A Pagan investing primer (which is actually for everybody)

A family friend recently asked me about the stock market. E knows it’s an important part of the economy, but is frustrated how little e was learning in school about it. “All I really know is that it’s where people make money,” e said. E knows it to be an important concept, but not important enough that it’s part of eir high school curriculum. That’s prompted me to think about what someone needs to know about the stock market by the time e enters adulthood. Two broad areas of knowledge are needed, I believe:

  1. an understanding of the relationships among capitalism, publicly-traded stocks, and morality, and
  2. an understanding of the risks, benefits, and advantages of investing in these kinds of corporations.

There are many people who could lay out the ecological, sociological, political, and moral impacts of putting one’s money in corporate coffers than I ever could. For that aspect, I will just point my young friend to choice posts on this and other sites, and information about how some people attempt to redirect that energy (or mitigate the damage) through socially-responsible investing. These are important questions to resolve for oneself.

Stock investment is steeped to the eyeballs in the idea that corporations are people. The word corporation itself means “body,” and the shares that one buys and sells are, I suppose, pieces of that body, which really sounds ghoulish. I find the idea that businesses are people to be extremely problematic, but at present it’s the major model recognized in law. Part of my curriculum — but not the first part, unless I want to bore em into never asking for the second — will be a discussion of that concept.

For my part, I’m going to try to lay out some of the hows and whys of the stock market, which e can then place in context of those other arguments. Here are some of the questions I think are worth answering:

  1. Can I get rich quick investing in the stock market?
    Good gods, no, and that false promise is one of the first forms of evil neophyte investors tend to encounter. The stock market is based on a really unwholesome tenet of capitalism, the idea that growth must be constant and unlimited in order to be healthy, which makes it pretty easy to sell that nonsensical get-rich-quick notion. In truth, what goes up must come down, and the value of any particular stock does rise and fall over time, meaning that it’s possible to buy a share of a corporation and then sell it at a loss. People can, and do, lose lots of money investing in stocks. The techniques used by ordinary (but educated) stock investors are intended to build wealth over the long haul. To be clear, even the most morally-minded investments in this area are a dip into the essence of capitalism.
  2. What is stock, anyway? Is it like chicken stock?
    Not quite, and if there’s a clear connection I haven’t had the time to root it out. I suppose if one considers chicken stock to be the basic unit of chicken it works intellectually, but it most assuredly does not work for the chicken. In this context, “stock” refers to the bits into which a corporation is sliced in order to buy and sell it piecemeal; more fully it’s “shares of stock.” If I create a corporation (Terrific Pendulous Wellingtons, Inc.) and declare that it has 100 shares of stock, then ownership stake in that corporation is divided 100 ways. I can sell the shares, and the money goes into a corporate account, presumably to fund development of those amazing, hanging boots. If my friend Betty buy five shares, she doesn’t have to retain them; the stock market exists to make it easier to find someone interested in buying them. Betty probably would like to sell them for more than she paid me, and if she finds someone who believes my hard work will result in amazing profits, she might do that; that’s how stock prices go up. On the other hand, if she can’t find anyone with confidence in my vision, and people think I will be a failure, she may only be able to sell the shares at a loss.
  3. How do I actually buy or sell shares of stock?
    Technically, anyone who owns shares of stock could sell them to anyone else, but these days nearly all of those transactions involve a broker, a middleman who snags a commission for clicking a few keys. Some of them offer advice, but that’s the topic of another question.
  4. What are dividends? Why would I want them?
    In theory, dividends are the reason why anyone buys stocks, because they’re payments made to shareholders representing a portion of the company’s profits. Companies where this is standard practice get their shares referred to as “income stocks” for that reason.
    However, dividends get taxes as ordinary income, which some people prefer to avoid. The other way to make money on stocks is easier on the taxes: investing for growth, or buying at a low price and selling when they cost more. Taxes only happen when the shares are sold, and for higher-income folks it’s at a lower rate.
    Share prices rise when more people want to buy then want to sell, which suggests a lot of people consider them valuable. That could be due to a handsome dividend, or maybe a new product was announced that investors believe will rake in the cash. Shares in Apple tend to rise or fall after one of their snazzy CEO product releases, depending on the wow-factor of this year’s iPhone and such.
  5. How can something called DRIP be a good thing?
    This acronym refers to dividend reinvestment programs, which address the biggest issue that anyone ever has with money: if it’s possible to spend it, it’s more likely to get it spent. DRIP stands for dividend reinvestment program, in which stock dividends, rather than being paid to the shareholder, are instead used to buy more shares of the same stock.
  6. What’s a split?
    This word means that a share of stock has been broken into more shares that cost less, and is used to keep the price of shares affordable. If a company’s stock, selling at $100 per share, is split two for one, the holder of one share will wake up one day the owner of two shares that sell for $50 each; the total value never changes in the split, but the price can be pushed up by people who think it matters for some reason. A only example of what stock prices look like when shares are never split is Berkshire Hathaway, as far as I know.
  7. Is it possible to be in the stock market and not be a terrible person?
    Maybe. The real problem is that C corporations — the ones shares in which are most commonly traded on public exchanges — are chartered to make money for shareholders, and directors and officers of such companies will use that as an excuse not to do anything that might slow down the cash, even if it means ignoring practices which are more ethical or sustainable. There are now corporations which are chartered with a mandate to focus on the so-called triple bottom line, which includes not only profit, but people and planet; very few of these B corprorations are publicly traded. However, there are mutual funds the managers of which seek out C corporations which are governed by such ethics. Another way to try to offset damage done by a company while benefiting from its profits is to engage in shareholder activism.
  8. How do I make hella money and fast?
    The best way to make beaucoup bucks insanely fast is to start with a few million already. Like attracts like and compound interest is incredibly powerful, which means that if — like me — you don’t have a lot of money, the more time you can allow your investments to grow the more likely you are to reach that point. Sorry.
  9. What’s the rule of 72?
    This is a simplified formula for determining how quickly an investment will double in value. Divide 72 by the rate of annual return to get the number of years this will take. There are more precise formulas, but this will get you in the ballpark. Keep in mind, however, that a higher rate of return is always tied to a higher chance that the investment will go bust, and all the money will be lost. All magic comes with a price.
  10. What are penny stocks, and how can I get in on that?
    That’s a term for stock which sell for less than a dollar — pennies — per share. Low prices do not necessarily denote bargains, however, and while the potential to make a lot of money when such a stock rises in price can be huge, these are companies more likely to go bust than boom. That would mean all the money invested goes away. Don’t invest in penny stocks unless you personally understand how that particular company operates. Don’t listen to brokers or sales dudes; if you’re not sure how to thoroughly research a company, then you have no business investing like this.
  11. Stocks and bonds, stocks and bonds. Why are they paired? How are they different?
    If you own shares of stock, you own a piece of the company, and thus a share of its profits. When you hold bonds, you have loaned money to the company which must get paid back before stockholders get their profits in the form of higher share prices or dividends. Bond owners get paid first, but over the long haul stockholders tend to get paid more. The value of stocks can go down as well as up, and it’s possible to lose money if shares are sold when they are very low in price. Bond payments tend to be the same, no matter what, which is why they are described as less risky than stocks: you know how much money you’re going to make, and when.
  12. What are mutual funds?
    These are pools of money into which many people chip, on the theory that going large is the best way to make money investing. Some of these are actively managed, meaning someone is paid to buy and sell; then there are index funds which are managed by a computer program to simply echo the proportions in a particular stock index. Over time, index funds are always the better deal for the little guy, because no money manager can beat the market averages year over year by enough to make up for paying that person’s salary as well as the taxes on that active trading.
  13. Then what’s an index?
    This is a compilation, such as the Dow Jones or the Standard & Poor’s 500, which is intended to represent what’s happening in the market overall. A bunch of stocks (30 in the former example, 500 in the latter) chosen by self-described experts to stand in for the market overall, a particular sector, or even some [theory]. One cannot invest in an index, because it’s a just a number compiled by plugging in the values of the member stocks into an arcane formula, but index funds exist which closely track just about any index ever conceived.
  14. Is it possible to change the system from the inside?
    Not everyone believes this is the case, and an argument against even trying is that one’s time and resources are better spent doing something else. However, I believe that my vote matters, and one path toward changing the system from within is becoming a shareholder activist, an owner of stock who votes those shares to follow one’s conscience at the annual meeting. Most stock shares carry voting privileges, and — this being the beating heart of capitalism — owning more shares means getting more votes. Shareholders may bring matters to the shareholders directly at those meetings, meaning that just owning the stock of a company with a nasty record pretty much guarantees a lot of shareholder-brought actions to impose board term limits, cap CEO pay, increase diversity, and follow higher environmental standards, among others. These resolutions get distributed to all shareholders in advance, along with a recommendation about each one from the directors (which is always AGAINST any proposal they didn’t offer themselves). This is also the way to try to get board members elected who might actually support things like human and non-human rights. It’s not the right choice for every person — particularly those looking for change to happen quickly — but it’s an option I think is worth exploring. With enough people shaking the rafters, something’s going to fall from the eves eventually.

Whether one considers the capital market to be a nexus of evil or the road to abundance, it’s an institution which, like democracy, must be studied by anyone living under its influence, because ignorance always begets suffering. These questions might be a beginning, but what lies ahead is a life of study, an obligation of every citizen. Get to work.

Death sandwich

A sandwich is a thing framed by another thing, with the thing in the middle being the part that matters when it’s being named:  it’s a ham sandwich, not a rye sandwich.  This is why I find the phrase “compliment sandwich” utterly nonsensical; it should be called a criticism sandwich, a putdown hero, an insult slider, or something of that sort.

I can say with confidence that the warm part of this year, for me, has been a death sandwich.

To begin with, my wife and I bought our graves.  It’s the most expensive thing I have ever purchased as a result of writing an article for the Wild Hunt.  Spending is in my nature, which is why I focus a lot of energy on saving.  I bought something pretty much anytime I went on a trip, and any number of items in my possession resulted from an interview I did, like the Hermes oracle cards I got after lunch with Bob Place, the stone divination set I picked up at Changing Times-Changing Worlds, or the steampunk belt with thigh holster I ordered after seeing one at Rites of Spring.  It was when I wrote about my friend Deana Reed, and learned that she was buried in a natural cemetery just one town away from my own, that I knew it was time to invest in some real estate.

IMG_6493.JPG

Not mine; looks like a neighbor is moving in.

My dear old dad used to say, “Just toss me naked in a ditch,” knowing full well that he had a guaranteed spot in a veterans’ cemetery which wouldn’t allow for that.  I’m not entirely sure he was joking, and regardless I find the idea appealing.  Certainly more appealing than embalming, or cremation (which can also include embalming), which are really quite nasty from an environmental perspective.  Now that we have the deed to two adjacent plots in the wooded natural burial section of this local cemetery, I’m that much closer to getting away with it.  Certainly I cannot be buried with any artificial fibers or plastic crap, and my only container options are a pine box or just a board.  If I outlive my wife, I think I can probably get away with naked, but it would certainly take careful planning.

A sandwich, I already noted, is a thing framed by another thing.  Purchasing a grave is not death, and even if it was this is the bread, not the meat.  The meat of a death sandwich is death.

I told my mother about my new purchase when we took our annual pilgrimage to my father’s grave around Memorial Day, when the flags are everywhere.  As was her wont, she looked at me like I had two heads, not for planning ahead (she’d planned and paid for her entire funeral some 15 years ago), but for my enthusiasm.  I was thinking her reaction two months later, when after a month of drifting back and forth through the veil, I was again at that cemetery to commit her mortal remains and rejoin them with those of her beloved husband.  I and others shepherded her as best we could in the weeks ahead, and I continued that work with offerings of tea with milk as she transitioned to being an ancestor.  She was ready to get to work in short order.

A death sandwich is death framed by another thing.  The thing which sandwiches death for me this year is the idea of death.  In the spring I purchased a grave, acknowledging death, and this autumn I acknowledge it again by inviting my co-religionists to honor Haides with words.

October 31 is when submissions open for The Host of Many: Hades and his Retinue, and it is long in coming.  I frequently see posts from Hellenic polytheists grumbling about portrayals of Hades in popular culture, or expressing frustration that his emerging cult doesn’t have a lot of historical sources upon which to be built.  This is an opportunity to change that.  At the same time, I know there are a huge number of underworld deities and spirits who might never see the cover of an anthology; they deserve honor, and I dearly hope to see as many submissions about these lesser-known gods as I receiver for Hades himself.

Do the research.  Write the paper.  Script the ritual.  Offer the prayer.  Help me finish making my death sandwich.

Real money magic: my vote matters, your vote matters.

The miasma which leads a sizable majority of Americans not to bother to vote is the idea, “my vote doesn’t matter.”  I know better:  I saw a local race decided by one vote, and the loser didn’t vote for himself.  My vote matters.

Received yesterday:  this sigil, which I then empowered to pull that cloud of miasma from the eyes of any who see it by conveying this message:  “my vote matters.”

Put this sigil on paper money.  Money is a very effective tool for political magic, as the present state of affairs should demonstrate clearly.  I’m trying to put it over George’s third eye, as well as the eye of the pyramid.  (I hope to get it better centered with practice.)

[Sara Mastros.]

A little to the left . . .

An invocation to use, if one is the invoking sort:

For the good of the polis,
may the mist be made clear.
For the good of the people,
see the vote, hold it dear.

The more this is shared, the more it is implemented, the more effective it will be.  Reblog, share, retweet, slap the image on Instagram or run it around Tumblr.  Social media shares are good for rousing individuals out of torpor, but actually putting it on money works the spell on a deeper level that addresses how equating money with speech has distorted our political system.

Message from Selene

When I was a young man, I looked up into the sky one night while walking my dog, and swore an oath to the moon.

I cannot say exactly what I swore, because I don’t recall. For many years — decades, actually — I didn’t even remember that I had taken such a step at all. I admired the moon, but somehow over the course of time I forgot just how much I had admired the moon in the moment.

July, 2016, it came back to me as she turned my world upside-down. On the occasion in question I was submerged in a bath, reading for the first time Lunessence, a Selene devotional anthology to which I had contributed a piece about her and Poseidon. I turned to the page on which my offering, “Waiting for Selene,” was at that moment first beheld on paper by my own eyes. I read it as if for the first time, drinking in the dynamic I tried to describe between the two deities.

[raptorzysko]

I hadn’t looked at this piece since I had submitted it some months before, and frankly, I was impressed. Sometimes, the words I put together seem like they must be coming from another place than my own mere mind, and this felt like one of those times. Yes, I was impressed, but perhaps being impressed with myself wasn’t exactly what the gods were looking for. That’s when they turned my world upside-down.

The hand doing the tilting, I felt, was definitely Poseidon’s. While she is the gentle-but-irresistible pull of the tides, his is the relentless force of plate tectonics. Looking at my feet extended to the other end of the tub, my brain demanded to know why they instead appeared to be extending up above my head. Kinesthetically I knew they were not, but the information being patched through my eyes disagreed. If the planet’s poles had been reversed without warning I would not have been more disoriented than I was in that moment.

All the while, I understood the physical cause of this sensation to some extent. I have a condition which can alter fluid pressure in my inner ear, resulting in an altered perception of up and down. This is the condition which had been triggered, and I was confident the switch had been flipped by divine hand as a less-than-subtle message. Surrounded by water, reading about the goddess of the celestial body which controls the tides, turning my understanding of gravity inside-out got my attention. In a world of sensory overload, the subtle and quiet does not always make an impression. Sitting in that tub, I had no choice but to pay attention. I could no longer even read.

It was during those moments of extreme disorientation that I recalled an oath, one I had sworn decades earlier, on a night when the moon was full and I was out walking the dog. Things fell into place. I had reneged because I had forgotten not to, and I probably forgot because I didn’t make the oath as specific as it needed to be. If I’d made it more specific I probably would have remembered making it at all, for one. It would have included specifics about what I was offering to give, and whether I was expecting anything in return. If I’d be really thinking, I would have established a time limit, even something as simple as my own mortal life. I could have put in a lot of detail, and that might have prompted me to write it down. Who knows?

Oaths are not for the weak. They are not for the shortsighted. Many Christians avoid them entirely and with good reason, as I found out: they tend to linger about, their power unabated yet unrealized. I wonder what other youthful oaths I swore, which have not yet risen into recollection? What consequences might I endure as I rediscover those promises? Should I engage in preemptive reparations? Is it better to wait until they make their wishes known? Divine hypothetical conjecture seems madness, but ignoring obligations doesn’t feel like much of an alternative.

Corporations are [not] people

I’ve been trying for months to write about why corporations are not people. The reason this is such a struggle, I fear, is because corporations actually are people. They are treated like people by other people; what more is there to know?

When the Citizens United case was decided, it resulted in an outcry of, “corporations are not people!” Other than that specific tag line, however, there’s little to suggest that this is true. Mind you, I do not believe that corporations are people (despite being legally a “body”), but the notion that they are is thoroughly embedded in our language, therefore in our thinking. If we wish to separate personhood for corporateness, we need to start with the words that shape our thoughts.

A few examples of language that empowers faceless entities to be treated as people:

  • Someone taking over a local business in my community posted in a social media group, “We are a newly renovated laundromat in town which offers a variety of services.” I’m familiar with the storefront in question, but wasn’t aware it had signed up for Facebook, or even that the building was the requisite 13 years of age.
  • How did NASA see the space station cross the eclipse? Had the organization become self-aware, or was it actually the dedicated workers there who deserve the credit?
  • With what mouth does Exxon state a thing, or the White House deny an allegation?
  • As a friend of my library, should I invite it over for dinner sometime?
  • Exactly how does a legal fiction, possessing neither hands to write or a mind with which to think, make a decision about my medical coverage, and then notify me about it?
  • How does an organization show pride?
  • Discrimination is terrible, but can a bank really discriminate? Maybe it’s actually people doing all the discriminating?

Isn’t this all getting a bit personal?

Despite this purported personhood, corporations are not like humans. They cannot die a natural death, for one, and it’s awfully difficult to throw them in jail. Corporations, the name of which means “body,” have become in effect bodiless bodies, which Webster likened to golems]. In that insightful column, Webster commits the very same personalization to which I am referring: referencing a long-neglected automotive recall, he writes, “Rightly, many are horrified but few have the magical insight or the systems theory to understand how GM could be so stupid.” To wonder “how GM could be so stupid” is to presume that GM has sentience, is it not?

It’s language through which we grant agency, and through language that we ask spirit to enter what has been created. There’s a reason that corporations are compared to golems: we give them power, we give them life. What most of us fail to understand is that we don’t do that through law at all. It’s language which shapes thought to grant agency to corporations.

It was listening to Rush Limbaugh that got me thinking along these lines. (I highly recommend this as an intellectual exercise, especially for those of a different political bent than the man. Limbaugh is a slick debater, and understanding how to uses logical is instructive.) One of his ongoing routines at the time was about sports-utility vehicles. His intention was to salvage the reputation of the gas guzzlers, but his words planted a seed that took years to germinate in my mind.

What Limbaugh did was collect headlines about tragedies involving SUVs. They all had headlines which suggested the vehicle itself was responsible, such as “SUV plows into unsuspecting family.” Drawing upon the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” mindset, he drily proclaimed that these renegade vehicles needed to be stopped. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs, but I came to appreciate his point regardless. If it’s the SUV’s fault, then that means the SUV is a person.

Can humans create spirits? I suspect not, but they appear to be able to influence them by creating attractive hosts for them, the same way I can attract hummingbirds by putting sugar water in an attractive container, or ask that my patron deity dwell in a sacred image formed by my own two hands. Corporations, even more than SUVs, appear to be excellent hosts; they are all but accepted as having the same agency human persons possess. Given the varying ways humans treat other beings as commodities or property, that’s a big leg up.

When I think of corporations, I am actually imagining a wide variety of frameworks which are given rein to act in ways that humans do in our society; anything that has a corpora, or body, is a corporation. Nonprofits, churches, governments, committees, quilting groups, and cat-rescue operations fall into this broad definition, as do many forms of organizing that I know nothing about. If it’s conceived as an entity and is given agency through language or law, that’s all I need.

This isn’t just about the legal status of corporations, any more than enslaving a human being is entirely about laws that permit such an abomination. In his definitive work Animism, Graham Harvey presents the idea that what makes that particular worldview different is simply who is regarded as people. On a related note, in Debt: the First 5,000 Years David Graeber posits that slavery is only possible when the individual’s social connections are cut, thus rendering that individual a non-person It is the culture that permits humans to be treated as if they are property not people, and it is the culture which permits a collection of paperwork to be treated as if it were a person. In short, we are the ones feeding the golem.

Sometimes, when I try to articulate this problem in a conversation on the internet, I can all but see the eyes rolling as people dismiss the notion. Oh, it’s just a figure of speech, they say, and not the problem at all. Really? Is the idea that language shapes thought suddenly alien, then, or is it more difficult to accept one’s own culpability for this terrible situation we have created?

The figures of speech I’m referring to are the shorthand we use when referring to companies and other organizations. Exxon releases a statement, or the White House denies involvement in this week’s political dust-up. We like being considered a friend of our local library or NPR affiliate, perhaps, and get angry when an insurance company denies coverage for a procedure. When we learn about an unfamiliar corporation in the news, we immediately want to know who they are, and whether or not they’re evil.

I get that these are figures of speech, convenient shortcuts because we all know what they mean. I also get that when we look at the words of those who came before us, we do not necessarily know what they meant, and incorrect assumptions are frequently introduced due to a lack of context. In addition, I understand quite well that as much as language represents thought, it also shapes thought, and the evidence of that shaping culminated in the Citizens United decision. Corporations are people because we forgot that our figures of speech didn’t mean anything, and suddenly they did.

This convention is used as shorthand simply because it’s awkward to say that Exxon executives released a statement, a presidential spokesperson denied the allegations on his behalf, we donate regularly to support the library, and it was an insurance company employee who actually denied my Viagra (okay, that last was a bit ridiculous; I don’t think Viagra is ever denied). I know it’s awkward, because I’m a reporter and I have been trying for three years now to avoid personifying in prose that which is not a person in my mind. It’s not only awkward, it’s bloody difficult, too. However, in keeping with the idea that language shapes thought, I’m trying to reshape how I see the relationships in the world around me.

One tool I lean on is the passive voice, reviled because it removes the actor from the action. I prefer to talk about the people behind the veil, but if cannot ascertain their identities, passive voice reminds my readers that I’m not claiming that Skynet has become self-aware. A statement was issued from the corporate office, for example, or new unemployed statistics were simply released, actor inferred.

What I sit with is the fact that whether or not we are creating a new spirit with this collective thought process, we are creating a new way to shift responsibility — be it credit, or blame — away from individuals, and onto faceless entities.

If corporations are not people, then they are also not evil (or good, for that matter). It’s actually other people making the decisions and hiding behind that organizational smokescreen. People have faces. People live in the active voice. The lesson of history is that it’s a lot easier to commit atrocities if one has no face, just as it’s easier if the victim is invisible, faceless. If the faces of the victims cannot be erased, why do we erase the faces of the offenders?

Corporations are not people, but are we too lazy to prove it?

On the Wild Hunt

A few hours ago, I ended my time at the Wild Hunt after a number of months of reflection on, worship over, and seeking guidance about what nourishes me and serves my highest purpose.  While it might have appeared sudden to most people, as it’s none of their business, it was anything but.

However, complete strangers have since approached me, asking if I “lost my job” over the last article I wrote.  I did not.

For one thing, no one can be fired from the Wild Hunt, and anyone who claims to have ever been fired is either ignorant or a liar.  This is independent contractor work, not a job.

I did not participate in an editorial decision to replace that news article with an apology.  I was not told my services were no longer needed, and I was not asked to resign.  I am simply in need of change.

While I mourn the change, I also know it will open for me new possibilities.  I wish those who carry forth the valuable tradition of truth-speaking all the blessings of Hermes in their work, and the knowledge that bright Helios watches them.

#trypolytheism

I tried to make Twitter relevant to me again last autumn. True to form, my effort garnered a lot of attention on Facebook, where my tweets have been cross-posted for so long that I forgot that was even a thing, yet barely a peep from the Twitterati. Maybe that’s because I’m not one of the cool kids, or maybe it’s because the cool kids really don’t use Twitter any longer. I can’t say for sure.

The effort, a series of tweets asking questions around the hashtag #trypolytheism, got a lot of unexpected reactions.

From among my Christian friends, there was some bristling, which was not entirely surprising. Polytheism doesn’t have much in the way of sacred branding, and it can be disconcerting to hear a message that different from expectations. That I was surprised by the particular individuals is simply a reminder that one does can be devout without being public about that fact.

The atheists — anti-theists, specifically — were a bit puzzled, because largely those folks think monotheism is the only alternative and don’t quite know how to react. I had at least one brief exchange about monoatheism and polyatheism, which I found amusing.

The Quakers mostly found it amusing. Quakers don’t tell others what to believe, even within the tradition; revelation is personal and continual. I don’t actually know which of the Quakers I know are Christ-centered and which are not, since belief is not something which is often broached in conversation.

Among comments from Pagans, though, I found a thread of accusation. “Why are you proselytizing?” one friend asked me.

I wasn’t, in fact; I was branding. Proselytizing is the hard sell, in my mind. Seems there’s been so much of that tactic that people get edgy when someone even talks about their religion. Raising awareness that there are possibilities beyond the monotheist experience is an important ministry; that’s not the same as trying to obtain a conversion. My religion does not include evangelism as a tenet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it in an effort to get people thinking.

I ended up stopping the experiment simply because I ran out of interesting things to say.

Well, I still think it was a catchy hashtag.