2013 Year in Review: Blog posts that should have gotten more attention (Part 2)

I’ve been in a blogging slump these past two weeks of this new year.  It’s past time I published part 2 of my 2013 Year in Review in which I highlight some blogs posts that I would like to have seen get more attention last year.  And I think a little reminder about some other great blogging is just what the doctor ordered.

1.  What Alison Leigh Lilly can and can’t tell you about her gods

I love reading Alison’s blog.  It’s not just what she writes, but how she writes, that challenges the very way I reflect on the world.  This past year, Alison has written some great posts in which she fleshes out (pun intended) what it means to be a “natural polytheist”.  In “Anatomy of a God”, Alison writes about the dilemma of theology, which she compares to vivisection.  Like her, I feel the need need to know the gods with my whole self, including my rational intellect, but “[t]he challenge is to delve into theology without killing its subject, to try our hand at analysis and critical thinking without pretending that the numinous divine is a dead thing that will hold still beneath our careful knives.” In her essay, “Why I Cannot Tell You About My Gods”, Alison draws on the writing of George Lakoff to challenge the notion of words as containers and communication as a kind of sending.  Words are breath, writes Alison, and speaking is a “shaping of the wind within us, released back into the wild to work its way into someone else’s body, moving with the ebb and flow of sound waves, pressing in against their eardrums, stirring the tiny hairs of their skin.”  (I wonder how this applies to online communication.)  Also check out Alison’s five part series, “The Goddess, the Broom, and the Barred Owl”, and her first post of the new year (which has been getting a lot of attention), “Gods Like Mountains, Gods Like Mist”.

2.  I get Julian Betkowski

I’ve lost count of how many times devotional polytheists have told me that I just don’t get it.  But Julian Betkowski has written what I think is the best elucidation of polytheism I have ever read.  His post, “A Polytheist Manifesto”, describes a polytheism that I do get, one founded on the experience of the “Other”:

“… it is experience that becomes one of the great cornerstones of Polytheism. Polytheism acknowledges spiritual and religious experience on its own terms and does not seek to reinterpret such experience to coincide with some other general worldview. It is not necessary for Polytheism to seek accord across the various domains of human experience, as Polytheism recognizes that each experience carries with it its own unique understanding and way of knowing. [...]

“The experience of the Other is key to an understanding of Polytheism. Polytheism acknowledges, through self understanding and self exploration, distinctions between the self and Other predicated on experience. [...] Polytheism does not seek to integrate self and Other, but rather to affirm each in contrast. Polytheism can then be understood as a means of understanding the relationship of self and Other extended through spiritual and religious experience, seeking the affirmation of both elements.”

The polytheism that Julian describes also fosters a kind of tolerance that is much needed in our intrafaith discussions:

“… I believe that Polytheism is capable of fostering an incredible tolerance and acceptance across various religious and spiritual understandings. It is not necessary for Polytheism to denounce one spiritual truth in order for another to be true. Polytheism can tolerate multiple truths simultaneously, even if those truths contain apparent contradictions. Being founded in experience, Polytheism allows for discrete spiritual experiences to carry equal weight, and to be considered on their own terms just as they present themselves.  In this way, Polytheism can avoid the trap of confusing interpretation for causation, and, further, maintain a distinction between the different realms of the discourse on religion. Since Polytheism derives from experience, it is not necessary for it to provide a single explanatory diagram according to which all religious and spiritual experience must be brought into accordance.”

Great stuff!  (Julian’s blog is a treasure trove which I have just begun to delve.  He even writes about my favorite philosopher, Heidegger!  Heart be still!)

3.  Rhyd Wildermuth is crazy, but in a good way

My favorite recently-discovered blogger is Rhyd Wildermuth.  He blogs at at Paganarch (formerly The gods are what has failed to become of us) and at A Sense of Place at Patheos Pagan.  In his post “You are (most likely) not crazy” and elsewhere, Rhyd writes about what he calls “the divine trauma”:

“strange events full of brilliant meaning which utterly shake up your life, yet, when resolved carefully, suddenly leave you better off than before the trauma began.  It is in this way that Divine Trauma is utterly different from normal trauma and worlds away from mental-illness (more on this later)–both of these leave you worse off, seeking healing or sanity, and your ability to live in society go down.”

The “divine trauma” often arises from an experience which Rhyd writes about frequently: the encounter with a divine Other:

“[...] the Other is an abyss we can only begin to plumb.  [...] the Other is an abyss, or a vast sea, fully unfathomable; though we can come to understand and rely upon certain characteristics (a vast sea is full of water and other things, has shorelines and waves; [...], we cannot fully know it.”

And this line by itself is worth the price of admission:

“[...] when people say that the gods are just stories, I should agree and, smiling, add, ‘and so are we.’”

And make sure you check out Rhyd’s recent contribution to the discussion of the nature of the gods, “Gods Without Us.”

 

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  • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

    Thank you, John. : )

  • Lupa

    This whole concept of the Other just reinforces to me that we’re all reaching out for connection to Something Else, whether that something is beings greater than we, or a wider ecosystem, or a deeper experience of the human condition. Perhaps that can be our common ground?


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