About 16 years ago, I was instrumental in pioneering a relatively new form of fusion dance. Early in its development, I created a website to document its growth and share the art-form. Pretty much from the get-go I was met with both enthusiasm and extreme animosity from people I had never met. For the worst of it, I was called names, body-shamed, subculture-shamed, had my work stolen and discredited, and blacklisted from events. On the better side, I was invited to teach and perform all over the world, and inspired many more people to discover the dance -and themselves.
I didn’t always handle both sides as gracefully as I could, but I learned from those experiences. I also realized that despite what either side thought, I was in the middle. Here I was studying traditional and folkloric dances, while at the same time also innovating a new form. I saw the value in both the old and the new, while also being aware of their flaws. We need tradition to see where we have come from, but it can’t live under a pin and glass: culture evolves. Innovation moves us forward, but at the same time, if we disconnect from the roots, we lose our foundation.
Around 2008, I consciously made it part of my work to bridge the gap through education and outreach. That year I was co-producing a festival in the Los Angeles region that celebrated fusion dance. I invited one of the loudest detractors (who was local to the area) to come and attend the festival, see the gala show, and come to my workshop if they wanted – all free/by my invitation. I wanted them to see what this new dance was all about, what I believed in. To their credit, they accepted the invitation. After experiencing what I was doing firsthand, they completely changed their mind. They became a supporter and an advocate. They even taught at my event later on. I have found this approach useful in many ways since then.
I will tell you, it is scarier than fey to face the people who have called you names (and worse), and open the door of hospitality. It’s a huge risk. You can open yourself to even more harm from all sides. It doesn’t always work in your favor. But the potential outcome can also bring deeper understanding, real communication, and healing. This is serious liminal working; with all the dangers of the physical world and all of potential of the metaphysical ones. In the end, your work is your armor, soul, and guiding star. No one else can walk that thread, but you – no matter what anyone else says.
The last wave of Mercury Retrograde unleashed a metric ton of manure across Pword-land, which is not surprising. Mercury rules communication, and the root of most drama comes down to poor or problematic communication and a general lack or inability to work through finding a place of mutual understanding. Which frankly, humans excel at doing anyway during non-retrograde cycles. Really, we LOVE expressing ourselves in many different way. But I’m not sure if we can classify that all as actual engaging in a discussion with each other. Especially if we’re not summoning the spirits of Listening and Reflective Thinking.
At the base of most current drama is generational miscommunication. Of course, old and new generations have had problems understanding each other since the dawn of humanity. That truth is nothing new. The complication arises I believe because the Internet amplifies access to expression at a much faster rate, while removing the visible human, face-to-face factor. As the speed of sharing content increases, the quicker new ideas and terms are created by the rising generation. Yet the previous generations are often left in the dust, and we all fall into our group echo-chambers. But that doesn’t mean we have to fall victim to the void.As Witches, we know the world is not separated into black and white, right and wrong. There are infinite (or at least 256) shades of light and dark, featuring both positive and negative effects. If we look at ourselves and each other as threads, we recognize that we are interwoven. We affect each other, for better or for worse. You could say there is a front and back to a tapestry, but the threads go through both sides regardless and make up the middle.
Threads can become tangled and misguided, but through effort, they can find their place or find their end. We all are tangled threads at some point in our lives. Think of the times that others didn’t give up on you so that you could be where you are now. We all have the potential for change: our behavior, our ideas, our beings. The challenge of untangling is often a crucial part of the task of weaving, to make the pattern stronger, more beautiful and united.
But you can’t untangle threads just by cutting them or pretending they don’t exist. You must engage with more than just your eyes or mouth and get to the actual work. You need to find the meeting place of the pattern, where the tangles started and work from there. It’s somewhere in the middle, in the liminal spaces and open doors.
Some tips on helping to bridge the gap:
– Connect with someone from a different generation from your own, share your experiences and listen to theirs.
– Find common ground to talk about.
– Don’t assume, you might not have all of the information. If it’s someone you care about, take the time to engage them without judgment language.
– Refuse to copy the tactics of the oppressors: don’t bully, don’t shame, don’t blame. It only feeds the cycle.
– If invited to come to an open door of hospitality, don’t make demands.
– Be willing to discover other viewpoints and experiences.
– Don’t just focus on the short-term or immediate effects, consider the future and potential changes.
– A different perspective can bring change if you allow your voice to be heard.
An example of that last one: a while back I presented at a PPD event where there was also someone presenting that I strongly disagreed with on many levels. Someone asked how could I be there? My response: how could I not? Why let that person’s voice be the only one that is heard when I can show and teach another way? We cannot close ourselves and our ideas off to our own echo-chambers. We need to reach beyond to cause effective change.
I will say, being a bridge isn’t a path for everyone. But you can lend support in positive ways to those who walk that path, as pilings, beams, and wires do to real bridges. You can help clear the road on your end of the bridge by being open to listen, to desire to communicate sincerely, and look for the deeper connections. Care for your bridges, your fellow threads – when and however you can. Also, try not to be a jerk while you’re at it.
(To be clear, I adore llamas and especially their cousins the alpacas – oh and camels too. But the drama llama? F that shit, because nobody should have time for that crap. I know I don’t.)