You’re Probably Not Chosen, and That’s Okay

Last night on Twitter, I found a tweet thread that I thoroughly agreed with pertaining to the notion of spirit animals and how it’s culturally appropriative to use the term, and outright disrespectful when people say “unicorns are my spirit animal” or “whiskey is my spirit animal”:

I’ll let you read the whole thread, written by an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) person with actual claim and propriety to speak on the matter, because the thread is a little long and it deserves reading.

It’s a sensitive topic for many people, but she makes fine points all around, and I can’t really disagree with them in any reasonable sense.  There are good comparisons between how people in popular occulture and New Age scenes use the word “spirit animal” with the word “shaman”, which originally applied only to Central Asian steppe-based Mongolian or Turkic tribal religions; unless you’re practicing a form of Tengrism, technically speaking, you’re not a shaman or working a shamanic path.  However, the term was adopted and adapted by anthropologists (who, I might add, typically are from Western Europe and take on a subtly colonialist-universalist view of every culture that isn’t theirs) to be applied across the board to countless religions, traditions, and cultures far removed in time, space, and language from those Central Asian priests based on perceived or superficial similarities.  In general, the word “shaman” is used wherever “priest” would normally be used, except for cultures that were deemed more “primitive” or “undeveloped” as, say, something more established, formalized, structured, or civilized as in the West.  As Kalagni shared in a related discussion on my Facebook page,

When (white) people go on about how there are analogs in other cultures, and that “spirit animal” is generic, they really mess up their history. Yes, “spirit animal” is generic and in English, but the term was coined in English to refer to Native beliefs as part of their persecution and eradication. Also, as part of another side rant, if wypipo also want to harp on about how “we have culture”, then use the goddamn names from your our culture then and prove it.  Then again, white (North American) culture did steal a lot from Native folks…so it’s part of their culture in that way.

I’d say shaman is a better case, because it’s not an English word, so despite being applied to “shamanic” traditions everywhere now, you can point and say “This is the language and culture it came from.” People have trouble grokking that with spirit animal because it’s in English, so obviously it’s a white people thing.

And, of course, as is commonly joked-not-joked?

There’s so much that can be said about this topic, and how the line is hazy or non-existent between cultural appropriation and syncretism, what the best term to describe something is depending on circumstance and originating context, whether fylgjas or totems or tutelars or paredoi or other concepts are similar enough to be clustered together (typically they aren’t except by people who don’t understand them), and so on.  Honestly, while I thought about writing about this discussion, I really don’t have much to add at the present time besides “don’t do it, and understand what you’re actually describing before you open your mouth and why you should or shouldn’t say it a certain way”; that wouldn’t make for a very exciting blog post, though, would it?  Besides, I’ll let people from the actual originating cultures speak for themselves, and keep my own mouth shut.

But there is a related topic that I can speak about, and don’t think is spoken about enough in Western occulture, New Age, and pagan thought.  People (think they) have spirit animals because they feel that the animal has chosen them; some people have patrons or matrons/patronesses (I’m not sure why “matron” isn’t the default term here, but okay, whatever) in this pantheon or that system, and all around people claim that they are “chosen” by some big-name entity or to do some monumental task.

People go on about how they’ve been chosen by some thing for some thing to do some thing, and…in general?  I don’t buy it as much as others do, or as much as I did.

I suspend my disbelief out of politeness, and see how far it goes for the person in our conversations, but for the vast majority of people and the vast majority of cases, they’re not chosen. And that’s okay!  Not only is it the norm to not be chosen, but in many of these traditions, there’s no notion of “choosing” that the gods or spirits do for us.  Moreover, any such notion is generally a recent Western overlay, much how “shaman” is used for African, Native American, and Central Asian religions despite their differences in context and origin.

I would think that the notion of having a patron in general comes from Catholic influences, where people can have a patron saint, or where a certain profession, area, or trade is associated with a saint who’s related to the thing in some way.  By being involved in that profession or trade, you can petition that saint for special help above and beyond a general-purpose spirit, sure, but you can also do the same by having your own patron saint.  Sometimes this is found based on the day of the year of the calendar of saints you’re born on, sometimes this is based on where you’re born, and sometimes it’s simply something you choose (note that it’s you doing the choosing of the saint, not necessarily the other way around) at baptism or confirmation.  This saint helps intercede for you through their unceasing prayer, not as a mediator of prayer to God but to pray alongside you to better live a better life here and in the hereafter.  This is a pretty common practice in Catholic and close-to-Catholic traditions, and seeing how that undergirds much of the past thousand-ish years of Western European philosophy and religion…well, it’s a common notion, to say the least.

So now we have all these new or newly-reborn traditions and religions, some invented out of whole (old) cloth, some reconstructed from historical and religious research: Hellenism, Heathenry, Kemeticism, Religio Romana, Rodnovery, and so on.  There are also living traditions, such as Vajrayana Buddhism or Shinto, that never died out and are extant, vibrant, and practiced to this day in their own ways.  In each, there are often an abundance of deities, demigods, heroes, saints, spirits, and whatnot.  Okay, good, cool, excellent!  The more, the merrier.  Each has its own cultural background, historical context, linguistic reliances, and so on; sometimes those who are in the know of more than one tradition can syncretize parts of them, sometimes parts of different religions ought to stay separate and far from each other.  Something I can say, however, regarding many of these traditions?  The notion of a spirit “picking” or “choosing” you is…uncommon, if not absent entirely, without having been previously syncretized with Western Christian or modern neopagan (which has some Western Christian elements) ideas.

Let me offer my own experience with something personal to me.  In La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (or Santería, as is commonly known, the Yoruba diasporic religion as it developed in Cuba with Catholic influences), there is a notion that everyone has a patron saint of sorts, an orisha that claims the head of everyone.  You don’t really get a say in who owns your head; that comes out in a special divination reading where humans don’t get to choose, but the orisha themselves choose.  In my case, it came out (surprisingly to me, at the time) that Ogun owns my head; that is a case where I was, in fact, chosen to have that connection with him in a way that other people don’t necessarily have, even if they work with Ogun or have other connections or relationships with him.  However, unlike the orisha who owns my head, it was not chosen for me to be initiated.  Some people are told that, yes, they are meant to initiate as a priest in Santería, that it is indeed an already done deal where they don’t really have much of a say in the matter if they want to continue living their destiny as it was written for them.  That wasn’t the case for me; regardless of what orisha owns my head, it was not chosen for me to initiate, and I was not told that it was necessarily part of my destiny nor that I must initiate.  Instead, I made the choice to initiate; I chose to have that relationship with Ogun, and I chose to have Ogun put on my head.  The fact that I have Ogun on my head doesn’t preclude me from working with other orisha; I still have vows and pacts made with my courts of orisha, and I can and do work with them in ways that others can’t or don’t.  Even then, however, Ogun may have been my patron saint all along in that system, but it was I who made that relationship real and tangible by my own volition and sacrifice.

Now, let me compare the similarities of that to my work with Hermes.  There are lots of things in my life that I do or that I have going on that do, in fact, relate well to Hermes’ domain: linguistics, languages, mathematics, programming, astrology, divination, conjuration, magic, trickery, trade, and on and on.  I work in a building that used to be one of the grandest post offices in the United States, and is designed with caducei and paeans to Hermes-Mercury on the pediments.  For all this, it makes sense for me to work with Hermes, because the things of his influence are already around me.  However, that does not mean I’m chosen by him to work with him, any more than a person who grew up in a family of chefs and bakers is chosen to be a culinarian themselves.  Rather, I chose to establish a shrine to him and offer sacrifices and honor in his name; I chose to have his emblem tattooed on my mortal flesh; I chose to work with him.  He did not chose me, not only because the notion of having a patron deity is unfamiliar and foreign to Hellenism, but because he…well, didn’t.  All these things in my life that are under his influence are things I chose to have in my life; he didn’t send them in my way to lure me to him, but I chose them.  Just so did I choose him, and I continue to choose him.

Another example I can offer is my own connection to what I may have called my “spirit animal” in an earlier time.  (Forgive me for declining to say what it is, but those who know me will already know what it is.)  This is an animal that I indeed feel a connection to, and which seems right and proper for me to work with.  But, that said, I’ll be honest with you: I went out of my way to find this animal, and I formed a connection with it of my own volition.  I can’t say that it’s my totem (because that’s more of a clan/lineage/family thing) or my spirit animal, because I don’t belong to the tradition that came up with the idea or that uses those terms; I rather say that it’s my tutelary animal or that I simply work with that animal spirit, because that’s more accurate and descriptive of what I do.  Moreover, this is a connection that allows for other connections to be formed with other animals as the case may be, sometimes as strongly as my primary tutelar, sometimes not so much, sometimes stronger as the case may be; I work with the spirit on my own connection, and listen to it if it needs something, but this is a spirit that ultimately I chose.  I may have encountered it in a strong way, but it was I who chose to stay with it and not pass over it.

I see that distinction a lot like how an astrological magician might view their own horoscope.  For instance, it was not a matter of my choosing when I was born; I am a Libra by virtue of my birth, and so could be said to have been “chosen” to be born under that sign.  It does not necessarily mean that Venus is my ruling planet, nor does it mean that I have to work with Venus or any of the deities associated with that planetary sphere except by my own volition.  Nor, for that matter, does it mean that I can’t work with other planets, or that I have some past-life connection with Venus, or that I am specifically chosen to do Venerial things in the world above and beyond other people, especially other Venus-ruled people (whether or not they’re Libras, Tauruses, Pisces, or another sign entirely).  I know of some people who live lives that would seem to run directly counter to their zodiac sign or almuten, often to great effect and purpose, but that’s because they often chose that path in life and worked for it.

Some people have certain entities that they work with closely and intimately, sometimes to enhance their own works; a photographer, for instance, could petition Saint Veronica because she holds special significance for photography and photographers generally.  Other times, they work with a certain entity because it enhances their own personal development, like a mask they can adopt to adapt themselves to the traits and characteristics of that entity that, over time, they can better facilitate and embody, like someone working with the spirit of the Wolf to be stronger, more cunning, braver, or more ruthless.  We can easily and properly say that we work with these spirits or entities because we’re already involved in their sphere, but that’s not because they came to us and made us work in their sphere.  Consider: at a banquet where you’re presented with multiple dishes, you don’t say that the first dish that was presented with you is what “chose” you, or that whatever dish you most like “chose” you.  You choose what you want to eat or pass over, and you choose what you want to take home and try to recreate in your own kitchen to make your life tastier.

In some cases, yes, someone is, in fact, chosen by some entity to do some sort of work.  The more I see, however, someone being chosen like this is actually kinda uncommon; more people who claim that they’re chosen aren’t, and are rather describing something they chose of their own volition as being out of their hands.  I consider this a kind of false modesty, ascribing one’s own choices in something to the work of the gods, and I…it twangs my sensibilities.  Some people might ascribe such choices to fate or predestination, which is not only a kind of false modesty but also handwaving away their own choices to something that can’t be proved.  Rather, people may feel a draw to some practice or divinity, but be honest: is that because they’re actually being lured to it by the divinity, or are they acting on an impulse and drive that they themselves have and want to explore because it’s actually something that clicks with them?  Are they told that they need to work with some deity or entity, or are they doing so because the person has their own needs given the themes and motifs in their lives that that particular entity can help with more than others?  Are they chosen to work with that deity, or do they chose to work with that deity?

There is no harm in saying that you chose a connection, relationship, or patronage with some spiritual entity.  While it may be an honor to have been chosen, it is also exceedingly honorable to willingly make that choice yourself, if not even more honorable, because it’s you who’s forming the connection, doing the work, making the sacrifices, and going above and beyond the normal level of devotion one might have into something truly special, rare, and powerful.  To do something of one’s own free will and unbidden by the gods that pleases them is almost always a sweeter sacrifice than any fumigation or libation or festival than they demand.  There’s no shame in saying that you chose this animal, this saint, this deity as your patron; if you’re earnest about it, and actually dedicate (literally giving over) yourself, I would say that you’re doing both you, the spirit themselves, and the world an honor by it.

So be honest with yourself.  Did the spirit you claim chose you actually choose you, or did you choose the spirit and choose to form that relationship with them?

I know this can press some people’s buttons, and this can easily lead to a topic of debate that borders on insult and aggravation.  Plus, there are definitely problems of destiny, fate, free will, and the subtle machinations of spirits that can influence what we “choose”, but in our limited human consciousness, we have to take responsibility as much as we can for our actions.  By all means, dear reader, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, but please be respectful towards others if you do so.

11 responses

  1. I’ve always felt that people who claim “being chosen” by a Diety of some sorts do so because they don’t want to put the work in. You want to work with them? Do your research. Buy the supplies, make the necessary prayers/sacrifices. Nothing in the occult world is ever handed to you for free, you have to put in the work.

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  3. (polyphanes 2017-02-14: This comment contains arguments widely considered racist. I’m leaving it up for example purposes only, and I do not condone or endorse any of these views he says. View my response and those of others below, including the poster’s apology, which I’ve accepted.)

    One of the ironies of the tweeter’s argument about cultural appropriation is that she’s writing it on a computer, a device NOT invented by the Native Americans. If she wants people to hew exclusively to what their culture invented, she should stop using the computer. But she can’t. We live in a world where inventions, culture, religion, philosophy etc have been borrowed, bought, stolen, revamped, rehashed, rehabilitated, and rejiggered seven ways to Sunday. You can’t dig an inch into anything – including computers – and find it’s “purely” from one culture, society, or religion. The best you can do is find something that comes from a culture without a written memory which shows it’s pedigree. If I tried to only use things White Anglo Saxons invented I’d be lucky to be living in a mud hut.

    As a magician you should know this. Hermeticism as we know it is a rehash of a Victorian revival of Medieval/Renaissance work up of a cultural appropriation of ancient Egyptian religion by the Ptolemaic dynasty and Roman Empire. Which itself has roots in African tribal religion/magic. With lots of stuff from Ancient Greece, Jewish Kabbalism, Persia, Christianity and more.

    As for “spirit animal”, it’s a joke. Especially Unicorns and Whiskey. I’m sure some New Agers really do say shit like that and mean it seriously. But New Agers are, like black people and gay people, people and not a category. Yeah, plenty of them are flakes who say Cat is their Spirit Animal because they like cats an commune with Cat on YouTube. Others say so based on very real spiritual experiences. At least real to them. And who are you and I and keyboard Native American chick to pass judgement on what an individual’s spiritual experience is?

    Finally, while I believe all religions deserve respect, the general trend in western secular society is to treat them with disrespect. That’s sad but necessary. To elevate all religions as worthy of respect is to elevate none of them. And to cherry pick one religion to elevate is favoritism which ends in terrorism. So if she has a bone to pick with me _personally_ for wearing a dumb t-shirt, I’m OK with that. But if she wants to deride society or “white people” for it she can go fuck herself. Ditto monotheistic fundamentalists and militant atheists. Now I’m off to visit, not my spirit animal, but a spirit in a bottle which I will choose.

    • lol k

      Yeah, besides the fact that you didn’t reply at all to what I was actually writing about, those arguments are pretty damn racist, and I won’t allow them to be posted here again. Satyr Magos posted an excellent rebuttal down below, which I encourage you (and everyone else) to read, if only to correct some of your pretty awful points.

      Putting aside the fact that there’s a huge difference between the selling and use of available technology from one group to another and the appropriation/theft of spiritual concepts and beliefs, that your description of Hermeticism is so hand-wringingly, teeth-gnashingly, sad-laughingly off the mark and completely ignores the historical underpinnings that go back 2000 years, and that you completely seem to ignore the fact that what you consider a joke can be pretty harmful? What really gets to me is that you say that “to treat [some religions especially those of minorities] with disrespect” is “necessary”. Yeah, no. If you want to evaluate them on their merits, sure, that’s one thing and has a pretty limited scope depending on your cultural context and personal needs, but to disrespect them is entirely another.

      Then you segue into some “wah reverse racism” nonsense. You want to know what’s real disrespectful? I’ll let the tweeter herself say: “You can come lecture me after 95% of your population is obliterated, the survivors imprisoned & tortured, the children & cultures stolen. Till then, suck it up, and realize maybe you’re benefitting from genocide and our erasure if you aren’t Native, Black or Black Native.”

      Don’t come back.

  4. So, Eric, there’s a lot going on here and it’s going to take me a minute to unpack it all. Your first point is a mess of false equivocation. Your second point is a very weak grasp of history. Your third point … isn’t. And your concluding point sounds a lot like Richard Dawkins.

    Your first argument begins by suggesting that using a computer undermines her argument. A computer is a product for sale, explicitly available to anyone who can drum up the cash or credit to acquire one, or who can find any of the many left about libraries and colleges for public use. Her argument is, in fact, that Anishinaabe culture is NOT a product for sale, and that people making cheap knock-offs are assholes and should stop.

    You go on to argue that “We live in a world where inventions, culture, religion, philosophy etc have been borrowed, bought, stolen, revamped, rehashed, rehabilitated, and rejiggered seven ways to Sunday.” This is true. We also live in a world where intellectual property is (ostensibly) protected by law. It’s worth noting, though, that such protection falls painfully unequally along racial and socio-economic lines, with indigenous culture being treated as essentially open source. If you want to argue that capitalism and colonialism are right and proper, and you own access to Anishinaabe culture through right of conquest … well, at least you’re being honest. But let’s not pretend that argument is morally neutral. Would you argue that a Catholic has no right to call you an asshole for doing a shitty knock-off of the Eucharist in your basement and calling it authentic Catholocism?

    Your second argument is that modern hermeticism is rooted in cultural appropriation dating back to ancient Egypt and African tribes. Even ignoring the racism in asserting that all non-Egyptian Africa was “tribal”, there’s still a lot to take apart here. Now, you are partially correct with respect to Kabalah: Christian and secular use of Jewish mysticism is cultural appropriation reasonably equivalent to USian New Age appropriation of indigenous religions and symbols. As for the rest of the grimoire tradition, nothing I’ve seen in the Arabic grimoires or the PGM look anything like a closed system. To the bet of my historical knowledge, no one from those streams saw their work as proprietary except possibly in a “I hope none of my direct competitors have access to this” trade secrets sort of way. (Trade secrets are not the same as closed cultural rites: for one, they’re better protected by law; for another, it is, in fact, presumed that they will eventually become industry practices.) I’m a Classicist and not a Jew, though, so I’ll have to rely on others with the appropriate cultural and academic credentials to walk you through Late Antiquity and the Medieval period.

    Your third argument is basicall “fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke”, which … wow. Here’s some links.
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendi-aarons/theres-nothing-funny-about-your-racist-joke_b_7656212.html
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-30/ho—racism/4723212
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201107/does-racist-humor-promote-racism

    Your final point seems to hint at the through-line that connects the previous three. You argue, in essence, that it’s good to disrespect other people’s religions because to do otherwise “ends in terrorism”. Conversely, it’s okay for indigenous people to call you an asshole, individually, but not to call out white people collectively. Invoking the racialized dogwhistle of terrorism (a word overwhelmingly to describe Muslims, with the remainder reserved for Black “radicals”), you insist that white people be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

    You probably don’t think of yourself as a racist. But your arguments very much are. Other people’s cultures are not your commodities. A joke is never just a joke. Calling for an end to exploitation does not categorically lead to terrorism. You, sir, are an asshole.

  5. I like this. I’ve from time to time had the sense of “you’re the chosen one!” and it was a relief to be able to put those thoughts behind me, and to learn to dispense with them. It’s hard to know if that’s a spirit animal, a stray demon or daemon, or the chattering of a disorderly mind, but after a certain amount of meditation that kind of internal thought-form faded away, and I’m glad that it’s gone.

    The problem of cultural appropriation looms large in my awareness of the modern Pagan and New Age scenes. It pops up at the oddest times and in the oddest memories — I was given an “Indian name” in a summer camp ceremony when I was 7 or 8 years old, that included a connection to a spirit animal. Is that mine? It’s part of my lived experience, but I really have no right to accept that name or use it in any sort of public context — and yet it happened early enough in my life that it’s pretty deeply rooted, and more recent experiences with that animal keep suggesting that it’s relevant to my life. Which is dumb — a 20-year old Senior Camp Leader (working from a list? “Pick an adjective from column A and an animal from column B” for each kid??) shouldn’t have that kind of influence over my spiritual life, that a name given in a camp ceremony has relevance forty years later. And yet, faked ceremony or no, to a child it’s a real initiation, and hard to disavow entirely.

    just when I think the necessary work to fix something in my practice or in the practice of my community has been done, it reappears somewhere else — like a giant game of Whack-a-Mole. It harkens back to what Gordon has implied often over on RuneSoup: that there are maybe a dozen, probably fewer, capacities of consciousness that Magic somehow accesses… and as a result, a lot of magical techniques wind up looking like one another in various ways, begged and borrowed and stolen and having the serial numbers filed off. If there’s a limited number of capacities, there’s also a large but limited set of techniques that train those capacities.

    There are OTHER reasons for practicing one set of techniques rather than another. I think that different technique-sets probably lead to different ‘destinations’, in the same way that Buddhism and Christianity appear to lead to different ‘mountaintop experiences’). Yet on the ground floor or at the trail-head, a lot of the methods tend to look very similar to one another even if the paths eventually diverge.

    And so it’s complicated — I’ve found that deciding that the mental thought “you’re the chosen one! (of such and such a spirit/deity/entity)” is a dangerous mental construct that I’d prefer to de-fang and remove from my practice. But I see others benefitting from it — as a coping strategy for dealing with trauma, as a way of feeling connection and rootedness, and frankly as a way of opening to life’s spiritual dimensions and breaking free of an exclusively materialist consciousness. Some people adopt the “X chose me” stance and move on from that eventually once they’re past the ‘baby witch/shaman/high priestess’ stage — and some don’t ever get past that stance.

    The wrestling we do with the trifecta of intersections between purity of practice, appreciation, and appropriation is important, but it feels more like a predicament than a problem — any ‘solve’ is going to lead to a new set of problems, rather than wipe away hundreds of years of betrayal and hurt and ill feeling and mistrust. It doesn’t mean that the wrestling with the intellectual problems, or that the search for justice and honorable action in lived experience, isn’t important — but there is likely no “once and for all” resolution.

    And so your point — that there’s an honest responsibility in saying, “I chose this connection, this is me, I am doing this” — resonates as true. When we announce our choices about what our practice is, how we came to it, and what we think we stand for — then we’re in a position to hear critique, to refine our choices and practice, and take responsibility for how others see our practices as appropriative, hurtful, and damaging. Then we can make changes that reflect both our effort to engage with the spiritual dimensions, and to act with justice and honorable intent in our lived experience.

  6. The “chosen” thing has always seemed to me to be a very monotheistic sort of idea, especially in relation to Christianity with its “the chosen one” savior construct, or Judaism with its “the chosen people” idea. I like the statements you and Andrew put forth about we ourselves doing the choosing and taking the responsibility. Oftentimes I don’t think the Gods really care sufficiently enough to single a person or group out as a choice (again, example: Christians who that think God chose their football team to win a game, etc, etc). If we ourselves make the effort to connect with a God or spirit, well, that then really imbues the act with meaning.

    On a note relating to the “spirit animal” concern—I often feel like people think “white people” just sprang out of nowhere, fully dressed in three-piece suits or jeans and sneakers, baseball caps on their heads and Starbucks cups in their hands. No. White people have a pre-monotheist past that likely involved spirits, animal or otherwise, and gods too, its just that this history has been suppressed/forgotten longer. When the juggernaut that was/is Christianity swept the world in its earlier days, many people probably considered “white” were force converted by the sword or by economic sanctions, and the conversions and persecutions and sanctions continued for hundreds of years, through Inquisitions, heresy trials, witch trials and the like, and a lot of it centered around greed (for example, one view of the witch trials points out that oftentimes accused witches had their property and effects forfeit to the governing powers and that this was often a motivating factor to declare that someone was a witch). The irony to me has always been that while earlier white anthropologists insisted on prying into the ways of other cultures, they almost completely ignored the pre-Christian cultures of their own people—a culture in danger of fading completely away. I recall recently reading, in a book about the ancient cave paintings of Altamira in Spain, that in the 1500s, the pope (Ignacious? I don’t remember) complained on record that people were still going into the caves and conducting rites. Oh, to know exactly what the rites were! Or, take the case of Starr Carr, a Mesolithic site in England where 21 antlered partial deer skulls were found with frontal eye holes cut into them, presumably for masks. Hints. For modern examples, take the Mari people of Russia, who are considered some of the last present day pagans with an unbroken practicing history. Or European mumming guilds, some hundreds of years old and still practicing today.

    Of course, as Andrew said, none of this wipes away the rage, hurt and grief of hundreds of years of horrible history. I worry we will just keep going around and around on these issues, never getting anywhere. We can only try to do what we think is best and learn as we go.

  7. Hey guys,

    ** tl:dr version: I was wrong and I am sorry. Need to take meds. **

    Let me get to business, ’cause it’s gonna hurt ME way more than it’ll hurt you.

    I owe you an apology. I was wrong and I am sorry. Seriously. I should never post on days I skip my meds and feel grouchy. It’s why I don’t have a Twitter account. If only some people would follow my example – but the blonde android I voted for lost so… : (

    It’s a reason, but a shit excuse. I still believe in some of the things I said. But those I articulated poorly and most other stuff was still Wrong. And since this is an apology, I’m dropping it like a live grenade. Plus it’s clear that while certain things hit some buttons, they weren’t actually the focus of it. Being right doesn’t give anyone an excuse to act like an asshole; being wrong doesn’t help the case in the least.

    I’m still not leaving though. But I will post MUCH more infrequently/cautiously. And possibly under another name in case hard feelings remain.

    • Apology accepted. Considering that this is a comment thread on the Internet, seeing this sort of retrospection and apology is incredibly bewildering (because, really, this is extraordinarily rare for people to apologize for wrongdoing in an otherwise anonymous medium), but even more than that, it’s encouraging.

      I understand that the notion of cultural appropriation is, has been, and will continue to be a sore topic for many people on any side of the race/culture divide, and it’s common for people in a privileged position like you or me to take any criticism as a personal attack, especially when some of these sentiments come from valid places of hurt and grievance. There are points that I take issue with myself, and there are yet others that I wrestle with publicly and privately. I don’t expect a complete change of heart overnight, but that you’re starting to see how some of the things you said were racist or come across that way is a positive thing that can’t be denied, and which I encourage and am honestly happy for.

      You can stay, by the way, and it’s not like I can ban you from viewing my blog. I meant the “go away” bit in terms of “don’t post on my blog again because it’ll be deleted outright”, but seeing this change of heart, I think we can leave it in the past.

      Thank you for this change of heart and earnest apology. No hard feelings remain on my part.

  8. Eric…its a challenge to think critically about an issue and express it in non-inflammatory terms, and even then, in my experience, all sides tend to want to put critical thinkers (who usually don’t land on any one side) to the stake anyways. I thought you had a couple of reasonable points in with all the questionable ones. It would be better for everyone if there wasn’t an immediate shutting down of dialog. Isolating people is generally where things begin to go awry—we should take such differences of opinion as opportunities for everyone to really plumb an issue and challenge our assumptions about it. It is a bummer that a discussion originally about spirituality swerved into identity politics and name-calling, but it seems to have been inevitable. We can prove we are better than this.

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