An author and editor looks at how we use language to communicate with other Pagans and those outside our community.
The PantheaCon Spirit
My wife and I just returned from PantheaCon in San Jose. It was our first time attending the event, and we were very impressed. It's easy to find things to complain about, especially at an event this big, but one thing that impressed me is how few complaints I heard - at least about anything substantial.
Complaining can be a natural reaction to disappointment, frustration and other emotions; the lack of it spoke volumes to me in a couple of respects. For one thing, it indicated that the people who put on this convention really got it right. It was well organized, communication was clear (the map, list of events and daily updates from the "town crier" just outside the elevators were extremely well done. There just wasn't that much to complain about.
The lack of complaints also speaks to the tone set for the event in the workshops, rituals, classes, concerts and other activities. There was a sense of unity among a diverse collection of people. We were willing to celebrate our differences and learn from one another, eagerly and without prejudice.
Complaining is all about making one's feelings known - specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it's necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it's best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven't taken the time to learn more about what's causing our dissatisfaction.
Panel discussions can be great forums for analyzing that dissatisfaction and identifying the source of it. At Pantheacon, the Pagans and Privilege panel was particularly effective in this regard, because it exposed a large group of attendees to a variety of perspectives within the community. The more we seek to learn about one another, the less time there is for complaints and, often, the less basis there is for them.
The diversity within the umbrella Pagan community means opportunities for learning and listening abound, and never more so than at a convention of this scope. I'd like to personally thank the organizers for giving us a space to get to know one another a little better. I know some of my complaints were resolved before they were even uttered, just because I took the time to listen to others' perspectives.
Already, blogs and posts are appearing online offering more such perspectives in the aftermath of the conference. Here's hoping they will stimulate a lively and positive discussion. One downfall of the Internet is that it often tends to foster complaints more than listening. The spirit of PantheaCon offered an antidote to that mentality, but now that the convention is over, we are faced with a challenge: combating the tendency to pull back into our individual online "camps" and stop listening because we can't see one another's faces. It's always easier to listen to others face to face and easier to complain from behind the keyboard. I'm hoping we can continue in the tone of discovery set at PantheaCon throughout the year.
On a personal note, my favorite events included the Weiser authors panel (no surprise there, as I am an author myself), Kenny Klein's Mojo, Magick and the Blues, Don Shulz's drum workshop and, of course, the concerts. If you haven't seen Michael Mullen's "Trio of One" show, give it a try. You're in for a treat. Pandemonaeon rocked the house, as well.
I certainly look forward to returning to San Jose for this event again in the future.
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