Well, I’m late to the game, but it doesn’t feel right to post anything to the blog without first talking a little bit about my experiences at Many Gods West.
I had a good time, and Olympia is definitely one of my favorite cities in Cascadia now. I really want to go back and stay at the Ground Inn again (in spite of the one guest that was making life miserable for myself and several others), and take my partner with me.
I met some lovely people, both new acquaintances and old, and met some folks I’ve been looking forward to seeing face-to-face for a while! I went to as many talks as I could and found most of them interesting; I visited the Aesclepios shrine and the tea room; I hung out in the restaurant. I had some very interesting conversations with folks, but I found myself listening most of the time (which is generally for the best anyways). What I heard was also interesting. But it reminded me why I generally don’t play well with others. I do well among people, and less well with people. And the more “with” it gets, as a general rule, the more exhausted I become. It feels like having to hold your breath, and you can only let it out when you’re alone/at home/among very familiar company again.
The weekend made me think about my practice a lot, about my devotional relationships, and about the intersection between my politics, my environmentalism, my religion, my absurdism, and the fact that I am (by most definitions) not cis, not completely able-bodied, not completely neurotypical, not straight, not monied, not employed, and not exactly white. I thought a lot about the fights going on in the world. I thought about Gods and Radicals and why I feel so disappointed in their output since the New Right debacle. I thought about why I feel so disappointed in the way the vast majority of people talk about these intersections, my intersections, whether left or right, radical or mainline. It’s not that they’re wrong, per se; they’re just wrong for me.
And I think this is getting to some of the meat of the Amor Fati philosophy: picking your battles, realizing that most battles can’t be won, and learning to accept this. It is, after all, a philosophy of radical acceptance. Our limitations, our smallness, the inertia of history – these things cannot be changed.
To fight or not to fight is the real question, isn’t it? I fought for a while, and found it profoundly dissatisfying. It robbed me of my hobbies, my quietude, my ability to self-indulge. It started to rob me of my relationships with the most important people in my life too, and that’s when I realized that I had to stop. Moreover, I was just getting burnt out. I know a lot of folks who would say that just having the ability to walk away from The Struggle is a privilege, to have a status quo tolerable enough to go back to. To which I’m beginning to reply, “So merely being alive is another privilege we should check, then?” If the answer is yes, then that’s no better than conscription. That’s where I draw my line.
I’ve looked death in the face. Not the immediate physiological kind, but the deep, lumbering existential sort that rears its head when you make the decision not to have kids. When you make that decision with the understanding that neither you or your partner have siblings, first cousins, nieces or nephews. When you make that decision with the understanding that the two of you will be moving far away from everyone you know, and that visits with the scant family that you do have will be few and far between. When you make that decision with the understanding that you likely won’t get to know the relatives that are being born now, and the relatives that have yet to be born – the people who might otherwise remember you when you’re long gone.
I’m 27 and I’ve made peace (mostly) with the fact that no one will remember me in 80 years.
That is the void that I think about when there’s a battle before me and someone’s asking me to fight. Do I take what little I’ve got left to work with and do that? Or do I take care of myself, no matter what that may look like?
Living next to a cemetery and being able to watch them bury someone three days a week from your bedroom window has a way of making a lot of things other people care about seem petty and small. It really makes you want to enjoy the company of flawed people and accept that nothing you or anyone else can say will change them. That oftentimes your only power is to walk away, but even that should be used with careful deliberation.
I’ve walked away from people without thinking about it as much as I should have, and later regretted it. I don’t want to do that anymore. At the same time, however, I want to not get so invested in things outside of myself so easily like I used to as well. I can accept and enjoy people, or viewpoints, or movements without getting close enough to be dragged down by them if things go sour. I’ve learned that such a line exists in the past year, and it’s been tremendously helpful.
A piece called Finding Strength In Stones was recently posted to Dark Mountain, and it really resonated with me in a lot of ways concerning this:
Should we fight or should we run? In The Origins of Political Order Francis Fukuyama noted that civilisation or ‘the state’, as he calls it, tended to develop in areas that featured geographic boundaries that prevented people from escaping it. Mesopotamia, for example, is surrounded by rivers and deserts. China, by deserts and the Himalayas. For as long as civilisation has existed there have been those that would rather die than be absorbed by it. Some stood their ground and decided to fight and die where they stood. Others ran. […]
And yet deep down do we really believe that we can succeed, no matter what tactics we adopt? Late at night, when we are alone with our thoughts it’s hard to banish the thought that there is nothing we can do. That we have already lost. That this is all make believe. The politicians either don’t care or will not act. There are not enough of us to change the minds of the majority. There are too many of them and they have too many guns. And most heartbreaking of all, we have simply already done too much. More and more the scientists are reporting that the damage done is irreparable. […] Not to mention the fact that it takes the climate quite a long time to catch up to us. Much of the warming of the earth that we are experiencing has been caused by carbon that released hundreds of years ago during the dawn of the industrial age. What in the name of mercy will things look like when the atmosphere has caught up to what we have been doing since then?
So, if we can’t fight then we must run. What does that look like and how is it different from a politics of despair? No matter how ingrained our myths of human exceptionalism, our needs are the same as every other organism. Survival. We cannot survive without the earth. But we can survive without civilisation. We did for most of our history and, in fact, it is the greatest threat to our survival and the survival of other forms of life on this planet. More and more, people are beginning to rethink what it means for things to get better, what it means to survive. For a long time we have been taught and conditioned to fear the end of the world. To fear catastrophe. But catastrophe means ‘to overturn’, like soil or compost. And it is hard to imagine that the end of this world will not bring the possibility of a better one.
(I recommend reading the whole thing.)
I had a reading done at the conference; same spread interpreted by two different people, one god-touched, the other less so (though correct me if I’m wrong!). The former gave me some good information, but I got the feeling that the Twins had, in a way, adopted a kind of corporate-speak for this diviner. There was little there that was new for me, and it almost sounded like the empty platitudes of a PR manager! But the latter gave me something much meatier to work with (this was the first of the two readings, actually): almost as if the Twins had let a sort of guard down. This diviner read the cards as Them not necessarily being in agreement about the given subject, and that had never occurred to me before. Ever.
I say “Them”, but They really function as two halves of a whole – They speak in unison, act in unison, appear in unison. Two bodies, one head. But I’ve been having a lot of trouble understanding what They want of me lately, and this was the answer: I’m getting conflicting messages because They are in conflict with each other.
It was really refreshing to hear. Their “grand plan” can have flaws, can not go as expected, or maybe that They even have misgivings about something They’ve done.
I’ve accepted that unreliability, that chaos that They bring to my life. It works out really, really well sometimes. Sometimes not so well. But that’s OK. Because I don’t want to fight my Gods in the same way I don’t want to fight my partner or my parents. I accept Their flaws; sit at Their table, listen to Their stories.