As changes to the site have happened slowly, I am reminded of how I have changed as well. The way I look at things is much different than when I first started making articles. I stand by much of what I have already said, but the way I understand it has changed. When I started, I set upon myself the task of understanding Heathen worldview as best as I could. That has not changed. I don’t have years upon years, or decades of experience.
At first, one is inclined to see that as a hindrance. There is some truth to that. However, I have found myself learning from many folks who are new, just as I have those who have been in similar practices for many years. One might ask how that works. The answer is actually quite simple.
I don’t like to think of Heathendom as monolithic. It just isn’t. I’ve yet to be convinced otherwise. I would hope that I am right in this. However, we are grouped together in my eyes, by at least sharing the same interest in the Old Ways of Germanic peoples, and some beyond that. I have learned from folks with differing levels of experience, differing views on Reconstructionist methodology, and from some who aren’t Heathen (for lack of better words) at all. All have been of immense value to my learning, and continue to be.
In two and a half years, I have seen new faces arrive and contribute. I have seen different generations of practitioners, or better the schools of thought that come from those generations. I’ve seen some I looked up to fail to live up to my image of them. I’ve seen contemporaries dazzle with quality knowledge. I’ve watched some of those contemporaries grow and their own ideas evolve.
One of the greatest things I have seen is the rise of the Freehold Heathen. A newer school of thought that I wholeheartedly subscribe to, even if I like to pick on some of the founders by sniping at nuances! I am still glad to see it grow, and I hope to become a voice within it. It is the third generation of schools of thought that I have noted. Technically, the fourth, and there are more, but three have been prevalent to my own understanding. The distinctions made are my own.
The first being the school of thought led by Theodsmen and their associates. The second being the early adopters of the term Fyrnsidu. The third being the Freefolk, or the Freeholders. The first two have contributed much, and the third is bound to expand and go its own way. This is great because it gives more options, and more perspectives. In spite of my strong opinions about some individuals, it would be foolish not to see that each school of thought has brought something to the table. The worth of all of these ideas are left to those who learn from them.
Now, some may read this and think that they didn’t add something to that. Admittedly, I don’t think I have, much. However, speakers are only so because there are listeners. Regardless of how good or bad an idea is, that designation belongs to the listeners. We all have our views, and opinions on other views, but that worth is determined by those who hear these ideas, and agree or disagree with them. After all, one cannot give where there is no recipient. What excites me is that whomever contributes the next great idea could be reading this article right now. A new generation, burgeoning with its own ideas could be forming and no one yet knows. I welcome the day when such ideas are laid out for the world to see.
What I have learned in these past couple of years, is that it’s important to have an open enough mind to listen. I’d like to talk a little more about what I have learned so far.
One key thing I have learned is that it’s okay to be different. Echo chambers are not the source of new ideas. They’ll rehash old ideas until they run out of breath, but without permission from whomever started yelling, they will be slow to venture upon new ideas, and likely will rely on the originators to “green light” them. This may work for some people. After all, it can feel intimidating to do the research yourself and possibly come to a different conclusion. An echo chamber wants to hear the same words said back, after all.
For me, this doesn’t work. I find it better to talk about new ideas with folks I trust first. Such who understand that mistakes and misunderstandings happen. It may take time to find such people, however it is better that way. These should be people that don’t just try to tell you the ways it is, unless you’re off the deep end. Instead, those who will give you something to think about. These aren’t the types for echo chambers, but actually want you to truly understand.
This makes me feel sorry for those who don’t have this recourse, and go to a thousands strong group, only to be had like wolves upon a wounded doe. However, I assure anyone in that boat that there are good folks to talk to. Opinions aside, such folks are in all three of the “schools” I have mentioned. For all of the abrasiveness assigned to Heathens, and for every cynical, pompous jackass and cyber bully, and their sycophantic echo chambers, there is another who is willing to help you. I wish all well in finding them.
Regardless of excuses, unless the asker is themselves pushing something horrible (Neonazis and the like, or New Agers trying to sell you something), there isn’t a reason you should put up with ill treatment. If I am not in the mood to deal with a question, I step away. Better that than to sully my own reputation in being untoward for no good reason. That is a lesson, admittedly, that I don’t always remember. However, I’m working on it. It is why I’m not as active as I once was. I don’t want to be the one who shuts down a valid question, or slander a valid expression. We may not be obligated to be kind, but does that give us an excuse to be unnecessarily unkind?
This ties into a lesson I know, but as you can see by earlier sentiments expressed in this article, I sometimes have trouble with, and that is to stay positive. I intend to make more of an effort of maintaining a more positive online, (and general) presence. Folks who have done this have been a great help to me. Maybe one day, I can be that to someone else. After all, such interactions make all parties involved better.
Another thing I have learned is that no one can do it for you. Once I stopped looking to some folks that I found unsavory, it became all the more important to learn more myself. That can seem daunting to those with a busy life. I have had to work six days a week, in the past, seven. It doesn’t make going through academic tomes the first thing on the mind of the average person. However, work to scrounge up the change for a few ebooks. Save up for that print only one. Read maybe one chapter a day. It isn’t a race, after all! There aren’t any “Best Heathen” trophies as of yet. I also think time to let small pieces stew in the mind means better retention of knowledge.
With that said, as one builds up that knowledge, and comes to grips with it, it’s okay to shape your own understanding. Heathenship wasn’t monolithic in the past, just as it isn’t now. It’s okay to write your own myths, and make your own art to express what you know. It’s okay to be different. These are a few things I’ve been thinking about in my lengthy time away from articles. I hope maybe some of these words help anyone who is living like this. As our practice is an all encompassing lifeway.