Stillness, Tumult, and Links

On February 15, I drew the Greek Alphabet Oracle zeta (Ζ) for the week — flee the very great storm, lest you be disabled in some way. In previous years, I braced for something to happen because receiving this oracle (to recap: about what I needed to keep in mind to work towards aretē that week) often pointed to a social media thing. In 2021, because I am not on social media, it made me smile remembering everything I used to see in the feeds and the way my nervous system responded to it (do you know the tree has fallen in the forest if you neither observe it nor hear about it?), but I also wondered what a storm might be in a context other than that one. What is storm or flight when you are in the silence of your own home, the snowy world outside so blindingly white that your eyes tear when you look outside?

After my alarm tells me to stop working, I’ve been doing asana, reading, writing, talking to people, and organizing things that have been on my back-burner to-do list for months (and, to be honest, years). I’ve found a new rhythm for listening to podcasts when I’m putting things away and dusting. My goals list for 2021 has been successful so far, except when I look at my bookshelves and see how far I have to go and how much I am reading all at once. And, to be honest, I occasionally think about when my Twitter hiatus is ending — September — and realize that I don’t want to be Very Online, so I may not go back. Contemplating two of the Delphic Maxims I received this week during divination, #66: Κριτὴν γνῶθι and #121: Μανθάνων μὴ κάμνε, had me thinking about the benefits of saving energy for the learning and development that truly matter and who the true judge(s) are of my conduct and growth.

Reciting Prayer to All of the Gods I during my morning prayers has also gone well. Constantly praying to all of the Gods, especially while processing things in the books I am reading, has led to new insights and fresh perspective that I hope to put into a blog post in the coming weeks once I’ve gotten a better handle on some time-sensitive to-do items that I am prioritizing. I love that the prayer takes ten minutes, that it honors Gods whom I have sometimes neglected in the way I previously did prayer, and that it frees up a lot of mental urgency to do the remaining prayers that I want to do in the morning with the rest of the time I have carved out.

One of the reasons I talked about burnout when posting the modified version of the prayer that I use in ritual (basically, the original prayer plus some prayers to other Gods) was to clarify some of the ideas behind it. Many people have been making posts about experiencing polytheist burnout, and I feel it is important to clarify that this is not the kind of burnout I was experiencing. I was experiencing normal burnout and seasonal “what-happened-to-daylight?” issues in which waking up at 6:55 AM was torture because all I wanted to do was stay underneath my warm duvet and sleep in until 7:30 or 8 AM like I do on the weekends. I felt like everything was happening in slow motion, and I was overwhelmed trying to finish my entire morning routine before work started. As happens during most fall semesters, I had stopped meditating and was struggling to find time for things I had to do in between work, my annual citation analysis column-paper for a library publication, and stressing out over every book I had not finished reading before December 31. This was coupled with staying up too late, being stressed out about strangers online, using Twitter, feeling apprehensive about tasks I was avoiding on my personal and work to-do lists, not doing enough writing, and experiencing low-grade pandemic anxiety. The result was sluggishness, listlessness, a beleaguered rabbit feeling, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and some muted emotional stuff — not every day, but perhaps 50% of the week. As I said, it had nothing to do with religion, but religion is an important part of my life. I was trying to figure out what needed to happen to get back to a consistent baseline and to carve out more time for more silence in worship because I love that feeling when one has had a good prayer or meditation session, and having one’s mental wellness in order makes way for beautiful religious experiences of the Gods.

One of the motivating things for getting out of a rut like that is that passage from Plotinus on always working on our own statue:

How, then, can you see the kind of beauty that a good soul has? Go back into yourself and look. If you do not yet see yourself as beautiful, then be like a sculptor who, making a statue that is supposed to be beautiful, removes a part here and polishes a part there so that he makes the latter smooth and the former just right until he has given the statue a beautiful face. In the same way, you should remove superfluities and straighten things that are crooked, work on the things that are dark, making them bright, and not stop ‘working on your statue’ until the divine splendour of virtue shines in you, until you see ‘Self-Control enthroned on the holy seat.’

Plotinus, trans. Gerson., Ennead I.6.9

So much of my young adulthood (the 18-35 demographic bin, which I am in for another 1½ years) has involved figuring things out, with imperfect excess and ephemera discarded over the past decade and a half, at once a self-alienating and self-anchoring sensation, a signal evoking a host of memories that fade in and out like unfed ghosts unless I libate my attention.

And, of course, things are getting better now. The desire to log into Twitter is lessening with time. I’m busy with projects and reading and interacting with people and intercepting bad habits. It turns out that there is enough time in the day once one aggressively addresses bad habits. Leaving my phone and personal laptop in an inconvenient place when I am not streaming yoga or doing deep writing work has been an important part of this reset because 90% of my bad habits involve the Internet.

To close out, I’m going to link to a few things that I have seen, heard, and read online over the past few weeks that I loved. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The first are two songs from the Seikilo Music YouTube Channel. The first is sung by Rui Fu, accompanied by a lyre and a drum. The second is a lyre-accompanied song called “Journey” by Aphrodite Patoulidou. Both singers’ voices sent chills down my spine, and combined with the richness of the lyre, their pieces are truly exquisite. Rui Fu’s “Taiyi” solo performance on her own YouTube channel is also amazing. The fourth thing is a YouTube video from Kelly Stamps called “Stop Telling People Your Business.”

Finally, here are a few articles — “The Gift of Ecological Humility,” “‘The Drum Needs a Blood Sacrifice’: The Rise of Dark Nordic Folk,” and “On Social Media and Character.”

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