No-one Should Be Left Behind
August is now behind us and with it, my summer holiday. We managed to get away for a while (a big achievement, actually) and one of our destinations was Glastonbury. I’ve always loved the place, with its mix of spirituality, history, woo-woo and the best selection of metaphysical and alternative shops almost anywhere. We stayed in a tiny, quirky and rather fabulous B&B with the tiniest upstairs bathroom I’ve ever seen. Converted (I think) from a linen cupboard, I felt there was a danger of me getting jammed between sink and door if I had second helpings at dinner. The place had very comfy beds, superb breakfasts and interesting hosts, one of whom runs tours of various Avalonian locations. They also had a wonderful dog who reminded me of our long-gone Holly.
I digress a little, but it’s important you know (for context) that it was very much a place of alternative everything and despite being tiny (only two bedrooms for guests) it drew those guests from a self-selecting set of customers. When we got there, there was another guest who was staying, and she was there for two of the four mornings we were there for. It’s the conversations at breakfast that I’ve been thinking about since we got back.
You see, Morag (not her real name) was firmly of the opinion that as the cosmic energies (not sure how those are defined) forge ahead and the world changes and spirituality changes, those not willing to change and move on and leave behind “out-moded” beliefs, will be left behind or swept away, and forgotten. It got under my skin. I’m not someone who is able to hold an in-depth conversation before my second mug of coffee, and I’m also not someone who likes to argue or even fight, any time, let alone at breakfast. So at the time, I merely made some anodyne comments and continued to munch my very excellent breakfast. But I’ve stewed on it since then.
The human population is broadly divided into two camps: the risk-takers and the consolidators. In early human history, the need for both types is much more obvious. The risk-takers were the explorers, the people who leapt in and tried new things (sometimes with fatal consequences), found new places and so on. The consolidators kept the home-fires burning, kept the tribal histories and lore and taught the children. Both types are essential for a healthy society; various aspects of neuro-diversity also mirror this divide. Just as introversion and extroversion are hard-wired neurological aspects of self, this risk-averse/risk-taking tendency is also innate, though almost everyone becomes more risk-averse as they get older. It is possible and sometimes desirable to challenge one’s self to step beyond one’s comfort zone, but in essence, it is beyond the control of 99.9% of us to change that polarity.
So, in the eyes of people like Morag, those who do not gladly meet the changes are to be swept away and lost. Yeah, ta very much, Morag. How kind of you.
Sarcasm aside, it disturbed me massively. You see, in many ways, I’m risk-averse. I’ve explored a great deal into the metaphysical world for sure, but with a foot firmly in the camp of common sense and critical thinking and I’ve avoided swallowing whole the bovine excrement that’s on sale in the New Age market place. I’ve found myself returning to old truths and ancient, well-tried wisdoms from faith systems that are unfashionable now. You may or may not know that for the last 20 or so years I’ve been a Quaker Attender and the Quaker faith is one that very much believes in the idea of no one left behind. All Meetings for Business work on the model that unless there is complete consensus, then nothing is done. If just one person disagrees with the direction being proposed, no decision will be made. Surprisingly, this does not result in total stagnation; because Quakers are the people they are, it’s not unusual for someone to decide to agree to the will of the meeting, withdrawing their objection on the basis that the greater majority may be right and they themselves may be wrong.
There is a strange kind of snobbery about embracing new things; those who rush to grab the latest gadgets, systems, clothes, can be very disparaging about those who do not. Among the spirituality and alternative health movements, Morag’s attitudes seem ubiquitous; I’ve read tweets from advocates of “Juicing” that would not be out-of-place in a tract for certain brands of evangelical Christianity!
Life is not a race. Nor is our inner journey of spiritual discovery. We’re all on our own unique path; it’s not a snakes and ladders board and we’re not competing with others. It’s also impossible to gauge how far one person has already come on that journey because what might be a tiny step for one is a mighty leap for another. Those of us who are risk-averse should not be discarded as useless by those who are risk-takers, nor regarded as holding everyone back by our cautious natures. We are doing our best to follow our path, at our own pace. And that’s how it needs to be: no one left behind.
This reminds me of a work-related course I was on (so many years ago that I can’t remember when!) about team building (yawn). The people running the course seemed to concentrate heavily on which people were natural leaders, and it seemed to me to be very much out of balance, since a team is made up of all kinds of people. The team members who didn’t appear to ‘make it’ as a leader were discounted.
I smiled as you told us about Morag and her opinions and thought of myself – someone so fixed on my ideas, a fundamental of Christian who took everything literally (what a nightmare for you if you’d shared the breakfast table with me) and now, in the space of a few months, my ideas and beliefs have been turned upside down … so I can understand Morag.
I don’t think any of us will ever be ‘left behind’ though. I’m now of the opinion that, whatever our beliefs – whether they are rooted in the past, present or future – we will all return to God/Cosmic Energy/Great Spirit (and all the other related titles) and I don’t think we will have to do anything to attain this … it will just happen.
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your holiday, apart from the challenging breakfast times. The B & B sounds great!
Don’t get me wrong, she was a nice person; I just found some of her views problematic and didn’t feel it was an appropriate time or place to challenge them. I’m not even sure now whether anything is actually happening, in the world or cosmos, that wasn’t happening 50, 100 or even a thousand years ago; we just have a different perspective on our personal place in it.
As for the team building, I often think they need to remember the old adage (somewhat incorrectly phrased now, in some eyes) of Too many chiefs, not enough indians.
I absolutely agree with you, Vivienne – It takes me all I have just to be polite at breakfast, never mind engaging in challenging philosophical discussions. As for keeping up with all the latest views that are ‘in vogue’, I don’t subscribe to that. We can keep an open mind but, speaking for myself, I couldn’t go along with fashionable ideas if I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wonder if Morag was aware of your hubby’s vocation, in which case she may have seized the opportunity for some theological wrangling.
A good and thoughtful piece! Have just read it aloud to my husband – we agree on its premises. Thank you, your blog is always worth visiting.