Locality in time and space is becoming more important to me. Gandhi speaks a lot about buying local (as part of swadeshi or self-reliance). I originally understood that only as it relates to economic independence. For India, it was important that they stop exporting their cotton to England just to buy it back as finished good. Not only did they lose the substantial markup, but they also lost much of their ability to be self-sufficient. But as I’ve been reading Spiral Dance, I’ve grown to understand locality on another level.
Our culture has come to be very timeless and spaceless, especially in food. We can get anything from anywhere any time we want. But do we have any connection to it? Is it even any good? Sure, you can get strawberries all year round. The cost of that has been that they have no flavor any time of the year. Janet just went down to the farmer’s market and picked up fresh, local strawberries. What a difference. So it’s been growing more important to me to know when each thing is in its season. As I stack the wood for next winter, I think a lot about how there is a certain time in the year when different things are done. Through that I try to better understand the wheel of the year, which is the first step I think in understanding the wheel of life. To step out of the timeless into the now.
I was talking before about how learning about Younger Self’s need for symbols really changed my understanding of ritual. It also broke down my need for total consistency. Bringing this back around to locality, I always had trouble with the fact that different pagan groups have different ideas tied to the directions. Sometimes North is air, sometimes earth. Sometimes air is intellect, sometimes imagination. And so on. Really bothered me. Now I understand better. Symbols aren’t constant, universal things. They’re personal things, based on a time and a place. In some places, the West wind is hot and dry, in others the West wind comes in from the ocean. Is it any wonder that West means different things to different people in different times? The cardinal directions themselves are tied to the planet. They’re not universally constant things. But in a given time and place, they have profound meaning. And it’s ok to use the meanings that speak to us without worrying whether they say the same things to all people. It’s equally important that we don’t prop up our symbols so much that we think they are somehow divine, timeless truths.