It’s a visual representation that, I feel, encompasses much of the individuals who make up the wider pagan community at any given moment and quite often, it is a perfect representation of both my and other polytheists’ personal practices. I think there may even be a tag, on Tumblr, for just such a thing in the wider community. Whatever the case may be, many of us have moments where everything is melded together to encompass the very act by which Kermit is so well known: the arm flail.
The arm flail can happen because of anything, really, which makes it alarming is the frequency with which I see posts that can easily be encompassed within that phraseology.
I can remember as a newbie pagan, constantly feeling like I was in the middle of the longest and most drawn arm flail of my path. Everything could elicit the reaction: I didn’t hear the gods – arm flail. I wasn’t sure if they appreciated my offering of X – arm flail. I was pretty sure I was doing it all wrong – arm flail. There wasn’t an easily attainable manual that told me how to religion – arm flail. I accidentally tripped over my own two feet and dropped my offering – arm flail. I broke a nail leaving the altar – arm flail. No one could tell me what I was doing was correct – arm flail. People were mean to newbies – arm flail. People were assholes – arm flail. People were talking about frightening topics – arm flail. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing – arm flail.
Over the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve become less adept at the arm flail. Or, more likely, I’ve just become used to some things and I’ve learned to adapt because of other things and I’ve stopped allowing shit to accumulate that would frustrate me. Take your pick here because any of them will do. You see, I’m pretty sure that I do still do the arm flail, but the reasons behind it have become more personal and less, “what everyone else is doing.”
If you look at the above examples, there is a pattern. I was so busy worrying about what everyone else was doing that I ended up in the middle of a flail. And then I felt too stupid to live – tripping and breaking nails – in comparison to what other people were doing, thus a good flail was had. And then, as I got more used to what I was hoping to achieve and actually, possibly achieving it, I ended up letting events unfolding around me, and my lack of an adequate response to such things, cause me to jump into the class flail pose.
I think that’s one of the milestones in any polytheistic or pagan religion, by the way: the moment when what outsiders are doing doesn’t really impact you, at all. Now, I’m not talking about wider community impact because, well, assholes being assholes to newbies and fucking around by telling people what to do from their “one twoo path” egotistical trip is a problem and should elicit arm flail procedures. However, what I meant was that when you stop worrying about how your practice adds up and stacks against what everyone else is doing, then that’s the milestone.
Maybe we can think of that as, “Arm Flail Level 2,” or something.
The things that cause you to freak the fuck out and go into “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” are no longer based on what you think your practice should be based on because of what you see other people are doing. Instead, they are based on things you see happening within the wider community that are unsettling or things that are happening to you in a personal devotee capacity.
In my practice, level 2 was officially achieved when I began caring about the community, at large. Part of this was due to the people I hang out with – boat paddlers. I may not technically be one (I frankly don’t know if I really fit that title) but I hang out with a lot of them. I do try to emulate them in various arenas and it is through boat paddling, in my honest opinion, that Kemetics have such really wonderful things as “don’t be a dick,” “two response rule,” and the “don’t be a dick thing.” (I know, I mentioned it twice. It’s important enough to merit a million mentions, in one sentence even.)
But it was because of the boat paddling that I began to become aware of things outside of myself. And sure, being aware of things outside of what I was hoping to achieve is always a good idea. I mean, we should, at least, have an eyeball out there to see what the wider community is doing. Even for those of us niche enough, like Kemeticism, to not really fall under the “main stream” sobriquet should probably be aware of things that are going on. And since I was hanging out with a bunch of boat paddlers, I was intimately aware of what was going on.
And so, I entered “Arm Flail Level 2,” which to me is embodied by wider community ramification and bullshit.
I wrote a lot of community related posts when I entered that particular phase in the hopes of doing some good. However, after a while, it gets to the point where you get burnt the hell out with community and boat paddling. Sure, knowing what’s going on is a bonus but it can kind of eat you alive. This is why boat paddlers should have a hearty constitution. And since I don’t really think I have a hearty constitution, I have since removed myself from the situation.
Thus, I have moved from level 2 to the really awesome phase, “Arm Flail Level 3.”
But this is the really best part, I swear, and this is where I currently reside.
Instead of being sent into flail mode because of what others are doing that I thought influenced my personal practice and instead of being sent into this mode because of what other people are doing that influences the wider community, I have entered the best part. The part where my personal practice and all it entails is the be-all, end-all of everything. There is nothing more important than my personal practice and though I do still do community outreach work and while I do still offer myself out there in a semi-boat paddler capacity, the wider community is no longer an issue. The only thing that is an issue is what my path is, to me, and the odd twists it can take.
And boy, are those some odd fucking twists.
I find myself, not very often, in flail mode, but I have found myself in longer periods of flail mode. It’s not a single action of, “what the fuck now,” but an elongated process that is drawn out for however long before I figure it out. And sometimes, it can take me a lot of months to figure it out. Or, perhaps, it isn’t a matter of figuring it out at all that is causing the arm flail. Perhaps, it’s the simple matter that I have figured it out and I don’t like it. Just because I’m in arm flail mode doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because I’m lost and fucking confused, but it can just as easily mean that I don’t particularly like what the fuck I’m seeing/feeling/doing/being told.
Maybe it’s less arm flail mode level 3 and more like, whining baby hissy fit. In either case, it just means I’m more often just telling anyone who is willing to listen, “I am not this thing. I am not doing this thing. It’s not happening. Are you listening?” And then when it’s painfully clear that they are not, in fact, listening, I am then thrust into the middle of arm flail mode level 3.
I don’t know if this is a contest among the gods, but I’ve often thought that it probably should be: how long can I keep X devotee in arm flail mode? And then, there is a contest once a month or maybe once a quarter or once a year between all of the gods and they point out that they were able to keep their devotees in arm flail mode, level fucking three no less, for so much time. And of course, those of us who are in that mode are on the verge of tears, trying to figure out what the fuck we’re fucking doing.
Of course, the gods are probably laughing it up.In the interim, many people are rapidly beginning to understand the “Kermit Arm Flail Mode” is a normal and safe reaction to any particular deviation that our seemingly obvious paths are somehow taking. And they are rapidly becoming “old hat” when their spiritual lives end up at these deviations. Sometimes, I legitimately just wind up curled in a ball because of all of the flailing – with sore arms no less – and internally scream until I can smile through it all. Most days, I just wind up keeping my nose to the grindstone, hoping that someone will listen to what I would like things to look like.
Then again, I’m used to the “bigger picture” conversations by now and I very much recognize that our wants and desires do not always figure into this. (Let’s be real here: I tend to believe that none of our wants and desires actually figure into anything unless they meet the end game, specifically the “bigger picture” that gods are always on about.)
So, instead, arm flail mode and internal screaming about all the things I’m not doing or I’m not willing to admit is possible.
This sounds about as productive as it obviously is.