Monday, May 28, 2012

kiwi, kwik fixes, and karma

Random k's in words where they don't belong annoy that crap outta me. Really.

Remember when it was all the rage to start up a business and name it with some atrocious spelling that was probably intended to be cutesy? Oh right, people still do that. That really annoys me. It's nearly a guarantee that if you do that with your business, I'll never be a customer of yours. I take it as a sign that you're too lacking in creativity to come up with a name that actually works, without molesting an already precocious and troubled young language (english, btw). Instead of spending some quality time considering what name might best suit your business and attract customers, you took a shortcut on creativity - a kwik fix.

Too harsh? Perhaps.

In my world, shortcuts have a way of making things messier, and more resource-consuming.

I used to be in the military, back when we had to shine our black leather boots with kiwi (which wasn't so long ago, really). Maybe some of you remember this, too. Some troops would buy this spray-on crap to put on their boots that was intended to give them a high shine without all the work. I can't even remember what it's called, but it looked great as long as you didn't get too close, and as long as that troop didn't try to walk anywhere. The first crease in the leather would crack the gloss coat, leaving the leather exposed, unconditioned, and ugly. It was an inspection-day shortcut, touted by the junior recruits as a Messiah-of-Weekend-Passes. Anyone who actually cared about their boots wouldn't touch the stuff. Guess what happened? The first time that stuff was used on a pair of boots, those boots were practically ruined. Those boots would never again have the structural integrity to keep out the water from a mud puddle, nevermind hold up on even a 20k ruck march. Those recruits had to buy new boots, and they had to put in the half hour or so of care to make sure those boots would take care of their feet later on. And, the new boots looked better up close.

Shortcuts have their place; they're not all bad. Personal hygiene, cognitive acuity, and spirituality are not places where shortcuts belong. Each of these is vital; each of these requires work to be optimal.

Karma was once explained to me this way:

'If you take care of your tools, they last longer and work better - that's karma.'

The implications of that go beyond the simple sentence. I try to remember that lesson, often. My mind is my most treasured tool; I will not take shortcuts with it.

I will not use randomly-added k's.

That's right, I won't even use magick.
Ugh. It's so... I don't even know any nice words for it, and you won't see it again in this blog. You'll just have to deal with me not misspelling magic.

I've heard the excuses. "We needed to distinguish between magic and the magic of modern witchcraft." - Or some such dithering. Don't we have enough to distinguish us from every other spiritual or religious path on the planet? We're not considered weird enough as it is, we have to change the language to look more - what, new age-y?

Oh right. Crowley. Because he was a great role model. (Well, perhaps he was in some areas, but certainly not in all... that'll be a 'nother post, one of these days when I have that kind of time and nothing better to do.)

Let's say, for argument's sake, that we take Mr. Crowley seriously. He started this whole magic-with-a-k thing.   But if we're going to take him seriously, then we have to take his whole concept into consideration, not just the parts we like (lest we tread the path of the American Religious Right, who like the part of Leviticus which condemn homosexuality, but not the parts that condemn haircuts or eating shellfish). With that in mind, let's consider Mr. Crowley's reason for adding a -k.

"In my third year at Cambridge, I devoted myself
consciously to the Great Work, understanding thereby
the Work of becoming a Spiritual Being, free from
the constraints, accidents, and deceptions of
material existence. I found myself at a loss for
a name to designate my work, just as H. P. Blavatsky
some years earlier. "Theosophy", "Spiritualism",
"Occultism", "Mysticism", all involved undesirable
connotations. I chose therefore the name "MAGICK"
as essentially the most sublime, and actually the
most discredited, of all the available terms. I
swore to rehabilitate MAGICK, to identify it with
my own career; and to compel mankind to respect,
love, and trust that which they scorned, hated and
feared. I have kept my Word."

-- "Magick in Theory and Practice"
by Aleister Crowley (pages XI-XII)

Waitwaitwait, so.... he was using it to describe his own work? His own path? And he chose it because it was the most discredited. Which, honestly, makes a lot of sense to me. It's akin to the LGBTQI community reclaiming the word 'queer' for positive use. Ok, so I agree with that... sorta... Well, I agree with the idea of reclaiming descriptive words that have been misdirected into slurs, in general. However, knowing that Crowley really enjoyed making a spectacle of himself for its own sake, I have to express some skepticism that his motives were altruistic. 

But, regardless, why did he chose the -k ending? There must be more of an explanation! ... I went searching again, and found this: 

"The Anglo-Saxon k in Magick, like most of Crowley's conceits,
is a means of indicating the kind of magic which he performed.
K is the eleventh letter of several alphabets, and eleven is the
principal number of magick, because it is the number attributed
to the Qliphoth - the underworld of demonic and chaotic forces
that have to be conquered before magick can be performed. K
has other magical implications: it corresponds to the power or
shakti aspect of creative energy, for k is the ancient Egyptian khu,
the magical power. Specifically, it stands for kteis (vagina), the
complement to the wand (or phallus) which is used by the Magician
in certain aspects of the Great Work."

-- John Symonds; Kenneth Grant (1973). "Introduction".
In Crowley, Aleister. Magick. Samuel Weiser.

The correspondences are both convenient and ... interesting (heh, my given name starts with "vagina" - who knew?)... but they don't, in my opinion, excuse an intentional restructuring of the language. There are other references, from Crowley himself, which indicate he did chose that spelling in order to differentiate magic from staged trickery. 

Personally, I don't consider stage illusions to be magic, nor do I see a reason to further differentiate stage illusions from magic. They're almost entirely unrelated (don't get your knickers all twisted - I'll explain that further in a different post... someday...), and they already have different names. One is a trick-of-the-eye, or more kindly put: a stage illusion; the other is magic, or as I like to put it: prayer. 

Oh! Oh! I'm getting back to my point! Yay!

I consider the addition of a -k to "magic" to be lazy. Not that the individuals using it are necessarily lazy (I won't make that call, but you may if you like), but it's a sign of our cultural laziness that we cannot bother to simply educate ourselves - or those to whom we might like to speak of magic - of the differences between what we do, and what a theatrical performer does (which, I insist, is not magic). 

Adding the -k excuses people from the work of learning what magic is, and is not. It's a kwik fix, and it depletes our mental acuity as a society.

Remember, "K" is for karma.


This blog post was brought to you by me.
But also by the Pagan Blog Project, for the inspiration,
and by a bottle of Corona and a slice of lime,
which also inspired me
for better or worse. 

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