Thinking on Respect and Civility

Welcome to Samhain, folks. Well, the calendar version of Samhain. There’s a lot of debate over when it truly is – the calendar year, the closest full moon, etc etc. Honestly, I don’t think the Gods are going to get pissed off if you celebrate the turn of the Wheel of the Year a few days early or late. I think the more appropriate aspect is your intent when you celebrate aspects of the Wheel of the Year. Anyways, on to the topic I want to touch on today….

Probably the most frequently asked question from non-Pagans comes in some form of “What is it like to be a Pagan?” Its really no different than being anything else – Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, etc, etc. You live your life the same way. You do all the same things. Nine Hells, you might even shop in the same stores for groceries! The difference is in how we approach the more mystical aspects of our lives – how we connect to the world around us – and under what perspective we seek our understanding of the worlds beyond. Yes, I mean that correctly – worlds.

Different Perspectives Make For Good Discussion

So, everyone has a different approach to their own Spirituality. I can tell you for a fact that not every Pagan will approach their own Spirituality the same way that I do nor anyone else. While Christianity tends to make the approach a rather cookie-cutter version, when you dig deeper, you will find that its the same there. Every person is an individual and makes their own footfalls on this Path we call Life. Sometimes, we step in the same footfalls as others, but at some point our trails will diverge and your footfalls will become your own.

I have had this discussion with several Christian friends over the years, trying to showcase the point that others will see life differently. My example, admittedly a clumsy one, is to take a coke can and set it on the ground. I then get people to sit around it in a circle, and ask them to describe what they see without trying to describe what they cannot see. Those diametrically opposed to one another in the circle will describe vastly different perspectives, yet they are still looking at the same can.

Everyone sees the same can, but because of where they are in Life, they describe a different aspect. We all live on the same planet. We all interact with others in the same environment. Yet, we all have different approaches to how we connect with that environment. For some, it comes from an individual experience within that environment. For others, the modicum of Truth for the environment is dictated to them from a pulpit by others or from a book. And for an even larger group of folks, their perspective is drawn from both arenas or from neither. The possibilities are endless and boundless.

…Except When It Doesn’t

The truth of those perspectives deserve a degree of respect, even if it does not fit into our own perspective whatsoever. This is where discourse gets messy and you can see it daily in the political arena. Here in the United States, we are essentially a two-party system – Republicans and Democrats, or if you prefer Conservatives and Liberals. Both have very different ideas of how a national/state/county/cite government should be run for the betterment of the citizenry. Both care a great deal about this system of government, but are hampered in their efforts because the citizenry is split nearly 50/50 over how things should be done. Thus, compromise needs to be managed in order to get various aspects of legislation through. Compromise comes from a position of respect, not a position of power. Well, about twelve years back (maybe more), one side decided that compromise was no longer an option. From there, many lines in the sand have been drawn…and well, let’s just say that government doesn’t work as well as it has in the past. But this is an example of where differences go from good, solid conversation aimed towards solutions to a strong measure of constant bickering and finger-pointing. Its either one way or the highway…

Divide By Zero

The deeper I dive into my own Spirituality, the more I see parallels with other Paths. No, I am not changing from Paganism over to a different Path. Nor am I stepping off the framework of Druidry that peppers so much of what I do. Pagansim and Druidry are the right places for me to be. Stepping away from either would be counter-productive. But I see a lot of similarities in the approaches. There is a desire to seek closer perspective to whatever is seen as $Deity or $Gods. There is a desire to live a “better” life in whatever form that is seen. The differences come from how our environment is seen, and the way we perceive Divinity.

The lacking aspect, as I perceive it, comes from our collective inability to be respectful of differing opinions and perspectives. We want actions that will potentially harm others, but don’t care because those people don’t believe as we do. I am probably off base, but a little more respect would probably go a long way towards changing things. That respect will help us to achieve compromise in our politics, but it will also bring back an air of civility among us all. At least I hope so. Because the alternative is a future that is so dark, sinister, and devoid of creativity – that I really don’t want to survive long enough to see that.

I’ve said it before…and it bears reminding here. I have a very pacifist mindset when dealing with people in my face. But harm the people I love, and I will end you. Respect comes from a desire to be peaceable. To be able to see past differences and define our relationships from a position of finding our similarities, no matter how small those might be. May we eventually find that…

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