Andre Sólo, Uncategorized, Writing

Help Me Choose Which Essay to Write

Writing. Photo by Daniel Horacio Agostini.

What with planning the group trip to Mexico, lately I’ve found it difficult to make time to write. But that doesn’t stop me from coming up with ideas, so I have a sort of backlog of potential essays, listed below.

I’ve decided to put social time on hold this week and write at least one of these. The trouble is, I don’t know which one. All of these topics seem important to me, and all of them will be fun to work on, but I just don’t have time to do them all. So I thought I’d reach out to you readers and see which one (or ones) you’d most like to see brought to life.

Note that this isn’t everything I have on my to-do list, just some of the more interesting essay ideas:

#1 What It’s Like to Be a White Person Practicing Vodou

This first came up during a really interesting discussion with my friend the Fly Brother. Most of the time, when I discuss Vodou it’s just explaining the basics like “we don’t stick pins in things” and “no, we really don’t stick pins in things.” But when you get past the perceived weirdness of Vodou in general, it’s even weirder that I’m a white person called to serve African gods. Or is it? I rarely feel out of place as a white person in Vodou, but that itself speaks to a sense of entitlement. What are the ethics of an outsider practicing a cultural tradition?

#2 Update on the Journey to Meet the Gods

I originally framed my journey across the Americas as a quest to meet the gods. Since then, I’ve said very little on the topic. That’s partly because the journey isn’t over yet (“Nope, still haven’t met ’em”) but it also speaks to my changing beliefs. If anything, my spiritual journey and interaction with other faiths has only made me more skeptical of religious concepts. But I still consider myself a priest, and am still committed to this quest. So where exactly do I think the gods can be found?

#3 Joseph Campbell Revisited

One of my most popular posts ever was, to my surprise, Why I Don’t Like Joseph Campbell. I originally wrote it simply as a reference post I could point to when people asked me if I’ve read his work. But it struck a nerve with people, and I continue to get comments on it regularly. From the discussion on that post, I learned two things: (1) Campbell supporters are willing to get really, really nasty if you criticize their boy, and (2) I need to go into much more detail than what I originally offered. That post was written to be somewhat flip, and only gives the broad strokes of what’s wrong with Campbell’s “hero’s journey.” I want to do an expanded version that makes stronger points and offers more supporting evidence… but will that really matter to Campbell’s fans?

#4 Defining Polytheism

While I practice several religions, I consider myself firmly a polytheist: I believe the divine has many faces and that this multiplicity is one of its greatest strengths. Just as there is no one god that everyone can relate to, there is no single doctrine that has everything right. This open-mindedness is built right into the core concept of polytheism, yet many polytheists seem to miss it altogether. They insist that to be a polytheist you must believe the gods are real (why?) and that they are totally separate individuals, not faces of one single power (how do we know this?). To me, polytheism is not only about multiple gods, it’s about accepting—and encouraging—multiple doctrines and allowing people to choose the one that speaks to them.

Which of these would you like to see me write? I like them all and would write them all if I could—and hopefully will, eventually—but for now there’s only time for one. Which would you most like to read?

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20 thoughts on “Help Me Choose Which Essay to Write

  1. I’d be happy to read any of them, but I guess I’d throw my hat in for more on polytheism. I have to tell you that I am about as skeptical toward polytheism (the ways I hear it presented) as I am toward atheism (the ways I hear it presented). I have no problem with belief in the many faces of the divine. I have no problem with doubt or conviction that there is no divine, but at the end of the day, I am not convinced that human beings don’t tend toward some unitive sense of meaning. So, to cap that off, I am not touched by being called a monist. Sticks and stones. So, tell me more about your polytheism. :)

    • Really good point Bob. As far as I’m concerned monism is one of the many doctrines that are part of polytheism. It was certainly advanced by polytheists in the Classical world and it’s one of the main threads of theology in Hinduism. The fact that some extreme polytheists don’t get this is, to me, ridiculous.

      But I’m hearing you make a broader point, that we like to have a sense of unity and a clear-cut answer. I think that is perhaps the tragic flaw of polytheism as it existed in the ancient world and as it would ideally exist today. Polytheism’s great strength is that it is pluralistic an inclusive, but its great weakness is that when someone else is saying, “Here is the one truth,” that simple proposition is attractive to a lot of people even if it is unfounded.

      Okay, one vote for the polytheism piece…

  2. Sharon says:

    I ‘d be interested in numbers 2 and 4.
    Also, thank you for your kind words about my home state of Mississippi. It’s so easy to make fun of my state, but you were very respectful. Thank you.

    • I think people who make fun of Mississippi have never been there. Sure it has its share of problems but it’s also a beautiful state with a friendly culture and a lot of history. If you live somewhere else it’s easy to make redneck jokes but that doesn’t really sum up my experience in your state.

      Okay, so far that’s one vote for Meet the Gods and two votes for Polytheism.

  3. I would do the Journey to Meet the Gods. Writing that is part of your activities. You’re getting ready to take a trip. Some of the other subjects appear to need reference to books you have in your library – polytheism and vodou. The Joseph Campbell essay looks ready after you’ve taken notes while you’ve traveled.

  4. pixi says:

    Update on The Journey to Meet the Gods. This was one of the coolest concepts of your journey from the beginning, I thought. Partially because I don’t even understand what it means. I would like to hear more of your thought on this topic.

  5. I’m also for an update on #2. Btw, unfair to use a picture of Shakespeare and Co on the article, you just made me want to run away to Paris again.

    • Hehehe anything I can do to make people travel even more…. Although you are well over the quota.

      So that’s Meet the Gods 4, Polytheism 2. Unless we get a wave of additional votes I think we have a winner.

      • Inspiring wanderlust in me is like the easiest thing ever. Especially after 7 months sitting around sickly pregnant watching amazingly cheap travel deals and summer work opportunities in… well there were possibilities in Latvia, Greece, and Norway this summer… all pass me by, I would hop off to virtually anywhere if I wasn’t sure the baby would be like, “I wanna see too!” and decide to be born somewhere really inconvenient…

        • Whoa I totally forgot you are a mother in waiting! I’m excited for you and Tony. I feel like you should have the baby on a train, just for thematic consistency, but I can understand preferring to do it somewhere properly equipped.

  6. Beth says:

    I’m very curious to hear about your journey to meet the gods. It was such a strong focus for you early on, and I’ve been wondering where that went.

  7. Well you’ve got a decent tally but my vote is to always flip a coin. Of course four options require three coin tosses. My observation and experience is that when one flips a coin, one’s true desire becomes clear, i.e. you either like or don’t like what the coin decides.

  8. Thank you Shane!

    By the way, how can I reach you? Last spring I tried replying to your email re: Mexico several times and always got an error message. I also tried Twitter but it looks like you weren’t active. I’d love to talk if you have time.

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