Power dynamics underlie my worldview in a major way. In relationships with people I tend to be the one others turn to for guidance and direction. In my relationship with my Lady, however, I receive guidance and direction. Using common BDSM parlance, I am a Dominant personality who submits to a goddess. This dual perspective gives me some interesting insights into the role of service.
This came up in conversation the other night while I was having dinner with my girl. She said something self-deprecating and I came back with the following:
Why would I want someone who was weak or incompetent? It’s in my own best interest to find the smartest, strongest, most capable person I can! I HAVE a full time job – why would I want to add micromanaging another person to the list? I don’t want a doormat or a robot or a child – I want to delegate a task and know that the task will be done. I want someone amazing. Why would I settle for less than that?
At the time I was thinking about it from my perspective as a Dominant. Everything I said there, however, applies to the other side of the coin too. Because honestly? I can’t imagine our gods feel any differently about the people They tap for service than I do. Like me, They also have jobs to do, agendas and purposes to fulfill, goals to meet. They want to delegate a task and see it completed without ridiculous oversight requirements. I have met very few weak and/or incompetent people who have been chosen by gods for direct service, and I think this is at least part of the reason why.
So, with that in mind, what can we learn about serving the gods by examining and living other types of service relationships?
There is the stereotype in the BDSM scene of the doormat, of the helpless submissive who yearns to be rescued and coddled and constantly directed. They want someone to tell them what to do and how to do it, to make their ethical/moral choices for them, to take away all the uncertainty. They don’t want to think or struggle, they simply want to be. We see this in spiritual relationships too, of course. Many of us grew up as members of a monotheistic faith. One thread that seems to run through monotheism in general is the whole “let go, let God” concept. The doormat idea is here seen as the ideal, as a virtue. Worshippers demonstrate their devotion by begging their god to take care of everything for them, hoping that if they keep their heads down and blindly follow orders they’ll receive favors. And believe they’re punished if they don’t.
There are Dominant personalities who like this level of passivity, just as I’m sure there are gods who appreciate it. Personally, I find that this “rewarding passivity” viewpoint actively hinders service on a human level, and going by my Lady’s preferences I don’t see that it necessarily differs when serving the Powers.
If I want the doormat type kneeling quietly in the corner to do something I have to issue an order, break it down to the simplest connect-the-dots pieces, and then supervise the completion of the task every step of the way. In those circumstances delegation adds more stress to my plate, not less, and takes more time besides. I’d rather just do it myself and avoid the middleman.
On the other hand, delegating a task and seeing it completed without having to micromanage the process? That reduces my stress, and allows me to focus on other tasks that only I can do. The ability to do that is a skill, and the one doing the serving becomes actively useful to whatever I’m trying to accomplish.
Even better – the Holy Grail of service, if you will – is when the one serving begins anticipating, displaying initiative instead of passivity. That’s when service is elevated from skill to art, and the one doing it moves from useful to indispensable.
In short? Screw passivity – give me someone with initiative and the responsibility to use it.
My Lady agrees with that whole-heartedly. I actually started out as more of a blind follower (I preferred to do nothing rather than do something wrong), and She beat that out of me as quickly as possible. These days? She accepts nothing less than full engagement, and that means I’m required to think about what She says, not just do it. I have to grapple with it, understand it, fully grok it – and then independently implement it in my life from that point forward by anticipating other ways it might apply. I question, request, argue, resist, suggest, learn, explore, and live with Her 24/7. That tendency has only grown as I’ve served Her – She’s encouraged it. My contrary, pushy nature is something She wants, and my initiative is prized.
The degrees between passivity and initiative also correspond to headspace in other areas. I find that, when receiving service, the ones who passively need guidance through tasks are so focused on the mechanics that they don’t think beyond them, and even if they do have something to say they usually don’t consider it their “place” to volunteer ideas. Some people might see that as respectful. I see that as incredibly limiting. It blocks me from receiving feedback. I want feedback. I want the people doing the task to create process improvements, offer suggestions, and provide alternative perspectives. Someone who is actively engaged, who takes ownership, often has better ideas and insights than I do – and I’m crippling myself if I don’t listen to them.
In the same way, my Lady allows no walls between us. I am forbidden to focus on the mechanics without delving deeper. She in my head and heart and life, and everything I am is Hers. I wouldn’t be giving Her everything if I held back anything, and that includes my thoughts and perspectives as they arise. Even if they may not be what She wants or expects to hear. I’m respectful, of course, but I’m also bluntly honest. I would never expect a level of service from another that I don’t deliver myself – in many ways I serve my Lady exactly as I wish to be served. So far that concept has been praised and encouraged.
We have to remember that the Powers are not omniscient. Our sharing of our experiences and perspectives help Them too.
In another post I described the lenses through which various Powers view the world. Gods see much more overall than we do, but They are more like generals than soldiers. They see the lay of the land, the maps, the overall strategy. They are not soldiers on the ground. That’s us. We’re the ones slogging through the mud and the blood, and our reports provide necessary perspectives They don’t otherwise get. That is part of our utility, and we’re not serving as fully as possible if we don’t give Them that.
As an additional complication, some of us are also dealing with our deities (or entire pantheons) having been cut off from humanity for centuries. We’re having to help reconstruct these faiths, reconnect people to Powers and Powers to people, relearn what we used to know and figure out how to deal with those concepts in a modern context.
I think we often forget that goes both ways, that this is a two-way street.
The cultures with which a given Power is familiar can be vastly different from our own. Time marches on – and perspectives shift with it. Things may have changed while They have been separated from us. For instance, I’ve seen cases of deities not understanding that communities no longer support Their clergy, and expecting 24/7 service from people who also have to maintain full-time jobs. Sometimes the deity is fully aware of the difficulty and wants that anyway, but other times the deity simply doesn’t know that circumstances have changed. Part of our job is to help them understand modern life and modern human perspectives, to help Them work with us and us work with Them. Without providing that perspective we’re tying Their hands.
And that, I think, is the most important concept that we can take from this whole conversation. Passive service is not complete service. We must be active partners in our service to truly serve. In many ways we are working with our gods more than for Them, and we have to fully engage for our relationships with Them to reach their full potential. Engagement requires both fully understanding the “why” behind what our deities ask of us, so we can begin to anticipate what They may ask of us in future, and offering our perspectives as the “soldier on the ground” even if we don’t think it’s what They want to hear. Offering only passive service imposes artificial limits that defeat the purpose of what W/we’re trying to do.