Throughout Pagandom, there has been a hue and cry over the idea of pop culture Paganism. I must admit that I’ve been separate from this intentionally and I don’t intend to wade into the fray on this one if I can avoid it frankly because I’m not sure that I fully understand the concepts being discussed and I’m not fully sure of my own feelings on the topics that I do understand. And that is, in the end, why I think listening is of paramount importance within our modern Pagan (and Pagan-adjacent) community. I’ve been lurking on tumblr and on blogs reading about the different positions held across this debate and I was reminded of a post by John Halstead at the AllergicPagan blog: the dirty words we use to describe each other. Go read it. Seriously, go. I’ll wait. … … Okay. Welcome back. John says something fairly important in his essay:
The reason why neither side understands the other is because each side is using a different dichotomy to distinguish “self” from “other”. [...] But these dichotomies are usually not made explicit, so both sides end up talking past each other.
And that’s where listening comes in. And questions, but “question” doesn’t start with “L.” I was at a blog this morning where the author ranted about the disrespect that some show to the gods by raising up cultural icons and archetypal concepts/figures to a similar or to the same level as them. If you’ve been watching this discussion play out, you’ve probably seen such a rant and probably seen them on both sides of the argument. In this case, someone chimed in and explained their side of things and the author just blasted away at him repeating most of what he or she had just explained despite the fact that the commenter had pretty much agreed with all the points made. This was not a case of one person saying “It’s raining” and another saying “No, it’s not.” This was two people having a fight over whether it’s partly cloudy or partly sunny. Different from the dichotomies that John discussed in the link but related, nevertheless. I’m reminded of my own experience in the comments on a Wild Hunt article where people accused me of one thing despite the fact that I was talking about a different one. It was one of the many what-is-a-Pagan discussions and I suspect the majority of the conflict was based on one thing: expectations. To put it in John’s terms, the dichotomy (i.e. paradigm) they expected wasn’t actually the one that I was working with. In fact, it’s probably arguable that most of our conflicts are likely based on these sorts of things. And, what’s amazing to me, is that these things can be changed simply by setting aside our expectations relating to a situation or to another person and simply listening to what they’re actually saying. Could they have a hidden agenda an be telling you what they think you want t hear? Sure. But, frankly, I suspect that happens a lot less than we fear. I’ve been accused of asking too many questions when I’m trying to understand a situation. But what I’m really trying to do is listen better to what the others around me are saying. That’s what I’m doing when I lurk on tumblr and blogs, too. It’s revolutionized my thinking about some topics and on others only solidified my existing frameworks. But, regardless of the outcome, listening costs us nothing other than a little more time and, in the end, only shows the others around you a bit of respect. That, I can’t see, as a bad thing. So, I guess the only question remaining is: how do we listen? The answer is: by remaining silent, with mind and body, and allowing others to speak.