Ekunyi's Embers

Kemetic Round Table – Inadequacy

The Kemetic Round Table works to connect Kemetic bloggers of various practices and paths in order to provide helpful information for those new to Kemeticism. More information about the project can be found here.

“Do you ever feel inadequate in your practice/personal devotions, and if so, why? How do you handle these feelings?”

I suspect nearly everyone feels the irritating gnaw of inadequacy now and again, and I am certainly no exception. For me, the sensation tends to rear its head when I conflate the standards I hold myself to as a professional scholar and performer with what I am achieving for my gods.  I sometimes feel as though I should already know everything about the gods to whom I have devoted myself. I want to have the same sort of internal database of reliable sources about ancient Kemet as I do for musicology. I feel frustrated when the results of my efforts to write and perform songs for my gods fail to match what I feel that I am capable of as an operatic soprano, that I more readily recall the words for the old American ballads and hymns I’ve performed in the past  than the beautiful songs shared with me by assorted creative, Kemetic friends.

When one has lived, practiced and honed a skill for a substantial portion of their life, it gains a sense of naturalness so that you forget how it was to genuinely struggle when you first began your efforts. My musicological studies span the past eight years of my life, my vocal practice fourteen. It makes sense that I am a reasonably capable music scholar and vocalist, not because I am good at those things and less good at my Kemetic efforts, but because I have spent so much time with them.

In contrast, I took the first steps on my journey of Kemetic practice and scholarship approximately two years ago, and only officially devoted myself to the path in the past eighteen months. Inadequacy feels, you can bite the big one, because the long and the short of it is: I am a newbie when it comes to Kemetic knowledge, and that is okay.

Remembering this time distinction is often key in handling the feelings of inadequacy. It can be very useful to take a step back from the gut-reaction of “dammit, I should already know where to find the answer to that question/be aware of that piece of history/have read about that particular ritual” and instead try to put myself in the mindset of the freshmen I teach. Looking through their imagined gaze I am more open to new experiences, I expect to need to ask questions of those who have studied these lessons longer than I have, and there is little reason to berate myself for still having many things to learn in these early stages of my journey as a scholar.

Another helpful tactic derived from this approach is setting concrete, clearly-defined, and level-appropriate goals for myself like I would for my students. No one learns to sing by doing a complete lecture recital on Mozart’s “Der Holle Rache”; they start with folk melodies and progress slowly from there. This doesn’t make them an inadequate or failed singer, just a new singer. You have to build from basics, then expand upon and complicate those ideas. Setting smaller, clearer goals also makes them more attainable. I’ve found it far more fulfilling to promise my gods a brief, research-based blog post that I feel ready for at my present level of knowledge and see it done well, than to offer a generic promise of devoting more time to learning about Them. The latter has no concrete way of assessing whether or not I actually achieved what I set out to do.

I would also note that, at least in my experience, Netjer seems to have a reasonably decent sense of what I’m actually capable of. The moments when I’ve felt most inadequate are often moments I brought upon myself. It can be well worth it to sort out where the feelings of failure are coming from: is it really Netjer I’ve disappointed, or just myself, and if the latter, what good is it doing me to sit around beating myself up about it rather than simply seeking change and improvement?

TL/DR: Know yourself and where you currently stand in your journey of knowledge acquisition. Everyone is at a different place on their spiritual path, and there is always more to learn, whether you’ve been Kemetic for two years or twenty. Set goals that are reasonable for you in the present moment, and don’t mistake self-critique for the judgement of your gods.

 

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