I got a lot of response from friends on the post I wrote about not bashing the new age movement. And while some people felt I had made some good points, I got the idea that overall many people read and dismissed what I had to say as being either naive or simply dismissed me personally as being too ‘New Age’ to think critically about the issues in the first place. I had expected that. I also expected people to leave hurtful comments about the post (which luckily, I did not get).
Overall, there was a bit of good discussion about the post. And while I was going back and forth several times with other members of the pagan community, someone else popped up and made the comment that the arguments in the pagan community never change.
I laughed off the comment with him as I agree that there will always be arguments in the pagan community about labels and issues, but I disagreed with him about the particular discussion. Instead, I framed what I was engaging in with these other pagans was a discussion with other peers of the pagan community about the points I had brought up. He then disagreed and brought up his points as to why this was an argument; I gave my side, the others involved gave their sides, and neither of us budged. He concluded again that based on that definition, we were in an argument.
I reread the posts, and he was right. And my heart sank.
Now in all fairness, I had no idea what to expect when I put that post out there. But when I reread the posts, I did see the underlying theme of “I dare you to try to convince me that whatever you say is something I should consider” with some of the participants, so thus, it was in many ways, an argument. So I gave up.
I was in an argument, and that really bothered me. The post wasn’t supposed to become something to defend against. It wasn’t supposed to be me defending my ideals and my right to my own beliefs, nor to defend what I meant by recognizing that even New Age ideals had a bit of truth to them. It was simply me trying to get another facet of a situation out in the open for people to consider.
Perhaps I am naïve. In the late 80s/early 90s, the pagan community that I was a part of were mostly open to new ideas. We were all growing; and information wasn’t easy to come by. All we had were books and each other. So, if someone had an idea, most of the time people would listen, consider the idea, then either admit it wasn’t right for them or perhaps continue the discussion to see how it could fit into their spirituality.
But that isn’t this pagan culture now. Instead it feels like today you get into the pagan community under a specific set of labels. And if something doesn’t fit into that label, or (Gods Forbid!) if someone tries to push themselves into a label that a specific definition exists for (and is thus considered ‘incorrect’), arguments break out.
That argument culture is the current culture for everything; at least here in the United States. No matter what the topic is, someone is going to disagree with what it is you think. And not only will they disagree, they will be sure to make certain you knew it complete with taunts and expletives if you push it enough. Why I thought pagan spirituality and culture would be different and more like the culture I grew my own beliefs in, I don’t know. But I guess I needed an awakening to what things were truly like.
Why does it even matter what others think? It honestly doesn’t matter to me if someone dismisses my idea. But it does make me wonder that if by dismissing a different spiritual idea immediately are they doing a disservice to themselves? Perhaps instead of challenging them, contemplation on at least a small scale should be considered?
Many years ago, I read a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell. The book has stuck with me all these years because of the exercises. Those exercises in the book very quickly proved Mr. Gladwell’s point about how we don’t necessarily think, but instead react to unspoken and unknown biases. While doing those exercises, I realized that I held biases that I had no idea I had. Me, then a practicing pagan and someone who tried very hard to be open to new ideas and opportunities for growth still had biases. The realization hurt. And it also made me vow that I would always look at someone else’s opinion as objectively as possible to ensure that there wasn’t some grain of truth to it for myself. I admit that it isn’t always easy. But it is something I aspire to as a personal creed.
That personal creed is why I was so upset at the argumentative nature of the discussion. I had hoped that other spiritual people would also believe the way I do about bias, and thus try to look at things with an open mind. Now perhaps some did, I don’t know for certain, but the intent that I read from the posts seemed to me to suggest that the bad things the new age community has done outweighs anything I would have put forth as good, and thus the ideal of the post was dismissed.
And I could go the other way and say perhaps my bias at belittling myself makes me think that the intent I describe above happened when it didn’t happen at all.
It sounds like minutia, doesn’t it? It sounds like critical thinking gone awry perhaps. But in my belief, we have to think that deeply to understand the currents of energy that are around us. We have to let our bias go; let any anthropomorphic ideals of those energies go. The world and its energy behaves differently than we think it does; no matter how much you learn, no matter how many teachers you have or how many lives you live, we still need to expect the unexpected while we are living on this Earth.
So I come from this experience a little wiser and with more understanding, but with even more dedication to my personal creeds. But I’ll always hope, and make time for an open minded discussion with my fellow pagans about ideals. After all, that which does not change me only makes me stronger.
Photo from Deviant Art