One of the themes we play with quite a lot in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel project (www.hopelessmaine.com) is the issue of small evil. Not the big, dramatic, self-announcing, end of the world variety, but the small scale, puppy kicking stuff.
Every day affords us small opportunities to do it well, or do it badly. Help a stranger or hassle them. Get angry, or try to listen. Part of the trick is paying attention in the first place, noticing what is happening and thinking about our own responses. Part of it is thinking about what we want to put into the world.
Yesterday’s long train haul brought an interesting mix of people. Some were grumpy and rude, having a bad day and intending to share the misery as widely as possible. Many were patient, kind, helpful and co-operative. Some turned out to be fun and really interesting. Some had just experienced a pasting themselves and needed a bit of care and being listened to. No doubt there were bits that we handled better than others. An overcrowded train full of tired people with too much luggage is a perfect opportunity to really have a go at some random person you’ll never see again. It can be something else, it depends so much on what we do.
Those small acts of unkindness, disharmony, rudeness, that turn up as much in social media and in the street as on a train, have impact. That’s one more stressed, hurt, angry person who can ripple their frustrations out to affect the next victim. We grow evil out of these small events. We breed and nurture it, pushing towards more conflict. Verbal aggression so often turns into physical violence. The next thing you know, lines are drawn, it’s us and them and there will be bloody noses.
Small acts of making things just a little bit better make worlds of difference. The words of gratitude, of understanding, the working out a viable way for everyone, the not shouting and blaming… that too ripples out into better things, a happier space.
I’ve spent the weekend with Steampunks. It’s a community that takes manners seriously. Those small acts of kindness and courtesy make Steampunk a happy, comfortable sort of place to be. Co-operation is so much nicer than blame and harassment. When things aren’t working perfectly, people who pull together solve and overcome problems. People who lash out at each other just make things worse.
We do not have the same ethos of kindness and courtesy in the Druid community. We may talk about personal honour, and honourable relationship, but we’re far too quick to get cross with each other online.
Some of it is about losing track of what matters. So it went a bit wrong. You didn’t get what you wanted. It was too hot, too crowded, too expensive… yeah, these are things a person can choose to get mad about. But there is that other choice, of shrugging, saying ‘ah well, that sucked,’ and either making it better in some way or moving on to the next thing. We argue over irrelevant trivia and forget there’s a whole world out there full of genuinely wrong things that could use our attention. So what if we don’t agree on some esoteric point, or the best way to do ritual? It doesn’t matter. Let’s disagree considerately, let’s ripple out those little moments of good, not put yet more strife into the world.