Friday, June 25, 2010

Shoaling and Schooling Magi, and Magic Diaries

Gordon's post today talks about fish. Because fish are cool. Fish nerds are also cool, but they smell funny and I really don't feel comfortable shaking their hands because I walk away and hours later catch a faint whiff of brine that makes me wonder if it was really fish they were handling. And then I have to scrub.

But Gordon's post was about shoaling sigils. He also went off on magical diaries, making a lot of valid points about how they aren't that necessary.

I want to talk about shoaling and schooling magicians.

Gordon says:
Shoaling.
Think of it like birds flocking but with a few key differences.
Firstly, the aerodynamic (in this case hydrodynamic) advantages aren’t as great.
That’s because fish ‘shoal’ when they aren’t heading somewhere, and ‘school’ when they are. Schooling gives a hydrodynamic advantage.
[snip]
Anyway, fish ‘shoal’ for some obvious reasons:
  • To protect against predation.
  • To indicate where there is food.
  • To raise young.
Shoaling Magi

The blogosphere we play in is a lot like a shoal of magicians. It protects against predation by creating a community of generally respected magicians, and people are hesitant to critique a member of the shoal because they are likely to get called out by another member of the shoal and get publicly ripped to shreds. It indicates where the food is by letting us all know what each other is into, and we "feed" on each other's systems and experiences, enriching our own Work. It also provides a way to "raise the young," that is, provide a single place for new and budding magicians to see a variety of approaches and receive a bunch of complimentary training from people whose primary system or approach might be too specialized for everyone.

Seems to me, this occult blogosphere provides the kind of stuff a lodge would provide, ideally, only without the dues structure and benefits of initiation and a cohesive regimen of structured progressive material, and that's ok, shoaling doesn't have to do that.

Schooling Magi

Schooling of magicians, on the other hand, is different. I recently got to participate in a small experiment with some other magicians, and the effects have been awesome. Working together on a team provided a very hydrodynamic advantage. It's worth doing, and I'm looking forward to the next level, and future collaborations with people on projects. I like that it was research based, and not results based. I think that helped a lot. We weren't working towards manifesting a pile of gold for each of us, or anything too restrictive, we were just doing the same things and recording our results, and then comparing them.

The courses I offered before provided a similar experience, but I think I had too many people at different levels of attainment to reap the same rewards. Generally, those who had done significant work before hand clumped together and succeeded, while those who didn't have the same kind of experiences (from different backgrounds) had less impressive results. I'm going to be applying the results of the small experiment to the courses, and see if that helps streamline some of the benefits we all share.

On Magic Diaries


And then he goes on a rant about mandatory use of magic diaries. His main argument is against the idea that writing in a little secret book is some kind of universal magical requirement. If that's why you're doing it, because you have to, I agree that there's no point in doing it. I think anything done only because it is mandatory will be a lot less useful than something done because its value is known and appreciated.

However, the use of a magical diary in a flexible way is totally useful. Gordon implies the benefit of applying Project Management techniques to your magical efforts, and a magic diary is one of the tools that will help you accomplish that. It provides a record of your intended goal, the path you took, and where you ended up. Going back and reviewing that from time to time is essential. Otherwise you forget the original goal and think you're right on target when you've completely turned around and went way over budget. It's called "Scope Creep."

I advocate the use of something like a Magic Lab Book. Record your hypothesis, your planned experiment to prove it, the actual results, and any adjustments to your hypothesis that must be made. In doing an extended working, keep track of your results after each operation, and record the things that happen relative to your project. It helped a lot with the recent Schooling project we did.

It doesn't have to be that rigid, either. This is magic, we can do what we will. A Flip record of your Work, like the video log in Avatar would be pretty fun and useful. You can't rely on your observational skills, but a record of what you thought you experienced is going to be a lot more useful than no record at all. The process of magic is sort of like going to the gym in that you do make progress towards a goal, and seeing where you were at, where you are, and where you hope to be compared to where you were before is damned useful. And who cares why the Victorians did it? If we use it for our own purposes, it can be redeemed and made valuable regardless of the errors of rich white pissing English men.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and even if that is inductive logic*, it holds true. A diary might not be a completely accurate and perfect record of what happened, but it's better than having none at all.

Shit, I just realized that I'm a documentation specialist. Technical Writer. I record project history, progress, and report on it for a freaking living. Of course I'm an advocate for keeping a written record. He's in MEDIA and MARKETING, for Christ's sake. Heh.

Yeah, we may very well disagree on the importance of maintaining a comprehensive document trail. :D

But like he said, it's an "if you want" kind of thing. It helps, I use it, it might help you.

* I totally disagree that inductive logic is inherently an error. I'm a fatalist with Calvinist tendencies, so I'm not surprised. I'm also a Taurus, and I use Practicality as a philosophical knife when dealing with philosophical Gordian knots. Even though you can't really determine that the sun will rise tomorrow based on the fact that it has always done so before, you aren't going to divest your holdings in solar panel production companies, are you? Even if it's an imperfect tool, it can be used effectively, with caveats.
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