I'm going to pagan meetup this morning. I go every other week when I don't work because part of me really really needs more community here in the south. I'm a reflective, nature loving, sensitive, socially liberal woman in an area where as a whole I've noticed the people are kinder but usually less reflective and often wrongly categorized as less smart (even by me when I'm being lazy or when I'm in a fit of temper). Long story short people here are even less like me than they were up north. They are kind, they allow me to exist but often just as I'm getting comfortable with a person they start railing against abortion, talking earnestly about creationism, or the new hot button topic to hate Obamacare. There are conversations I don't want to have, especially not in a "casual" setting where there is literally no way for me to shut these folks when they don't accept "I don't want to talk about that" or "we have to agree to disagree".
So I go to pagan coffee and we sit down and talk about nothing and everything. Several people their open carry to coffee, they still rail against Obamacare, and their traditions are nothing like mine (last time I went someone even mistakenly said I was an eclectic without any practice--eclectic yes but I practice and experience the divine just fine). You know what though, in the midst of this online battle of pagans not treating each other like we are all on the same side, these people do teat me well--like I am a welcomed guest. We don't practice the same, but we already know that and we make space to listen to each other. We don't have the same values, but we come to the table to express ideas earnestly, and we listen to out opposition as if the other person had a rational thinking mind and was able to come to their own equally responsible decision on a topic, even if we have to agree to disagree.
That's my version of a pagan unifying theme. We're a whole bunch of people who you know what honestly don't fit together most of the time. We may look a like to an outsider (and my group doesn't even do that) but we have depths that divide us as deeply. It's like ocean, sure we categorize it all the same but what it's like at the surface vs the bottom is not the same--the sea floor is like it's own world really.
What unifies us is that we decided we wanted community. We decided we were going to come together and do all the things you have to do to develop community like listen to each other and have genuinely open conversation. We've decided to build on what we have in common, a love of the outdoors, in our case a sense of environmental responsibility (though I will say it is NOT religious for everyone), and an enjoyment of crafting/art creation.
If opting in and being a good host is what makes us a pagan community, I can live with that. It's more than some people have. But it means that we as a whole do need to listen better to each other and think more before writing in our online community. There are a million blogs I enjoy reading, but I realized that I don't consider a lot of them contributions to the pagan community and I've seen others that are contributions, even needed criticism that are treated as attacks. We don't have to agree and that's awesome because we aren't going to agree. We don't have to choose kindness every time, but I would love to see more people stop to think. As pagans we are only have community if we opt in. What does opting in mean to you? And how do you choose to approach someone forging as you are, to create common group and an open welcoming community?