Sometimes, it takes only a single, unexpected encounter, to lift one out of a funk, or even to let us know that we were in a funk to begin with.
It is easy, sometimes, to get lost in the fog of passing time. We are creatures of both habit and monotony, shaping the world around us into one that is both comforting and often wearisome in its lack of variety. We shuffle from work to home to bed and back again, and if, like mine, your workplace does not come with easily defined ‘weekends’, we may find that we have no clear frame of reference for ‘when’ we are, or what ‘progress’ we are making through the world.
So there I was, just zoning my way through another day, when out of the blue, a colleague of mine pulled me aside to ask what I assumed to be another work related question.
“So, I was reading your blog…,”
And suddenly I found myself in an open and friendly conversation with a devout Christian about the concept of prayer in polytheism. It took a moment for my brain to shift into gear and for me to realize that he was approaching the topic with what I could only describe as a kind of excited curiosity.
“When I pray,” he continued, “it’s to one god, and it’s written out pretty clearly what he expects from me. But I was thinking, that for you as a polytheist, there are so many options, and it blew my mind! I mean, how can you possibly know who you should pray to? And how do you keep from ticking off one god while pleasing another?”
“Well,” I laughed, “the first thing you learn as a polytheist is that you can’t please everyone!”
His momentary enthusiasm for the topic awakened my own, and I tried, in the few precious minutes we had, to faithfully answer interest with information. I explained, in brief, how our relationships with the gods may range from simple ‘belief’ (simple acceptance in the existence of a deity, without expectations on either side beyond the basic respect afforded such a being), all the way to ‘dedication’ or ‘patronage’ (implying far more intimate and devotional interactions). The specifics of prayer (to whom and for what) are, of course, dependent upon both which gods we actually have relationships with, and what their specific spheres of influence are believed to be.
What I did not get to say, because there just wasn’t time, is that we do not typically need to worry about pissing off some random god, any more than we do the great uncle who only shows up for the occasional family reunion. It’s the ones we have deeper relationships with that we try to be mindful of, not out of fear, but because we value those relationships above any other.
In any case, it was a great conversation, and it totally made my day.
I got an extra charge out of that encounter, not because I’d won over a convert (I didn’t), but because my writing had touched someone in a way that opened their mind to other possibilities. While my friend may not believe in my gods any more today than he did prior to reading my words, he has insights into my beliefs, my character, and my understanding of the world we share, that he did not have before.
I call that progress, and ‘funk’ be damned, it puts a spring in my step!
And yet, I am reminded once again, that you can’t please everyone.
I was accused, not long ago, of proselytizing.
Rather, it was suggested that the things which I have been calling for in this blog, things such as greater visibility and infrastructure for the polytheist/pagan community and individual polytheists being upfront about who they are and what they believe, amount to a form of proselytizing. Advertising our presence and attempting to forge positions of leadership within the ever changing religious landscape, I have been told, are tantamount to the often intrusive attempts of certain monotheist sects to convert the masses.
My goal, and the goal of this blog (although I did not quite understand this in the beginning) has always been to open minds, not to change them.
But is there a difference, or am I just splitting hairs?
Knowledge, I have always believed, is a gift to be welcomed and shared. Am I wrong to hope that sharing who and what we are, will lead to better understanding and communication between disparate groups? Is it wrong to let people know that they have options beyond those with which they may be more familiar?
Or is that goal, as some would have it, coercive in nature?
Well, you can’t please everyone.