Embracing Weirdness

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness — and call it love — true love.”

– Robert Fulghum, True Love

Sometimes, when I share some new Pagan thing with my wife, she says, “That’s weird.”  It bugs me.  I mean, I guess it’s true that a lot of things I am interested in are weird.  I am Pagan after all.  I believe and do things that seem weird to others.   And I used to be Mormon, and that was considered weird by most people too.  And I’d rather have an in-depth conversation about theology than go to a party … or do just about anything else.  So yeah, I’m weird.

But I don’t like the subtle judgment that the word weird sometimes implies.  Whenever someone calls something I do or something I like weird, I usually wonder to myself, “As opposed to what?”  What is the opposite of weird?  And why should I want to be it?  Why should I want to be not-weird?

It seems to me that when we call something weird, we are saying that it is somehow unacceptable because it does not conform to our expectations.  It’s not just about conformity, though.  People can be non-conformists and not judged as weird.  Some non-conformists are “cool”.  Rather, to be weird, one must fail to conform in a way that is socially unacceptable.  But then not all socially unacceptable non-conformity is labeled weird either.  There are some things that are considered just plain “wrong”.

What is weird actually seems to fall into a middle space between what is considered right and wrong.  In fact, it is perhaps the difficulty we have categorizing certain behavior that makes it weird.  What is weird is what we have no category for, what we cannot make sense of.  It’s no coincidence, I think, that the word weird, which used to have a very different meaning, came in modernity to refer to the supernatural, since increasingly there was no place for the supernatural in the modern world.

“Granny Weatherwax was not lost. She wasn’t the kind of person who ever became lost. It was just that, at the moment, while she knew exactly where SHE was, she didn’t know the position of anywhere else.”

– Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters

So when people say that something is weird, all they are really saying is that they don’t know what to make of it.  But the problem is that, when something is labelled weird, then most people don’t bother trying to make sense of it.  It just gets put in the mental dumpster with all the other weirdness that makes people uncomfortable.

I am someone who likes to categorize everything, as anyone familiar with this blog will know.  So I am sympathetic to the need to put everything in a box.  But when I experience the mental awkwardness of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, I try not to toss the “weird” square peg away and go looking for a round one.  Instead, I try to make a new hole; I try to revise my categories to encompass what I had previously not taken into account.

photos from a Rainbow Gathering

Back in 1968, Theodore Roszak described the Counterculture as an attempt to change the world by changing the prevailing mode of consciousness.  I see contemporary Paganism in the same way: as an attempt to revise the categories of Western religion: God/devil, body/spirit, self/other, purity/sex, logos/pathos, reverence/revelry, science/magic/religion, and so on.  Perhaps then Paganism will always be weird.  Perhaps we should hope Paganism will always be weird.  Maybe to exist in between the categories of mainstream religious thought is what Paganism is all about.

So the next time my wife says, “That’s weird”, I’m going to say, “Thanks!”

 

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  • John W. Morehead

    There’s a similar dynamic at Burning Man and events like Comic-con. Even as an Evangelical Christian I resonate with this, so perhaps that is why I not only enjoy sci-fi conventions, but my relationships with Pagans and participation at transformational festivals.

    • Matt Stone

      Hey John my weird bro. With you there!

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    Who’s weirder, the weirdo or the person who marries the weirdo? ;)

    My husband, who is from a rural part of Idaho, often declares that things I like are “weird,” but he also often says that he married me because I’m fundamentally not boring. So perhaps the declaration is a compliment!

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    “I see contemporary Paganism in the same way: as an attempt to revise the categories of Western religion: God/devil, body/spirit, self/other, purity/sex, logos/pathos, reverence/revelry, science/magic/religion, and so on.”

    This is also getting at the dominant scholarly/theological definitions of “queer.” It’s not just about sexual preference, but rather about an energy that destabilizes rigid structures, especially hierarchical binaries.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      Well put.

  • Ywen DragonEye

    Not to offend the Christian posting below or any others who may be here as well, but “weird” is certainly in the eye of the beholder. If many of us had not grown up with the concept of “holy communion”, it would seem very weird to eat the body and drink the blood of one’s God in ritual each week!

  • Moira Hawthorne Copeland

    wow… its taken you this long to come to this revelation?
    I was thanking people for calling me weird back in gr 9… 3 &1/2 decades ago

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      9th grade?! Wow, you’re weird! :)

      • Moira Hawthorne Copeland

        YUP! weird odd strange fae and proud!!! with almost a half centry of experience!!! Im here to please shock & amaze, good for backaches near-sightedness & lack of memory, will cure foot-rot foot-in-mouth disease & lack of hair growth, has been reported to improve your love-life & increase your stamina!
        only for a dollar!

  • Joseph Bloch

    The problem is that some people embrace what others find “weird” simply for the sake of being “weird”. When “being weird” is nothing more than a means of attracting attention, it is something to be avoided. When you try to explain something that makes perfect sense to you, and you think should be patently obvious to anyone else, and *then* you get the “that’s weird” reaction, that’s when it’s worth embracing the weird. Not to elicit the response from others, but despite that response.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      Agreed.

  • http://www.starandsystem.blogpsot.com/ K. Herschel

    Nicely put. I generally consider being called weird a compliment, whether or not it is meant so. Consider its history. Weird comes from Old English and Old Norse terms for both “becoming/changing” and “fate”. For most of its history it marked those who had the power to control or change fate. It only took on the meaning of “strange” based on the fact that those events or people which can change fate tend to unsettle more mundane situations. Consider the wyrd sisters from Macbeth. They are wyrd in that they change and spin fate, but they are weird in that their very power places them beyond the boundaries of the common or typical.

  • Brian Michael Shea

    What I have always found ‘weird’ so to speak, is that Paganism is considered ‘weird’, when in actuality at one time it was the norm!


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