Once, a long time past, I wrote an article about the prevalence of passivity within the Pagan and Heathen community. In fact I may have even written two articles, one specifically one the lack of desire to take active magical (for lack of a better term) action for fear of having to take responsibility for the consequences of that action and one specifically about the prevalence of anti-confrontational thought, avoidance of conflict and the distancing of Pagans and Heathens from all forms of violence. This time the seeming inability of Pagans and Heathens to simply say ‘no’ is my focus. It’s something that has often given rise to a voice of concern within me, not simply because of the prevalence but because ‘no’ is one of the most fundamental mechanisms by which we as humans learn as children. On the face of things this might seem to be a large leap, but there is logic to it – logic itself is another reason why the lack of ‘no’ causes me concern.
Being denied something by a figure of power and authority is what drives us to learn as a child. In those situations the figure of power and authority is our parent or parents. For Pagans and Heathens the only figures of power and authority are those who have become widely recognised leaders within the community, or those who are teachers. What little pedagogy I studied in University is predominantly lost to me, however the reasons why saying ‘no’ forces a person to learn should be obvious. In the case of children it presents as a challenge to be overcome in some way. In the case of Pagans and Heathens it also presents a challenge to be overcome, but ought to also be accompanied with a reason why to guide them. Doing this in an environment such as Paganism and Heathenry does have its pitfalls, but in some respects that only makes it more necessary.
Something that would be hard to deny about Paganism and Heathenry is that there is a prominent mental component. Whether this takes the form of contemplation or intellectual pursuit, meditation or otherwise; all are a mental function. To say ‘no’ to someone in such a situation doesn’t mean that you disagree with them, only that there is something you think they need to consider. Additional consideration gives rise to my favourite question: why, which itself gives rise to systemic logic. Which is where this starts and ends for me. Logic is a term that often conveys a cold, mechanical structure but really it also has a meaning that is no more than ‘how does this make sense?’ Saying ‘no’ to a Pagan or a Heathen really does necessitate something extra, a question or a qualifier, because saying ‘no’ is meant to be a learning experience. Really, even what is actually said ‘No, that’s wrong’ what is being meant is ‘No, that doesn’t make sense; no disagreement is necessary.