Thursday, July 28, 2011
This state of exuberance, like everything is all Midsummer Nights' Dream, generally lasts for the first months or a few years. Gradually, as one participates in "pagan community" to some degree, there is a space of deflation, disenchantment that comes along.
Of finding out that things aren't all happy-sunshine and hearts and flowers between the participants. That there are egos which grandstand and merchants who take advantage of those who think the trappings of faith are imbued in the latest fancy-schmancy tools and accoutrements. There are charlatans and liars and idiot savants and average, patient folks who want to put their efforts towards creating something worthwhile and meaningful.
There is an awakening that no matter how positive and lofty and ethereal our initial spiritual goals, we still have the real-time human element to deal with.
We still have to operate in a mundane sphere while we juggle our awareness of the Otherworld and Underworld. Our religion does not segregate and cloister us away from our day-to-day world, but instead challenges us to find the mystical inherent in it despite all the muckety muck muck of running a household, paying bills, going to a job for 40+ hours per week and paying our taxes to a government we may or may not fully trust to do what is in our best interest.
Like that old gem about how young lovers cannot truly sustain themselves by living only on love for each other....they have to eat, sleep, move, better their surroundings, survive.....so too must the modern witch get over the lofty and pipe-dream idea that there is a way to circumvent life in order to be some fairytale caricature of our spiritual endeavors.
We do not have the luxury of living in a sequestered commune, set apart from the human thrall, only dispensing our wisdom and power when approached like some divine intercedant like the Pope, the Dalai Lama or one of a hundred historic guru-figures. We are practical sorts who are given to do what needs to be done, in the moment, in the dirt, in the messiest and fully-alive parts of our lives. In pain, in terror, in ecstasy and in fully blown desire.
Ours is not the path of wishing for beautiful hippie-resonating notions of universal peace and unconditional love....nor is it about fears of Mayan calendars forewarning the apocalypse. Ours is the path of struggling to balance the individual, personal moments of life and death and love in our lives and letting those be exalted expressions of our path, everyday. Every. Day.
The cynic in me, the jaded person who once wanted all those glittering and wondrous childhood dalliances to be true when I "took up the pointy hat" is now happy to be a practicing skeptic AND a practicing witch. When I dropped those expectations of BS, I came to know from experience that there is beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility and all those illuminating aspects right here, right now, exposed and visible in my life, if only I take the time to breathe and seek them in the moments apparent and around me.
My wish, if I dared to notice it, has already come to pass. I just have to uncover it, a bit at a time, and take it into my heart. And I love watching others wake up to this. Rather than being saddened by their dreams for witchery being broken and found to be rippled by too much wishful thinking and not enough reality....most of them learn that there is enough here to feed them. To give them a new sort of hope and outlook.
I believe 95% of people come to blogs, online forums and chat groups to learn from each other.
Yes, we do get that small percentage of folks that come looking to get their ego stroked as if they are reincarnations of Merlin or Gandalf, Morgan le Fay or Glinda the Good witch. We do get those who want pity for their self-imposed victimhood, or those who want to make a buck off somebody buying their spells, online books, phone tarot readings or emailed sparkly doo-dads with crystals attached.
But pretty much the rest of us are here to exchange info and trade resources. Young and old, new and seasoned....I don’t believe that the majority of people here in internet-land are attending merely to brow-beat and argue without purpose.
The issue is that, I suspect, some folks who are not cemented with a firm footing in their own beliefs and understandings tend to mistake every dissention to their opinions to be a hostile attack from others.
Rather than seeing such things as an opportunity to scrutinize what they hold as a personal belief so that they may measure and weigh and test it to make sure it fit in a real scope...those who aren’t self-assured and actually practiced in their theories take any challenge on as a though it were the other party being mean, being needlessly abrasive.
To these folks I say: A challenge is not necessarily a conflict! An alternate view is not necessarily a threat! It is an opportunity to LEARN SOMETHING!!
If you hold a theory or opinion solely because you “just feel it to be true” and you haven’t road-tested it in practice….and then you are confronted by someone who challenges you and says they have road-tested such a theory and developed an alternate understanding about how realistic and practical and useful it is…..then yeah, you’re likely to feel like the other person isn’t being nice because they don’t just believe you because you say so.
In the end, it isn't about "the feeling that something is true" but the ability to prove it.
The proof must come from one's direct experience, and it is through experience that we can form an educated opinion. This educated opinion then, may be replicated by others, when they too take your same experience data and try it for themselves to reach the same conclusions you do.
This is what translates into provenance of factual data and historic reference.
If, however, the only "proof" one can provide for their theory or opinion when being given a challenge by others is "well...because it is my clever theory and I just feel it, ok?" Then that’s when the challenging opinion will cite evidence for why their theory is more appropriate.....when the other party produces factual-based evidence to the contrary.
Challengers won’t just say "I'm right, you're wrong, so deal with it!"...but if you take a deep breath and read carefully their responses without being immediately defensive, you too may see that YOU are the one who needs to step back and empathize. Test drive that opposing view and see how things look from that vantage point.
Now go back to your original theory that you just “felt” was true. Does your original opinion still hold water? Can you come up with justifiable, concrete evidence to counter this opposition and cite factual references beyond "well I just feel it?" as your reasoning?
At this crux, when opposing sides are engaged in a debate, that is when it is the mature tact to shut the hell up and listen. To see if there is a flaw in the logic being employed somewhere. To see if there was a miscalculation in the conclusions being drawn...or if logic was omitted entirely.
There is room for skepticism and fact in the Craft. Ours is not a religious persuasion rooted in dogma and scripture….ours is a founded in PRACTICE and the RESULTS achieved from the PRACTICE.
This is why it is a remarkably mature thing to do to sit back and be open to listening to others when they challenge you. Rather than being defensive and angered by someone questioning you, it takes strength to let your ego move out of the way so you can just allow the other opinions to come before you to be investigated further.....because you may find that what you held as truth may not be accurate after all.....or, you may find the means to gently explain to the opposition where their theory went awry.
You cannot accomplish intelligent debate through name-calling. Telling someone they are judgmental and short-sighted and stubborn and snobby and elitist and rigid and obsolete IS NAMECALLING.
You cannot win over the hearts and minds of others by "taking your conversation ball and going home" either. Doing the dramatic display of saying how everyone else is so close-minded and mean and then shutting down the conversation or deleting it is tantamount to throwing a tantrum and sticking your fingers in your ears.
No one can grow or modify or expand their understandings ….or to strengthen the resolve of their theories unless they have them challenged occasionally to see if they still hold true.
I've had plenty of pet theories of my own over the years, and been shown alternate viewpoints to them. The difference is, rather than dig in my heels and get defensive, I have learned to take a deep breath to squelch my inner warrior and now stop to listen and reconsider. To weigh the new info against my theory and see if my theory is still applicable. We all should reserve the right to augment, adapt or wholly change/rescind our latest theory based upon the new evidence and perspectives.
The most any of us sharing in this forum can hope for is that we come into occasional contact with folks we can relate to, whose opinions we respect even if we don't follow them all ourselves. The hope is that we are each adult enough to say, "Hmmm....I never tried that idea before, never considered things from that point of view, and so I'll have to take what you are saying under consideration."
At one time or other, every "truth" has been challenged. The Earth was once thought to be flat. The Sun was thought to go around the Earth.
If it weren't for the light of new evidence, new expressions wrought with new facts shared, we’d still believe those things. That we have grown and shared and altered our perspectives, we have new theories today to believe and understand as truth.Everyone has pet theories. And you know what? That is ok. You are still, despite the dissenting comments, entitled to hold to your opinion.