The Cost of Speaking Freely

I just got back from a colonoscopy. Everything is fine, but I’m high at the moment. Three-hours-of-kicking-back-tequila-shots high.

They warned me at the hospital not to make any life-changing decisions this afternoon. But since I got home I’ve been thinking pretty seriously about adopting Newt Gingrich. He needs some parental guidance, and I’d be happy to give it. And if he’s family, maybe I can get grandfathered in — okay, fathered in — under his congressional health plan. It would actually pay for the colonoscopy, unlike my health plan with its gazillion-dollar deductible. I mean, what’s not to like about this idea?

Marta says it will keep until tomorrow. Truth told, I am kind of sleepy. Tomorrow, then.

But this article is not about colonoscopies or Gingrich, much as I’ve always wanted to put those two in the same sentence. It’s about the cost of speaking freely, as happens any time Newt opens his mouth. Or for people “under the influence” as I am right now. Or when speaking openly from the heart about things that matter.

A couple of blog entries back, I spoke about my experiences with Conservative Christians, and then a bit about my thoughts on Polytheism. It is one of the first times I’ve written openly and publicly about my own spiritual journey.

A family member responded freely in a private message through Facebook, and indicated in capital letters (e-mail shouting) that I’m a stupid, lying Liberal who worships Satan. I’ve tightened and cleaned up the language a bit — the original was rambling and pretty vile, and included bits of recent family history. But I think I’ve captured the gist of it.

Words have weight and consequences. Speaking freely carries costs.

This family member’s intemperate words have ended my relationship with her. You don’t write to other people this way unless you want to hurt them and, at some level, to destroy the relationship with them.

My open blogging about my spiritual journey has ended this family member’s relationship with me. For whatever reason, she had frozen me in time at the moment I first told her — when I was one of those 1970’s Born Again Christians — about Jesus Christ. She subsequently became rigid in her beliefs. I moved on. I’ve never been closeted about moving on, but she has (apparently) never wanted to really see me as I am, only as I was.

So my words have also had consequences.

I’ve long been aware of the weight of words, and my desire to maintain family peace has imposed silence on me. My voice has been held hostage to that desire for peace.

There is another route to peace in situations like this, and that is disengagement. I would not ask anyone to continue a relationship with someone they considered a Satan-worshipper. Much less a stupid, lying, Liberal Satan-worshipper.

So this raises the question of why I would share any aspect of my life so publicly as in an Internet blog? Much less aspects of my spiritual life?

During my first Dragonfest, I did not know much about Paganism or neo-Paganism, so I spent most of my time flitting about asking questions. The people I spoke with were open, diverse, and usually rooted in personal experience. As a result, there was a lot of “I have no idea” in their answers to my questions, followed by “Here’s what I’ve experienced.” There was no wrangling over what was “theologically correct” and what was “theological error.”

One of the workshops I attended was a discussion of the four quarters, which is Wicca-speak for the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west). We had one person in the group who had undertaken some study of certain Native American traditions, who said they typically addressed six directions, including sky above and earth below. In most traditions, the directions are associated with colors, fundamental elements or principles, and other qualities. The Wiccan and Native American traditions have similarities and differences.

What was fascinating to me was the absence of judgment upon each other as we discussed the differences. No one accused others of doing it “wrong.” They were more interested in what was similar, and what they could learn from the differences.

The entire experience was delightfully non-judgmental, and people were eager to hear what other people had to say — as though all of us were exploring a vast, mysterious universe with more questions in it than answers.

They were eager to share and compare.

This cannot occur if people are bound to silence. Particularly if their voices are held hostage to a fragile peace that can be easily broken by the violence of those who object to what they hear. That is, after all, what the first amendment to the US Constitution is all about — protecting the voices silenced by violence and coercion.

So I speak, in the spirit of that first Dragonfest experience. I speak so that others may share my experiences and thoughts, and compare with their own. I offer no truth but my own, and it is most certainly not a truth for everyone.

If my writing offends you, then stop reading.

This entry was posted in General.