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Follow-up thoughts on

Responses to my post here and on my blog have me wondering:

• Do we have a tendency to assume that if someone in our community advocates sincerity, it's because they lack competence?

• Are we willing to settle for mere competence because we've grown distrustful of sincerity as part of the spiritual community experience?

• What has made us so cynical and jaded about our fellow Pagans? Does social media itself play a role in this dynamic?

Ideas, anyone?
Alison Leigh Lilly's profile photoT Thorn Coyle's profile photoJeff Lilly's profile photo
We should all be working toward both sincerity and competence. Sometimes we also need to take the big risks outside our comfort zones to make a different level of magic happen. With all our skill and training, that may end up looking like incompetence. It might disappoint or piss people off, people who have grown used to a certain level of work from us.

Leaders need to risk failure in order to keep sincere. Otherwise, we end up polishing veneer. Taking big risks when you are in a leadership role - whether leading a grove or coven or even a tradition - can feel very hard because we tend to not want our leaders to fail in any way (or worse, we are waiting for them to fail, so we can feel superior). No one likes to fail, most of us have some level of risk aversion, and I think this can become heightened when someone has been in leadership for awhile. It is how people and movements become brittle.

The really effective leaders continue to self-examine, to practice their craft, to study, to pray, to connect, and to take risks.
I really like how you bring in this idea of brittle-ness, Thorn. It's something +Jeff Lilly talks about in linguistics, too, when a language system has too many complex, very specific rules so that a single error can cause a cascading crash that brings the whole thing to a grinding halt.

The alternative, in computational linguistics, is to work at creating a robust system, that is good at handling a wide variety of language tasks but is also flexible enough not to break down at the first sign of unforeseen complication.

I wonder if there's a parallel here --- what would a robust spiritual community look like?

I think one aspect of it is leaders who are willing to take risks and work towards integrity (integrating sincerity and competence). :)
The insight from linguistics is that a system such as language is best modeled with a set of prototypes / archetypes / goals. For example, if you want to know if a sentence is grammatical, you don't have a list of rules you check it against; instead, you look at lots of grammatical sentences and see how similar it is to that set. This gives you flexibility, because you don't get a brittle yes / no answer, you get a gradient measure of grammaticality.

Similarly, for any spiritual calling, I feel that one should choose a challenging, inspiring prototype / archetype of the person or virtue you aspire to, measure yourself against that, and hold yourself (gently, mercifully) accountable when you fail (because you will!). ...And the same when others fail.
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