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Aimless

This post was originally a part of last week’s post, but because of length, I decided to break the post into two with last week focusing more on my mundane life, and this week focusing more on re-entering Kemeticism. If this post seems somewhat repetitive, that is why.

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One of the most interesting and oh-so-fun side effects of my health degrading is my complete and utter lack of memory. I honestly can’t remember most of 2015, 2016… and to some extent, 2017. When I went to start writing posts in August, I realized that I had forgotten that I had posted in April. A lot of what I used to know about Kemeticism still rattles in my head, but I don’t really have access to it anymore.

Because of this side effect, all I could really remember thinking about Kemeticism since my health tanked in 2016 was lukewarm “eh” ness. I mean, when I moved, my shrine sat on a shelf for weeks and collected dust with its doors taped shut while I lukewarmly looked for a place to put it. I couldn’t care less about the gods or the community, and for all I could remember, this had been the case since my “A Good Horse” era.

But recently I found a planner from 2016 that I stored all of my little tidbits in. As it turns out, early 2016 me was very much still jonesing for Kemeticism. I have pages of notes for my book. Pages of notes for how I wanted to release it. Topics that I wanted to write about on WP. Tagging phrases I wanted to use over on tumblr to make resources more searchable. Initiation tidbits that O had pinged for me while I was still able to read (another fun side effect — I can’t read or write very well anymore.)

But between the gap of what was and what is, I lost something. I lost a lot of somethings. And part of that was my original love affair for the NTRW. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but I’m pretty sure it started in the fall of 2016, when I was told through a third party that I should step back on all fronts related to Kemeticism, for my own health, and co-signed it with Set’s name. Regardless of what I wanted or what I felt was the proper handling of such a situation, the writing was pretty apparent on the wall, and it said to gtfo.

I had to be dragged and kicked away from my work. Within a month or two of fully walking away, you couldn’t drag me back to it. I began to find absolute liberty and freedom in being able to see that drama was occurring, and not feel obligated to do anything about it. It was amazing to not have to deal with writing schedules, constantly checking social media platforms, having to field drama or requests to handle drama, etc. I loved being able to just… exist without worrying about this religious community.

But even as I drifted away from Kemeticism, I found that I was often still going back to it. As I began to study permaculture and learn more about the processes that occur in nature, I found myself comparing them to ma’at, to the NTRW, to Kemeticism. Even if I never wanted to see Kemeticism ever again, I couldn’t seem to break free of it, either. It was built so heavily into my worldview that I had nothing else to put in its place to compare new concepts to.

As I began to play with the idea of writing again, I found myself mulling more and more about how I actually felt under the surface about my religion. I knew that I still liked the religion itself, but that my strongest emotions were towards the gods and the community specifically. In many ways, I was content to keep ma’at and pitch the rest–other Kemetics included.

So when grandma died and everything was thrown onto the floor, I really had to figure out why I should even bother to come back to writing at all. Because of the need to be present and offline while handling all of the aspects of cleaning her house, moving in, caring for grandpa, etc. I really got the chance to 100% forget and remove myself from the trappings that used to be my daily life. My shrine was packed away. All of my books were out of sight, and I went months without checking WP and days without checking Tumblr. I completely and totally fell of the map.

And I liked it.

I’m sure this is leading a few of you to ask yourself “well why are you even here, then, if you liked it so much?” And my answer to you is

 

To some extent I can’t justify entirely walking away from what I’ve helped to build, but on the other hand, I’m not as committed to the sparkle motion as I used to be. Or at least, I’m not as committed to the sparkle motion that the gods seemed to want for this community. Part of why I am here is also spite — spite at the gods for their treatment of myself and others, spite at the people who wish I’d just disappear.

So far, the only thing I can really say with any certainty is that becoming more active on discord is probably the main reason I decided it was worth coming back. Being able to talk with other people was what really sold me on doing this work many years ago, and to some extent, its what’s bringing me back now (and frankly, I’m not the only one.) Time and time again, love it or hate it, its those pesky human interactions that seem to bring a lot of us back.

That and spite.

The more I get to interact with people again, the more I remember that it used to be this way before I lost a lot of my friends, and before I became too ill to really bother with talking to anyone anymore. I have no clue how widely-known it is, but when my health tanked and I suddenly stopped posting or doing anything online… almost no one came to check on me, and I know for a fact that that has weighed heavily on me since 2015. When you’re trying to hard just to scrape by, and no one even seems to notice you’re gone, it makes it hard to convince yourself its worth going back to. I’ve realized since that it’s not necessarily that people don’t care, but it’s that people don’t know what they don’t know. And many of us (myself included) really suck at letting people know that we’re thinking of them, or checking in on people.

As I slowly sifted back through the posts that I forgot I wrote, I began to realize that ultimately, I’m in the same position that I’ve always been in. My love for the gods is about a lukewarm as it’s seemingly always been. It’s the people that have always brought me back around and kept me here.

And I think I’m okay with that.

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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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Ma’at, Order and Everything in Between

I recently started reading Violence in the Service of Order: the Religious Framework for Sanctioned Killings in Ancient Egypt by Kerry Muhlenstein, and while I’m only a chapter or so into the book, it’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of ma’at and how it might be applied to the modern era. In the first chapter of the book, Muhlenstein talks about how most sanctioned acts of violence (such as corporeal punishment for criminals, ritual slayings/sacrifices) in AE were done to help preserve the order that existed in that era:

The concept of sacrifice acting to preserve rather than destroy is well articulated by Davies, who postulates that throughout human society “the act [sacrifice] was required, to save the people from calamity and the cosmos from collapse. Their object was, therefore, more to preserve than to destroy life.”69 Thus, sacrifice, in partnership with punishment and law, was aimed at bringing about social and cosmic order, at establishing the correct unity.70 This is especially true of ancient Egypt, a society which concentrated so heavily on the correct cosmic and social order embodied in Ma ‘at. As Willems writes, neither human sacrifice nor execution was so much a matter of revenge as it was an act of countering disorder. (Page 26)

In addition to killing to preserve Order, there is also a sense of othering that often comes with it. When the Egyptians found someone that was other, and this other worked against their perceptions of what was Orderly (read: in ma’at), then the person in question would be aligned with rebels, with people Who Are Not a Part of Our Cool Kids Club (aka society), and would then be disposed of in whatever means they saw fit. All in an attempt to preserve their ideas of Order:

That which qualified someone as a potential sacrificial victim was a sense of “otherness.” In some cases it could be a particularly valuable or holy-and thus “other”-victim. More often it was “exterior or marginal individuals, incapable of establishing or sharing the social bonds that link the rest of the inhabitants. Their status as foreigners or enemies, their servile condition, or simply their age prevents these future victims from fully integrating themselves into the community.”82 It was just such a lack of integration that made both the extraordinarily holy or great and the extraordinarily unholy or despicable individual a candidate for sacrifice. In Egypt, in particular, those who, through their actions, identified themselves with Isfet, could become candidates for sacrifice. Thus Willems writes that it is in keeping with Egyptian thought that their criminals should be sacrificed. (Pages 28-29)

Think of it like a playing-for-keeps execration. But instead of burning a sheet of paper, you’re burning people.

This got me thinking about Order and other-ness, and how it has applied to various cultures across the centuries. While ancient Egypt was relatively similar in how it did things throughout its history, there were still changes that occurred as the culture’s ideas about what was socially acceptable or what was considered to be within ma’at shifted over the years. And even if ancient Egypt had been static in its approach to what was considered the best sort of Order to build a society around, we don’t live in ancient Egypt anymore, and some of their ideas probably don’t fit into the modern practitioner’s world view.

So that then begs to ask, what sort of Order are we trying to build? What sort of Order should we be aiming for? Who or what should be considered as “other”? What kinds of behaviour fall outside of ma’at? Who or what do we want to exclude, if we want to exclude anything/one at all?

If I look to my home country for ideas, I can see that our country’s Order is supposed to be based off freedom and pursuit of your dreams. That sounds great on paper, but our society seems to only want that for a small group of people (originally only for Protestant, white, married men who owned land). The list of “others” in our society is incredibly long, and brings a lot of inequality into our ideas of what proper Order should look like. Of course, those who fall into the “other” category don’t particularly like being excluded from the protections of Order, and as such have been trying to change what Order looks like for our country. This is why we are currently in the middle of a struggle between several groups of people. Some of which want to change the Order of our society. Some of which want it to stay the same.

Possibly due to the fact that so many Kemetics are from the US, or possibly because people are relatively similar across time and location, this has been mirrored in our own community as well:

  • Some Kemetics don’t want any sort of social issues involved in the religion, because that doesn’t fit into their idea of Order. When people start to push social issues into the community, they become “othered” for their attempts.
  • Some Kemetics want to bring social issues in because it’s part of their idea of ma’at. These people might be inclined to “other” those who don’t support social issues or work to fix them.
  • Some Kemetics are okay with certain social issues, but not all social issues. They might only “other” particularly bad cases of bigotry.
  • Some Kemetics want a community that is broken up based off of practice type and model. The practice style would then create the Order, and anyone who doesn’t practice in a similar fashion might be “othered”.
  • Some Kemetics want a community where social behaviour is more important than practice structure. In this case, the code of behaviour becomes the Order, the practice style is irrelevant, and those who don’t fit into the ideal for behaviour might be “othered” regardless of practice style.
  • Some Kemetics want a no holds barred sort of community, where anyone can say anything regardless of how it’s said. In this case, no one will ever be “othered” due to their all-encompassing definition/perceptions of Order.
  • Other Kemetics want everyone to behave a certain particular way, because that’s how they consider ma’at to apply to social behaviour. They will “other” anyone who doesn’t behave exactly as they want, regardless of the legitimacy (or lack thereof) for their actions.

You’ve got a lot of different ideas of how our community should be built, run, etc. You’ve got a lot of different ideas about what Order should look like and who should be allowed to participate or not (aka who should be considered “othered” and who shouldn’t). It should go without saying that this creates some level of conflict between all of us, especially when it comes to that “othering”.

This can be further compounded by the format that we use to interact with one another. It’s pretty well known that text is hard to understand in terms of tone, and it can often lead to people blowing up, misunderstandings and arguments. These kinds of interactions are particularly important, as our understanding of what should be considered a part of Order and who should be “othered” will influence how we handle difficult social interaction within the community.

Of course, there are a few tools in our arsenal for figuring out whether someone’s behaviour is within our perceived idea of Order. We have the yardstick of dickery to help dictate whether someone is being a dick or not, and some suggestions on how to handle those situations. In cases where forums or FB groups are the venue, there are rules that dictate the group’s idea of Order that you’re supposed to follow as a member, which also give details on how to handle rule breakers.

However, these things don’t always work as there are plenty of groups who don’t apply their rules consistently or effectively when people break them (aka groups with lackluster admin staff). And when the interaction happens outside of a location that has admin staff, it becomes a matter of one Kemetic’s idea of Order and “othering”  clashing against another Kemetic’s idea of Order and “othering”. This is where most of the worst friction can occur, as some Kemetics believe that those that fall into their “other” category are fair game to treat however they see fit. There are Kemetics who simply don’t have good peopling skills, and make social faux pas regularly. Other co-religionists may then jump in and take sides, and it can spiral out of control if we’re not careful.

There are a lot of grey areas for figuring out how to handle such interactions within the community, and each individual will probably have different ideas on the best way to handle them. Figuring out what to do about these grey areas will probably be a less-than-smooth process, as is usually the case when you’re trying to establish a protocol or identify your idea of Order:

This is relevant in the modern era, given that our society is not entirely just or fair to it’s people. That may leave many readers wondering “how does ma’at fit into such a society? Is it better to go with what is already established, even if it possibly harms portions of the population? What is considered Good or Right in such a setting?” If literature from the First Intermediate Period has anything to say about it, ma’at rests in caring for the vulnerable and underserved, and working to reestablish true justice, fairness and order within the surrounding society. That means that sometimes you have to be the fly in the ointment, because reestablishing what is Good in a society often means upsetting others. But if one never steps forward to help reestablish, then ma’at can never prevail. Karenga, 61

If nothing else, this book has highlighted a potentially glaring issue in our community as it continues to grow and move forward: we haven’t fully established what we consider to be a part of our Order, nor have we established who we think should be “othered” (if anyone at all).

In the business world, it’s recommended that you create a Mission Statement when you create your business as a means to help direct your business where you want it to go. It also helps your employees to understand what your business is out to achieve, its ethics and its approach to business. Then the employee can tailor their actions to fit within that business model. Our community doesn’t really have such a thing outside of “living in ma’at”. Of course, ma’at is subjective and vague, and as mentioned above, this obscurity can create a lot of friction between members. Perhaps this is because we haven’t taken the time to truly discuss what we think a modern Kemetic community should look like beyond the basics of “maintain ma’at”.

Maybe it’s time that we started to look into changing that. Otherwise, I foresee a lot of the same friction that is occurring now continuing indefinitely into the future.

Do you think there is any benefit in discussing what modern Kemeticism’s idea Order should look like? If so, what do you think our community’s Order should look like?

Do you think that there are any particular groups of people that would fit into the “other” category? Why or why not? If you believe that there is a group worth “othering”, would they ever be able to move from that category, or are they permanently labeled as such?

How do you think the community should handle the idea of a mission statement beyond “live in ma’at”? How should we handle the friction that occurs between different members that may have drastically different ideas about what the “correct” way to practice Kemeticism is?

If anyone decides to take a stab at these prompts, let me know and I’ll create a responses section below!

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism

 

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Not All Polytheists

This past weekend I noticed a thread on tumblr circulating about a new post over on Gods & Radicals about extreme-Right politics and it’s appearance in Paganism/polytheism. When I first saw the thread, I skimmed through the post, shrugged my shoulders and moved on. To me, there wasn’t anything particularly earth-shattering written in said post. It discusses some of the hallmarks of authoritarianism, and how it can manifest in people’s ideals, and then goes over some people and groups that have been shown to have these ideals and/or purport them. It then discusses how the New Right might be influencing certain groups, which groups are possibly more at risk than others, and then discusses some ways to (possibly) combat Fascism in our communities.

I don’t know that I agree with all aspects of the post and I don’t know that I would have written about the topic in the same way, but there was nothing that was particularly interesting in said post to me so I closed my browser and moved on. (ETA: There has been an update to the original post called “The Uncomfortable Mirror”)

But then I realized that everyone seemed to be in a huff over this post. Some people are calling to boycott G&R. Some people want to even boycott people who support G&R. I was so confused by the backlash that I had to go and read the post again. And again. And again. And then I had to ask some other people to read the post as well because I honestly couldn’t see what the big deal is. The only problematic thing I could find was that HUAR was listed as a resource when it’s been proven to be a problematic place in the past.

I then logged into WP and found that several people have also written responses to this post (links at the bottom), and only through reading those posts have I begun to get an idea of why everyone is so worked up. To put it very succinctly, the overall reason why people are upset is basically this: “How dare you lump People Like Me in with people like that!” With a hint of “hierarchies are not always bad” and “quit mixing your politics with my religion”.

That’s it. That’s all it seems to come down to. Here are a few snippets to highlight this if you don’t feel like reading the posts in their entirety:

This article associates many of our most meaningful and vibrant traditions with some of the most vile ideologies lurking at the edges of our community. It’s no wonder many Pagans and polytheists who have read this piece are upset. (Beckett)

It’s also not ok to claim that those who do not automatically share political ideology in common with those particular individual religions are somehow flirting with some form of light fascism—this is a silencing tactic. Given the current climate of anger and fear (both in the US and abroad), it’s a powerful silencing tactic. And it’s wrong, devastatingly wrong. It’s a wrong thing to do to associate others with different political or economic ideologies with vile things such as racism, sexism, and totalitarianism, and a destruction of diversity. (Dawson)

I guess my point here is that I too am concerned about right-wing influences creeping into devotional polytheism, but the way that Gods & Radicals has chosen to express this sentiment is extremely problematic. Making sweeping statements like the one I quoted above will only serve to alienate those devotional polytheists who, like me, side with the Left. (Marian)

Now I can sorta get where people are coming from. It’s frustrating when you feel like you and your co-religionists are not really a Thing, and someone is claiming that you are all this Thing. Trust me when I say that I know exactly how that feels as it is a very constant problem over on Tumblr. It can be frustrating and invalidating, especially if you are trying very hard not to endorse or be the Thing that someone is saying or insinuating you are participating in. This is further compounded by the possibility that someone could read the list on the original post and ignore the disclaimer, and instantly assume that everyone in that group is Bad News (which would encompass nearly every part of the Pagan/polytheist community, since the groups listed pretty much includes all of us in some way or another).

However, if you are so put out by the notion that other people in your religion and/or community are not exactly like you, and may not be supporting the best of ideals, then that is an issue and you really need to look closer at your religious community. Every group has problematic members. Every single one. Quite honestly, I consider the list that was placed in the G&R post a little useless, because nearly every. single. religious community has problematic people- including those who are very right leaning. Even in cases where a religion is set up to be equality-driven and very left leaning (such as Kemeticism and Shinto), you’ll find folks who manage to skew it to serve more extreme agendas and needs. Hell, even the cultures who practiced these religions had a tendency of doing so. You can find ways to make any religion be extremist, and/or extremely damaging to its people.

The more responses to the G&R post that I read, the more I felt like I was trapped in a #notallmen discussion, or even an #allivesmatter discussion. That is to say, it felt like people were blatantly missing the point because they were too wrapped up in their personal discomfort to even consider if the points being raised were valid or useful. If all you got from the article is “how dare you lump me in with them”, I feel like you’re missing the point. I get that some people believe that their religious category or community shouldn’t be lumped in with Fascism (this seems to be especially true of those who are from the Devotional Polytheist group/community), but the truth still remains that every group has problems and we should be having discussions on how to combat these problems. Even if you haven’t seen the problematic members, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there or that they don’t exist. I feel that when someone is raising concerns about a community or group, the answer isn’t to put your hands up and say “don’t look at me!” because you don’t think you’re part of the problem. This is such an important conversation to have, and it’s all of our responsibilities to keep our communities safe, and to make them unwelcome to people who are hurtful to other community members.

I had made a post a few years ago about how branding is everything, and I feel that it’s relevant and apt for this conversation. If your community has shitty people in it, even if they’re fringe, give them enough time and they will begin to effect whether people want to join your religious community or not. We can’t combat these issues and problems by sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming “that’s not me, quit lumping my group in with that other group that has nothing to do with me” because eventually that fringe group can and will become too loud to ignore, which in turn means that they will eventually become your problem, too (as can be seen in US politics right now). The act of calling attention to problematic behaviours and trends within the larger community is not the same as saying everyone in the community is bad. We need to learn to understand that calling attention to a problem (even if the wording or method leaves some of us wanting), and stating that there is a problem isn’t the same as saying that everyone is problematic. Just like with women raising awareness about how sexism makes them uncomfortable around men doesn’t inherently mean that all men are horrible. Just like when the black community says that black lives matter doesn’t necessarily or even inherently mean that other lives don’t matter either.

allhousesmatter

Now don’t get me wrong, as I said above I don’t necessarily agree with all aspects of the G&R post (the wording isn’t the best, I don’t think that the list of possible vulnerable groups was useful because we’re all vulnerable in some way or another, the inability to comment and discuss on the page is not helpful and can give the wrong idea about the nature of the post, and the lack of author, date, etc. is confusing and frustrating), and quite frankly I find that this article does a much better job at explaining how modern authoritarianism takes form and how otherwise ordinary people can turn towards authoritarianism under certain circumstances. It also goes over what people who tend to learn towards authoritarianism tend to look for in ideologies (whether political or religious, hint: reconstructionism would be a huge draw to authoritarianism types based off of the findings in this article). I also don’t necessarily disagree with every point raised in the counter posts that I pulled quotes from above (f’ex: I don’t find hierarchies inherently bad, depending on how they’re used, which was a concern raised by Beckett. I agree that the wording in the listing wasn’t the best, and the disclaimers might not be enough in some situations). The truth is that I’m rather ambivalent about the G&R post all together, and I thought it was common knowledge that we’ve got problematic people in every community (hence my confusion at why people are so worked up). However, I still can’t agree with the idea that the G&R post is entirely out of line simply based off of the notion of “how dare you lump me in with them.” We can’t fix the problems we won’t acknowledge. We can’t acknowledge problems if we can’t get past our own discomfort long enough to even consider that there is a problem. And we can’t fix the problems we acknowledge if we don’t actively work against said problems.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to help make our communities safe for everyone, and if we’re all too busy going “that’s not me, don’t lump me in with them” instead of discussing how to actually deal with the problem at hand, how on earth are we going to get anywhere? Instead of wasting time going back and forth on “who is really the Fascist here because it’s not me”, how about we focus on ways to get crappy people or ideologies out of our communities so that more people can safely enjoy the religions that we all support and love?

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Kemeticism, Rambles, Uncategorized

 

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Thoughts on Oversharing

I have learned that if there is one thing that will get you side-eyed in the wider Pagan community, it’s oversharing. I’ve lost count of how many posts I’ve seen where someone will discount experiences, ideas, and people based off of how much information someone has revealed about a given topic in a certain amount of time. For example, if you show up to a new Pagan group and your first post/interaction tells everyone every intimate detail about your personal life, odds are everyone will take 3 steps back and be leery to talk to you for a while. Simply put, oversharing is often a red flag for a lot of people.

Oversharing is defined as “revealing an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life,” and the truth is, we do have quite a few people in the community who do share quite a lot. However, the line between sharing and oversharing is a hazy one, and will likely shift depending on who you’re talking to. Some people think that sharing pictures of your shrine is oversharing. Some people believe that you should never talk about your magical workings because that is oversharing. Others consider talking about anything sexual (whether tied to a non-physical being or physical being) to be oversharing. But in contrast, some people are okay with all of these things and welcome people to talk about them with as many juicy details as you can remember.

The act of oversharing isn’t inherently bad, but it does carry a stigma with it in almost every corner of our society. I find this to be somewhat unfortunate because it does tend to shut people down from openly discussing topics that might be beneficial to the group, and it can alienate members of a community. I myself have been guilty of oversharing, and I go through waves where I suppress my desire to share things about my life- both in the physical and in the Unseen- because I fear what could come of posting such things online where others can see it. This brought me to consider why it is that we sometimes overshare, and perhaps why it is that others dislike oversharing so much?

Why do people overshare?

In order to answer this question, I looked back at my own experiences to see why it was that I was so prone to oversharing once upon a time. If you were to take a look at my tumblr feed now, you’d probably think to yourself “Devo, you don’t overshare at all”, and you’d be correct. That’s because I fell out of the habit of sharing much of anything personal, and became almost too private in some respects. However, if you were to go back into my archives and look at, say, March of 2013, you’d see a very different story. The same could be said if you dug up my old LJ- I used to share an awful lot of random, useless information about myself, my practice, and my astral happenings to anyone who would listen to me.

But the more important question is: why?

Looking back at my own personal incidents of oversharing, I think the main factor for myself was anxiety. I was anxious about all of this new stuff that was going on, and I needed to put those emotions and feelings somewhere. Of course, I could have placed these emotions in a safe place where no one could see them, but then I wouldn’t be able to get feedback on what I was experiencing, and any possibility of experiencing validation from my peers wouldn’t have occurred. Validation during an anxious time is huge for a lot of people, and I was no exception. I can definitely recall myself asking and posting a bunch of very specific things, hoping that someone somewhere would happen across it and go “oh that thing! I know that thing that you speak of! It is definitely a thing!” All I really wanted was for someone to make me feel like I wasn’t losing my mind or making things up. And that caused me to share anything and everything that I thought could produce that sort of result.

Another aspect of this might be microblogging. Many people will microblog as a means of managing anxiety. This can be less about validation, and more about managing emotions in a more controlled environment where you are less likely to cause harm to anyone. Microblogging can also allow you to receive constructive (or not-so-constructive) feedback from people that can help you in whatever situation you find yourself in. And I think in many situations in the Pagan community, people are making multiple posts with lots of personal details because they are trying to cope with the anxiety they are facing about a given situation. Whether that’s tied to the prospect of gods actually talking to you, or of a deity actually having emotions for you beyond platonic friends, or the possibility that you fell into a non-physical plane and were chased by a group of people.

All of this Pagan stuff is kinda overwhelming when you first come into it, and I think that that influences a lot of why people overshare. Especially when they start out. It’s less about being an “attention whore” and more about trying to cope and understand what you’re learning and/or experiencing. And in that same vein, I have found that most people will slowly share less and less as they get more experienced. It’s as if you gain a sort of filter or “standard” for what should or should not be shared with others. And for many people, it’s that very standard that they use to judge how much others should be sharing about their own practice- which can be detrimental if it causes someone to treat people poorly over it.

Is oversharing bad?

You may be looking at this and hearing about how oversharing is disliked and wondering if it’s a bad thing to overshare your experiences. The truth is, oversharing is not inherently bad. So long as you are comfortable with the amount of information you are sharing, that is what is most important. However, there are some instances where oversharing is probably not recommended that I feel everyone should consider.

The first consideration is your safety. Oversharing can be problematic if you’re handing out information that can be used to cause you harm. Harm can come in many forms when it comes to the Pagan community, and so you should consider things from several angles before posting something online. For example, one of the biggest things people are warned about is posting anything that could lead people to where you live, work, etc. You wouldn’t want to post stuff that would make it easy for stalkery types to find you, or stuff that might cause you to lose your job if someone sent the information to your boss. However, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Data mining and manipulation run rampant in the wider community, and you should be careful not to post too much information that might make it easy for someone to manipulate you, lie to you, or fake a spiritual experience to get something out of you.

Another thing to consider is your audience. Sometimes people are not equipped to handle oversharing or overly sensitive topics. Making sure that you are putting your information in a place where others can choose to engage or skip the information based off of their current needs is important. You wouldn’t want to weigh someone down with baggage that they can’t handle. Those types of situations don’t benefit anyone. In addition to this, if your content is too mature for your audience, could trigger your audience, or my break the rules of a particular group or forum you’re in, then you probably should reconsider whether you should be sharing or not.

It’s also important to consider the needs of anyone else you might be mentioning in your sharing. If your experience includes someone else besides yourself- whether that be a physical person or a non-physical entity, you should heavily consider what effect your sharing of that information could have on the other people involved. If you’re not sure, it’s probably better to double-check with them before posting any relevant information. And if your sharing could hurt anyone in particular, you should also possibly reconsider.

Why all the hassle with oversharing?

The one thing that I haven’t been able to really pin down is why we consider oversharing to be an inherently negative thing. Why is it that we automatically assume that the less you share, the more legit your practice is? Does it have to do with the appearance of being secure in your practice? Does it have to do with some notion that oversharing is a cry for attention, and that that is somehow bad? Is there something else that we have possibly missed all together?

The more I have picked apart the ideas and methods behind oversharing, the more I have realized that many of us judge those who share a lot about their lives unfairly, or perhaps too quickly. Divulging large parts of your practice doesn’t really indicate anything, in all truthfulness. I’ve met people who share a little and people who share a lot- and I’ve met people who seemed legit and not-so-legit in both categories. Even though I’ve been trained to consider oversharing a red flag, I’ve not found that it necessarily indicates something either way about the accuracy, discernment or truthfulness of the individual in question.

It seems to me that oversharing often gets a bad rap for no particular reason. It’s my hope that by reconsidering the nature of oversharing- what causes it, and how much is truly too much can help us to redefine what it means to share vs. overshare. I mean, so long as you’re being critical in what you share, or considering the things mentioned above, there really isn’t anything wrong with sharing your experiences in whatever capacity you feel is best.

For those of you who share a lot- are there any reasons behind why you share as much as you do? Have you received any negative feedback or associations tied to your openness?

And for those of you who are critical of oversharing- are there reasons behind why you are critical? Have you found any trends with oversharing that have made you wary of the practice?

 
8 Comments

Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Rambles

 

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Branding is Everything

Alternate Title: Your House Won’t Clean Itself
Alternate Alternate Title: Communities Don’t Have Roombas

There is a saying that we have in the design industry, and it goes something like this: branding is everything. If you google this saying, you’ll get well over 44 million hits as of this post, and for good reason. Branding really does make or break a company, person, or product.

Branding is one of those topics that everyone likes to talk about, and it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but many people don’t really know what it actually is. So for those of you who don’t know what branding is, here is a succinct definition:

Your brand is owned by your customers, the people you work with, and anyone else who has an impression of you. Your brand is other people’s perception of what it’s like to do business with you, work with you, or be with you.

Nothing is more important than your brand, because it’s what defines you, regardless of the work you do. […] The essence of building a strong brand is simply this: keeping your promises and creating great experiences for others.

[…]You literally have as many brands as you have customers and people who have an impression of you. If those impressions are bad, or if you don’t keep your promises, then your brand is weak. (source).

In other words, your brand is how you are perceived as a person, company, product, or organization. It’s what people think about when they think of you or your services, products, etc. It’s literally anything and everything you ever do, say, produce, or put out into the world.

Your branding is literally everything, and companies are made and unmade based off of the accuracy and efficacy of their brand.

“But what does this have to do with me?! I came here to read about Pagan and polytheistic topics, not about design!”, you are probably thinking (because I have branded my blog to be about those topics specifically). Thing is, branding effects you, too. You as an individual are also a brand.

Don’t believe me?

If you have a blog on the internet and you talk to people- whether it be on Tumblr, WP, FB or in forums, you have a brand. How you interact with people creates an expectation about who you are, what you stand for, and how you treat others. If you consistently answer people bruskly and harshly- you will be branded an asshole. If you smack people over the head with “True polytheists only do XYZ”, you will be branded, possibly, as part of the Piety Posse. If you post ahistorical stuff as canon, you may be branded as someone people can’t trust. And so the list goes on.

We are all individual brands because our interactions with others creates a perception about who we are and what people can expect from us. But there is more to it than just that. Our communities have brands as well. And I’m pretty sure we all know it on some level or another.

To test this out, I want you to take a minute and think about the various sects of the Pagan/polytheist community. Think about Wiccans and Heathens, Hellenics and Kemetics, Ceremonial Magicians and Canaanite polytheists. When you think of all of these groups, what comes to mind? Whatever impression you’re thinking of is the brand that each of these communities has made, intentionally or otherwise.

Each person is going to have a different impression of each community. This impression will be based off of a number of things: personal interactions with people of the community, things that they have heard through the rumor mill or hearsay, personal biases towards certain religions or religious sects, etc. But usually, given enough time a trend will emerge, a stereotype if you will. This stereotype, this brand can make or break your community and how successful it is.

And its something we should be paying more attention to.

I’ve seen people lament that their community has bad PR. “Everyone thinks we’re a bunch of assholes” they’ll post. “Why is our tag filled with jerks?” they’ll cry. And every time I see these posts, I want to ask in return: “Well what have you done about it?”

You see, branding will happen whether you try to control it or not. But all of the best designers know that branding shouldn’t happen by accident. Branding happens on purpose, by design. That’s why people hire us- to help push the brand of a company, person, or product in a particular direction. And if you want your community’s brand to change, you have to play a role in making it happen. And when I say you, I mean you reading this right now. When I say you, I mean all of you. It takes everyone working together to make consistent, lasting change.

The pagan community has a really bad habit of whispering to themselves about how someone’s bad behaviour is ruining it for everyone else, but then I never see these people actually do anything about it. You have to actively combat the bad stuff in your community and replace it with good stuff in order to make an active change in your branding. In the same way that your house won’t magically clean itself, your community won’t magically clean up it’s act on it’s own, either. You have to actively destroy and remove the bad apples that are in your community tree. Just like the NTRW fighting isfet each and every day- making a community’s brand better requires consistent work. It’s not something you can do every few months and expect success. It’s not something you can put onto one or two people and expect success. You have to all work at it all the time. Otherwise, those bad apples will crop up again, and your PR goes down the drain.

If people think that your community is filled with sexist jerks, the only way to change that is to find a way to remove the sexist jerks from your community. Whether this be through distancing yourself from them or flat out removing them from the community (this isn’t always possible). If the loudest names in your community are assholes, then it shouldn’t surprise you that people will begin to think that you’re all assholes. And the only way, again, to improve the PR for your community is to shout louder than the biggest names or to denounce the behaviour that they are exhibiting.

In other words, if you want your community to improve, you must actively work to improve it. Trust me when I say that passively ignoring horrible people in your community doesn’t work. The Kemetic community proved this last year when a bunch of racism began to crop up on various forums. On the surface, it may not look like it made much of a difference, but I assure you that people paid attention. And because of the passivity exhibited by many of the forum administrators, people have expressed discontent and a lack of trust in these groups.

These groups had their brand weakened (because branding is built on trust, which is built on consistency) because they refused to take an active stance against racism in their ranks. Many Kemetics lost faith in these groups which resulted in a number of things- from membership loss to no longer recommending these groups because racism seemed to be actively supported by the administrators.

And that’s really the caveat to a lot of this. You don’t have to actively be a dick in your community to appear to support dicks. All you have to do is remain silent, and no one knows the difference. There is a phrase that says “guilty by association” and it is apt in our communities as well. If you don’t actively speak out against things that you don’t want in your community, people will begin to assume that you are in support of this type of behaviour. And so the behaviour will persist, and the community becomes associated with the behaviour that appears to be supported- regardless of whether it actually is or not.

Perception is everything. And everything is branding. If your branding sucks, your community is going to suffer and you shouldn’t be surprised when you get lumped in with the loudmouth who is also in your community who also happens to treat people like crap. In addition, if you link to people who are jerks, you are essentially supporting those people by giving them views, and you shouldn’t be surprised when you get lumped in with them as well. Guilty by association is pretty common in all sectors of humanity, and if you don’t want your brand infected by people who are scum, you have to learn how to distance yourself from said scum.

Branding is everything. And if your branding is lacking, I recommend you take a hard look at your community and figure out what exactly is going on that is causing people to have that impression about your religion. And from there, I encourage everyone within the community to take action to create the type of community you want to exist in. Because that is the only way that anything will ever change.

How often do you think about the branding of your religious community? Have you ever worked to change people’s impressions about your religious community? If so, what was the result?

 
10 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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