The 4 Best Posts of 2023 You Didn’t Read

The 4 Best Posts of 2023 You Didn’t Read December 24, 2023

I started not to do this feature this year.

When you’re writing almost 150 blog posts a year – which I did for 13 consecutive years – some things are bound to fall through the cracks. When you write 90 – which is how many I’ll end up with for 2023 – that’s much less likely.

But when I look at the list of least-read posts, I still see things where I scratch my head and wonder why they weren’t more popular. They have important concepts in them, and if you missed them the first time, I hope you’ll read them now.

And also, I usually use this feature for my “state of blogging” comments, and I definitely want to do that this year. Because 2023 is the lowest year for blog traffic since my first year at Patheos in 2013 – it’s less than half of what it was in 2020.

Part of this is my own doing – you get fewer pageviews from 90 posts than you do from 150. But that’s only part of it. Even the popular posts aren’t as widely read as they were in previous years, and pageviews from my “back catalog” of old posts have dropped dramatically.

The reasons aren’t hard to figure out. Blogging in general continues to decline, and Pagan blogging in particular is way down. There have been weeks when I haven’t had much to choose from for my “Best of Patheos Pagan” feature in my weekly newsletter (more on that later). Blogs on other sites get fewer and less frequent every year. Bloggers aren’t in competition with each other – good writing stimulates demand for more good writing.

Beyond that, social media continues to suppress anything that might take a reader off their website. Search engines favor paid promotions, and as Google and other sites incorporate more and more AI, they’re answering questions with canned answers instead of with links to articles and essays that address them in more depth.

And yet, I’m still here. As I’ve said many times before, I’ll keep blogging as long as I have something to say, and I expect I’ll have something to say as long as I’m still breathing.

photo by John Beckett

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The four best posts of 2023 that you didn’t read

AI In Spiritual Education: Caveat Emptor (September 2023, #73 in readership)

The hot new trend is people using artificial intelligence to create courses and then selling them. And other people offering to show you how to make tons of money doing that… for a fee, of course. We’ve known for some time that there are many books on magic, witchcraft, and Paganism that are either written by AI, or are directly plagiarized from flesh-and-blood authors.

Some people who think this trend is inevitable so we might as well get on the bandwagon. I think they’re wrong. Whether you’re a reader / student or an author / teacher – or both – I want you to know that these books and courses exist, that they’re not helpful, and that there’s a better way.

Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.

photo by John Beckett

Our Imperfect Perceptions of the Gods (June 2023, #78 in readership)

Two people can have an identical experience of a God and interpret it in two very different ways, based on their foundational assumptions, previous experiences, expectations, hopes and fears. Which is right – if either – is impossible to say with certainty.

We should give great deference to people’s experiences of the Gods and what they take from them. If someone tells me “the Morrigan told me to do this!” I’m not going to tell them they’re wrong just because it doesn’t sound quite right to me.

But that doesn’t mean every interpretation is a good interpretation.

photo by John Beckett

Scheduling Joy (March 2023, #81 in readership)

I can’t read the news without feeling beaten down, and I’m a straight white cis man with a middle class job. I can only imagine how bad it is for more vulnerable people. I’m doing what I can to address these problems directly, but there’s only so much any one person can do. And there’s only so long any of us can go before we get burned out and become useless to the cause of building a better world.

We need joy in our lives. Joy can’t be commanded, but it can be facilitated – we can put ourselves in places where joy can find us.

If we want experience joy, we have to make time for joy. And for most of us, the only way to make time for joy is to schedule it well in advance.

photo by John Beckett

Envy Is A Vice: Mind Your Own Business (March 2023, #87 in readership)

Envy is a sign of a weak and unintelligent person. If you think your life is in any way made less because someone else has more, you’re not thinking things all the way through.

If you see someone getting something good and you can’t at least be happy for them, what’s wrong with your empathy? If you see someone getting something that you really want or need, start figuring out how to get it on your own. If they got it, so can you. If there are structural inequities in the system that keep you from getting it, or that make it unnecessarily difficult for you to get it, then call them out and start working to remove them. Get mad at the system and those who perpetuate it, not those who manage to work it better than you.

Mainly, though, learn to practice the fine old art of minding your own business.

This post has become even more relevant with the reactions I’ve seen to the union victories by the UAW, the Teamsters, and others this year. Good union contracts not only help the workers in those unions, they raise the market and make other wages go up too. Yet so many comments about them were negative and can be boiled down to “I didn’t get a big raise so they shouldn’t either.”

photo by John Beckett

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