There are a lot of places online where Druids gather to talk, and there is a lot of diversity in Druidry. One of the things that depresses the hell out of me, is when debate generates into angry shouting. It does this rather a lot. As there are a number of different, well established approach to Druidry (as well as all the individual stuff) this more-druidy-than-thou attitude doesn’t seem that well founded. Even in conversations about how Druids are supposed to be peacemakers, we get it wrong. It makes me sad.
However, I’ve seen this week a Druid group over on google, where on the whole some quite strenuous discussion has happened without descending into the other stuff. This inspires me. It is important to be able to debate the hard topics, to be able to hear ideas that do not fit with our own. I think it is healthy and important to be challenged, to be required to explain your thinking, show your evidence and deal with people you don’t agree with.
It’s pretty easy to be a peaceful Druid when there’s no conflict available. That isn’t actual peace, it’s just a convenient setup. Real peace is being able to handle conflict without it getting nasty or destructive. This is where we really test ourselves, really find out if we can walk our talk. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, or like each other, or persuade everyone to think the same. It really comes down to respect, and being able to acknowledge that my truth may look different to your truth, and that we can live with this.
I get excited by challenges to my thinking and people who know stuff that I don’t. It’s part of my on-going love affair with being a student. I want to understand. That means encountering stuff that initially makes no sense to me, and rather than rejecting it, trying to engage with it. I get a real buzz out of those. So yes, I have tried to figure out why so many Druids don’t seem to get all excited when they run into someone with a different perspective. I think there are two factors. One is that we are not, as a community, taking manners seriously enough as an issue. It’s all well and good being passionate and plainly spoken, but that can be done without actually being rude to people, I think. Encountering rudeness is a big turn off when it comes to tackling alternative perspectives. The other part is more a protective/fear issue. The more you have invested in your beliefs, the more uncomfortable it may be to have them argued with.
We live in a context full of religions and politicians all claiming a monopoly on truth. Anyone who isn’t strident can seem wishy-washy, undecided, not properly dedicated to their cause. And yet, step back a moment and it should be obvious that mostly none of us have any hope of truth monopoly. The bigger the truth, the harder it will be to grasp. Is my truth really at odds with your truth? Are we in fact groping the same elephant without realising it? (I love that story). I want to know what the elephant looks like. So if I can attach your bit to my bit, I will probably still be way off the mark, but now instead of a big flappy thing, I’ve got a flappy thing attached to a ropey thing. It’s still wrong, but it is a bit less wrong, and I’ll keep looking, keep wondering.
In the meantime, if I find I’ve irritated someone online where I didn’t mean to, I don’t get cross with them, I say sorry. I find it remarkably effective. If I’m not sure I understand what they mean, I don’t get cross, I ask what they mean. If someone misreads aggression into my words, I don’t get cross with them, I apologise for not having been clear enough, assure them that I’m not hostile, and try again. Why? Because just arguing with people is dull and pointless, and I’m not interested in scoring points or proving I am more right. Actually, being less right is more interesting, it means I get to learn something.
Where people are polite, show respect, actually listen, the conversations are amazing. We really could do more of this.