Last night I was having a discussion with a well-meaning hippie friend of mine. Actually, I should say I was being discussed-at: He felt it was a discussion, but really it was just a torrent of barely-strung-together bumper sticker aphorisms all pertaining to religion and stuff, and I couldn‘t get a word in edgewise. Ordinarily I’m game to discuss religion - I find it endlessly interesting, and I’m *certainly* not going to speak ill of anyone trying to explore their numinous side - but I generally shy away from discussing it with new agey hippie types.
“Why,” you ask? “Isn’t their opinion as good as anyone else? How dare you besmirch the honor of a person who likes to sit on the ground in a circle and hum! How dare you say that isn’t good enough with your squaresyille concepts of ‘God’!”
Well, it’s not that their view isn’t *valid*, at least in a very rudimentary sense. The most basic article of faith (As per Battlestar Galactica) is “This is not all that I am.” Everyone starts at that same point, so, yeah, listening to “Song for the Harmonic Convergence” by Yes is as valid a starting point as finding a Gideon’s Bible in the nightstand and starting to read it, or picking up a book on Shinto, or whatever. No, what bugs me about the New Agey types is that they generally don’t seem to progress too far from that first realization that they’re more than meat in the shape of a monkey. As a result, frustrations arise when you try to discuss difficult theological concepts with them because they don’t have the vocabulary to really understand what you’re talking about, and I don’t have the subcultural background to make sense of their own experiences. It’s a quandary, one that requires a lot of patience on my part with little pay off. In fact, If I say to my friend, “Ah, what you’re talking about here is the question of existence. Meister Eckhart once said…” or “That’s interesting. You know, the Gnostics had a similar theory which I’ve always found rewarding when they wrote…” or whatever - and I invariably get told to shut up because my “Hopelessly Repressive” religious understanding is trying to put the things they “know” to be true in little boxes and thereby diminish them.
That’s right, despite the fact that I’m quoting heretics who might even agree with them in an effort to further conversation and understand, I get shot down by people who’ve never even heard of the heretics, and assume I must be talking about like a Baptist Preacher or something.
It’s inherent in the angle you attack a problem from, I think. As with any esoteric complicated subject - Architecture, Medicine, Law, Medieval French Poetry, whatever - it requires a lot of attention and discipline to really get good at it, to recognize the good stuff from the crap, and to really get the full reward for your own efforts, be it in *making* the stuff, or simply appreciating it. And ultimately this requires a fairly substantial vocabulary to convey concepts unique to that particular area of study. Anyone can say, “Ug, me like building. It purty.” It takes a bit more effort to say “I love the way they’ve extended the edges of the niches out beyond the actual walls, since they’re using positive space to imply a much greater negative space than is actually available in the structure. It’s a clever use of finite area to make the place look much bigger on the inside than the outside without resorting to cheap tricks like foreshortening.”
And in my experience - which I admit is limited - I notice that New Agey types aren’t generally interested in expending this effort and discipline to develop this. Thus, while their initial spiritual instincts are as valid as anyone elses, it never goes much further than that, and we just end up with endless claptrap about “Energy” and “Fields” and “Vibrations” and all the random detritus about reincarnation, lost civilizations that never existed in the first place, pilfering ceremonies from cultures we’ve devastated and cast off to die, and sitting around drinking tea. Not even good tea.
Dunno why this is. Obviously there’s a market for it. My hunch is that it’s for people who feel the need to feel something larger than themselves, but don’t like to be told to change their ways, clean up their act, stop being such a kneebiter, or go