Misfits

2 06 2014

I have survived May – which, emotionally speaking, is always an iffy affair.  It was okay this time around; melancholy without disintegration.

The two years or so since I fled the church have been a time of figuring out what it is I actually do believe.  I have landed in the spiritual-but-not-religious category, or in what the media call “the nones”. Some time in the last few months I stopped referring to myself as a Christian.  Shedding the label was nearly as unsettling as shedding the organized religious practice.  I just couldn’t wear the label that is being brandished by people who I find personally and morally reprehensible.

So I’m finding my own path.  Following the biblical Jesus is a big part of it.  And then some of it includes practices that, at an earlier point in my life, I would have laughed at.  Auras, chakras, all sorts of woo for which I would have demanded some kind of scientific basis before I would even consider the idea.  Over the last ten years or so I’ve reached a more accepting notion, that if something works for you, it works for you, and I don’t have to understand the “why” or demand a scientific proof.  I’ve taken a couple of classes in Reiki and chakras, and surprised my skeptical self when I was able to feel the energy surrounding another person.   I’ve felt what it’s like to have a chakra suddenly open, energy rushing through.  I don’t have a scientific explanation for it.  I can’t point to anatomical structures or physiological functions that make these phenomena happen.  I know only what I have experienced.

With that in mind, I found a pagan meetup group near my home, and went to the first gathering this last weekend.  The women running the gathering were lovely and knowledgeable; those of us attending were a mixed lot.  Some of us (like me) conform to most of the social norms and conventions; we have reasonably productive lives, we raise children, we manage.  Most, however, had spent a lifetime of pushing back against what society wants.   As a result, I was the one who stuck out as different in this gathering.

Some of the more colorful people there:

  • A woman  around my age…when I said something about being a widow, she confidently informed me that she was a medium (she might be) and my husband’s name had been Anthony (it wasn’t).
  • A young woman now in the seventh year (with at least another year to go) of a four-year college degree, who says she’s been a pagan since age thirteen or so.  In spite of that, she went to a very Roman Catholic university, where she found it personally offensive that they weren’t fully on board with her pagan beliefs.  Around the circle of people at the gathering, murmurs of “Christians fear what they don’t understand.”  It was both dismissive and patronizing, and I was sorry to hear this in a group where I had hoped for more openness.
  • Another young woman, all of 17 years old, who told me that she could see my aura, and that it was green (showing a free and open spirit) and orange (showing a nature of passion).  She’s the product of divorce, remarriage, and blended families, and is apparently under investigation by DCFS for abusing her younger siblings. “Children should respect and obey, and when they don’t they should be punished.  Some people say I have rage issues.”  I foresee trouble in a Wiccan practice for her.
  • A young man in his mid-20s, who told me about being too smart for any of his teachers and that’s why school never worked out for him.

I hate reducing people to types or clichés.  But like most clichés, there is some truth in them and they exist for a reason.   I’ve met people like this before, and they nearly all tell the same stories; I’ve found a bunch of them at Mensa gatherings, often with the variation of “I’m so smart that nobody can comprehend me or be on my level, and that’s why I’m a social outcast.”  Interesting theory there, but somehow a bunch of us smart types have still found a way to be decent people that others want to be around.  One memorable young man spent nearly an entire Mensa gathering trying to impress people with how high his IQ was, apparently completely missing the irony of trying to pull this off in a room full of geniuses.

It nearly always comes to the same thing: “I am so unique and individual that I cannot be comprehended by other people… and I wear my social isolation as a badge of honor.”  It is a self-perpetuating belief.  By all means, be a lone wolf if you want.  I’m an introvert myself and I know the value of my alone time.  But I don’t try to convince myself that I am somehow superior to other people because of it.

I feel like a misfit sometimes, but I think nearly everyone feels that way at some point.  And because of that, I don’t think that my being a misfit makes me somehow special.  It’s just a thing about me, something to manage.  People are special for so many reasons, but those reasons are unique to the person.   And just because the some of the great thinkers and intellects were socially awkward, that doesn’t mean that being socially awkward makes you a great mind.

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