Caution:  Pagan at Work

Once upon a time there was a family that lived on a farm.  Each day the mother would get up and light the big iron oven while the children gathered the eggs and milked the cow.  The father saw to the horses and sharpened his ax to split more wood for the stove.  Then they all ate together before the children left for school.  During the day the father tilled the fields and repaired fences while the mother washed and mended clothes and planned the evening meal.  When the children returned from school, they did their homework and then joined in performing the many chores of the farm before the family sat down to supper, tired but satisfied they had all done their part.
This family knew they had done a good job because they could see the results of their efforts;  the clothes were clean, the meal hot and delicious, the horses well fed and healthy.  The crops were planted, the smell of the rich earth filled the air, and the house was cozy against the evening chill from the fire in the stove.  This family was, in the original sense of the word, pagan.  (Yes, lowercase "p"... it's Latin for "country dweller".)
Today, things aren't quite as clear for many people, including us Pagans.  Sure, we still get up and go to our jobs, but with the exception of a full-time homemaker (a rarity today) we seldom receive tangible evidence that we accomplished anything.  Today we don't work with the soil, or make things with our hands.  We push paper or watch machines, occasionally going to the filing cabinet or tweaking a control knob.  After a time we reap our harvest, a piece of paper that says we have earned so much in buying power.  With this in hand, we go to the bank and trade it for more paper that we in turn trade for a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk and a tank of gas on the way home.  And we never once think about what we did that day in terms of what we accomplished.
Just how does a Pagan office worker or a production laborer reconcile their jobs with their spirituality?  Today we don't have the choice of which field to plant and which to let lie fallow.  And sometimes the decisions we are faced with seem to fly in the face of what we hold sacred.  I work in the quality control department of a rubber manufacturing company, and my job is a good example:  Several times a month I am faced with a choice I don't like, usually involving a decision whether to recommend scrapping out of tolerance material or waivering it into finished goods inventory.  The hard line I should take as a quality professional dictates that if the material is not to specification, it is not acceptable.  Meanwhile, my spiritual side screams that it's a slap in the Goddess' face to put a pallet of hoses that might be slightly off size but otherwise perfectly functional into the landfill.
This is when the decisions get complicated:  I cannot allow my personal beliefs to override the expectations of our customers, but they do sometimes play a part in the decision.  for example, if a hose product that conveys water at a low pressure begins to leak, in most cases the customer will be mildly annoyed but little environmental impact results compared to burying a half ton of mostly perfectly good material in the Earth.  On the other hand, if I'm looking at a carton of gasoline hose that I suspect will be prone to leaks, I'd let them fire me before I'd approve it. In a case like that, if the defective parts cannot be identified and eliminated, the world is better off to take the hit at the landfill and cut its losses.  Of course, the ultimate goal is to prevent defects in the first place, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
Not everyone in my office has the same choices, but they all make decisions that affect us all.  Each day I see the same scenario played out:  Someone gets up, goes to the coffee maker, tosses their quarter in the kitty and takes a styrofoam cup from the stack to fill it.  Later, back at their desk, the empty cup goes into the wastebasket and they go get another.  I just want to choke them sometimes!  I keep a ceramic cup at my desk, and so don't contribute cups to the landfill or CFC's to the atmosphere just for a cup of coffee.  I've also been known to remove paper clips and drop them into my desk rather than into the waste basket.  Don't laugh; not everyone does that.  Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to smelt the iron in one paper clip?  I don't either, but I suspect you wouldn't want to have to shovel the coal for the steel mill.
The point I'm trying to make is, think about what you do every day in terms of how you make a difference, however small.  If we try to do the best we can at work every day, and think about the impact our actions make, then all our children can reap the harvest of a better world.

Oakdancer 4/23/99


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