The past few weeks, I have talked about a pattern that is becoming more and more noticeable within our “modern” society. Perhaps, this pattern has always been there, but is merely amplified by our uber-connected nature, in part thanks to the rapid spread of electronics and the internet’s vast reach. Nonetheless, the reach of the “loudest, more voracious, and loquacious” tends to be the strongest, and that has led many to believe in the “most means right” principle. In other words, the more something is stated, the louder it is stated – the more correct it becomes. Even when approached from a position laden with factual information that posits otherwise.
Perhaps the most interesting, and somewhat disturbing, perspective is when an individual or group of individuals takes exception with the simple wording of a statement. Certainly, words have power, but that power comes from the meaning ascribed to it from BOTH the writer and the reader. An individual can make a particular statement, meaning one particular thing, and a receiver (listener, reader, watcher) can interpret the statement a completely different way. In our modern society, the typical next step is to add a comment to the statement, expressing exception. And in the wonderful anonymity that our modern communications provides us, this can be compiled along with a statement of derision towards the author/speaker of the original statement. This will lead to others stepping in to chime in their own additional disagreement with this or other statements made by the individual, or provide a moment where a defense is made by the author or long-time readers. And thus, begins the environment that we old-time BBSers call “the flame war”.
On many Pagan blogs, I have watched author after author being torn a new sphincter over the smallest statements. Why? Well, simply because the author did not spell out inclusiveness in a statement for every single Pagan that may read their post. Or, the manner in which they made a statement came off as being a statement of “empirical fact” – and from the lowest layers of the Nine Hells, no Pagan wants to be told that they are doing something wrong!
But perhaps, its not really the author’s fault in all of this. Perhaps, the individual(s) reading the statement read between the lines, and inserted their own feeling of being personally slighted into the statement. Its only a normal human response. I can honestly say that I have done that before in my entire time communicating with people about religious beliefs and concepts since ::mumbling:: 1995. All right, let’s not make a big deal about how much of my life has been spent communicating with people over a stream of binary bits.
And let’s say that the author really did mean exactly what they typed. Really, what’s the problem here? Must everyone meet your manner of communication? Are people not entitled to their own feelings and opinions – no matter how diametrically opposed to your own that may be? Yes, I do realize that what I am advocating means that people can be racist or discriminatory in their feelings and opinions. Just because I do not agree with their perspective does not mean that they are not allowed to have them. I would hope that they would educate themselves accordingly, realize how foolish their perspective may be — but I cannot live through lives for them. That goes against every principle that I have concerning your Path being your own to walk.
Coming back to the Pagan blogs…when I read a person make what seems to be an empirical statement of fact about a Pagan path, I remember that I am not in their shoes. Only they can occupy the space that they are in. I can attempt to see things from their perspective, but even then I am seeing things from their perspective with my own personal vision. I already have my own bias from what I have learned and experienced carried with me to that particular perspective. The question that I have to ask myself is this: “Is it worth the time spent arguing over the point? What will be gained from all of this, if I do decide to take umbrage with the wording of their point? Did the wording of that one sentence, in the many paragraphs that they wrote, really detract that much from their point?”
In the end, its really up to each of us to make decisions on when and how to take exception with what someone said. Its up to each individual to decide on the worth of an argument based on wording. For me, that’s the moment where I push back from the keyboard, take a deep breath, make a fresh cup of coffee, and take the brain out of “Park”.
We all have our own two Pence to spend…we don’t have to buy the same thing…