Debate, Validation and Expert Opinion

Every week, it seems that I get several questions asking me about this point or that point on Paganism, Wicca, Druidry, and sometimes even just general politics. I do my best to answer most of the questions — but while I’m flattered with people looking to me for an opinion, it does bother me that I get asked in the first place. Again, I’m not annoyed with the questions – and am flattered that someone would ask my opinion on a topic. However, in some instances – it feels like the other side of the conversation is seeking something further. Sometimes its a debate, sometimes its just validation of their own personal perspective, and at times it feels like I am being queried as the “expert”.

I’m not about the concept of debate. For me, its a bickering form of a discussion — just a few steps removed from an argument. Other folk find it to be stimulating and informative – I’m not one of those. I don’t have the desire to bicker and dicker over the finer points of some topic. I’d rather have an old fashioned discussion, where a perspective is laid out on the table – the other perspective is offered in return, and any questions concerning how either side came to that conclusion takes place.Debates and arguments attune themselves to “winning/losing” sides…for me, a discussion is just an exploration for information and perspective with no judgment placed on the values or process either side takes to get there. Unfortunately, its a dying art form, in my opinion, as many “discussions” have turned to debates concerning the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the position held or the methodology utilized to get there. Just not my cup of coffee.

Then there’s side of seeking validation, which goes hand-in-hand with people looking to me as some sort of expert. I’m far from an expert on any topic. I understand things like Information Technology a little better than the average layman, but I’m not an expert in the field. When people approach me about Paganism, I typically start off a conversation with “In my view…” or “From my perspective…”. I’m not an expert on Paganism…nor an expert on Wicca, Druidry, the Occult, or whatever other terminology you can bring about. I can talk about (and frequently do here on the blog and in the podcast) about how I – ONE INDIVIDUAL – sees and understands things. But that’s my particular location around the fire. The tough part about trying to explain my perspective is that I am the one that occupies that spot. Its easier for me to understand things from where I sit – but unless I get up, I’m the only one that can see that vantage point. And once I get up, the individual that sits down and sees things from that same spot…they will STILL see things differently. Unless I manage to clone myself – and then this conversation changes into the topic of whether a clone is really an understanding, perceptive individual or if the experiences of the clone versus the original individual’s experiences are completely separate and stand-alone. But that’s a philosophical point for another day and time.

I try my very best to convey how I feel about the difference between asking a question for knowledge and asking the same question for validation. I don’t get into the validation thing. I know what works for me, and how I perceive the world. The only person I need to seek that validation from is myself. I’m not always sure when I get questions if my answers completely convey that…after all, I can only speak for myself….

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