I’ve noticed a lot of people getting snipe-like with new people asking questions lately. This has been commented on in various blogs that I’ve read, as well, but I’m able to see it happen first-hand, as well. And you know, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are tired of the cyclical new person questions that invariably come up. “What do I do with offerings? How do I know what to do with them when they’re done with them? How do I even know that they’re finished?” Or, maybe… “How do I get a patron?” And the ever popular… “I’ve discovered paganism; now what?” These questions always pop up in various arenas and invariably, people start with thinly veiled snark to out-and-out sarcasm. It’s not always that way: sometimes, we all reign ourselves in and remember that we’re here to teach others because, maybe, they don’t have access to the resources we do. Or maybe, they’re so new that they don’t know where to look. But, without fail, the snark comes out and I get upset. When we get to the point where bitchy comments are the best way to answer others’ questions, then we really have to sit back and think clearly about what the fuck is going on because, you know what?
When we do that then that means that we’re doing a severe disservice to our religious practices, to the new people entering this, and to ourselves.
Before we go any further, let’s try to make the trip down memory lane as we skipped merrily and scared down the pagan path we’re currently on for the first damn time. There was fear of learning something completely different and the fear of asking stupid questions and the fear of being found out by family and friends as well as the fear of never knowing what the next step was and where it would lead us. Uncertainty plagues me most days while I dither over what to wear in the morning, never mind the uncertainty that plagues me on this path, three solid years after I’ve begun. Let’s just try to remember how scared we all were when we took the plunge. I can claim that I was both exhilarated and scared out of my fucking mind because I didn’t know what to expect. And even though I was bitched at by a bunch of BTWs when I joined a forum and asked “fluffy” questions, I still stuck with it.
The thing is that maybe not every newbie has the fortitude of saying, “Oh, my questions are stupid? You can go fuck yourself because I’ll be practicing ten times better than you in twenty days.” Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I had the strength within me to say, “Fuck you, asshats,” and moved on with my life. But, as I said, not everyone is able to do that. Not everyone can shrug off the snark and the sarcasm. Not everyone can stand up and point a finger (even if it’s not a real one) and say, “I can do this without your help, thankyouverymuch but no thanks!”
But let’s get back to the disservice we’re reeking with our asshole behaviors towards newbies. By being snarky and bitchy and full of malice, we’re not teaching them anything except that maybe they made a mistake by turning to paganism in the first place. And how is that even remotely a good message to send? It adds to the already negative connotation that can associate itself with pagan lifestyles and religious choices. We already have to battle the fact that, at the best, we’re considered weird and strange but at the worst that we are worshipers of Satan who will confuse, dilute, and destroy people of other faiths just because we can. So, the next time someone says, “How do I find a patron,” and you want to bitch them out for being stupid, then maybe you should reign yourself in. Maybe you should think about all of the negativity that could be spewing out of you and polluting the purity that you feel in the path that you feel. Maybe, you should think before you speak or type because you’re making it that much harder for a positive spun religion* to recruit new members and show others that we aren’t all Satan worshiping assholes who want to demolish religions that have been around for millennia.
A lot of pagan paths tend to have a sort of positive based commandments, so to speak, that we all rely upon to live. This is especially true of people who follow a more reconstruction based path. Not only are they trying to find a way to live what they feel is true within themselves, but they are also trying to rebuild a religion that has been in decay for years and years. From a Kemetic standpoint, I can say that when I answer incorrectly or bitchily towards someone asking me question, I am definitely NOT living the ways of ma’at. The basic precepts of my faith are all about not being a selfish twat with asshole tendencies and I think the same could be said of most other pagan based paths. There are the Nine Noble Virtues of a Heathen path and there are the 42 Negative Confessions to live by in the Kemetic path. (I really need to know what the hell Celtic based religions have like these… Any helpers?) These are things that we live by to make ourselves better people.
So, by letting our fingers speak with a sarcastic retort, we are no longer following the precepts we’ve set above all others. We are doing our very best to sabotage our best efforts to live to a higher standard of living. And in thus doing, we are not only doing a disservice to our religious practices, but also to ourselves. The moment you let snark and snipe come to the fore, then you are more reacting to something that you find silly or trivial, but in fact, you should be taking the time out to merely act. And it is that time out that we should all seek. It is that moment prior to a response that we should seek out because it is in that moment that we are upholding the virtues or the ma’at or the precepts that we hold near and dear.
So, the next time a newbie irritates you with newbies questions, don’t answer or take that moment to remember what the basic concepts if your religious practice are. For your sake, for your religion’s sake, and for the sake of the new person in question.
* I know that there are negative aspects to every religious practice, but I like to think of pagan lifestyles as more positive.