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Monday, June 1, 2015

On Being *That* Guy

  Everyone knows that guy*, the person who is always one of the first ones to speak up about paganism or polytheism, even though they don't really know that much about it. The one who puts down other religions while simultaneously complaining bitterly about religious persecution. The one who is certain that all the debunked bad history is actually true, from the Burning Times (tm) to all-male Druids, from the Golden Age of Matriarchy to the ancient neolithic Wiccans. And no amount of discussion, logic, or evidence can dissuade that guy from their very loud opinions. That guy is the one who makes more experienced people wince or roll their eyes, or in some cases lose their tempers.
   We're all quick to complain about that guy, to criticize and, if we're honest, to go after that guy one way or another: to try to prove them wrong, or teach them, to show them up, or maybe just shut them up. When that guy appears in a discussion, with their loud declarations and boundless belief, you can watch the newer people's eyes widening in confusion and uncertainty and the more expereinced people bristling and girding for battle. We commiserate with each other, present a united front, and advise everyone else not to be that guy. No one gets less sympathy than that guy.
  The thing is - we were all that guy, once upon a time. Maybe not as loudly, or as spectacularly. Maybe not at a time when social media made being that guy a ringside event that people need popcorn for. But we, at least most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, went through that phase in our spirituality where we bordered on zealot and our beliefs were like boulders, even when those beliefs were spun of wishful thinking and fantasy. Most of us have had that time when defending the faith was a badge of honor, even if we were defending it against dragons that looked a lot like windmills to everyone else. If you didn't, if you avoided ever, even once, being that guy, then good on you but I think its something most of us go through. I certainly look back now at a certain, shall we say, enthusiastic period of my spiritual life with a blush and a shrug.
   I'm writing about this today because, as strange as this might sound, I think we need to give that guy a break. When they are foaming at the mouth over things that seem like shadows to us, when they are exuberantly insisting that fantasy is history, when they are loudly declaring their personal spirituality to be the entirety of paganism for everyone, everywhere, I think we need to remember what it felt like to be in that place in our own journey. When that outer passion was maybe covering an absolute terror of being wrong, when that exuberance was disguising a desperate desire to fit in and belong somewhere. Think back to what made you that guy, once upon a time, and try to have a bit of empathy for someone else who is perhaps in that same place. And maybe ask yourself why that guy bothers you so much to begin with.
   Don't stop not being that guy of course, and don't stop living and speaking your own truth. And by all means let that guy know there are other options, other ways, and for the love of the Gods better history. But instead of doing it with words aimed like a sword point or arguments that land like fists, maybe try to listen to what's really being said, and the message behind what's being said, and answer with kindness and an open dialogue.
  It's an idea anyway.

*guy used here in a gender neutral sense, applicable equally to males or females. And yes I really do talk that way in real life.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

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