One day early in the month, after reading about crystal balls setting homes on fire (which I already knew about) and seeing something about the danger of glass bottles, I got worried about the glass bowls that I use for pouring offerings into. Like, really, it can happen.
The next day, about twenty minutes after giving the Gods offerings, I cleaned out the bowls and then proceeded to leave for work. The fact that I’ve used these small bowls for years and they’re not actually in the path of the sun did not lessen my anxiety.
I have a wreath on my door that I put up for the solstice. It is made of rosemary and bay leaves. My dear reader, the rosemary sprigs on the bottom of the wreath somehow smacked me in the face as I was closing my door and nearly impacted into my left eye. It was a thwack and a confused pause and me blinking and me thinking oh no my eye, as is my usual. I had been listening to a podcast episode that had been discussing omens the night before, and as I walked back into my apartment to check that I didn’t have a cut on my eyelid, I wondered if my household Gods had literally just smacked me in the face. There was no harm apart from my bruised pride and embarrassment. It had been just enough of a shock to get me out of my head without actually causing injury, whereas my business-as-usual lack of coordination (a) doesn’t involve poking myself in the face with wreaths and (b) usually leaves bruises, as I am usually walking into open doors or doorframes and bruising myself on the handles and edges. It was at that point that I realized that all of my anxiety had been irrational.
Gods, I thought. Sorry. Again, I walk into objects all of the time, but the context was a jolt.
This month, my partner and I celebrated seven years together, and it’s the first year since the start of the pandemic when things have seemed stable enough to plan something fun without worrying about public health mandate changes. We did a night at a newly-opened hotel early in the month, and the week after, she and I cooked our anniversary dish. Every February, we cook the first dish we ever made together on our first date. (I mentioned this to someone in spin class and didn’t realize how obnoxiously cute “we recreate the first meal we ever cooked together for our anniversary” sounds, but I am a very sappy person. There is no apology.) We always watch Carol for our anniversary because it’s the movie we saw together when we transitioned from getting coffee together to dating-dating. She is an amazing, smart, and witty person, and I miss her a lot on weeknights.
She also gave me this beautiful orchid for our anniversary and Valentine’s Day. 😍
We don’t share photos of ourselves publicly online. She has always been very cautious about this, whereas I learned to be cautious over time. We both started to get on the same page about publicly sharing photos of ourselves alone or together after the AI thing started taking off, as we started seeing stories about how it was being used against women. This is something we both take seriously. Someone solicited photos of me when I was a minor back in the day when kids weren’t taught how to handle it (and I think the way I stonewalled actually made the situation worse). She has had her own experiences of sexual harassment. To sum, the whole deepfake ecosystem is troubling. I do want to have a few smiling profile photos of myself because this proves that I’m a real person, and I think that a real photo is important for transparency and relatability as well, but I’m trying to keep them limited. It’s tough thinking about what the balance is between personal safety and openness, especially now that women who aren’t open “enough” are being told that they’re AI deepfakes even when they’re producing video content that clearly isn’t AI. Ultimately, though, the amount of online presence is a lose-lose situation — and in those cases, it’s better to think about what effectively accomplishes one’s goals without sucking away one’s time via diminishing returns.
I finished reading Jeremy Lent’s The Web of Meaning in a marathon read on the 24th. Some of the later chapters involved me hanging laundry on a drying rack and yelling ,,, with some (okay, a lot of) profanity (sorry, Simplicius). Lent seems to have come to a place of talking about the Henadic manifold in one of the last chapters? All in all, all in each, all that jazz? Except it all ends up being about emergent consciousness and frustrating, um, — yeah. I reviewed it on Goodreads. I had to learn to only listen to this audiobook while heading home from work and doing house chores, not during my inbound morning commute, because I’d get upset by his presentation of things despite thinking the scientific findings themselves were interesting, and that harmed my focus.
To be fair, when I told my partner I was reading this and spending 17 hours of my life in a turbulent ocean that oscillated between stormy anger and neat “wow, yeah, that’s neat” reactions, she said to me that she didn’t know why I was still reading it. I responded that reading people I disagree with builds character and that I want to know what is happening in eco-spirituality conversations. I told her, “He’s combining modern scientific findings with Taoism, his preferred philosophy, and it won a Nautilus award.” She said, “I could’ve told you not to read that just from the description. Taoism is so on trend with those people.” In my review, I concluded with, It’s almost like he [Lent] wants to pull some sort of abstract, conceptual-consciousness Taoism out of the actual living tradition of Taoism. So, yeah.
Lent identifies conceptual consciousness as the villain that separates us from the natural world, and he blames the human level of brain lateralization for this, in addition to other things. Since I’m left-handed, I’m never sure how much neuroscience studies apply to me because we have less lateralized brains and are usually not allowed to participate in brain studies. (I hope I never have a head injury that requires brain surgery.) It’s like ,,, okay, analogy: I learned this month that the Windows and Mac versions of Zotero have completely different built-in PDF viewer experiences. One of my coworkers had no idea why I was so happy about it, and it turns out that her Windows version didn’t have the options for inline commenting on annotations/screenshots and didn’t have a provision for tagging individual highlights. She’d been so underwhelmed by the Windows version of the feature that she rarely even taught it thoroughly — she redirected everyone to Acrobat and Preview. I was floored. Floored. Embodiment is like that. You think something is a universal experience and then you learn through interacting with others that there is a big difference between the instruments you picked from among the options. Basically, I have no idea how much my own experience of embodiment contributed to my bad reaction to the book. But I do know that Lent doesn’t understand Plato and that about 70% of my agonized screams were related to that, not my “why is he acting like this is a revelation?” responses to research about human cognition.
In sum: When I scream alone in my apartment to an audible narration, nobody hears me.
After I finished it, I stared at my unread list in Audible for a few moments. Irene Pepperberg’s Alex & Me or Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s The Trauma of Caste? I went with the latter because I don’t want to coddle myself, and I want to be multiculturally literate. That is something you can only get through deep engagement, not from social media hashtags. This book will probably be difficult in a way unlike Lent’s The Web of Meaning, but processing mirror-neuron emotional responses and anger about injustice after learning about others’ painful life experiences is a different kind of difficult.
I’m making a lot of progress on Winifred Rose’s Heathen Soul Lore Foundations. It’s an interesting book to read as someone coming from a Platonizing perspective, as the various souls in modern Norse polytheism seem to be all working in tandem without a monad, but as a Platonist, one of those souls has to be the ordering point. But even so, I can see echoes of the distinction between a soul’s intrinsic participation in a divine series and the Ghost soul, and also the embodiment participation in humanity through the Ferah and a few of the other souls. It’s also given me some new perspectives on thinking through some of the imbalances I have, which in their framework would be related to the Mod, Hama, and Hugr, at least as far as I know 55% of the way through. One question I have about Rose’s interpretation of the Hama that is not answered in the text is related to the discussion of birth, the birth caul, and so on — I, like many people, was born cesarean. (My mom had to have labor induced because I was 17 days late, and my skull growth by that time obviated her other options. She said once that she’s pretty sure I was stalling because I had strong misgivings about being here.) Rose discusses spirits/dangers related to the birth caul and the power of afterbirth/cauls/placentas. Also unsettling birth-caul spirits … so that seems a bit of an omission given how different the birth process is for a cesarean delivery. Speaking broadly about the book, it’s interesting to contrast Rose’s perspective with the way that appetition and spiritedness work in the Platonic tradition. I decided to postpone one of the novenas I’m trying (to the Dísir) until after I finish reading this book, as I want to read and reflect on what Rose says about ancestor-related divinities and spirits.
That’s most of what I want to say publicly about my month. I’m still plugging away at goals — making progress on some, adjusting expectations with others. For example, I’m a bit behind on some proofreading I’m doing for fiction projects, but I’m OK with that because I’m, like, self-publishing a book that’s out tomorrow. I’m making a lot of progress with my meditation commitment and improving at a range of well-being elements (remember, from a Platonic context, we’re talking about the soul because that is us), and where I’m falling short, I’m reflecting on ways to improve and troubleshooting what isn’t working. It’s been very good to have Simplicius fresh in my mind as well as to have friends who are also working on themselves.
Auspicious speech — a theme of the year, and a theme that keeps coming up in divination for me, as in Maxim 115, εὐφημίαν ἄσκει — is something that I’ve continued working on, both in the context of what I say and when and in terms of trying to be more mindful about my mental inputs. I tend to word vomit and think aloud a lot (and I started speaking ridiculously early … only a few months old), so that’s been a big challenge for my entire life. The guardrails of not being on social media anymore and thus needing to make more of an effort to write/share things is a big help.
I hope you all have a great rest of February.
2 thoughts on “February 2023 Update”
As a c-section birth myself, your comment was very interesting. Yeah, they are hardly ever mentioned in such contexts. I was also a late baby and they had to induce cramps (or something) on my Mom but after 30+ hours, my heartbeat was getting faint, so they gave her an emergency c-section. It was funny, also, that you mention speaking very early. Same there too. Apparently I’d been speaking full sentences by 8-9 months and walking around that time too. I also learned to read by myself around age 4. I wonder if these are in any way related…
Also, I’d been meaning to ask you your divination method -if you don’t mind. Do you have a specific Apollonian oracle or do you use bibliomancy?
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My first word was “moon” at the age of ~5 weeks. I was pointing at the moon not accidentally. I’m really not sure what impact the c-section has at all!
I use an oracle card deck, the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and a random number generator (the last to get Delphic Maxim numbers). I also sometimes use a pendulum. I pray to Apollon during divination, and sometimes to Hermes as well depending on the context.