Define ‘Blue’

3 06 2008

I find it amazing, consistently flabbergasting, that you can read a piece, or a book; you decide what you think of it. You decide its value. Then, someone else reads it and their decision on its value is diametrically opposed to yours.

Sounds like the simple action of personal opinion at work, and I’m the first to agree that personal opinion is irrefutable; if that’s the way you feel about it, that’s the way you feel about it. No point in arguing. 

However, I think this goes deeper than personal opinion. I’m interested in the means by which people decide that a piece of writing is sensible, is valuable. Is it the research behind it? Is is that the piece secretly confirms the reader’s own opinions and prejudices? Is the piece essentially unchallenging, thereby backing up the years of work already done on Wicca? What means do people use?

From my own point of view I look for a coherent, well-written argument, with research to back it up. I look for good sources, good referencing. If a leap is being made away from currently accepted thinking, if new material or a novel point of view is being expressed, I look for a decent, lucid train of thought, some solid reasoning, and for the new theory to be placed correctly among the extant literature.

Unhappily, I think that Wicca is one of those disciplines where, just sometimes, the writers have a hard time defining what they mean by ‘blue’. To expand, there’s a load of good ideas out there, some more ‘out there’ than others, but this is not to say they aren’t valid. What makes them invalid, to me, is a lack of care and attention from the author when presenting them.

We all know what blue is, its quintessence. Try and describe it though; I’d be pushed. Would you?


See Seshat’s Voice on this topic, also! Well said, that witch!





7 responses

3 06 2008

I actually posed a question similar to this on a message board once. Mainly why you choose what you do. I was amazed at some of the answers. I honestly think that the ones with the craziest answers just really didn’t get the gist of what it was that I was asking to begin with.

I think a lot of it comes down to personality and tastes and yes, previously formed opinions of the subject matter you are reading. For me, I have a really difficult time reading dry, school book like texts, no matter how good the information in it is. My brain just sort of shuts off with material of that sort. I prefer something that is written in a more conversational and relaxed style, something that puts the author on my own level instead of on a podium lecturing. That does not mean that those text book like books are useless or poorly written, just that I’m probably going to have a hard time getting anything out of it before I have to put it down (and putting down a book of any kind is a feat for me). It is very much the “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” even when it comes to books and writing.

And don’t get me started on defining color. I’ll have so many theories on the concept of color it’ll make your head spin. Not a question to ask an artist. 😀

3 06 2008
The Green Witch

Know what you mean, Foxy! I have a friend who has a photographic memory for colour, so if you show her a particular shade of red for 5 seconds she can mix the same shade without looking at it from paint. So my question might not resonate with her, or you, I suspect! I was looking for an analogy for an unexplainable thing that is there in plain sight. Like some of the howlers published – and endorsed – under the banner of Wicca studies.

I wonder about people’s ability to be objective with evidence. When we study, whether at University or alone, we are required to be objective up to a point. The manifest lack of objectivity is something I’m still getting my head round with some of this work.

I agree about the written style, this goes double for lecturing. I went to a talks series last year and one of the speakers could have been uttering their lecture in a foreign language for the amount of it that was intelligible. I saw this when studying anthropology too: authors deliberately using words in a way designed to disguise what they meant, to make the student work harder or for some bizarre purpose only they knew. Vastly irritating!

3 06 2008

Foxchild, you say “That does not mean that those text book like books are useless or poorly written, just that…” and yet, if you are the intended audience, they can’t be that well written, or you would be eating up the books. People mistake good, clear writing with simplistic ideas and complicated, convoluted writing with the idea that the content must be especially important. I truly believe that is a load of hogwash; complex ideas can be delivered in an easy to read format if the writer makes an effort. I suspect that many of the hi-falutin’ and pedagogic styles are used to conceal lack of meaningful content in a jumble of long sentences and arcane words. But what do I know? I only teach writing skills.

TGW, ah yes, let me render the colour blue for you… I should cocoa! Your criteria of good research, logical argument and lucid thought don’t seem unreasonable to me. Those criteria, however, don’t extend to of a number of people, readers and writers. There are good ideas poorly argued; there are people who have taken a stance because ‘it’s the done thing’ without examining why before they regurgitate what they have heard; there are people with an agenda and there are a few who can be held up to the rigours of serious scrutiny and stand the test.

You have to remember that the market for Wicca books may be seen by many writers as short-lived or at least finite. There will be an eagerness to get books on shelves and selling so the writer doesn’t miss the boat. I suspect that contributes to the lack of research and reasoning, as both take time and effort. I don’t mean to suggest that everyone who writes about Wicca is worried they should have a book on sale before people forget Charmed, Buffy and the wave of ‘witchy’ television programmes that fuelled so much interest in the subject, but it may be a factor with some.

I know that I feel more comfortable reading a book where the tone and style suit me, my attitudes and agenda, and I suspect that is commonplace. Even so, when a writer wants to present a controversial or difficult position, they must take the time and effort to unravel their position in language and style that does not detract from the reader’s understanding.

We have many books that are the Wicca equivalent of pulp fiction, maybe now is the time for the good, well presented, reasoned and argued material to hit the shelves…? It is early days in the genre, so let us hope that things improve.

3 06 2008
The Green Witch

I quite agree that if a book contains the secrets to life itself, but reads as though it were written by a costive chimpanzee, it’s unlikely to get anyone onto the bus!

We are at early days, in one respect; but the cross-section of people attracted to Wicca includes plenty of thinking, academic, learned people in other fields. There’s got to be some academic rigour kicking about.

Good point on the market pressures; there’s certainly a force at work from the publishers, particularly the larger ones, to get the authors to lite-out.

However, I still think the market is buyer-driven; if we stopped absorbing the drivel in this unquestioning way then the providers would have to up their game!

There are many writers who really pull out all the stops, do their work properly, apply some intellectual rigour. Perhaps the fact that some of these writers are ‘unfashionable’ to the masses means their day has not yet really come, I think it will, as we require more from our authors. Speed that day, indeed.

4 06 2008
Abdur Rahman

Peace, one and all…

Although I don’t really know that much about Wiccan books, this kind of thing extends pretty much everywhere I’ve found – especially in anything ‘spiritual’.

Abdur Rahman

4 06 2008
The Green Witch

Salaam, Abdur. Yes, I think you’re right, in a way. It’s just more prevalent in Wicca, I think; there are fewer commentators, fewer writers and fewer reviewers with an impartial bent!

5 06 2008
Books, schmooks « Seshat’s Voice

[…] 3, 2008 by starofseshat My fellow blogger The Green Witch has been pondering why our opinion of certain books is so diametrically opposed to the opinion of […]

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