Partygirl: “I think I’m the kind of pagan who thinks Mother Earth is God.”

Fibermom: (pause) “I didn’t think that was an option for Catholics.”

One never knows, do one?

The Lecturer had just asked us, “When was the last time you engaged a stranger in theological discussion?” There we were, several hundred women, all trying to remember the last time we had engaged a stranger in theological discussion. Or, perhaps, trying to imagine doing so. I don’t  think I have ever engaged a stranger in theological discussion, unless perhaps my occasional remarks in this blog could be considered a discussion with a stranger who might happen to read it.

I talk to strangers all the time, but never engage them in discussions that might lead to controversy. I save that for friends and family. I enjoy theological discussions, especially with people who have different views from my own, but I am aware that it is easy to offend and upset people with such discussions. And sometimes hard to express views clearly, as evidenced by my exchange with Partygirl, who is I happen to know a devout Catholic, but has made herself sound distinctly pagan. It is possible that she understands the word differently than I do. Or maybe she has more of a fusion outlook than I had thought.

I once had a coworker who was, I think, a witch. She said she was a Unitarian. She also said that she met with a group of other ladies several times a year, on the major festivals such as Samhain, to celebrate their spirituality. She made us Green Man figures for our Christmas trees and had mystic symbols tattooed on her arms. She may very well have hesitated to engage in theological discussions with me, although we did once have a very sprightly conversation about the hymn “Amazing Grace” while dusting books. I imagine that witches living in the Bible Belt often hesitate to discuss theology with their supervisors. But for most of us, I think the hesitation to discuss theology has less to do with fear of persecuation or pigeonholing than with fear of boring people.

In fact, religion is not the only subject that I hesitate to discuss with people. My degrees are in linguistics, so it is not surprising that I find things like syntax and language acquisition fascinating. And yet I know that most people consider these subjects boring, and also know very little about them, so I must rein in my enthusiasm for discussing them. #2 daughter has recently studied ballads in her music history class, and my immediate reaction was “Oh, goodie! Write a paper on that so I can talk with you about it!” Because I know that most people’s tolerance for discussions of, say, American vs. British murder ballads, with examples sung, is very small. And of course I have made a knitting blog for the express purpose of discussing knitting without seeing people’s eyes glaze over.

Discussions of science, though to me they are interesting enough to warrant reading up on the subject in order to continue them the next day, are not most people’s cup of tea either. When I was telling Cleverboots about the DNA scarf and how I love it because it reminds me of the excitement of first learning about Crick and Watson (thus neatly combining two unpopular topics), I could see that the discovery of DNA was not in fact one of her favorite bedtime stories, and that she was seriously wondering whether I had gone off the rails entirely.

This is why I was so pleased to find this page: http://www.ncbe.reading.ac.uk/DNA50/ephemera1.html 

This is a page showing myriad artistic uses of the DNA spiral, including the DNA scarf. It is clear that the people who made this page are as enamored of the DNA spiral as I am. And hey, if you are growing indignant at the thought of all those people who would rather discuss TV than, say, physics, allow me to recommend the book Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, one of the most exciting books I have ever read. The people I actually meet in the flesh will not allow me to recommend it, so it is a relief to be able to do so here.