…and this is okay.
May I direct you to Julian Betkowski’s recent essay, “Against Metaphor?”
Part of the process of community building is realizing that community will be composed of others potentially quite unlike ourselves. We must be willing to release our preconceptions and allow others to speak for themselves. Others are not simply mirrors, dully reflecting our own images back to us, they possess a depth and mystery all their own. When we interpret the speech of others as metaphor, we strip them of their depth, of the richness of their experience, and refuse to acknowledge any unique substance in them. Simply, others are reduced to pale imitations of ourselves, and can only be understood as phantom extensions of our own being. This is a subtle form of solipsism.
Particularly poignant, too, is 12-Step Witch’s comment about attempting to force a sort of unity. She’s right, I think, and I’ve been as guilty of it in the past as others. Attempting to re-interpret (“re-inscribe”) others experiences into my own guarantees I’ll miss the difference and uniqueness of their spiritual understandings.
Consider the experience I have in grocery stores in Europe. I don’t experience “culture shock” until procuring food, and it’s because so much looks similar to me that I forget about the profound difference until confronting it on something very basic. It reminds me each time that I’m elsewhere, that what looks similar is only similarity, not sameness, and in that short-circuit is the Real of the situation.