Old Enough to Be Your Mother (Shomu IV )
Are we there yet?
Mom, he won't stop looking at me!
Mom, why is the sky blue?
What do you mean, I have to clean my room?
No, Mom, if all my friends are jumping off a bridge, that doesn't mean I have to, too.
A few gems from my childhood...and probably a few from yours. What do they have to do with the letters section of a religious website, you ask? Plenty.
Once upon a time, I started to write letters to our people. They were intended to be just that; missives from my heart to theirs, without any dressing up or fancy talk, revealing me as a person with all my quirks and flaws, a few years before anybody got it in their heads to turn such a concept into a weblog, in fact. Once a week, for a while, and then once a month as my job got bigger and my time didn't, I delighted to sit at my keyboard and pound out electronic love notes to the people of Kemetic Orthodoxy, whom I consider both family and friends. It was great fun, and I thought everyone understood that's what the letters were for, just for fun.
Then, one day, a former student or two started picking up my letters, refolding them into sharp objects, and lobbing them back over the monitor at me faster than I could get out of the way. It was sad, and beyond painful, to watch things I had said in all sincerity and in the spirit of whatever moment I'd been in at the time be taken and turned into ideological ammunition. I tried my best to dodge, succeeded sometimes and failed at other times, and then went to my people to ask them what they thought about the whole hurtful mess.
I found out my own people had been refolding my letters, too!
Not into hate mail...but into Gospels, rewriting them on stone and declaring them to be the infallible, perfect laws of Kemetic Orthodoxy as commanded to the faithful by Her Holiness, pointing them out to new members and each other as "the things we have to believe," sending them along to friends and family as official doctrines of the faith I was, and am still, co-creating with them. They shoved me up on a 40-foot pedestal along with the letters, and this was the scariest thing I'd ever contemplated. It was even scarier than having my words turned against me.
They're turning everything I say into dogma, I thought. And I scrambled to find a way to make it stop.
They're acting like I'm their mother or something. I'm only thirty-one. I'm not old enough to be their mother, and I don't want to be their prophet.
When I realized no matter of pleading or explaining would make my people break the holy tablets and unfold my letters back into the informal, time-specific, very human musings they had been intended for all along...I asked our webmaster, Kai-Imakhu Merybast, to take the entire Wehemu section down until I could rewrite the original thoughts embodied in that work into some official teaching texts of the sort our people seemed to thirst for.
"I don't want them to read these as official teachings unless I know they're right," I told her. "Our religion is still evolving, it's a living religion and things will always be changing, so if people are going to insist anything I say is on the record, I better not say anything until I'm sure I can without confusing them later. I need to read all of these letters and make sure they're what I want on the record before I leave them laying around."
She agreed, and down came the Wehemu to be replaced with an Internet construction blinker.
Life intervened. We bought land, started to open public shrines, expanded the priesthood, opened a children's charity and a seminary, and started to reach out to other religions, requiring trips and lectures and training and lots and lots of work. Children were born, people died, and my time, already fairly thin, got even thinner. The Wehemu languished on my hard drive, awaiting the day they would be transformed from smudgy, common musings into the Emerald Tablets of Tamara. That day never came, but our people's need to know I could reach out to them, in teachings and in the tones of friendly letters, did.
In a few days, I will be thirty-four. And you know what?
I am old enough to be your mother.
I understand what was going on back there now; it was like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, when he realizes the brooms are out of control. And like him, I know I can't take the hat off, either, and so I won't try to again. But, you need to remember some things before you shove me back up on that pedestal. It's cramped up there, I don't like unprotected heights very much, and it's really damned hard to hug you, or even have a decent conversation, from 40 feet up.
For my birthday, I'm giving you — and me — the gift of iconoclasm.
I'm breaking the pedestal and putting the Wehemu back. All of them. From the ones inspired by internet chain letters, to a couple written in the reactionary shock and pain of watching a friend teach a new temple that all you had to do to have Kemetic religion was take Kemetic Orthodoxy and erase Tamara from it, to those written in honor of our blessed dead like Amunemma'atef and my Granpa who would have been 101 years old today, they're all back for you to read. I am embodied in these Wehemu, in all my glory, all my mistakes, and all the things that make me what I am. I ask only that you remember that they were written like my daily devotions are, in the spirit of the times, without scripts or prior preparations, by a woman with a desire to communicate, just like you.
I am reinforcing the bridge I keep telling you that I am by reminding you the bridge never stopped having human planks, and that the bridge, while very solid and safe, squeaks and sways from time to time, like all bridges do.
Go ahead; take the bridge and jump back in.
Just remember that some of the water might be a little stagnant by now, and I'm doing my best to clean it up as quickly as I can.
And this time, your mother does think it's okay if all your friends are doing it, too.