Accuracy Through Obscurity

When I returned to my meditative practices after a long break (entirely my own fault), I found myself frustrated.  Where were the insights I once had?  Why was this so hard, filled with distractions?  Where was this milestoneI had once passed, or that milestone I had reached?

Sometimes I suddenly had success, returning to the progress of years ago – and then it would snap back like a rubber band.  I had some techniques to help me, but they were temporary, and I’d end up back where I was, sitting and wondering what I was doing wrong after all those years.

Months of this (and further interruptions I had to work around), frustrated me further.  Eventually a random insight thanks to a podcast provided the righteous puncturing to my ego – I was trying to force my past experiences.  I was using a map and trying to force myself to a location instead of going step by step.

I focused on doing my practices properly and avoided interruptions, going bit by bit, breath by breath. The tensions, the frustration faded, and I made the progress I had sought with surprising rapidly.  The map in my head didn’t help, it just made me frustrated and unhappy with myself.

Yes, it was a terrible display of egotism.  But I value the insight – plus it makes a useful blog post!  Also, this post further gives my ego a good deflation, and that thing needs it.

This experience made me think of some of the Taoist documents I love, such as The Secret of the Golden Flower.  Though some of them describe certain meditative states, they oft use metaphor, maybes, and warnings of when you’re off the path.  In turn I thought about other mystical and meditative practices that seemed irritatingly obscure or symbolic.  I began to see the value of obscurity and symbolism in mystical practices.

I’ve always believed mystical, spiritual, magical practices should be as open as possible.  They are liberating and I am all for “liberation mysticism.”  But I realized that trying to map out what and how a mystical experience should happen invites people to become frustrated, to force it, or to use the map to imagine they’re having the experience.

I may have avoided the last one, but I certainly experienced the first two.
Now my meditation is just walking on the path, doing my techniques moment by moment, breath by breath.  My goal is to do them right and that’s what matters.  I’m walking the path, I’ll get to where I should be by sitting right there on my cushion.  I have my past experiences and writings by learned people to provide me signs, and I’ll recognize them when I see them.

A little obscurity is needed so you don’t deceive yourself.

  • Xenofact

A Proposal On Networking

“Where’s the community,” is a question I hear a lot, sometimes from me. As I write this in early 2023 we’ve been devastated by covid, are questioning social media, and are coping with late-stage Capitalism.  People want connection, but it’s a challenge, there are obstacles in the way, and the last few years have really been a pain in the ass.

Reaching out and connecting is a pain in the ass too.  I’ve been networking on my interests –  – occultism, meditation, creativity, and writing – and I find the same worries!  A complaint I see many times is how “Practitioner” communities (people who DO something, from magick to writing to art) end up being all about “buy my book/game/series.”  Capitalism overtaking even tiny, weird groups to be about “making the sale” and “building the brand.”

Since I’ve found community connecting frustrating, I brainstormed an idea to help build communities of specific practice.  As I’m a Project Manager, let’s follow good organization practice and ask what our problem statement is.  And yes, I belong to a PM community – anyway on to the statement:

It’s hard to build a community of communication.  People work at different paces, with different tools, and we’re dodging the pathologies of social media.  Many communities are “production oriented” and sometimes Capitalism takes priority over Community.

So with this problem statement, what goals would satisfy practitioners?

People want smart, respectful communication that builds community.  People want community that persists and evolves.  People are focused on these goals and directed to these goals, which protects from commercial interest taking over.

With those problem statements and goals, let’s get to my proposal.   If you wonder where this comes from it’s a mix of psychology, project management, my own publishing experience, and some readings on older Taoist communities (who networked via inns and passing on books).  I’ve had an interesting life.

So here’s the idea I’d love to try.

  1. Gather five to ten people with an interest in corresponding and communicating ideas and creating/doing something specific.  Try to keep it around seven.  This is the “Crew.”
  2. One of these people acts as the “Collector” – and the position may rotate.
  3. People send essays and works to the Collector.  In time the Crew can (and should) include respectful commentary on the work of others.  Note this work doesn’t have to be exclusive (see below).
  4. The Collector puts out these works as a zine on a regular schedule.  For sanity’s sake it shouldn’t be less than two weeks or more than a month.  “When I got enough” may be acceptable and reasonable in some cases.
  5. The zine SHOULD be in print.  Each member of the Crew gets two copies.  More may be printed to share elsewhere.  The print files should be available.
  6. An e-zine is also possible, but there should be a print copy to start.  The e-zine should be archived, easily available, and maybe even (freely) available on other sites if approved.  It’s 100% fine if the e-zine JUST being an ODT or PDF file of the print zine.
  7. After the Crew puts out a few zines, members are encouraged to join or start OTHER Crews to share and correspond.  Perhaps they also act as Collectors.  Eventually every person belongs to at least two other Crews, but runs maybe one or two at most.
  8. As other Crews are created, THEIR members create zines, ezines, etc.  Work may be shared among Crews – you can publish the same essay in multiple zines.
  9. Once this is running, different Crews and individuals can see what suits them.  Do several Crews do a compendium?  What about small press books shared among Crews?  Are there different arrangements they can try?  Public or private activism?  Who knows?

The idea is to have a project (zine) a small Crews rallies around.  That focus on publishing and correspondence encourages thoughtfulness, provides physical results, and builds communications.  The networking of people on multiple Crews shares ideas and spreads the idea of “zine teams.”.  Larger community can be enhanced or evolved among multiple teams, exchanges of information, and shared effort.

(A friend helped me realize this is a form of Amateur Press Association with a focus on networking and a specific community. I didn’t mention that in the first draft as I haven’t dealt with APAs in ages . . .)

Why add a physical zine?  I hope/think/expect it would slow things down, require people to think about communications and leaving records.  It also inspires new ways to think about creating lasting records (because as we know the internet isn’t as reliable as we’d like).  The idea comes from many sources, but A.J. Roach’s Small Things Manifesto solidified the ideas for me.

Will it work?  I have no idea – but it might be fun to try. Write me at Rev + My Name + if you want to chat. (I’ve got to set up that contact form and post the email easier)