We're Made of Mud and Magic

Pagan rituals for groups


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The problem of getting sh*t done

I used to work for a small business. It was a really small business; the kind where the owner and I shared a walk-in closet as an office and we didn’t have to make reservations for the company Christmas party. I was there for ten years, doing what needed to be done all day, every day. There wasn’t a lot of theorizing – there wasn’t time for theories. There wasn’t a lot of philosophizing – there wasn’t time for philosophy. There was shit to do.


I have moved into the non-profit world now. I am in operations – practical, day-to-day stuff – but some days it feels like it is all meetings anyway. And so many of the meetings don’t seem to achieve anything: meetings about the wording of our mission statement, meetings about activities we don’t have the capacity to do, and meetings about meetings. I despair as the minutes tick by while people theorize and philosophize and day dream… I just want to get back to my to-do list. I have shit to do.


My spiritual family tends to the practical too. We had to improvise ritual space the other day, and we busted that out: quick division of the roles such that everything was evenly divided and no one had to awkwardly skip around the circle to call a second quarter, and we were soon underway. We all spoke clearly, got our lines mostly right, and cued each other as needed. Not quite clockwork, but we got through the sacred space set-up efficiently as a team. And then we got to a certain point and were gearing up to get to the next task on the ritual checklist when one person said “we should take a moment”.


Oh. right. A ritual is more than a list of tasks to complete.


The “get shit done” approach serves me well at work, where the task list is:

Buy forks.
Follow up on overdue invoices.
Fix the printer.
Buy more forks.
Issue membership contracts.
Order coffee.
Pay invoices.
Buy even more forks.*


But while the kind of experience that happens in Circle is crafted through a checklist of tasks, it isn’t the checklist.** The steps are not there for their own sake; they are the means by which we reach the state where we can connect beyond ourselves to deities, to community, to spirit, to grace… and if we lose sight of that, we risk creating empty containers instead of sacred space. Sometimes, getting shit done requires focusing on something bigger than getting shit done.


* That got a big laugh at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference.

** Interesting article from a scientific/anthropological point of view about the purpose of the accessories of religion: “Overworked? Try a little ritual“.

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