June is always a bit of a whirlwind for me, especially as my mom traditionally visits for my birthday slightly after mid-month, so it’s a time for hosting family. It’s also the time of year when I struggle to sleep, as I awaken with light (and when I don’t, my cat does, and she screams until I wake up) and have the typical routine issues of anyone who is attempting to go to bed early enough to make those early morning easier. I’m usually on right after I awaken, so even if I try to go back to bed on the weekends after feeding my cat at 5:30 AM, it’s hit or miss that I can turn my mind off.
This June, I also quietly stopped posting to my personal Twitter account, as I feel done there. I’ve blogged a bit during the month, but after mid-month, none of the posts has been auto-shared to Twitter. This one is an exception, as it gives me an opportunity telling anyone coming from Twitter to use the email subscription box in my blog sidebar (or in the footer, if you’re on mobile) if you want to stay updated. I’m not deleting the account because I may want to post links to publications there occasionally.
Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism recommends replacing social media with something else, and if you’re curious about Digital Minimalism without reading the book, I found some really awesome infographics from this illustrator, especially this one (note: the second link goes to a png image). So, wanting to be successful after years of not being so — and thinking about what Socrates said in the Crito about how staying in places means we agree to the social contracts within them, which gave me a 3/10-intensity existential crisis — I developed some loose guidelines:
Turn off the auto-post feature on WordPress (exception: this monthly update post).
Find targeted digital social environments that hone in on what I liked about Twitter discourse (specifically, Platonism and polytheistic worship/theology and poetry).
Focus on ambient social contact (rule: go to the gym with others, AKA pick classes over being solo).
Call a family member or friend (or send a text) if I’m feeling isolated.
Answer letters from friends in a timelier fashion.
At this point in my life, I know it’s highly unlikely that I will develop local friendships because I’m a very religious polytheist. Most people are neither religious nor polytheistic in this area, and the one or two I know who are do not have personalities that mesh with mine all that well. However, research shows that ambient social contact is important for anti-loneliness and pro-wellness self-care, and that’s something I can do. The thing I like about fitness classes is that I can have brief conversations with a few regulars beforehand, and then the class starts, so we stop talking and then all leave at the end. I’m brainstorming other things like that.
I have a mildly harsh opinion of Discord because I usually associate the platform with Patreon perks that Influencers offer to their loyal groupthink fans, but I decided to try it out on a non-Influencer-linked Discord related to a topic I’m interested in. It’s actually nice! I appreciated the failsafes in the server’s behavioral guidelines that specifically called out cults of personality as going against the guidelines. The so-far-positive experience has given me food for thought about how to revise the Groups section of The Soul’s Inner Statues so I’m adequately making space for less cultish parts of the Internet, especially since many of us do want to have a “town square” or “pub” to visit even when we don’t have that physically. The one I picked satisfies the social craving that had left me opening and closing Twitter. I also subscribed to a few poetry-related Substacks, and I’m still Zooming around the world.
My middle sister has been reading The Soul’s Inner Statues this month. The fact that she’s reading my work is very delightful, especially since I wrote the entire book with her in mind — we sometimes talk about religion and spirituality on the phone, and I knew that many of the parts I was writing directly addressed questions she had posed to me at some point or other. It’s a bit much to digest over the phone, and I sometimes feel like I’m word vomiting because it’s not easy to put in paragraph breaks or lattice in context when a point is very complicated. I had about three mental personae in mind who I was writing “for” and about five or six competing major reasons for even doing The Soul’s Inner Statues, which is why the beta was completed so rapidly. It was like a flood. I think it’s always best to write advice with someone one loves in mind, even in cases like The Soul’s Inner Statues where some of the motivation was frustration about some trends in online polytheisms that I think are toxic. “What would I tell a niece who came of age and wanted to worship Gods?” was another persona, and so was “what do I wish I could say to all of the confused people with the repetitive questions on Reddit?”
Overall, turning 35 — and all of the remote-work-to-onsite shifts that have thrown commute time back at me and all sorts of other things — have really forced me to think once more about how I use my time and whether my time use is in alignment with my goals.
Late in the month, while praying to Athene, I started thinking about simplicity and religious spaces. As many long-term readers know, I purchased icons of Athene and Hermes about 12 years ago, when I got into a library science program. Twelve years ago, there wasn’t much available online, and it was a good three to five years before the Greek and Eastern European shops that have now cornered the iconography marketplace had made inroads on Etsy in any meaningful way. I’m not the biggest fan of the Athene icon — I’d rather it had eyes — and the Hermes one has been a source of stress occasionally because the wand has sometimes fallen, and it once even broke. Sometimes I think about replacing them, but I don’t even know what I would do with these as votive offerings, so I keep putting that off.
I like what Plato says about wood in the Laws — the idea that we are bringing the Gods into an image that is, symbolically through the wood, connected to the very substratum of life, as plants are symbolic of appetition (even though they may be more complex than we have given them credit for).
The image of Athene that most resonates with me isn’t something I technically purchased. I bought a small owl figurine from one of the Greek shops on Etsy four years ago, and they sent a free paper illustration of Athene receiving fumigations in her temple along with the owl. It’s actually what I look at, and what I feel the most connected to, while praying. It’s a good reminder of how sometimes we overthink things — our best theurgic icons can come from the most humble sources.
I took some time late in the month to transfer my notes from the second and third volumes of Proclus’ Republic essays to my actual print copies, as the previous notes were photos that I had taken in 2020 of pages from the library book. It was a delightful return to essays that I really loved reading, a saga that really pushed my French reading abilities.
I relived a lot of fun and exciting intellectual moments. There are so many fun theurgic anecdotes in these. The second volume took me about two hours to dart, and the third volume took me about three and a half hours. The Myth of Er essay is just that exciting.
Delightfully, at about the time I finished, the online version of Baltzly’s translation of the second volume of the Republic essays went live online, so people can now read them. I’m a bit meh about some of the interpretative gloss he puts on his translations of the ones about women in his intro — I think intrinsically male or female souls is actually not what Proclus is doing because all of that stuff is reliant on vehicles, not the partial soul qua soul, and that he’s discussing different aspects of the soul in his Republic essays and Timaeus commentaries when discussing gender. I think Baltzly misses some aspects of what it’s like to contemplate one’s leader-God that require actual applied Platonic experimentation in a contemplative setting, as the Gods (even the leader-Gods) are really only referred to with reproductive sex analogies because we’re human. This is a theurgic symbol used to connect with deities that is fairly commonplace in our cultures, and as I have said elsewhere, we’d have an entirely different theurgic system if we were a species that socially organized like orcas, and even if we were in a human culture that was more egalitarian. I’m planning to reread those essays and do more than skim his intros with a more open stance after I reread the one on the speech of the Muses. That was the most difficult of the essays to read in French due to the math. In short, I am very excited about this.
As I mentioned briefly in my birthday reflections post, I have been going through passages in the Prometheus Trust volumes of pseudo-poetry and thinking about them. This sometimes happens in the morning after prayer, sometimes at night.
It’s an intellectual exercise — I copy the passage into the book, and I think freely about it and write what comes to mind, punctuated by moments of just pausing and thinking. It’s nice.
I haven’t found time to do it every day — onsite days are a bear because I’m trying to get out the door, and I’m occasionally embarrassingly inefficient in the evenings — but I enjoy it. I’ve had passages from the Phaedrus and Hermias over the past few days to churn through.
One of the main benefits is that I tend to be a very fast person at reacting/interpreting/thinking unless it’s something that I lack context for and need to pause and reflect on for a while, and this forces me to slow down and use those “reflecting” muscles on things that I usually would go “oh, yes, this” at. Consciously pulling at associations and being aware of intertextuality in a more intentional way — and writing them down — is good practice.
Finally … I close with an auto-created animated gif of my cat Yoyo, the source of my sleepless mornings. She’s 18 this summer at some point. Blessings to her.