The Luxury of Fragmentation

Many gods, one altar.

 After reading several of the Internet dust-ups over the past few weeks, it occurred to me that we are in a unique forum where we no longer have to tolerate anyone.

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in a co-housing development. It’s another iteration on intentional living, where everyone still owns their own property, but funds are pooled to accomplish larger community projects such as herb and vegetable gardens, carports, and common meals.  There is a lot of diversity–the youngest, in utero, the oldest in her mid-seventies; whites and people of color; priests and layfolk; five-flavors-of-Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Atheist; six-figure incomes and 40B housing; able-bodied and wheelchair-bound; public schoolers and homer schoolers and unschoolers; monogamy, polyamory, gay, straight, bi, transgender…we pretty much run the gamut. And still, there is one thing that we all have in common.

We have made a commitment to living in community.

This stands in stark contrast to what I see happening on all sides of the Pagan Internet Social Scene. (See what I did there? Because, really, anything one can walk away from so easily can hardly be called a “community.”) Sitting face-to-face in a discussion circle, working though disagreements and differing opinions with my neighbors, operating by consensus (yes, we’re that crazy)–this is growth. This is community, in all of its painful fits and starts.

Because really, exile and shunning has never been easier than in the age of the internet. Don’t like someone’s politics, fine.  Smear them. If that won’t stick, grab your gods ball and go home. We succumb to the insidious luxury of fragmentation–we no longer have to learn to get along because we can always divide ourselves into a smaller and smaller subsets of people who are just like us.

Doesn’t that get boring after a while?

The Pagan Internet Social Scene has its uses, potentially. Debating ideas is one of the most powerful ones. Yet, it is a rare thing to see ideas debated and tested. More often than not, a blog post will descend into a mire of puffed-up egos, an insatiable need to be right, and a veritable smorgasbord of the worst behaviors the web has to offer. Add in a golden flounce for good measure, and presto! Another scene is born, perhaps this time for the Libertarian Vegans who worship N’zoth.

When you are in community, especially if you live in proximity to someone, it necessitates a different sort of behavior. The threat, “I know where you live,” well, it becomes pretty meaningless. You wanna flounce? Ok, but you’re going to have to sell your house first. Proximity raises the stakes. Not everyone is going to be a bosom companion, but they are going to be able to sit in a meeting together to pass the budget when it’s time. From what I’ve witnessed of the Pagan internet scene over the past 15 years, it’s done little to build actual communities–if anything the witch-wars and heathen-harangues are worse than ever.

My co-housing community isn’t perfect. What we do have in our favor is that we’re willing to struggle. We have skin in the game. We’re willing to work to get along with people who are fundamentally different from ourselves because we know our diversity is in fact our greatest strength. Community-minded Pagan and Polytheists could stand to learn quite a bit from this attitude.


As one fellow put it, “Some days I want to kill my neighbors, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

4 thoughts on “The Luxury of Fragmentation

  1. This hits the nail right on the head. Thank you!

    One thing I might amplify a bit: The internet-problems we’ve been watching (or ignoring) these last few weeks seem inevitable. When we only “know” people through their ideas (about the gods, about politics, whatever), that’s the only basis we have for a relationship, and when that breaks down, there’s nothing left as the foundation of that relationship. In other words: it’s not a community.

    Contrast that with the case you describe of living in the real world, encountering people on the basis of many things (growing veggies, watching/educating children, making music, and also, perhaps, religious or political things). Now, if our agreement and common concern about one of these drops away, there are still all those other things as the basis of the relationship. In other words, we see each other as full, complex human beings, rather than disembodied ideas. Now, we have the seeds of a community. I hope yours continues to be fruitful and nourishing for you and all your neighbors!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great insight on the one-dimensional aspect of a lot of Internet interactions. You’re absolutely right, once that “common” thing fades, there’s very little to keep folks in communication.


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