little volume of hermetic teachings” (that happens to represent the basic metaphysical underpinnings of countless Western Neo-Pagan traditions, including my own), offers seven main principles that make up the Law by which existence is governed. One of them is the Principle of Polarity, which states:

Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.

Extremes meet. The stone cold rock that is our Moon meets the incomprehensibly hot ball of burning gas that is our Sun. Extremes meet, this pair of opposites comes together and we gather in community to collectively witness a total solar eclipse.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a lament for the slow, brutal death of dialogue in our culture. In that piece, I asked a lot of questions as I struggled to see how we might ever bring ourselves back into a place of community dialogue. In many ways, many of those questions remain. And yet, there are also changes I can sense between then and now. There are conversations happening right now that I would not have thought possible then. In the wake of events like Charlottesville, dialogue is happening around such important issues and with people I did not necessarily trust to listen. It is a small step towards reconciling polarities.

To be clear, I am not advocating for or encouraging neo-Nazi apologist/sympathizer behavior. I am more referring here to necessary dialogue like that of what is happening around what it will take to engage, identify, and truly dismantle institutional racism and entrenched misogyny.

The Kybalion is also the source of the oft quoted “as above, so below” phrase that gets tossed around pagan circles quite a bit. This saying comes from The Kybalion’s Principle of Correspondence, another one of the seven. In addition to the meeting of various polarities I witnessed yesterday, I also saw reflected in the community interaction taking place around me, an opportunity for us practice behavior “above” the fray of the core issues gripping the overculture. I saw patterns of healthy social interaction in which one community member was vital to the creation of opportunities for another community member to get a different, perspective-broadening look at what was happening in the moment.

What if we could use the Principle of Correspondence to bring those same community-supporting behaviors “below” with us, back into the fray and into the re-emerging dialogue?

Dialogue IS finally re-emerging. And now I have new questions.

What if we have an obligation to hold sacred space for each other that allows each of us to momentarily see through a different lens? To shift our perspective, even if just for a short period of time, in order to come to a place of deeper understanding? Not necessarily a place of agreement, but a place rooted in compassion where perhaps extremes can meet, opposites can come together. and we can figure out how to say to each other, “I may not agree, but at least now I understand.”?

What if in the same way communities helped each other bear witness to the great cosmic meeting of extremes that was this total solar eclipse, we could learn to help each other bear witness to our myriad perspectives on how we might re-engage the work our nation needs us all to do next?

After my experience of community at my little library yesterday, it seems to me that without that act of sacred space holding, without that individual willingness to create community opportunities for perspective shifting, it’s all just “words, words, words.”

Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. She is also a current resident of Heartwood Cohousing in Colorado & the Children’s Services Coordinator at Pine River Library. Kate hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, labyrinth rituals, and workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality and community herbalism topics. During 2017, she will present at the SOA’s annual online conference, AvaCon, & at the second annual Ninefold Festival in Ithaca, NY this autumn. Kate is a contributing writer at One World Herbal Community and is also published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.

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Categories: Community, Earth-based spirituality, Peacemaking

Tags: , , , ,

7 replies

  1. I am interested in polarities because I do understand that extremes are part of one whole but I also think that the scales can be tipped one way or the other with one pole overtaking the other…Moments of community aren’t enough. We have lost a way of life that thrives on reciprocity between humans and other non human species (not to mention the planet) and this trend continues unabated. There is a place for compassion but it is not with the white supremacists and KKK. As individuals we do what we can, I know I do – but is this going to be enough to disrupt the power over dynamics in play? I sincerely doubt it.

    Like

    • To be perfectly honest, the only places I’ve ever actually seen & experienced sustainable power-with dynamics are at the community level. Governments, empires, economies, and other power-over structures all seem to rise & fall. But people helping each other survive is, from my perspective, why we’re still here as a species.

      Also, from my perspective it was moments of community that created the counterprotests in Charlottesville and are acting as catalysts for larger scale resistance to white supremacists.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “As above, so below.” A peaceful encounter in the sky above us. Yes, indeed, it would be good for our Mother Earth if we people and communities came together in peace. Thanks for writing this inspiring post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful, thoughtful post, Kate! Sacred space is something distinct from and perhaps more profound than safe space. It was good to remember that we are all inhabitants of one planet, affected by the same sun and moon, not just our species, either. The whole planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A wonderful and wise post! I live in one small town and work in another, and over the past year I have seen a tremendous growth in both community-building and dialogue. There was indeed a tremendous sense of people wanting to share and enable experiencing the eclipse with others yesterday. A few days before that I attended a candlelight vigil in response to the violence in Charlottesville and met people and heard points of view that I never had before even though I’ve lived in my town for almost 30 years and its been the same at other recent events. In moments of despair, these give me hope that our communities — local, national and global — can weave themselves into something better than they were before.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for this very encouraging and hope-filled post, Kate. It doesn’t sell newspapers, but I find the witness of people choosing community and cooperation so much more exciting.

    Like

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