Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mavens & Martyrs

Ware! say I

Talked to a Full Circle staff member for over an hour last night about the why and wherefores of working with volunteers, mentoring others and setting boundaries for ourselves.

Like many here, this gal is a Maven. It's a good thing to be, a long as you are careful with your time and talents. I know. You get a great view from a glass house.

Mavens always have a lot of plates in the air. They are Pagan Doers in the best sense. But they can burn out, if they are not careful.

All archetypes have their opposites and the opposite of Maven, the negative energy attached to the positive aspect, is Martyr; something we presumably don't (and shouldn't) have in Pagan practice. So Beware. It's good to be a Maven, as long as you are a conscious one.

Playing with Words:

These days, I use "Mayven" as a way to describe what I do. It's a made up word, that word derives from the Hebrew "mayveen" meaning "to understand". I like having "May" in the title since I see true leadership as a kind of gardening, and this is a time of year deeply loved by gardeners.

There are lots of different kinds of mavens. The dictionary says that Mavens are self taught (or self appointed) experts. These can be such a bore. I think a real Maven would become an expert on what they don't know, and keep on learning all the time.....yes? Someone who is interested, rather than someone trying to be interesting and important to others. A real Maven would ask questions of those who come to them, to help then learn. They act as a guide, not a guru. Rather like Socrates (without any pretense to his wisdom). I wish they still taught the classics in High School. Old, dead white men like the Greeks still have some things to say to us. From them I learned to say: "I got there going that way. You can try that way, and watch out for the hole there (1).... or you can try this other way, as well. See you on the other side." Reading Plato also taught me how to see the lie lurking in the pretty phrase, a skill much needed in these times.

The best sorts of teachers I know are both a Maven and a Mensch; patient and demanding, skillful and willing to honor the skills of others.

Here is some Maven wisdom we can all use:

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.

Mavens (the kind I want to be anyway) live in that amazement. And they go outside and just say "Thank you". That's all the ritual a good Maven needs.

And as long as I'm quoting Joe and the Volcano, I offer this paraphrase:

You say to me you want to be Pagan, you want to learn, but you don't know what kind of Witch you want to be. You leave that hanging in the air, like I'm going to fill in the blank, that to me is like asking me who you are, and I don't know who you are, I don't want to know. It's taken me my whole life to find out who I am.

As you remember from the film, Marshall did help Joe. But he did it his way, and he didn't do it for him.


(1) Leo's story [from The West Wing]

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.

"A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

"Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this
hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in
the hole and moves on."

"Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the
friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down
here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the
way out.'"

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