All throughout my (ahem) professional career, I have seen a literally alphabet soup thrown at me. MBA, DBA, MCSA, MCSE, MCP, PhDE, and even more – all usually appended to the end of a signature block in an Email. In my Spiritual life, I have seen similar notations. 3rd Degree this, Certified instructor of that, yadda-yadda-yadda. Now, its easy to be dismissive of this stuff. After all, not everyone is financially capable of chasing these little scraps of alphabet – all of which have meaning. These credentials speak of who these people are, and what they (supposedly) know. But I do know individuals who have not played the Alphabet Chase game, and are as intelligent (and sometimes more so) as the individuals gathering the titles. So, do are these non-titled individuals an anomaly, or are they indicators of the poor quality of results from the institutions that bestow these alphabetized, encrypted descriptors?
Let’s open this with a bit of honest. I have credentials after my name as well. BSIT, MMIS, MBA. All this means is that I hold a (BSIT) Bachelors of Science in Information Technology, a (MMIS) Masters in Management of Information Systems, and a (MBA) Masters of Business Administration. Here in the outside world, the MBA tends to carry more weight. More “oooh!” factor. Its the one degree I care the least about, and the one that has the least amount of meaning towards what I do for a living. It was a door prize to a failed attempt at a Doctorate degree. Essentially, I amassed a pile of credits trying to get to the Doctorate degree, and when the pressure finally forced me to capitulate, I was offered two more Masters level classes to attain my MBA. Sure. Why not? I did quite a bit of work…I should get something for my effort, right? Most people are in awe when they hear I have an MBA. The concentration is in Information Security. Think about that for a minute. I have a Masters of Business Administration in Information Security. If that doesn’t sound silly to you…it should. But if I had said nothing more than I had an MBA, there’s a greater potential of you being in awe. But I honestly did not achieve my degrees to place people in awe of my credentials. I wanted the knowledge that supposedly backs up those credentials. And in all honesty, I could have (and probably have) gleaned most of that knowledge through my workplace experience.
See, credentials from colleges, universities and such state that you have knowledge of the theory of how to do things. The same goes for programs such as the training within OBOD, ADF, or any other spiritual organization. And knowledge is a good thing to have…but without using that knowledge to grow your experience, its just knowledge. Which is why I am not impressed with Alphabet Soup credentials. Knowing things is good. Using what you know to get things done, is even better. And sometimes, you didn’t need to go through an entire study program or college degree to get the knowledge that you needed to make things go.
Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon – my first ever Spirituality convention. I honestly had nu clue what to expect. What I experienced was something somewhere between a giant meet-and-greet, an Anime convention, and a professional organization’s convention where training gets dispensed. Its the latter part of this that I want to address. The panels were far and away, the most intriguing moments for me. Certainly, other parts of the convention were great: being startled by the Krampus Walk and the total amount of noise that they made coming down the hall to the lobby; meeting Shauna Aura Knight and spending time talking with her face-to-face; getting to watch the lovely silliness of Kristopher Hughes; and two lovely morning breakfasts with my roomie for the event, John Beckett, and fellow OBOD member Frank Martinez. All of that made for a great time, but it was the panels were I was able to listen to how other people approached the themed topic, and write notes of how I could incorporate some of their approaches into my own.
For a couple of year running, my local area had Pagan Pride Days events. The last two years, we have had Pagan Unity events – which have had a similar feel and vibe. Each of these events have had panel discussions available to the folks, as well as rituals done by various local groups. I have been party to more than one super awesome conversation at these events, and have been able to take away something from each one that I have incorporated into my own daily life. So, Spiritual conventions are not the only place where such information can be gathered, and such discussions can be had. And social media platforms allow us to branch out in further with blogs, such as this one, and podcasts, and online radio shows, and Facebook groups, and Google Hangouts, and Twitter feeds, and Instagram accounts, and Email – oh my!
But the key isn’t just reading, and listening. Its about having the conversations through comments. I am envious of John Beckett’s blog over on Patheos – its located here, if you want to check it out. His posts gather all kinds of comments which turn into some really awesome conversations. Quite a bit of the time, I feel out of my depth with the people that post there, but I have dipped my toe into the conversations from time to time. But whether these folks realize it or not, I learn something from their comments. Yes, John posts excellent stuff, but many times, his comment threads yield very rich, enticing, and complex conversations that take deer trails in so many different directions from his original post. We also have books. And music. And rich podcasts such as “The Celtic Myth Podshow” which literally bring the myths and legends to life right before our very ears!
Literally, we have the equivalence of college material at our fingertips, where our Spirituality is concerned. We can learn any direction and style we want. We can expand on that knowledge with conversations – physical and electronic. We can petition the writers of the blog posts, the creators of the podcasts, the authors of the blog posts for more clarification on topics. We can meet with our fellow travelers on our various Paths both face-to-face, and in online environments. In the end, its not about how much knowledge we glean, or what credential we can place after our name – its about how we take that knowledge, the methods we have discussed with others – its about taking that and putting it to use.
For me, as a polytheist, its how I utilize that knowledge to move forward in how I honor my Three, and how I handle the work and tasks provided to me by Them. Because, to be honest, Crow doesn’t care that I have an MBA. Crow doesn’t care that my MBA was a door prize to a failed run at a Doctorate degree. Crow cares about how I utilize that knowledge. Its not about the credentials, its not about the degrees, its not about the certifications, and to a point its not about the knowledge. Its about how I use that knowledge.