Mushrooms, Monsters, Gay Marriage & MOGO: Fear of New Things

A couple of summers ago a large mushroom grew on the path to the ocean by our house. My dog Ruby and I walk this path frequently, but she’s often prancing through the woods and not necessarily paying attention to everything on the actual path. On the particular day that this story takes place, the mushroom had grown rather enormous. Ruby was trotting along in front of me on our way back from the ocean when she saw it.

The monster.

She stopped dead in her tracks. Her fur stood on end and she crouched down. She barked at the mushroom. She shuffled backwards. She barked some more. She became paralyzed. Holding back my laughter, I urged her to come along beside me, but she wouldn’t budge. She was terrified. After more urging, she inched forward, sniffed the air, but then quickly retreated and ran a circuitous route to avoid the path.

Ah, Ruby. She doesn’t much like new things appearing on her path.

How many of us do?

Last week I wrote on my blog about the sad defeat of marriage equality in my state of Maine. Most people don’t seem to like new things in their path, and gay marriage is still too new for many. It’s scary. It seems huge and dangerous like the mushroom in Ruby’s path. I was quite dejected when I wrote last week’s post, but I feel a little buoyed by some statistics I’ve read since last Wednesday. At the University of Maine, a state school whose student body is comprised primarily of Mainers, the vote was overwhelmingly (more than 80%) in favor of gay marriage rights and against repealing the marriage equality law passed by Maine’s legislature earlier this year. For young people, gay marriage isn’t so scary. It isn’t so new. They have gay friends who, unlike previous generations, admit their sexual orientation. They have friends whose parents are the same gender. They’re just not afraid of two same-gender people making a life commitment to one another and having the same rights as heterosexuals. It’s no big deal. It’s fair and right.

I bet that if we had big mushrooms sprouting up on the path every day, Ruby wouldn’t be phased by them. She’d lose her fear. So, too, we lose our fear when we grow accustomed to things in our path.

The challenge is to hold our fear at bay when we confront what’s new; to keep our eyes and ears open and receptive to new ideas; to seek to understand and make determinations based on a commitment to do the most good and the least harm. Then perhaps we won’t bark so insistently, nor cower in the face of the unknown, but respond bravely and wisely instead.

~ Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Image courtesy of Sonneteer via Creative Commons.

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