The interwebs are a strange country, where there are a great many people. I know what people choose to share with me, and there are many internet people I am very fond of. However, there is a whole different kind of knowing that comes from being with someone in person. Sometimes, tone of voice, and body language can make all the difference. Some people in person turn out to be exactly as you anticipated from their online self. Some of us are more honest than others.
I think, casting my mind back, that I first ran into Elen Sentier on facebook. The first exchange we had that left a lasting impression was around the release of her Celtic Chakras book. Now, I don’t do chakras, and was very clear about this, but I read the book, and found her very readable. I still don’t do chakras. Our paths are so different in some regards that her non-fiction work makes very little emotional sense to me. Her fiction I really like.
Yesterday we sat in a cafe and drank tea, talked about Steampunk, falconry, why we don’t like scripts in ritual and how dislocated many modern urban folk are from the natural world. We talked about non-dogmatic teaching methods and the importance of finding your own path. It was all very easy, as though we had been in the habit of drinking tea and talking about the work we do for decades, not minutes.
I don’t need anyone else to see the world exactly as I do, or follow the path that I follow. It can be delightful to walk beside someone for a while, but it certainly isn’t necessary. So long as the person I’m talking to is equally relaxed about me not seeing things their way, all of the differences of opinion cease to be reasons for conflict and become points of interest. There’s a lot to be learned from talking to someone who sees things differently but doesn’t need to convert you.
We talked about books, too – of course! There are a lot of people I have connected with through their books. Moon Books, which publishes both my work and Elen’s, has a vast array of Pagan authors. I read as much as I can, most of it isn’t close to my path, but there is always some scope for finding inspiration. I like knowing what other people are exploring and are interested in. It stops me getting any silly ‘one true way’ ideas for a start. We agreed that, however alien we find the content of other people’s books sometimes, the Moon Books writers, for the greater part, clearly have their hearts in the right places. (I don’t know all of them, so, no absolute claims here).
Tea with Elen Sentier confirmed a lot of that impression for me. People who meet open heartedly and as equals, with no desire to convert or compel each other can have incredibly valuable exchanges, without needing much common ground at all.