Monday, February 28, 2022

Polytheistic Monasticism: Voices from Pagan Cloisters - A Book Review

Polytheistic Monasticism: Voices from Pagan Cloisters

A Book Review

As you surely know, polytheist monasticism is a cause close to my heart.  I consider myself both a polytheist and novitiate nun.  I was excited and delighted to hear of the publication of this book.  It contains eight essays by nine contemporary pagan monastics, and one interview with a pagan monastic, along with some introductory context by the editor, Janet Munin.  The individual essays, for the most part, discuss the writer’s personal experience, and how and why they understand it to be pagan monasticism.  These were all interesting (some more so that others, of course), but personally, I found that many of them lacked details about the author’s specific practices and monastic structures which I could use to help build my own monasticism, and instead seemed more like beautiful and heart-felt journal entries.  Personally, I do not care for that sort of deeply intimate writing, but I know many people like it.  If you do, you’ll find plenty here to make your heart sing!

The second essay, by Kimberly Kerner, “Called by the Spirits, but not to the Priesthood” was one exception; she provided many very specific and useful examples woven into a compelling narrative about how she understands the similarities and distinctions between priesthood and monasticism. Her essay is well-organized, discussion of Devotion, Discipline, Contemplation, and “The Still Center”. While her practice and mine are very different, I found this essay quite inspiring, and especially appreciated the way the topic headings gave me an outline to apply those ideas to my own practice.

Chapter seven, by Rebecca Corvo was also a favorite.  It focused very tightly on one practice, “custody of the eyes.”  In the essay, Corvo discusses beginning the practice focusing entirely on “seeing the hidden and the ignored” especially in Nature, but moved onto averting their eyes from the violent, the impious, and the miasmic.  While they and I do not agree on all details, this was the only essay that moved me to make immediate and very practical changes to my daily life, and for that I am very grateful. 

However, while I enjoyed and found value in many  of essays, and think them well worth reading for any aspiring polytheist monastic, it was the fourth essay, by Syren Nagakyrie, that most spoke to me.  Titled “Modern Polytheistic Monasticism: A Revolutionary Vision” it was the only essay in which I really recognized myself and my values (a testament to the variety of viewpoints in the book!).  It focuses on monasticism as an inherently counter-cultural practice, and outlines four basic monastic values : “Resistance to the exploitation of time and labor”, “Resistance to the disenchantment of daily life”, “Resistance to oppression and the devaluation of all beings”, and “Resistance to resource extraction from the earth”.  Found it both challenging and inspirational; just what I want from religious theory!  In my opinion, this essay alone is worth the cost of the book ($12 paperback or $6 ebook).

Sunday, February 27, 2022

How to Write a Ten Page Essay in Five Hours

How to Write Ten Page Essay in Five Hours

  1. Use a timer for each phase.  Stay on schedule!  

  2. Check in (5 minutes)

    1. How are you feeling about this assignment?

    2. List your anxieties.

    3. This is proven to improve academic performance.

  3. Choose a Topic (10 Minutes)

    1. Were you assigned a topic?  

      1. Good!  Spend ten minutes thinking about why this particular essay was set.

    2. Who are you writing for?

    3. Which is more important? 

      1. Informative/Educational

      2. Persuasive

      3. Entertaining 

      4. Good writing does all three, but you can’t learn to write ten good pages in four hours from a blog post.  Pick one to prioritize.

    4. What problem are you solving?

    5. What question are you answering?

  4. Write an Outline (90 Minutes)

    1. Introduction

      1. Context

      2. Question

      3. Answer

    2. Contextual details of the question

      1. Why does anyone care about this?

      2. What in the situation suggests the question?

      3. What in the situation suggests the answer?

    3. Show off some book learnin’

      1. What do experts say about this topic?

        1. Cite your quotations

        2. compare/contrast them

      2. How does this topic relate to others you’ve written about in the past?

    4. Use your reasoning

      1. What are some general principles that relate to your topic?

        1. Cite sources

      2. Apply each general principal to the particular situation at hand.

      3. Compare/contrast the situation with historical examples of similar situations.

        1. What can be gleaned from your analysis?

    5. Speak from the heart

      1. Do you have personal experiences which are relevant?

      2. What personal beliefs do you have that influenced your answer?

      3. Disclose your bias.

      4. Make a call to action relevant to the topic.

    6. Conclude

      1. Restate the question.

      2. Summarize each of the above in one sentence each.

      3. Restate your answer.

  5. Take a Break (5 minutes)

    1. Chill out, and close your eyes. 

    2. Let your brain relax.

    3. Drink some water.

  6. Check in (5 minutes)

    1. How are you feeling about this project?

  7. Write (90 minutes)

    1. Start at the top of your outline, and expand it into full sentences.

  8. Take a Break (5 minutes)

  9. Check In (5 minutes)

  10. Read and Revise (85 minutes)

    1. Read what you’ve written

    2. Fix obvious mistakes

    3. Obviously, it would be better if you did more of this.

  11. Submit (5 minutes)