Writing by Bob Doto

The New Convert and the Old Devotee

Both new converts and old devotees to a system or belief have a proclivity for becoming ideological. The new, because they're looking for cohesion. The old, because they've found it. In my experience, new converts, more often than old devotees, feel more inclined to regularly proclaim their ideology, but are also more easily swayed if the reasons for their allegiance can be met elsewhere.

Old devotees who constantly proclaim their ideological allegiance feel like new converts, which makes them seem immature and cringe. But, because they aren't new converts, even more so feel like lost souls forever trying to prove something that will never be proven (in part, because the thing they're trying to prove has nothing to do with their chosen ideology, and everything to do with their wanting to be recognized as a valid member of society. See "fear of death").

Mature, old devotees may hold strong beliefs, but keep ideology at bay due to their beliefs having come from lived experience, and because lived experience is at times soul crushing. Consequently, their strong beliefs are qualified by some well-earned humility. So, while an older devotee may profess strong beliefs from time to time, they sometimes have little need to rely on these proclamations for social validation.

The new convert is a different beast, all together.

The new convert veers toward the ideological as a form of protection. They need social validation, because, when you're young, social validation feels like a life and death issue. Old devotees who haven't come to terms with the fact that this is _mostly_ not true, may still feel the need to have that validation.

For the new convert, social validation often takes the form of simultaneously trying to insulate themselves from past beliefs and identify themselves with a set of new ones. The new convert is therefor preoccupied with cohesion. They are forever trying to make things fit.

Because the shift from old-way-of-thinking to new-way-of-thinking can feel like a rupturing of one's identity, the new convert scrambles to create a seamless identity in the hopes that this new identity will be both believable and acceptable. Second only to appearance, the quickest (and most base) way to project a coherent, believable identity is through the proclaiming of hard and fast beliefs. In online spaces, where appearance is in many cases an unavailable metric, the professing of belief systems is all a new convert has in their arsenal. So, they use rigid beliefs as a way to identify themselves.

An ideology may be understood as a "set of beliefs." Unlike regular ol' beliefs, an ideology tends to veer toward unwavering and inflexible beliefs. Used as the basis for political and religious doctrine, ideologies need to feel stable. They need to provide a foundation for decisions to be made.

New converts take ideological stances for these exact reasons. They're looking for something to stand on. They're looking for something to bolster them up. They're looking for something stable during the transition from one belief-identity to another. Unlike the monk who abandons the raft when they reach the shore, the new convert will often carry the raft wherever they go, protecting it at all costs, forever professing how it's the best raft one can buy.

In contrast, the old devotee, having spent more time both in the scene and on planet Earth, is often too tired to carry the raft. Instead, the wise, old devotee leaves the raft at the shore and lets their experience inform their proclamations.

A wise, old devotee is one who can (and will) skillfully oscillate between rigidity and flexibility (form and formlessness) when working with new converts. They know when to lean on the masters of old, when to proclaim their awesomeness, and when to throw them under the bus.

We like the wise, old devotee, whose job is to set an example for the new convert.

#2022 #posts