Eris

I am a devotee of Eris.  She and I have had a relationship since high school, really, though I resisted the situation for many years.  This post is fairly important for me since my connection to her is both deeply personal and is my primary reason for continuing to walk the path of theism rather than one of atheism.

In high school, I invented a character named Ariaka Soorat.  This was a character I used in my fledgling table top role-playing days as well as online in a variety of early MUDs. In the ongoing adventures of Mr. Soorat, he gained the title “Incarnation of Chaos.”  It was a suitably mysterious and darkly appropriate title for my teenage years, if shockingly dramatic in retrospect.

In time, Ariaka fathered a son.  I have no idea who the mother was, I’m not sure it was important at the time, and that son’s name was Dashifen.  For those who are savvy to my identity — and for everyone else, I guess you’re about to be — I’ve taken that name as my middle name and used it as a part of my identity for years.  Google it; you’ll find me.

Stability

Part of the persona of Ariaka Soorat, and later his son, Dashifen, was that of the powerful rebel.  The type of person who was willing to do something spontaneously glorious only for the purpose of the experience.  Ariaka didn’t need a lot of motivation for what he did; if it seemed interesting, it probably was.  In some ways, he was very much an archetypal fool seeking new experiences and I, through role-playing games, was experiencing things with him.

Dashifen was a little more tempered.  Still a rebel, in fact he was a rogue for those of you familiar with the concept from RPGs, but a little more stable than his father was.  In many ways, he was a refining of the original concept.  Someone who was not ruled by the vicissitudes of a situation, but instead flowed within them changing himself and altering his perceptions to suit the needs of the moment.

He sought stability through instability.

Transformation and Change

Eris with her golden apple.

Eris (source unknown)

There are many deities of transformation and change.  For me, Eris is one of them.  She is the mover and shaker of what is normal.  She stirs things up not only to force change but, I find, to ensure that all things can reach a form of equality.

I like soup; I also like abrupt transitions.  A good soup isn’t simply broth.  It should also have veggies and maybe meat or legumes as a part of its composition. If I recall my high school physics, heating a liquid causes circular motion, convection cells, mixing the contents within.  This motion helps to evenly heat the broth and the morsels of solid food contained therein.

Eris’s role in my life is that of the heat.  I don’t find that she’s the sort to take a direct hand in events; she simply heats the soup and lets all the bits inside it move around until things reach some sort of equilibrium in motion.  I hate to use the phrase “order from chaos” because that’s neither how I see the world nor how I find Eris.  Instead, I prefer the one I used above:  stability through instability.  That stability doesn’t have to be ordered or even stationary; in fact, I suspect that it’s usually not.  Fractures, divisions, and differences will still pull at it, but as long as these forces are met, dealt with, and understood, the stability can remain.

Eris as Information

I find Eris through information.  The flow of information through digital networks, primarily (remember: TechnoWitch).  We’ve seen how destabilizing Twitter and other social networks can be in world events like the Arab Spring and Iran’s Green Revolution.  Bringing it closer to home, the Obama campaign’s ability to use information technology — especially through the campaign website — to help bring supporters into conversation with those who may have been on the fence or opposed to his candidacy likely helped him earn his second term in office.  We see time and again that our ability to exchange information brings us both closer together and catalyzes a situation.

Information is the heat; our lives are the soup.

Process Theology

In many ways, I see Eris not only as a deity of transformation, but I see her as a deity of information exchange which naturally leads to transformation.  This is, quite evidently, different from how she was seen by the Greeks.  But, for me, that’s okay.

If she’s a deity of transformation, that includes transformation of deities.

I’ve mentioned process theology before.  In short, it’s the philosophical idea that divinity is not unchanging.  To put it in monotheistic terms, God is not an omniscience, omnipresent being who has a plan for an ordered universe that was begun and will continue unaltered through to the end of time.  Instead, the ideas of process theology hold that  divinity is changed by the grand march of time and, I contend, by the cultures and ideas of the times.

Thus, Eris could be, to the ancients, a being of strife and discord that motivated people to act only through envy, as Hesiod described her in Works and Days, or one “who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven … [hurling] down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.” (Iliad, Homer, Book IV).  But, over time, and seen through the lens of a different culture, we can find her to be something else.

Theism vs. Atheism

I read it some where that one should always analyze their philosophical trappings to determine their continued worth.  If you find something that you’ve held to be true that would not …

  1. cause you personal grief to leave behind, or
  2. cause you to be less humane in your dealings with others should you leave it behind

… then perhaps you don’t really need it in your life.

The gods are, for me, one of those somethings.  I use their names in ritual, but doing so seems more a convenience than a necessity.  I have not, at the time of this writing, had a profound or numinous experience of a divinity.  While I suspect that most of us have not had such an experience and while they are not necessary, it does seem so defining a thing to those who have had them that I remain somewhat envious.  And, while I lack personal evidence of the gods, it is the experiences of others and their description of those experiences that convinces me that there is more to this life than what we regularly perceive.

For me, it all comes back to Eris.  To be devoted to information and transformation means that one has to be both willing to self-reflect and to change.  It is, therefore, not an unwavering belief in her and her divine colleagues that is most important, but that I continue to question, to challenge, and to transform both myself and the others around me.

By seeking to un-quo the status in ways that benefit the world around me, I hope that Eris — wherever and whatever she may be — is at least amused by my antics and, at best, approving.

  • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

    First of all, Is there a book on process theology that you could recommend me?

    Secondly, I am rather in the same boat godwise. I haven’t experienced deep connection to the gods, however … they help me so much to make sense of things. Thinking on the gods, is a meditation on life and its complexities. And the gods really do help me think. I’ve occasionally come across the opinion that if one is not certain of the existence of the gods, then honouring them becomes a farce / pretend / play. I disagree. As long as the gods do not cause grief to you or others (it is a really good thing to reflect upon this occasionally), than why let go of a good thing. What is necessity anyway? You may miss Eris if you let go of her entirely. Does that mean her presence is necessary? Maybe not, but why force her out.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a good book with respect to process theology. I encountered the concept during my undergraduate classes but it was simply a part of a discussion during a course rather than the topic of the course.

      Christine Hoff Kraemer (of Cherry Hill Seminary and Patheos.com) touches on it in her book, Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies but it’s only touched on and, unfortunately, there’s nothing in the further reading section about it. But, you could drop her a line over at patheos.com and likely get some suggestions. If you do, let me know if she has anything for you and if I get in touch with her, I’ll return the favor.

      I’ve often worried about the farce/pretend/play access with respect to ritual and gods myself. I agree that it’s a topic worth of much self-reflection but I worry sometimes that I’ve gone as far as I can on my own and need to track down a few good conversations to go further. Which is hard for a solitary, sometimes :)

      • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

        Yes it is hard. I am always available if you need someone to bounce ideas off.

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I’ve often wished for an online community for ….. deeper? conversations. It sounds elitist, though, but I’ve been on some many Pagan forums where the conversations tend to only scratch the surface and don’t really get into theological or philosophical topics too regularly. Maybe another project for me to try and work on :)

          • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

            I agree. I once tried to create such a community for Dutch Pagans but it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way when we came up with a few ground rules for debating. We were immediately accused of elitism, but that happens pretty often I must say. When I think of the fora I used to visit … and than I learned to read proper English and a world of interesting blogs opened up. If all those people and their thoughts could be brought together …

            I am hoping the SDF will grow out to be just that. But in order for
            that to happen, there must be a certain level of commitment amongst its members.The SDF cannot grow if Teo has to carry all of the weight himself.

            The medium (writing) also has its limits in that regard. I sometimes get into trouble because I write replies whilst I am thinking … and than people get upset because I have strayed from what they intentioned their blog to be. When someone presses enter … there is the expectation that that post is somehow … done, finished. And I just keep writing until I find something true, not just afterwards (well, if I am not struck my writer’s block that is). I would love a place where this thinking aloud is encouraged, and changing your mind and opinions is a good thing instead of a weakness.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Agreed on all counts :)

  • http://twitter.com/quantumpainter Eris Dueller

    Yes, yes, yes! It has been so long since I was so moved by a blog post. I am a fellow devotee (is that the correct term? Hmmm not sure) of Eris and I think you have eloquently described her, especially in terms of her relationship to the modern world. I definitely relate to how you have described what she symbolises to you. Excellent, excellent :)

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Thank you so much. There were a limited number of blog posts for the Pagan Blog Project that I had planned pretty much from the get-go. Doubt for “D” and Eris for “E” were big ones. I’m glad that you found it! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Alioth

    I just found this post and I have to say, I’m astonished that it never occurred to me to think of Eris as linked with thermodynamics — “playing the role of the heat”. Brilliant!

    I studied thermodynamics and biochemistry in college, and they have strongly influenced the way I see the world. Especially when I’m trying to understand tricky, non-straightforward things such as depression, I find the best metaphors come from the “middle world” of molecules, where order emerges in nonintuitive ways from disorder. Dynamic stability and “Eris isn’t the sort to take a direct hand in events” are both prominent themes here. In such cases, metaphors from molecule-land are sometimes much more informative/predictive than metaphors from the macroscopic world where everything is expected to behave like billiard ball physics.

    What you have to say about Eris is very interesting to me. I shall have to see if I can relate to her in a similar way…

    Also, I highly recommend the book “Middle World: The Restless Heart of Matter and Life” by Mark Haw, which is all about everything I’ve described in this comment. It starts with Robert Brown in the 1800s observing a few grains of pollen pinging around in a vial of water, and goes on to show how the explanation of this pinging launched a complete scientific revolution. I’m going to have to reread it… I suspect that if I do, I’ll see the hand of Eris bright and clear.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Thank you so much for your kind words and the book suggestions! My knowledge of the physics described herein is only a surface scratching, so that book sounds very interesting.

  • Pingback: Introducing: David Dashifen Kees()