The Electric Eclectic Dilettante Blues

May 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Growing up, my ambition was to write a new book of the Bible. I thought we were kind of overdue. By high school, that had evolved into the idea to become a Methodist minister. I’ve often joked that I didn’t for the traditional reasons (sex, drugs, rock and roll), but really, it was the prohibitive standard of belief. Modern Christianity requires too much certainty on matters of metaphor, and I couldn’t agree with the idea that we should expect literalism in a religion whose main method of narrative is the parable. Like, what do people think a parable IS?

Then in college, when I first declared my major, I was in a dual program with English and Mass Communications. Although “Brit Lit” (1700s – 1800s) was my true love, I was trying to be practical. What drove me away from journalism was something very specific: the persistent message that to study a particular thing, or to have a particular job, required one to be a particular kind of person.

Years later, I can see clearly that this was a falsehood. There’s no real reason that only certain people, who look and dress and think a certain way, can be journalists. Or any other kind of profession. I mean, Nadia Bolz-Weber became the most famous Lutheran minister out there because of her tattoos and occasional profanity. But I felt this so strongly, got this message from so many different directions, that I didn’t want to fight it. Instead, I said, “Fine! I’m not your kind of person!” And threw myself into British Literature full time.

Which was all good, although now I run a Facebook group dedicated to local news, and feel smug whenever I manage to scoop the actual local newspaper. I’d probably have been a good journalist, despite never fitting in. Come to think of it, maybe because of not fitting in.

This tendency has followed me in all my spiritual interests. The religion I grew up with wasn’t satisfying, but there was no clear place for me in other paths. I’ve studied different traditions, many of which resonate powerfully with me, but to which I can’t fully commit for various reasons. Over the years, I’ve seen lots of folks on the Internet call people like me dilettantes, dabblers, maybe even — shades of my punk rock days! — posers. Others on the Internet insist that any spiritual path requires a teacher, a mentor, or a guru, none of which I’ve been able to come up with either.

But that’s where I find myself, like a lot of Americans, caught between traditions, with no choice but to read, to think, and figure things out for ourselves. That’s one of the main reasons why I decided to sign up as a blogger here, thinking some elements of my spiritual path might be useful to others in the same basic situation, feeling on the outside of the outside. When the time came to start writing, though, I had my doubts. How was I supposed to introduce myself, when I can’t define my practice much beyond the explanation, “I burn candles”? Am I a pagan, an atheist, a Christian, a witch?  A little bit of each? How relevant are my years of study in vodou, American conjure, and Hinduism?

I don’t know. But I guess “eclectic” is as good a label as any, at least for now. Weird as the world is, there’s a place for all of us.

Thanks to the air we breathe.

Thanks to the moon that’s unseen in the sky.

Thanks to the atoms that make up the universe, the infinite immense above, and the infinitesimal small within.

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