I’m going to try my best here to not piss off anyone.
The other day I found myself having a rare night of nothing to do. I had a shoot planned, but since it’s LA and people here are flaky as shit, it was cancelled last minute. I was a little upset so I figured I’d go for a walk to clear my head.
I ended up at a trendy bar about a mile away from my apartment. I was in a grumpy mood (surprise!), but I wanted to go talk to people and shake off whatever funk I was in.
After about 30 minutes of me drinking water at the bar (party), a small group of very good-looking hipsters walked in. The place was fairly empty and they struck up conversation. There was this adorable little teeny tiny short girl (is that condescending?) who kept trying to talk to me one-on-one at awkward times. The group would be talking about one topic and then she would turn to me and ask me a completely unrelated question at very strange moments. Like, that moment right after I would say something to one person and right before they started to respond. She informed me she had some social issues, which I usually think is bullshit, but this seemed to explain a lot of things.
The questions weren’t bad or anything, in fact quite good... just poorly timed. After hearing a few of my responses to questions about psychedelics and things about meditation, her eyes started to light up. She seemed to be into whatever I was saying, hanging on to every word. I have to admit, I like when other people like hearing me talk. I’m kind of an asshole like that.
(See: This blog)
She asked me for my phone number, which was peculiarly timed as well. Plus, I don’t like giving my number out to strangers. I’m also the worst person in the world at saying “No.” So, I let her enter her number and call herself from my phone. Whatever.
Almost immediately after, she asked me about energy sources or crystals or whatever the current LA hippie bullshit is currently trending. I checked out. Immediately. I kept thinking, “Ah, fuck, what have I gotten myself into?” I tried to pretend to be interested, but it was like the air left the room. I just don’t give a shit. She could sense it. Everyone could sense it.
Sensing my lack of interest must have made her feel like she had to convince me it was all real... right then and there. In My adult life, no one’s ever done that before. Usually after I say out loud, “I don’t believe in that kind of stuff”, they just let it go. She informed me that it’s real, she’s a shaman, and there was a simple form of energy ball that she could show me right there to prove that it is in fact real.
I entertained her and let her show me -Mostly because I didn’t know what to do. It seemed too awkward to say no.
She had me hold my hands in front of my chest, palms facing each other, and slowly start pulling them apart and back together. Imagine me pushing together an invisible Nerf ball and then gently letting it return to it’s natural shape. After about thirty seconds she said, “Do you feel the heat on your finger tips?”
I fucking panicked.
No, of course I don’t feel the imaginary heat.
If this were in any way remotely real, one could measure the heat source easily with the simplest of tests.
I just started thinking about how I could prove this to be bullshit.
You could put a common thermometer on my fingertips before I started playing with fake Nerf ball, and then right after and measure that goddamn difference.
“I don’t think so?” I said. I’m a coward.
She seemed let down. Like her ancient shamanic powers had failed her. We tried again with the same results. I finally said, “Listen, I don’t believe in any of this stuff so maybe it just doesn’t work on me.” She explained that it should and that if I try more it will work.
In the name of science, I wasn’t going to let this go on any longer. I let her know that I truly don’t believe in this stuff and I was going to pass on trying it again. She asked what I believe in and I responded honestly:
“Mostly things that can be scientifically proven.”
“I mean, there are probably loads of things science hasn’t discovered that we are unable to understand or sense, but until we can justly understand it, I just choose to stick with the known.”
This upset her.
She had this look of disappointment on her face that was as if I just pulled my pants down and shit on her shamanic cloak.
(BTW, She wasn’t wearing a cloak, but if she didn’t have one at home then SHE’S NOT A FUCKING SHAMAN!)
She started arguing with me about her beliefs and going on about how science can’t explain everything, and that her things are real. It was eerily reminiscent of when my very berry religious extended family was failing to understand how I could just not believe in the Christian god. I remember being looked at as if I was a fucking idiot for choosing to not believe. It was beyond their comprehension.
She promised the world would be better if everyone realized their true power. I agreed.
When I wasn’t convinced of her beliefs, she became upset. After she specifically asked what I believed in and I answered, she became upset. When pressured to explain why, and I responded with a healthy dose of skepticism and criticism, she became upset. (Do you see a pattern here?) I wasn’t poking fun of her; I was showing the holes I had poked within my head. I do this often. And not just with these trendy LA hipster shamans, with every major religion as well.
People get really really upset when other people don’t believe what they believe.
We all have different ways of deciding what the truth is. Some of us look for truth in reality and tangible facts; others search for it in love and energy. Most people (in America) look for the truth in old books written by flawed people.
My point is: It doesn’t matter.
Whatever turns you on, that’s OK.
But don’t force those beliefs on anyone else. Don’t get offended when someone pokes holes in your belief system, especially if they are doing it without malicious intentions. Don’t become angry when they don’t believe in your “miracles”. And if you ask someone a question and they answer honestly, don’t get offended. You walked into that.
One last thing:
A person believing in other things doesn’t have to fuck your day up so much. Just chill. Have a sense of humor. Realize life is short, and it’s not a big deal that we don't all share the same paranoia of death. And if someone criticizes your faith, try and keep in mind that they are just another person with whom you have way more in common with than you may think.
Matthew Burns (in Hell)