“If devotion does not simply mean letting gods do whatever they want to you, what does it mean?” — Zeus
This was a writing prompt given to me by Zeus. Of course, the words he chose rubbed me somewhat the wrong way, but you get what you get.
I really hate to write about devotion, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I often feel that by putting my own views forward, I am inherently stepping on toes. I have no right to define ‘devotion’ generally, for people. More than that, I don’t think of myself as being particularly religious. At the same time, I have very strong feelings about what devotion isn’t, and what it should be. I can’t rightly talk about what devotion is. I can only talk about what it is to me.
Devotion, to me, implies active and willing participation in a relationship. I cannot just let Hermes be with me and call that devotion. It’s not. A situation where he is putting in all the work in our relationship is him being devoted to me, not the other way around.
Devotion, to me, cannot be a one-time event. You don’t devote to a person or a deity one time, and call it a done-deal. Each and every day, I have to wake up and commit to having that relationship…. or not. Some days I can’t. Some days I wake up, and I feel like I’m being shot of a canon. Sometimes I am shot from that canon before my eyes even open. Some weeks my life is completely eaten by by the Hebrew deity instead. The relationship might not go anywhere. He might still come to see me. On those days, however, I can’t call myself devoted. I am grateful that, when I return to him, he welcomes me with open arms.
Devotion is about pulling my weight. If I am being dragged, that is not devotion. It is the opposite.
What is devotion, to me, is caring about what a deity cares about, and following through with action. Devotion is actively loving. On those days when I wake up and I ask myself, “What’s ailing him?” When I put myself to the task of bringing what he values into the world, kindness, diversity, community, hospitality, gentleness, peace… and who are we kidding, a bit of mischief, on those days, I am choosing to behave toward him in a loving way.
In fact, to me, doing exactly what a deity says may be at odds with devotion. Who knows why this happens? Maybe I misheard. Maybe I misunderstood. Or maybe, today, he’s just full of crap. He’s a god of lies, and sometimes that happens. If what he asks me to do is meaningfully out of alignment with what I think is in his best interest, devotion means not doing it, even if it is in mine. It means thinking for myself. I have to know what he stands for, who he is, and know his context in order to make that sort of call. I might make that call incorrectly, and under such circumstances, he is certainly not silent about it. The intention behind it, which is love, is what keeps the relationship going.
Devotion is active, positive and passionate. It is action on behalf of the deity that is in line with my convictions. If I didn’t respect a deity, no action I ever did on their behalf would be devotion. In some instances, I do things for other deities grudgingly, because I see a community need. In those instances, I am not acting out of devotion to those deities. I am acting out of devotion to the human beings I am helping. Other times, I do things for a deity not because of that deity, but because I deem it to be in Hermes’ best interest. That action, though it may have another name stamped on it, is nonetheless for him.
And yes, I do believe that he has self respect. He would not stay in a relationship with a person who didn’t love him. I may make mistakes. I may fall off the wagon. What matters, in the end, is the consistent intention to be in that relationship, and the love which is behind that intention, borne out of vehement respect for the good which he is trying to do in the world.
In a spiritual world view wherein a deity is what they value, and a person’s spirituality comes from their deeply held convictions, devotion simply isn’t passive. It’s got nothing to do with what the gods do to you. It has all to do with what you feel for, and what you do for, the gods.