Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Minor Rant: That Big Umbrella & the Confusion It Brings...

Community Mandala: Many individual visions manifesting  (Within distinct boundaries -- not a picture of reality)
Community Mandala: Many individual visions manifesting
(Within distinct boundaries -- not a picture of reality)

I haven't had a good major rant in a long time, but after expressing my irritation to a friend/mentor, she suggested that I consider not expending too much energy pointing out what I do not like as it gives those things more power, draws attention to them & strengthens them all the while wasting my own energy...

Hence, the minor rant.

I signed on to help recruit speakers for, let's call it, a "spiritual symposium." I made a whole bunch of assumptions about what symposium means. I also made a great many assumptions about what "spirituality" & "religion" mean. I really thought I had a grasp of what I needed to do & I became excited, perhaps overly so, about helping make this event happen. I aimed for passion, experience, expertise & diversity. Among the presenters I had approached &/or secured were: 

  • A Sifu/Qi Gong & Kung Fu Master, to discuss some of the basics of Qi Gong energy work
  • A Master Shibari Artist, to speak about the magickal use of fiber art throughout history
  • A Hellenic Devotional Polytheist & published author, to discuss the basics of the Greco-Roman pantheons & modern Hellenic practice
  • A Hedgewitch/Herbalist, to present local wortcunning information & demonstrate making tinctures & salves
  • A Goddess-centric UU Minister & seasoned women's circle leader, to speak about Modern Goddess worship
  • A Wiccan Priestess, to present an introduction to Faery Magick
  • The Bodymaster for the local O.T.O. encampment, to give an introduction to the O.T.O. and the A∴A∴: & their relationship to/role in the history of Thelema
  • A modern shamanic practitioner & Reiki therapist, to provide instruction about basic meditation or journey work...

And there were several more, but I am going to stop before I get disgusted to this becomes a major rant because all this was ultimately rejected by the event Organizer because:

  • "People" (whoever these "people" are) are not interested in learning about things that they don't already recognize & know something about
  • "People" also find the "theoretical" topics & lectures (i.e., the spiritual & esoteric subjects) boring or perhaps even intimidating & therefore will not attend an event with too much "intellectual" content
  • These same "people" do not have the attention span to tolerate any presentation that approaches or exceeds an hour in length
  • And "people" are not interested in lectures anyways, they "want to make stuff they can take home & put on their altars" or really, just anything they can make...

Along with all this was the redundant, tiresome assumption that anything about "green living" = pagan. And, that all people who identify as "pagan" have "altars" they like to fill with stuff.

Since I do not have an altar (there are some assumptions there I don't think I need to point out), I am not into just making (or buying, collecting, accumulating, etc. which is one of my ways of "being green") stuff for the sake of having stuff & I was pointedly accused of being "more intellectual" than the "people," I had to (graciously) withdraw myself from the project (ironically, I had already completed my part which was presenter recruitment) & cancel all but two of the presenters above. 

I had to excuse myself anyway because somewhere in the last meeting I cast aside my muzzle & shared my opinion.

Which made for some awkward moments.

And a follow up apology.

But, such is the Catch 22 of the big "umbrella" where we have people who identify as some form of "neo-pagan" or alternative spirituality, revival religion, or Earth-based whatever... The spectrum is then cast from the Earth-worshipping Eco-hippie, to the Daoist/Vedic/Heathen/Celtic/You-Name-It Druid, to the secretive Trad-Witch, to the most narrowly particular of devotional polytheists to far-flung neo-shaman, to the most eclectic CUUPS member, to the "Crafty Craft-ers" who get their spirit on making crocheted Cthulhu dolls. Oh, & there is everything in-between & un-decided.

And usually I revel in the diversity. But this week, not so much.

Or, maybe it's that I don't appreciate it when other folks cannot appreciate it.

And make assumptions.

Which, admittedly, I did too. But at least I feel good in making my assumptions on the side of diversity, education and not grossly underestimating the "people."

And I could whine about all the wasted time & effort that took me away from more important things (like writing!), but I won't because I received some valuable instruction on the troublesome habit of assuming. (I never seem to nail that one.)

And I could now go on & on about people who thump on their "green bibles" yet drive the largest vehicles on the American market (with no commercial or practical reason for that size rig) or people who think pagan = Wicca or that magick is only effective if performed "their way," or those who never want to get deeper than the "tools," or, or, or...

But I won't.

Because, as I said, this is a minor rant. 


Alison Leigh Lilly said...

I feel you on all of this! I'm not much of a community organizer type, so I haven't run into it in that sense, but it's very similar to many conversations I've had with publishers and editors when it comes to my writing. Worries about "not having an audience" and the material I want to write about being "too difficult" for most people or "not what most people are really looking for." (Who are these "most people" and why do I never seem to meet them anywhere when I have real conversations with real people?) The phrase "lowest common denominator" sometimes gets used (which is enough to spark a minor rant of my own, though usually I can keep it in check until I'm at home with my husband).

Luckily, as an "ecologically minded" Pagan, I know that organisms survive not only by fitting themselves into pre-existing niches, but by creating new niches to suit their needs. My philosophy is, if I want an audience that can dig deep, rise to a challenge and handle more difficult topics, there's only one way to get that: Go out and cultivate one! :) Good for you for encouraging people to live up to your hopes.

Bryan Perrin said...

A minor rant that strikes a major chord!

Moma Fauna said...

Ha! I love you! :)

Moma Fauna said...


"Most people"... I always want to ask, *which* most people. Maybe because I am not looking to attract or appeal to "most people," most anyone, or really the most of anything... I want to make connections with *MY* people. Does that make sense? And it's true, I rarely meet those "most people" either, nor do I meet that many of *MY* people, but it just seems to me that there are *some* of these people, & *some* of those people & *some* of another sort of people, but I have my doubts about the existence of those "mosties."

Having worked in the public education system for nearly a decade, the "least common denominator" used anywhere outside the context of a Mathematics lesson will also stir my rant-pot. ;)

"...I know that organisms survive not only by fitting themselves into pre-existing niches, but by creating new niches to suit their needs..." Love this, from one "ecologically-minded" critter to another. So I will go on with my stubborn self & keep the bar where I expect it to be & people can ride it with me or go do something else. Like make stuff. Or not.

Katy Magee said...

Sigh. "Know your audience," right? I'd like to know who these "people" are too - so I can avoid events aimed at them. Their events must be excruciatingly dull. I'd much rather go to whatever would have come from your efforts. But then, I'm big on learning new stuff that's actually new to me.

The Open Gyre said...

I can imagine that without financial backing it might not be possible but since you already gathered together all these people could you maybe turn it into some event of your own? -- even an online symposium or one off lulu book or something if a flesh-world event is not realistic. Seems a shame to waste all your efforts.

Having said that you are a big inspiration in your own right here in the blogosphere so I'm selfishly happy when your energy flows this way.

Moma Fauna said...

"I'd like to know who these "people" are too - so I can avoid events aimed at them...." LOL Katy
Apparently I can point you to at least one...

Moma Fauna said...

My Open Friend of the Mandala-Love-&-Beauty-Work,

"Do the gods flow in and out of us as they flow in and out of each other?"

I must answer yes.

I had a friend I admire very much & have always considered so much more accomplished than myself tell me today (after asking about the "real" story having heard about this mess from another person -- goodness, how bad news travels! Humans just love it!), "I have always wanted to take classes with you." To which I chuckled & said, "I don't teach, except by accident."

I think when "They" (who am I to define?) flow, unfettered within us, that's when these "accidents" happen.

So I am not going to drop all that work off on the curb for pick up. Instead, I began a conversation with a friend of like mind who has organized this event in the past & wants to help me make it happen next year... They must have been flowing quite freely when I cooked that one up. Who knows, perhaps we can even bring up/over/across a guest speaker or two. ;)

FourBearsPress said...

Ok I had to leave a comment, and make it a bit more public, because I am part of "the people" well the community rather ;) I may have attended if the speakers you had invited had been part of the event. Also, contrary to popular belief, I hate crafty and would not bother attending or even teaching such mediocre and "surface" stuff. (Notice I was not asked)
I think "the people" deserve more and the organizer is being short sighted and limiting! I am going to stop there befor I go on my own rant.
I would be interested in joining in for next year.

Dorothy said...

...and, you of course touched on the major reason I threw up my hands and left. At a certain point, it took a lot of squinting to see how people with these attitudes were "my people". It's a waste of time trying to do what you want to do with people who don't want the same thing. As for intellectualism...well, pagans invented philosophy, and that is probably the major thing that got S. at least interested in it, and boy was he disappointed. Unfortunately, I'm not so good with minor rants, which is why I had to actually, physically remove myself from how toxically pissed off this kind of thing made me feel. :-/ Met some good and interesting pagans in the group, so I obviously can't regret it, but I've met some good and interesting ones outside of it too. It's not for everyone anymore than anything else is. All communities, to be real and viable communities, need to have things that unify them, and for me, a notion of "diversity" doesn't cut it, because someone always decides where that diversity ends, and groups like these try too hard to obscure this fact I thnk, and it ends up feeding a lot of miscommunication and disappointment for people in the long term. I assumed, you assumed, they assumed. This is what people do. It's what these assumptions reveal about our own values that is of the greatest importance and it shows us who are our people most clearly.

Dorothy said...

Oh, I heard about this cancellation from one of the disappointed would-have- been presenters, by the way and I checked here to see if you had more to say about it. I sent her this way for more information, if she wants.

Moma Fauna said...

"...I am part of "the people"..." I think that depends on *which* "people." You are most definitely one of the community's people, but I would never lump you in with "the people" who "want to make stuff to put on their altars." In fact, I don't even know that you have an "altar,' proper. (?)

And if you wish to know the truth, I had a passing thought of asking you but had found out that there was this idea getting cooked up that the art & making-things workshops were going to happen in the SAME ROOM as a lecture, SIMULTANEOUSLY ("like last year") & I couldn't abide by that (& I knew you couldn't either) & so I didn't ask. Some other people, who were operating on a fantasy about what the space can accommodate, *did* ask... you know, because they want to make stuff by wrapping wire around stuff...

SO... We'll make a spot for you for next year -- get thinking. ;)

Moma Fauna said...

I was wondering what took you so long, ha! ;)

And, believe me, I was reminded of you more times than you can count as this situation began to implode & then explode.

But, where we are different -- & I think this is the critical difference -- is that I have been a diversity glutton since I can remember. Perhaps it is the anthropology major in me. In addition, I keep my religious/spiritual/esoteric activity close & private & haven't ever had much inclination for shared worship, veneration, etc. involving my personal devotions. Of course I know that you keenly crave that & honestly, that alone is enough to explain your frustration.

But, the anti-intellectualism I witnessed is also pretty appalling. Except that I haven't been seeing a great deal of that lately. In fact, I have seen a very positive response to more thought-provoking discussions & topics, which is why I went for it.

Our "Organizer" is, IMHO, still standing around in a picture of the past. At least that is what I gather from things she has said & it seems she yearns for the good ole days when there was a small "tribe" of people who all knew way too much about one another. (I have heard enough(!) romanticization of the past lately.) Which is why I made a point to mention in my letter that I have contact with many branches of the community & it's extended networks that she has yet to meet. (But I am pretty sure she doesn't want to.)

Over the years I have cultivated a connection with a collection of kind, likable & yes, very diverse people who I keep close. None of them venerate Nyx or her children. Some of them might talk to the Moon (She's terribly popular, you know.) None of them talk to fungi. Some of them keep shrines. All of them hold something sacred close to their hearts, have a pressing desire to explore & have the want to care for one another. I guess this is where I find the common thread within the juicy diversity. And I suppose then, this is how I define "my people" from the rest of the "people" who are most decidedly not all *those* "people" who just want to make stuff for their "altars."

So good to hear from you. I have missed our conversations greatly. :)

Moma Fauna said...

Ah, that explains her response which was altogether too keyed in for me to think she hadn't heard something more than what I wrote in my relatively cautious cancellation letter.

She sounded as though she wasn't so put off that she's given up on participating though & for that I am grateful because I was really looking forward to her presentation. I am pretty sure there are others too. ;)

And on that note, I heard nearly instantly from one of the other presenters who was clearly disappointed and wanted to know if it was his hair, lol. I am glad he could take it with a sense of humor. Although I didn't say much to him about the gritty, one of his group members contacted me right away (which is a testament to how quickly bad news travels) & plugged me for the skinny, so I am sure he will hear about it all second hand. Luckily, that organization (with which you are also familiar) is still very much on board as well, so thus far we have no losses -- just a little delay.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Ah for the good ol' days when everything "occult" could happen under one roof. Look up the programs for Carl Weschcke's "Gnosticons" from the 1970s some days.

Moma Fauna said...

Yes, on the East Coast we had Ecumenicon. Bummer. I guess I'm hopelessly one school...

Moma Fauna said...

Yes, on the East Coast we had Ecumenicon. Bummer. I guess I'm hopelessly one school...

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