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The Internet Lacks Object Permanence

Over the years of interacting with people over the Internet, I’ve noticed that many people online seem to lack some amount of object permanence when it comes to other Internet users. Now, this isn’t object permanence in the strictest sense, obviously. I’m fairly certain that most of us have the ability to “understand that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way)”. But just because we get it on a superficial level doesn’t mean that it’s actually being absorbed and utilized on a deeper level.

Object permanence: what it is, and how I’m relating it to religion

For those of you who have never heard of the concept of object permanence, it’s basically the concept that you understand that things exist, even if you can’t see or experience  them directly. It’s something that most people develop when they’re still a toddler (there are some exceptions to this, as some disorders involve having difficulty with object permanence), and so most of you reading this probably do understand that when I place a cup in the cabinet and close the door, the cup still exists inside of the cabinet, even if you can’t see it. Your inability to experience this cup directly doesn’t make it suddenly vanish from existence.

You’d think that a group of people who spends a lot of time talking about entities that none of us can touch or see in the physical sense would have a really firm grasp of object permanence. In many ways, our entire religious experience is a drawn-out exercise in object permanence. We can’t necessarily experience our gods directly (as in: we can’t touch them, see them, or talk with them the way that we would a human), and so nearly everything that we do requires utilizing object permanence in order to be effective or successful in what we’re doing as practitioners.

However, it seems that many of us have a blind spot in our object permanence: other practices and how they are presented on the Internet by co-religionists. I think that objectively we understand that many of us aren’t talking about the entirety of our practices online, but it seems that many of us forget that on the regular. It seems that for a large portion of Internet users, if you’re not actively talking about it or posting about it, it doesn’t exist.

To use my cup and cabinet metaphor above, if I decide to keep part of my practice (the cup) in the cabinet because I don’t wish to share it with you (aka: I don’t post about it online), then a lot of people assume that the parts of my practice that are in the cabinet (the parts of my practice that I don’t openly discuss) don’t exist.

Or in other words, because I haven’t dredged up every aspect of my practice and put it on display for you, I’m obviously not doing those things ever, and those “missing” parts of my practice don’t exist.

Building roadblocks out of assumptions

This habit can be very damaging on multiple levels. First of all, it can create a very hostile environment where practitioners may use their assumptions (aka: assuming the cup stops existing because it’s in the cabinet) to berate or chastise other practitioners. This seems to manifest in a lot of ways, but the most common that I’ve seen is that people assume that because everyone only posts funny, lighthearted or “fluffy” stuff online, that none of them is actually serious in their religion or practice. This then bleeds into the belief that others aren’t historically driven enough, serious enough, or legitimate enough because they’re not seeing the “proper markers” to assume that someone isn’t making a joke of this very serious business known as religion.

These assumptions can then create a toxic environment where co-religionists have to worry about appearing “legitimate” enough to their peers in order to be taken seriously or given respect. Some members may feel pressured to over emphasize the “real” parts of their practice so that their peers will give them the time of day. Conversely, others may feel that they need to hide the “less legitimate” portions of their practice, or even stop talking or participating all together because of the pressure to meet this unstated standard of perfection that these assumptions have created for the community.

And as can be seen and witnessed in multiple communities right now, this dichotomy of “good enough” and “not good enough” creates a very large divide within a religion. It creates a divide between those who are deemed as legitimate and those who are not. You are either serious and follow a set protocol, or you are a pleeb who is “ruining our religion” and “disrespecting the gods” because we’re making assumptions about what your practice consists of based off of what you say online. The fact that you may go away from your computer where you’ve just posted 10 sparkly NTR gifs for funsies and are about to do a 3 hour long ritual means nothing if you’re not posting it online.

Destroying roadblocks by destroying our assumptions

To be honest, every time I see an instance of someone forgetting that people don’t display every aspect of themselves or their religious practice online, I get very sad. To me, it seems like such a waste to spend all of our time comparing practices and telling others that they’re doing it wrong because they don’t meet our own personal criteria for what makes a practice “correct.” It’s one thing if a community member is being problematic or hurting others with their practices, but honestly, if no one is being hurt by what they’re doing, why do we make such a big deal out of it? Why are so many of us more interested in judging how others practice or worship than tending to our own business?

I think the only way to actively work against the lack of object permanence that exists in our online communities is to actively work against our own assumptions that we make. Each of us makes assumptions about what others are doing or not doing, about how legitimate their experiences are or aren’t, and about how serious they may or may not be about their religious practice. We all do it, it’s part of human nature.

What’s important is to actively work against those assumptions, though. Even if you start to assume that someone has something wrong, maybe take a step back and ask yourself if it really matters. Does it really matter that someone sees a god with pink hair? Does it really matter that they’re offering to the gods in plastic solo cups? Does it really matter that people are joking about a god’s butt?

It’s a lot like the yardstick of dickery: is what is being said or done actually hurting anyone, or is it just bugging me? Is there any actual benefit from me saying something?

If the answer to both of these is no, then there isn’t really any need to get upset over it. And it’s important to remember that what we’re seeing online is not the totality of anyone’s practice. Just because someone might appear to be practicing one way online doesn’t mean that that is all that their practice consists of.

And as I’ve said a million times before, if the behaviour is truly damaging to the gods, we should learn to trust that the gods will handle it in their own time using their own methods.

Learning to work together with something as personal and important as religion can be challenging, but the sooner we learn to ease up on our assumptions, the better off things will get. Learning to remember that no one shows every aspect of their practice online is important, as is remembering that different deity-devotee relationships can take different forms. The more that we can work to find common ground between different methods of practice within Kemeticism, the better off our entire community will be.

Do you have issues with assuming too much about others’ practices based off of what they showcase online? Have you ever assumed something about a practitioner’s practice, only to have that assumption proved wrong later on? How do you stop yourself from assuming too much about your co-religionists?

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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Perfect

Perfection is a tricky thing. When used in moderation, it can drive us to do better and become better. When used poorly, it can cause us stress and create problems in our lives. I think that most of us understand that perfection is nearly impossible to achieve, and yet many of us spend our entire lives trying to get as close to perfect as possible. I think that’s understandable in a way. We’re taught very early on that perfection is an ideal, and that anything less means that we’re doing something wrong, that we’re mediocre, or that we’ll never be good enough. We’re taught to fear the alternative to perfection, and in some ways, we’re taught that being anything less than your best at all times means you’re a failure.

I also think that many people want to be as close to perfect as possible because we believe that when everything is perfect, we’ll be happier. Everything would be better, and everything would be smoother and easier. The problem with this lies in the fourth sentence in the paragraph above: perfection is impossible to achieve. Especially for long periods of time. We’re flawed beings doing our best to make things work. Imperfection is really an inherent trait of humanity whether we like it or not.

Within our larger society, it’s being shown that the need to be perfect is ruining a lot of lives. It can create unhealthy attitudes towards ourselves and towards others. But what about in our smaller communities? How does perfection play into how we interact with our fellow co-religionists?

I’ve found myself mulling on this a lot recently. There has been a lot of activity within the community as to how people think one should act vs. how people have been acting. There have been disagreements about what should be our standard protocol for behaviour, and in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s a reasonable conversation to have, especially considering how close action and ma’at feed into one another. Being a predominantly orthopraxic religion means that actions speak louder than beliefs, and in order to do our best to live in ma’at, we need to be reflective on what actions are best for ourselves and the community. However, in some instances, I have found myself thinking that people expect too much out of their fellows and peers and expect too little of themselves. It’s very easy to get caught up in what you feel others “should” be doing and too easy to forget that we all make mistakes. As my grandmother used to tell me: “When you point your finger at someone, remember that there are three fingers pointing back at yourself”.

In that spirit, I might be able to make the argument that ma’at and perfection can be seen as being one and the same in a lot of ways. Ma’at is the ideal state of being/acting/doing in Kemeticism. We all strive to behave and act in ma’at and to lace ma’at into everything that we do. However, I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that we fail sometimes. Some of us fail a lot of the time. It’s all part of that being human thing I mentioned above. Like perfection, ma’at can be a useful tool. It can help us strive to become more, to become better. It can be something that enriches and fulfills our life as we learn how to weave it into our daily experiences. However, also like perfection, ma’at can be turned into a bludgeoning tool made to control and belittle others. It can be used to hurt people and make them feel like they are inadequate or that they are failures. This is particularly true when the two are married, and you suddenly see people uttering the words “you are not acting in ma’at” (or alternatively “your actions embody isfet”), which might as well be the same as “you are not hitting the level of perfection that I expect of you, and therefore you are a failure”.

This sort of culture can be incredibly damaging on so many levels. It teaches people that they can never make mistakes within the community without having to bear the stigma of having messed up. It teaches people that if they ever step out of line, they can expect a mob of people to come out and berate them. It teaches us that we have to become an almost fake and unrealistic form of ourselves in order to make people feel comfortable (which reinforces about every form of “ism” you can shake a stick at). Having a bad day? Better not go on the internet lest you make a faux pas. Find out that you made an error in a statement that you made? Good luck moving beyond that because you’re never going to remove that foot from your mouth because we won’t let you.

It makes it so that no one can really have any room to breath because they’re too worried about screwing up. In those instances, our religion becomes less about learning and growing, and more about fitting into a mold that has been laid out for us.

Perfectionism also extends beyond behaviours. There are many who seem to believe that there is a certain level or bar to hit with practices, too. If you’re not offering a certain way, you’re missing that bar of perfection and therefore a failure. If you’re not being historically accurate enough, you’re missing the bar. If you’re making too many jokes, you’re missing the bar. Or dare I say it? Not practicing and/or living in ma’at.

When used poorly, perfectionism stalls people’s growth and desire to try new things in their practice. What could be a warm and loving experience becomes something that is stifling and nerve-wracking. A lot of people come to our religion already afraid they’re going to mess up. Why do we make it worse on people by adding even more unrealistic expectations upon them? Why do we expect everyone to act exactly how we think they should? Why is it that only our personal bars and measures for success ever seem to matter? Why is it that it seems like so many people don’t have the capacity to understand that we are all learning and doing at our own speeds and paces, and doing so in our own ways? There isn’t only one way to do something or to be. Why can’t we learn to give some of our co-religionists some room to fumble around?

Now, with all of this being said, I want to emphasize here that there is an opposite end of this spectrum, too.

I think it goes without saying that I believe that we still have to have some level of standard of decorum within our communities. Not having any rules at all leaves people open and vulnerable to being attacked, abused or manipulated. So please do not take this post to mean that we shouldn’t have any rules at all. Much like with the ma’at comparison made above, it’s about balance and striking a middle ground between the members of our community. It’s about having enough structure to ensure that our members stay safe and aren’t subjected to bigotry or marginalization, but being open enough to allow people to practice freely and safely while interacting with the community. And of course, there are certain rules that I personally feel should be more important than others (such as rules that protect members and people over rules that protect the religious structure or preferences in practice), although others may feel differently.

In the end, I think that we all need to try and remember that none of us is perfect, and it’s unrealistic to expect perfection. We’re all doing the best that we can to try and manage our lives with our religious practices, and everything that is involved with both. We all start somewhere, and we all have our biases to overcome and learn from. And in that spirit, we should all be doing some self-reflection on our own imperfections, not just fussing over the imperfections of others.

How does perfection play into your community experience? Do you find that the pressure for perfection makes interactions difficult? Do you find yourself focusing too much on the imperfections of yourself or of others?

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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Through Resistance We Grow Stronger

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a number of different online groups with a wide variety of people that come from a wide variety of backgrounds. This has given me the opportunity to have many different discussions that run the gamut in terms of topics. Despite all of this diversity, I have noticed a trend amongst many of the people I’ve talked to:

You either love conflict, or you fear conflict.

Conflict in these situations has meant many things. Sometimes it’s a knock down, drag out flame war that is occurring on a message board. Other times it’s a simple misunderstanding that people are trying to work out. And during any situation that seems to have any sort of disagreement, no matter how civil or uncivil it may be, I’ve noticed that there is often at least someone who gets upset that conflict is occurring in any capacity at all.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that in any group of people you ever have the pleasure or displeasure of being with, there will always be times of conflict. Always. Ask anyone that is married, or anyone that has siblings or kids. Look at your own life for an example. No two humans are going to approach anything exactly the same, and so there will always be times where people have disagreements or misunderstandings. It’s an inevitable part of life. And while I don’t condone making conflict simply for conflict’s sake, I do believe that many of us could stand to re-frame what conflict means to us and our community.

We talk about this a lot in our courses that I put together for work. Many of these courses are about how to manage a dental office and all of the people that work there, so it’s common for the discussion of conflict to come up because conflict is inevitable in the group of people we call a dental practice as well.

In many of these courses, it is stated that conflict is not actually a bad thing. Instead, we are taught that conflict is actually an opportunity to better understand whoever you are having a conflict with (or those you are mediating a conflict between). The more I’ve learned about managing conflict and working through conflict in a professional setting, the less I view it as a bad thing. More and more, it reminds me more of resistance training.

The idea of resistance training is simply that by forcing your muscles to contract against an external resistance (usually weights), you will in turn develop more muscle definition and tone. This is obviously a simplified definition of what resistance training is, but the general idea is there. By resisting the weight, the muscles grow.

We also see this in nature as well. Plants (I know, shocking) are one of the best examples that I can cite, which require experiencing stiff winds while still a sapling in order to grow a strong stalk. These plants have to learn to stand against the wind, and if you remove the resistance that helps them grow, you run the risk of having a plant that will snap at the first sign of a storm later on.

Even Osiris himself had to break free from the very snake that protected him during his transformation after death (see Rundle Clark’s “Myth and Symbol in AE” for more). Without some amount of struggle we can not expect to grow or expand our horizons. Even if we are born into a safe haven, at some point, we must experience some turbulence and difference in order to grow.

So what does this have to do with conflict?

Conflict usually consists of two differing viewpoints. And when you effectively navigate a conflict and said differing viewpoints, you would need to consider both viewpoints and discuss each of them thoroughly. Each party has to be open and honest about their feelings and thoughts on a certain situation or idea, and then by honestly and actively listening to each other, and calmly discussing what is on each others minds, both can begin to understand one another better. This mutual understanding broadens the horizons of those participating in the discussion or conflict – even if the discussion doesn’t result in 100% agreement by all parties, as conflict resolution doesn’t always equate to complete agreement with one another. This allows new ideas to be brought forward and worked through in a calm fashion. It allows people to build trust as more conflicts are resolved calmly and without major incident.

Through each conflict and successful discussion that follows, everyone is made stronger and better because more understanding is achieved. When people realize that they can bring up differing viewpoints, and know that the community or group won’t jump on them, but instead will discuss things calmly, that will build up trust and strengthen the community as a whole. These instances of resistance allows us to become stronger both independently and as a group.

Learning how to work through conflict, or understand the ins and outs of conflict can help turn resistance into growth. Likewise, learning when to walk away from a conflict can as well. And with any luck, as we learn more about one another and learn how to handle our differences with less yelling and flame wars, the stronger we can become as a community. Take a look at the links below to learn more about how to turn conflict into opportunity.

How do you view resistance and conflict? Do you see them as an opportunity or something to be avoided? Does conflict or resistance play a role in your involvement in the Kemetic community? If it does, how so?

Relevant Links:

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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The Art of Co-Discovery

When it comes to a lot of people in the Pagan community, it seems that a lot of folks believe that you can shame someone into doing something. If I find that you’re being appropriative or fluffy or even just unknowingly ignorant, the obvious solution is to call you out on it, raise a big stink over it, and get mad at you. And in return, you’ll feel stupid and embarrassed and never make such a dumb mistake again.

Right? Because that works so well for everything else?

It’s recently been noted that fat shaming doesn’t actually motivate people to lose weight, and anyone with any sort of social anxiety knows that being shamed doesn’t fix anything, it just makes it worse. Why so many people in the Pagan sphere think copping an attitude and typing in all caps fixes everything is beyond me. Because I’ve not met but a handful of people in my entire life that actually respond well to negativity as a means to change their behaviour. It’s just not how we’re hard wired.

As it turns out, this is a problem in the dental industry, too.

I don’t mean in the sense that dentists yell at their patients and call them stupid, but in the sense that dentists have a hard time connecting to patients and motivating them to do what is in their best interests (which would be fixing your teeth, in this case). Luckily, as it turns out, there is a tool that we use in the dental field that is called “Co-Discovery”, and it has useful applications in Paganism, too.

“Magnifying Glass” by Derek Bridges via Flickr

What is Co-Discovery?

In order to understand what Co-Discovery is and how it works, you have to have a general understanding of how a dental office works and the challenges a lot of dentists face. You see, dental offices live and die by their ability to convince patients to accept dental treatment (such as fillings, crowns, etc). It sounds simple enough- patient comes in, needs their tooth fixed, which is why they are there, and so when the dentist says “You need a crown”, the patient obviously says yes, right?

Wrong.

Many patients believe that dentists are out to screw them over so that they can make more money. Many patients don’t believe that their dental health is important, and so they don’t see the value in getting their teeth fixed. And of course, many dentists aren’t very good at helping people to understand why it’s important to keep their teeth healthy, and everything degrades quickly. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has experienced this at some point in time: you get your exam, and the dentist comes in and lectures you about how you need to brush your teeth better, and floss more, and do all of these things because you’re inadequate at what you do, and that’s why you now need a crown and that will be $700, please. Then the patient gets irritated at the dentist, the dentist feels completely inadequate and quits trying to help people out of a fear of rejection, the patient doesn’t get their teeth fixed so their health degrades, and the dentist doesn’t make any money to pay the bills.

It’s a horrible situation that many dentists deal with regularly (because they don’t teach you how to motivate people in dental school), and the solution to this problem is the art of Co-Discovery.

Co-Discovery is a learning tool that engages the patient and asks them to think for themselves. For example, instead of simply slapping an x-ray up on the computer screen, and telling the patient “you have a cavity that needs filled, please pay me”, the doctor sits down with the patient, places the x-ray up on the screen and asks the patient “what do you see here?”

Upon the patient responding (usually something to the accord of “that’s my tooth/teeth”) the doctor will point out that the tooth has a certain shape and color around it. But when there is decay, then the shape and color change. The dentist will then ask “Do you see any places on this x-ray that have discoloration?” The patient will look at the x-ray and usually spot the location where the cavity is.

And then suddenly, the patient will realize that the dentist isn’t swindling them. There is actually a cavity there that actually needs to be filled. The dentist didn’t tell the patient that they had a cavity, the dentist led the patient to discover the cavity themselves- hence the term “Co-Discovery”.

 Using Co-Discovery in the Pagan-sphere

Ever since I learned about Co-Discovery, I have always tried to keep it in mind when talking to others or helping to answer people’s questions. This can manifest in many ways, though it usually comes down to allowing people to draw their own conclusions and come up with their own ideas.

Instead of dictating what someone should or should not do in a situation, I will often present some ideas about how I do things, how other people do things, perhaps how people in antiquity did things, and then allow the person to figure out what works best for them. Sometimes I will simply list resources and let the person sift through them at their own speed.

At the end of the day, it’s all about letting people choose to take an active role in their practice and on their religious/spiritual path. Presenting information for others to consider, and then allowing people to be responsible adults and let them make their own choices and decisions on things. This is important because it shows a mutual respect between people, and won’t often scare people away if they’re making mistakes. I have found that by being objective and simply presenting information for people to look into, that they will often come to better conclusions than if I called them a moron and told them they were doing it wrong, which seems to be the norm.

This is largely because people who are being shamed will usually have a knee jerk reaction to the situation and respond with defensiveness and denial. However, by being concise, objective and non-judgmental in my response, this pitfall can be avoided and give us greater opportunities to discuss things at a greater depth with more openness and understanding.

While it is true that this won’t always be the case, as nothing ever has a 100% success rate (even for the dentists mentioned above), it seems to have been a relatively successful method for me in the past. I think this is because people do want to be treated respectfully as well as want to be treated like capable adults. Hopefully, by learning how to help other people figure out things for themselves, we’ll all be able to have better discussions in the future that don’t revolve around “well you’re a stupid poopy head”.

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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Boat Paddling: The Second Rule of Kemeticism is…

One of the most repeated phrases that I see around the Kemetic community is “Don’t be a dick”, and for good reason! You can’t build solid communities if everyone is treating the other members like crap. Backbiting and infighting will lead to shaky foundations and a group that doesn’t last. However, like most things related to ethics and behaviours, it’s hard to pin down what qualifies as being dickish and what doesn’t. So for this post, I wanted to elaborate on some ways of determining whether someone is, in fact, being a dick or not and how we can use these yardsticks within the community.

The Yardstick for Dickery

It can be a challenge to tell when someone is being a dick to someone else because things like “how far is too far” are subjective in nature. What is mean to one person may be perfectly acceptable to someone else. And some people even think that warning others “hey, I am an asshole” gives them a free pass to say whatever they want because “hey, I warned you!” Because of this, I began to question if we really could determine when someone is moving into dick territory.

However, I think that I’ve figured out a place where we can start to possibly measure when you’re moving into dickish territory. I call it “The Yardstick for Dickery”, and it goes something like this:

If your behaviour is causing people to leave or withdraw from the community, then you should probably check yourself before you wreck yourself.

That is, if what you say and do is causing relatively innocent people (aka: people who aren’t racist, ableist, etc.) to leave the community, you’re being a dick. If what you say means that people are not willing to open up in front of you, or are driven to hide from you out of fear, you’re probably being a dick. If you’re saying stuff that makes other communities side-eye us and consider us all to be garbage, you’re likely being a dick.

I’ve used the yardstick and found someone who I think is being a dick. What do I do?

Each situation will require different responses, but the short answer to this is still this: Don’t be a dick. You don’t earn points for being a dick to someone else who is being a dick to you. When you drop down to their level, you open yourself up for further attack, not only by the person you’re engaging, but by others within your community. On the internet, our words are really all we have to use to define us. And if you start to act like a dick towards other dicks to try and “teach them a thing”, you end up being just as much a dick as them. Which doesn’t benefit you or anyone else. It just perpetuates the cycle.

(see the full gif-set here)

Whenever I come across someone engaging in dickish behaviour, I usually go through a few motions:

  • Double check that the situation is as I think it is.
  • I ensure that inserting myself into the situation will actually be beneficial.
  • I respond with a cool head and constructive critique that calls out the behaviour or offers alternative dickless ways to address the situation.
  • If I can’t respond with a level head, I walk away and address the situation upon return. If I still can’t respond with a level head when I return, then I don’t respond at all (or I utilize the Two Response Rule).

Ways to make sure you’re not being a dick

When you’re out there responding to people on the Internet, it can be easy to get away from yourself and start dipping your toes into the murky dickish waters. However, with a little bit of practice, it can get easier to make sure that you don’t accidentally come off in a way that you didn’t intend to. I think one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when posting things online (or having conversations in real life) is: What is the purpose of me saying this?

Figuring out why you feel compelled to say something is important. It will help you to stay focused and on task in your response/dialogue. It can also make it easier to trim out unnecessary scathing marks or possibly dickish side-notes that you might include otherwise. Having a purpose behind speaking in mind acts as a road map to help make your argument more sound and less dickish.

I’ve also seen another set of guidelines floating around the Internet that I often use before I start writing a post. Those guidelines would be:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me right now?

These rules to harken up to the guidelines I listed above. Whenever you are considering writing a post, examine whether your addition will actually beneficial to what is going on. If it is something that should be addressed, figure out if you’re the best person to address it. If you can’t keep your snark to yourself, or if your point gets lost in angry words and frustrations, perhaps the post or response is better written by someone else. If you think that the response or post does need to be written, and that you could be the right guy for the job, determine if you need to respond right this second. Again, if your anger is clouding your words, or if you can’t get your point across respectfully, perhaps you need to give yourself a little time away from the situation to allow yourself more clarity in your response.

A lot of the situations where I’ve found my words pushing into dick territory have included responses that were off the cuff and perhaps not as well thought out as they could have been. I’ve found that many situations are not do or die, and that you can actually walk away from something for awhile and come back to address it later.  It can be difficult to develop the skill to learn to walk away, but in the world of Internet yelling, bashing and politics, it is a necessary skill to have if you want to excel at communicating.

The last point I want to bring up with all of this dicking around is simply this: help each other out. We’re all in this together, so don’t take offense if someone lets you know that you’re kinda being a dick. It happens to all of us, and the only way we can ever address such situations is to be made aware of what we’re doing wrong. So to refer to above- if a fellow community member is being a bit of a dick, let them know! Just make sure you’re doing it respectfully. And if you get called out on being a dick, think about your actions and use the yardstick above to see if the claim is accurate. If it is, try to correct your behaviour and move on. No need to make a fuss over something all of us humans do.

Because the only way we’ll all get any better is if we actually help one another reach our highest potentials.

Relevant Posts:

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Life is Orthopraxic

One of the first things we like to teach in the Kemetic community is that our religion is orthopraxic. That means that Kemeticism isn’t based so much on what you believe inasmuch as its focused on what you do. The gods need us to perform certain cultic and temple functions for them in order for ma’at to be perpetuated. The gods need us to do the right things and follow through in our actions and words more so than they need us to necessarily believe in them or believe that they exist.

And in a way, I would say that life in general is that way.

Belief can be nice. We can believe that god exists or doesn’t exist. We can believe that clothing the naked and feeding the hungry is a great cause. We can believe in peace and love and green energy and all of those nice lovely things that we see at humanitarian events across the globe. We can believe that being honest and forthright is the best course of action. We can believe whatever we want.

But at the end of the day, if you don’t act upon those beliefs, they are useless.

“Brendan + Action” by Marc Thiele via Flickr

For example, I could talk on and on about how being respectful to our peers is important. I could tell you about how we need more interfaith work, and that we need to not be dicks, and how we should all strive to get along. But if I get off of this blog and go and yell at everyone I meet and belittle every newb I come across, not only will that create a conflicting message from me, but it will also lead everyone that sees me to believe that I am really a jerk that likes to blow smoke up everyone’s asses. I can talk about respect and community and devotion until I’m blue in the face, but it means absolutely nothing if I don’t have any follow through.

Our whole life is made up of what we have done and said. We may have the greatest thoughts and ideas and beliefs in our minds, but if they never are brought forward into the light of day and turned into actions, then what purpose do they serve? When we go through our lives and let injustices occur and watch people screw other people over in our day to day lives without saying a word, what are we accomplishing?

I understand that it’s not always so simple. I have worked for people who are less than moral. To say something means to put my livelihood on the line, and therefore the livelihood of my family as well. We can’t always afford to be 110% just and moral all the time. However, I still think its important to remember that our legacy is built upon our actions and not our beliefs. Our lives are shaped and remembered by the marks and impacts we have left upon others, our communities and families, upon the world; and that our gods and fellow man benefit the most by the things we do for one another. And that in addition to that, our actions behind closed doors can speak even louder than the actions we do in front of others in public. You know, the actions we perform that we might think don’t have any sort of consequences to them, or the actions that we feel won’t have any payoff for us.

As you move forward into your communities, on your path and in your life, wherever that may take you, remember to keep in mind your actions. We are often taught in Western culture that our beliefs define us, but I posit that it really all does come down to our actions.

How do we do this? Well, through a number of methods. When you come across problems within your community, speak up! Or perhaps look into solutions that can help remedy problems. Network with other people, reach out to other folks and discuss with them about where they are at on their paths, what your community could be lacking, or other ways that you can create more resources for one another and newcomers to your community. For those with less spoons, just keep talking. Click the “like” button when someone else posts something you fancy. Talk about your experiences or give feedback on others experiences. Share links around for others to look at. Spread the love.

Every little action that we take helps to build up the community or tear it down. Every action helps to propel us forward or send us hurdling backwards. Even the little actions that we think don’t matter. As you move forward in all that you do, make sure that your actions are helping to form the world that you want to live in.

Do you think that life is orthopraxic or that your actions have weight in the community? What types of actions would you like to see your community members and leaders to take in the future? Do you feel our communities should be discussing the value of action? 

Relevant Posts:

 
 

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KRT: Differences in UPG and Practice

Differences in practices: How do you deal with them? How do we overlook our differences in practice and UPG? What do we do if our experiences don’t line up with others?

It goes without saying that every Kemetic’s practice is going to be different. Each Kemetic is going to have their own way of doing things and their own way of interacting with the gods. Sometimes, these practices are very similar to our own way of doing things, and everyone gets along whenever religious discussion pops up. However, there are times when factions or branches of Kemeticism clash in how they approach their religious practice. These clashes can be as simple as minor disagreements on a forum, or can be as major as huge fallouts within a temple or community.

How do we combat these types of fallout? How do we get along even when our practices are vastly different?

via flickr

The first step is to make sure that you realize when you’re presenting your UPG to the world, that your UPG is yours alone. It’s a personal thing, and doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to anyone elses experiences. And due to the nature of UPG, no one else has to place a lot of stock into your UPGs (reminder that not placing a lot of stock doesn’t mean being a jerk about it). As I mentioned in the post about boiling frogs, you’ll want to present your ideas with reasoning behind why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’d be best served by knowing where the historical aspects end and your UPG begins.

But what if you see someone presenting UPG as fact, or you’re not entirely sure where a UPG is coming from?

Coming across different UPG can easily cause a knee jerk reaction within you, however it’s important to remember that those types of reactions are rarely helpful. Whenever I see myself having this reaction, or I see someone presenting UPG that I don’t really get, there are a few things that I keep in mind to help keep the peace:

  • Pause briefly and re-read the statement.
  • Ask questions.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Understanding.
  • Mutual respect.

I feel that when people keep all of these points in mind, arguments and disagreements can be minimized between people of our religious community, and if you’re lucky these discussions can open up greater understanding between all of us.

Pause and Re-read

It sounds simple, but is often overlooked. Most of our interactions with other Kemetics occurs online, and due to the lack of body language, intonation and facial cues, it can be challenging to understand where a person is coming from. So whenever you come across a statement that seems “incorrect” to you, take a moment to re-read the statement. Sometimes we misread things while we are skimming a forum, which can lead to misunderstandings. So when in doubt, start here.

If you re-read and are still unsure, perhaps ask someone else to read the same material and see if they are getting the same impression that you are. If re-reading doesn’t help, then you move onto the next step-

Asking for clarification

Whenever in doubt, ask. If you’re unsure of what someone is trying to say, or you think you’re misreading a post, ask the original poster for clarification. This allows the OP to clarify their statements and explain their reasoning to you. This is where things like the Two Response Rule come into play.

Keep an open mind so that you may better understand

Remember that when you’re asking for clarification, you’re asking with the intent of understanding. You’re not here to prove that the person’s ideas are wrong or incorrect, you’re here to try and reach a mutual understanding with the person. Try to be open to other ways of working and doing things that are different from your own. You don’t necessarily need to agree in order to understand where someone is coming from, and you don’t necessarily need to discuss until both parties agree with one another. As the saying goes you can “agree to disagree”.

Mutual respect

And above all, aim to have a respectful discussion. Remember that what seems normal to you probably looks obscure and bizarre to someone else.  Even if we approach Kemeticism from different angles, our end goal is the same: to breathe life back into these religious practices and to honor the gods.

To read other posts on this topic, please check out the KRT Master Post

 
 

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Teaching Someone How to Pagan is Like Teaching Someone How to Art

via flickr

I was recently asked by a friend if I knew of any useful resources for someone who was looking into learning how to draw. It seems really simple- there are lots of tutorials out there on the internet for how to draw things: from hands to faces, cylinders to cars. There are lots of resources out there. So I linked them up with a fairly in-depth tutorial on how to draw a person and felt that it was mission accomplished. I patted myself on the back and said “job well done!” and thought it was finished.

But it wasn’t finished.

I received a response that stated that the tutorial seemed too complicated. That drawing that much anatomy out of the gate was way too much and that they needed something simpler than that. And then I realized that from the perspective of someone who was new to art- this probably seemed a little overwhelming or daunting.

I still wanted to help, so I reevaluated what it took to get to where I am artistically. What did we do in school? How did they teach us to draw? How on earth could someone else replicate what we did in school on their own?

And then I began to see a few parallels to polytheism and paganism, and I felt like I had been hit upside the head with an iron beam.

First off, this whole situation reminded me of many of the questions we’d receive at Pagan101. When people become more experienced at the whole polytheism thing, I think they lose track of just how far they have come. Because you might not exactly realize the progress you’ve made, you can lose scope of where newcomers are coming from, and we inadvertently end up inundating them with too much information, or information that is too complex. We think its simple because we’ve been at it for a while, but they are not us. To draw the parallel to the art scenario above, I thought that it was simple and easy to point to a broken down human figure and say “draw like that”. But in reality, we didn’t even start drawing people until the second or third quarter at school. I have completely bypassed what it took to even get to that point.

That’s how it goes for a lot of newcomers in the pagan-sphere, too. We give them a lot of academic books, or we tell them to “google it” and they get overwhelmed. For those of us who are acting as resources within the community, we’ve got to make sure we keep an eye on that.

But more importantly, I realized that “I can’t teach you how to art. No one can.”

And if you swap out “art” with “pagan”, you’ve got the same situation.

For those of you who are not artists, the truth of the matter is- most art is about practice. You can learn new techniques, sure, and those are plenty helpful. But when you’re starting out, what you end up doing the most of is… well, drawing. When I started in school, they sat us down in front of a pile of stuff. They would have us draw the stuff in different ways (contour drawing, negative space drawing, no lifting the pencil.. things like that), but at the end of the day- it was a whole lot of practice. And while we learned the basics for perspective and human anatomy, it was still a lot of trial and error, a lot of tearing up of papers and throwing pencils while you tried to get it “just so” or the teacher made you redraw it… again. Because art is not procedural, there is no way to linearly teach someone how to art. You can only learn how to art by doing.

Religion is much the same way, especially the less institutionalized religions of the Pagan umbrella. When someone comes to me and asks me how they become a Kemetic, all I can do is show them a bunch of information on what Kemeticism entails and hope that they can figure it out themselves. There is no “You do XYZ, and now you’re a Kemetic”. Sure, we proceduralize some of the methods- for instance, if you are a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, you take the informational classes, you undergo the RPD, you receive a name, and now you’re Kemetic Orthodoxy. But even then, you might only be Kemetic Orthodoxy in name.

Same goes for Shinto- you can become a member of the Sukeikai and receive an ofuda and have it in your house- but it doesn’t mean you’re living as a Shintoist.

When it comes to learning how to be a member of a religion, there is no one way to do it. There are as many ways as there are practitioners- and then some. Just like with art, becoming a member of any new religion will likely entail some screaming and throwing of things and crying as well. We all start somewhere, and many of our paths have been jagged and loopy and screwy as can be because there is no way to teach someone how to Pagan.

The best we can do is show you how we do it/did it, and hope that you can figure out what works best for you through trial and error.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Boat Paddling 101: The Two Response Rule

If there was something that I heard a lot when I was growing up, it was my elders telling me that I never knew when to stop. I always took things too far- jokes, ribbing, pushing boundaries- inevitably, I’d piss off whoever I was talking to, or get myself in a load of trouble. My grandfather used to warn me when I was pushing my luck with the phrase “The burro is coming out in you” (which I always read as a burrito, not a donkey, oops) as a means to try and get me to stop while I was still ahead, and in my adulthood, this has been replaced with the Two Response Rule, or TRR for short.

What is the Two Response Rule?

The Two Response Rule was made up by this guy right here. He came up with the idea as a means to help me learn when to stop while interacting with people on the Internet. We’ve all been a part of or bore witness to a “discussion” on the Internet that drags on and on and on and on- where its obvious that each party is set in their ways and isn’t going to budge in their opinion. The Two Response Rule effectively shuts those interactions down before they drag on forever or degrade into flame wars.

Like much of everything within the Boat Paddling arsenal, anyone can use the Two Response Rule, and it can be activated at any point within a discussion. As soon as you feel like the discussion is no longer being productive, or is slipping into a flame war, that’s when it’s time to engage the TRR.

How do I use the Two Response Rule?

The short version of the Two Response Rule is this:

  1. When you respond to someone on a forum, you have two interactions/responses with the other person to gauge whether this conversation will be productive or not.
  2. The first post is a means to convey your point. The second post is an attempt to clarify if necessary.
  3. If after two attempts to convey what you meant prove fruitless, you engage the Two Response Rule and no longer respond to that person, or to that thread in general.

This is particularly useful in very triggering topics and threads where the conversation can get out of hand easily. It also shuts down bullies and trolls before they can get their nails into you. And as the creator of the Two Response Rule says: If you can’t convince them, or get your message across in two responses, you likely aren’t going to get your message across in a hundred responses.

Additionally, you can use the Two Response Rule towards an entire thread, or just one particular person within the thread. The key is knowing your limits and putting a stop to engaging the person who isn’t promoting beneficial discussion.

But I have such a hard time walking away!

I have this problem too, honestly. There are times when I will have a hard time walking away. However, I always try to remember that my spoons are more important than flame wars, and that many times there is no lasting benefit to responding to people who are being inflammatory. If anything, it brings me down with them, and that is of no benefit to myself.

If you have a hard time walking away, I recommend getting up from the computer and doing something else for a while. Give the thread or response a few hours (or overnight) and see if you really feel the same about responding once some time has passed. Many times, you’ll find that setting fire to everything isn’t worth it anymore. And if you’re not busy setting fire to things, you’ll likely have more time to put your efforts into things that are more worthwhile and fulfilling.

Like watching cats on Youtube.

Other Posts in the Boat Paddlers Arsenal:

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Boat Paddling 101: The Basics

Just a little over a year ago, I wrote a post that likened the Kemetic community to islands. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this post would end up opening a whole can of worms that would rocket my Kemetic “career” down a path that I was not expecting. This singular post would end up summing up a large portion of my Kemetic goals and ideals, and would end up being summed up in the catch phrase of “Boat Paddling”.

Eventually, this boat paddling thing would catch on, and I’ve found that others want to learn more about it and possibly get in on it. This is the first in a series of posts where I attempt to help others work on being boat paddlers and incorporate boat paddling concepts into their Kemetic practice.

boat paddling

What is boat paddling?

To go back to the post linked above, I see the Kemetic community as a series of islands in the middle of an ocean. Each island might be considered to be a certain type of Kemeticism (of which there are many). Those of us who are boat paddlers are the Kemetics who sit in their canoes (or other boat of choice) and paddle between the various Kemetic communities and try to establish “trade routes” and “cultural exchanges”. Boat paddlers are the people who don’t tend to sit on only one forum and they are the ones who tend to have resource lists for miles.

Boat paddling, at its core, is about walking the middle ground. The aim is to be balanced in what you say and what you do; you’re meant to talk straight (yet respectfully) and tell it like it is. You’re there to be a mediator and help people along their paths. You’re not there to sling mud or to create rifts where there needn’t be any, and in many cases the goal is to lessen or remove rifts if possible. Boat paddlers are supposed to be about the bigger picture: Community.

The boat paddling mantra can be summed up in one statement: Don’t be a dick.

Who can become a boat paddler?

Anyone, honestly. You can be a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy or a member of the Temple of Ra or a member of no temple at all and become a boat paddler. You can be recon oriented, recon-slanted, HIP, revivalist, Tamaran or something else entirely. Boat paddling is about diplomatic and respectful exchange and discussion. It’s about diversity and community. Therefore, there are no restrictions on temple affiliation or anything like that.

So long as you’re working towards the same/similar goals as the rest of us boat paddlers, you’re a boat paddler. It’s that simple.

Why should anyone care about boat paddling?

I believe that boat paddling helps the community as a whole- both boat paddlers and non-boat paddlers alike. Because boat paddlers are about information and idea exchange and discussion, it allows for more discourse to occur between Kemetics of all stripes. This allows all of us to learn from one another in a safe environment and promotes new ideas and thoughts about our religion and its deities. This type of discussion also clears up misunderstandings and rumors that exist within our community and I think that is definitely important. It helps to provide a more level playing ground for all Kemetics due to the exchange of resources and ideas, and it helps to establish a good foundation for future Kemetics to build upon.

What qualifies someone as a boat paddler?

I think that there are a few key points that make someone a boat paddler. The first is to follow the notion of “Don’t be a dick”. Mind you, I understand that everyone has their moments where they behave less than ideally, and it’s normal for people to lose their cool from time to time, but the idea is to attempt to embody the mantra as much as you can and as often as you can. With everything here, the goal is to aim for the ideal and slowly work your way towards becoming more in-line with that ideal. However, if you can’t even support the idea of “Don’t be a dick”, you will likely have problems with the boat paddling method of Kemeticism.

Additionally, I think another point that a boat paddler will embody would be the ability to discuss calmly. Since a lot of our exchanges occur online via text, it is important to understand that there will be miscommunications and misunderstandings from time to time. A boat paddler will want to try and be calm throughout these situations and will attempt to understand what others are trying to say. When it comes to online etiquette, the aim is to never degrade into a flame war or name calling. Such things would go against the “Don’t be a dick” mindset. I know that this can be a challenge- and this is why I want to discuss more tools and ideas for how we can all work towards better online interactions that reduce miscommunications and spoon loss.

And finally, boat paddlers must be open to new ideas and discussion. The whole point of the boat paddling idea is to have “cultural exchange”- that is, an exchange of ideas and events that occur in different branches of Kemeticism. In order to really learn about these things, you must first be open to discussing your practice and the practice of others. For example, if you are talking about daily rituals within a Kemetic context- you would need to be open to the idea that not everyone will do it your way. If you can’t move beyond the fact that others have different ways to do things, there will be hiccups in learning and discussing things as a community.

So now that I know about boat paddling- what now?

In the future I will be releasing a series of posts detailing some of the ways that boat paddlers handle online interactions and work towards bettering the Kemetic community. It is my hope that these posts will help others to embody some of the boat paddling concepts and methods in their own online interactions. By simply bringing these topics and ideas into your practice and online interactions, you are effectively becoming a boat paddler, it’s that simple 🙂  Some topics that I intend on covering are:

If you have any other topics that you’d like to see covered, please let me know! All Boat Paddling entries can be found in the brand new “Boat Paddlers Arsenal” category (which you can access from the drop down menu on the right).

 
17 Comments

Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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