“You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions…”
Anyone who has watched the movie “The Breakfast Club” recognizes the quote. At the very end of the movie, as the kids are leaving detention to go back to their homes, one of the kids (Brian) reads the statement that the five of them wrote to the Principal – answering his question of who they thought they were. For me, one year removed from high school – I graduated in 1984 – it was a telling statement, and something that influenced the way I looked at the authority figures in my life at that time. My parents didn’t understand me. Only two of my high school teachers understood me. Very few of my friends understood me. I listened to Heavy Metal. The harder the Metal – the better. I got into the Black Metal and Death Metal scenes – the darker the thematic of the band and their music, the better. I wore my hair long. My typical attire was concert t-shirts, torn up jeans and a pair of Vans tennis shoes (the same type worn by Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”). My parents (and many other so-called “authority figures) made serious assumptions based off of that – most of which were wrong.
My grades in high school were extremely poor. When I graduated, my GPA was the second lowest in the class. My SAT and ACT scores, however, were in the upper part of the class. The guidance counselor said it was because I wasn’t challenged in the classes. She could have been correct, but a better assessment would have been that I was bored. None of the teachers connected with me in any fashion. They droned over the facts, and brought no life to the material. Except for one teacher. My junior year, he was my Theology teacher (I went to a private, all-boys Catholic school). In trying to show us different perspectives, he played the “Jesus Christ Superstar” rock opera for us – and then challenged our perception of the Gospels with provocative questions. My senior year, he taught us World History – and he made the material come alive. He added commentary on various passages of material – and even took some of the aspects of History to show us just how it applied to today’s (this was 1983-1984, ya’ll) current events. I never learned more in the rest of High School than those two classes.
Add those bad grades to the above description of what I looked like – and you might get to the same conclusion that my parents drew: I was doing drugs. The reality was that I had the occasional six-pack of beer on a Friday night with friends – but the closest thing to drugs that I was ingesting was McDonald’s hamburgers and french fries. In 1985, I dated a young lady for a short period of time – and she introduced me to marijuana. I took exactly one drag….and puked my toenails up. She laughed, and stated that not everyone was going to like the stuff. A few other times, I was offered Acid…and I declined every time. Drugs just never held any direction for me. I’ve told this to my parents numerous times…and I was never believed. Not even now, in my 40s. My parents decided to take the easiest route to understanding me – seeing me in the simplest terms with the most convenient definitions.
That has actually followed me throughout my life. When I made the conscious decision to live my Catholic upbringing behind to explore other aspects of Christianity – it had to be “because of a girl.” When I decided to leave Christianity altogether and explore Wicca — it was because I had been “brainwashed by a cult.” When I decided that Wicca was not my Path and moved to a more nondescript practice as a neo-Pagan, it was because I was “spiritually lazy.” The simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. And each were wrong.
I hear a lot of that in today’s environment as well. That individual can’t be a Pagan because they don’t hold these particular points in the highest regard. The other person there can’t be Wiccan because they don’t follow these particular precepts. And every time I hear or read these types of statements, I shudder and cringe. The only thing that happens here is a line gets drawn between that person and whatever group of people make such statements. I’m just not into that mind-set. For me, people believe as they need to believe — its not for me to decide what’s right and wrong in their heart. That’s for them to determine. Sure, they can believe differently from me. I don’t need to get into the intricacies of their personal belief systems to get to know them as a person. There’s more to a person than their Spiritual Belief. I’d rather the definitions stay in the dictionary…and last time I checked, no one lives in a dictionary….