The paradox of planning

The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley

Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”

From time to time, a Pagan book may speak about the Wheel of the Year as it relates to our tasks of the year – not in an agricultural way, as so few of us now are personally involved in farming, though of course we all depend on it – but in a more metaphorical sense. Spring is often associated with “planting seeds” of new projects or ideas, Autumn with “harvesting” the rewards of our labour, and Samahin and Winter as time for planning, preparing for the next year ahead.

It seems absurd to plan anything at the moment. To say the future is uncertain is always a truism, but we are definitely living in particularly uncertain times right now. With politics, climate crises, coronavirus, economic collapse, all looming over us, casting devilish shadows, how can we make plans in the face of all this?

This year alone has shown the futility of our plans when confronted with huge, world-changing events beyond our individual control.

Yet, paradoxically, I find myself making more plans now than I ever have before. From working on the new house, to my transition, to my Druid studies, so much of what I’m doing now is planning and preparing for the future – for next year, the next five years, the next ten, or twenty.

Part of this is, that even in the midst of global instability, I’ve found increasing stability in my own life – mainly from a growing sense of acceptance of who I am as a queer, trans person, and where I therefore want to be a year or more from now. Before this moment of self-acceptance, I spent much of my life honestly believing I didn’t have a future to plan for. That I made it past 30 was, in my mind, a miracle; and one that necessitated a major re-evaluation of my life choices and priorities.

The paradox of planning is that while our plans are always provisional, uncertain and liable to change or be changed, without a plan, we are without purpose.

A plan is a wish made into a structure. As such, it is an act of magic – a visualisation and direction of will and intention. It is a boat on the river of time; it may get blown off course, or wrecked on the rocks of circumstance, but without the boat, we simply drift along with the current, aimless and rudderless.

As the year begins its close and turns to the darkness, it is a natural time to slow down, as much as we can in the ever more hectic world that is. It is a time for thinking, reflecting on the year that was and setting plans and intentions for the year that will be.

Can we find some good among the tragedy of 2020?

Can we bring ourselves to believe in the future?

Can we plan to bring that future into being, with all our hearts, minds, and strength?

Because there will be a future. But what sort of future that may be is up to all of us.

Make good plans. And then be prepared for them to change in ways you never thought possible.

Man plans, and God laughs

Yiddish proverb


  1. Wheel of the year narratives always seem a bit narrow to me – there’s far more going on out there than the stories Pagans have taken to telling. Winter is a busy time of struggle and effort for so many creatures, and trees are planning for next year with buds and catkins…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed – there’s a whole separate post in that somewhere! Not to mention how the wheel of the year both doesn’t map onto human activity and is also thrown out of whack by climate change.

      Liked by 1 person

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