The other day I was on the Park&Ride line going up on campus. A Heathen friend of mine sat next to me and we chatted about school for a bit. He got off on the first Boulevard stop, and I stayed to ride to the second. So I’m sitting there zoning out, exhausted from my first week back to a big university, and there goes a girl walking past me wearing not one, but two Mjolnir pendants around her neck. I stared dumbly at her while she went past and walked off the bus, going right next to me on her way out the rear door.
I’ve chased people down the sidewalk before to find out who they were when it looked like they shared my small community of specialized interests. I’ve ridden at break neck speeds trying to find vintage scooterists I passed going the other direction. I’ve left notes on bulletin boards, business cards on seats and posted fliers all over town. Being involved in fringe interests and hobbies, I’ve always felt compelled to reach out and connect with the few and far between people who are into them as well, even risking like a lunatic to get someone’s attention.
Here goes someone who might be a lonely Heathen on campus, someone who might not know about the Heathen community around here. I felt like I had failed a duty of reaching out to say hello and find out, to network and connect. That maybe I had done something wrong in not saying hello.
After thinking about it, I’m not so sure anymore. The last time I asked someone about their Mjolnir pendant it ended up being about their D&D Dwarf character and nothing else. You can’t make assumptions based on the pendant alone. But where does this feeling of obligation come from in me? Am I even the right person to try to be reaching out? And since any Heathen who cared to could do an internet search for local Heathens just as easily as I did, does it make sense to stop someone who is hurrying on their way to their next class? I view my school as if it were my job, and I definitely don’t want to be bothered by random strangers wishing to talk religion when I’m at work.
I’m trying to learn lessons from my past. One of those lessons may be to mind my own business as much as possible. All of my organizing and promoting in the other hobbies I’ve been a part of seems to have done nothing but exhaust me emotionally. Not like religion is a hobby, but Heathenry is a (very) small community in the wider world of religion, and it’s even rarer to see a Heathen that I don’t know just out and about than it was for me to see a scooter enthusiast I didn’t know. In the old days, before everyone in the world had an internet connection, there was this feeling of isolation. We who had divergent culture and interest, who were social and religious minorities, we were strangers in a strange land. Imagine walking through Mumbai, and suddenly, through the crowd of Indian folk filling the streets, you not only see another American, but they’re wearing a T-shirt with your high school’s logo on it. Of COURSE you would want to say hello and find out who they were, and if they knew anyone you did. You’d probably end up doing something together based on nothing more than relishing the familiar and comfortable in a strange and sometimes distressing place.
That sort of explains why I sometimes feel as I do when it comes to needing to say hello to certain people. But there is also the mental exhaustion, and sometimes exasperation, that comes from it. I’ve heard people using Japanese words that I’ve talked to, and found out they were batty otaku. I’ve met people who for all the world looked like they should be on a 2-Tone dance floor, who just stared in confusion when I approached them. I’ve approached people about kendo who turned out to be Narutards and ninjers. And more than once I’ve approached people about vintage scootering because they were wearing Vespa T-shirts, only to be told that they only owned the T-shirt, never been anywhere near a scooter, Vespa, vintage or otherwise. It starts to get on your nerves after a while.
I guess for the most part my objective should be to do the things I love, and if someone is serious about it they’ll either ask me, be introduced to me, or we’ll meet when our converging interests bring us to the same place. It’s not like I feel antisocial about it, but I think that the above compulsion hasn’t done much good for the community, and has probably been bad for me personally. I know that in the case of my scooter club, my emotional attachment to the club and how I expressed it eventually ended up being unhealthy enough that I was driven to not only quit the club, but the vintage scooter scene entirely.
I sort of go back and forth on jewelry items, and my Mjolnir has been hanging up for a while in favor of my military ID tags. So I switched out to wearing Mjolnir openly recently, so that if there are any Heathens out there who wanted to say hello to another it would be an opening to. I don’t expect them to go out of their way, and I’m not going to do it either, but if the situation is conducive to it, there can be the eye contact and the opening facilitated by Mjolnir, and we’ll get to meet each other. Otherwise I’m focusing on my work, and letting other people, better people for the job, do the chasing for a while.