by Diana Small
Who: David Dashifen Kees (I took my wife’s last name!)
Hometown: Catasauqua, PA (currently in Alexandria, VA)
Family: A lovely wife, 1 dog, 3 cats and 4 snakes
OK, We're all human beings with hobbies and day jobs and stuff we like. Before we get to the Church Lab goods, care to share how you spend your days?
No fooling, I spend a great deal of my time programming. Either for work or pleasure. Yeah, I’m a big giant nerd. I also continue to play World of Warcraft and other video games as well. My wife also plays WoW so that’s a thing we share. I’ve been reading comics for years, so this modern era of Marvel movies and TV shows is pretty much nirvana for me in that respect, too. I’m an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, religious studies, theology, and political history. I ride bikes and take my dog for a 1.5 mile walk every day at 5:30 AM so I guess that makes me a morning person.
Here’s four random facts, in no particular order and likely without any value or importance to your question:
1. My father is in local government and that instilled within me a great desire to be a public servant. Rather than get into the cesspool of our federal government, a job in public higher education has fit the bill for the moment.
2. We have a dog (Boston Terrier), named Jilly. Three cats, Noel, Aiden, and Toshi, kicking around our house in Alexandria, VA. And we have two ball pythons (Kendi and Uzuriz, female and male respectively), an Andean Milk Snake (Keira), and a Kenyan Sand Boa (Mahiri).
3. I hate money and ownership. It’s a philosophical thing. I do everything I can to get rid of things that I own and only replace that which I absolutely need. And, there’s very little that I absolutely need.
4. If I had it all over to do again, I’d learn to play the drums.
Would you share with us your religious and/or spiritual identity?
I’m a Pagan!
That’s a little vague. To be more specific, I’m an eclectic Hellenic, which has the added benefit of rhyming. There is a more formal modern Hellenic religion, sometimes referred to as Hellenismos, but I don’t actually think of myself as trying to revive or recreate tenants of the ancient world. Instead, what I do is pretty much entirely a modern faith practice inspired by the mythology and values of the ancient world, but all jammed together to remain appropriate in a modern setting. The “eclectic” part simply indicates that I’m willing to pull from other sources not necessary linked to the Hellenic world (i.e. Greece and Greek mythology and pantheons).
Additionally, I’m a witch. My witchcraft is less about potions and cauldrons and more to do with drawing symbols and empowering them toward a given result. To foster my witchiness, I’ve joined the Firefly House, a tradition of witchcraft here in the Washington, D.C. area. Unfortunately, my schedule is such that I don’t get to do as much with them as I’d like.
How has Church Lab enriched your spiritual journey?
Church Lab gives me a space to explore topics that aren’t always things that Pagans worry about. We’re a religion that’s really based a lot more on what you do and less on what you believe. The Church Lab helps me to explore the theological concepts that might influence – perhaps unconsciously so – the behaviors and practice that I find spiritually fulfilling. Plus, it’s just plain fun to learn more about the practices of others.
I also find great joy in sharing a bit about Paganism with others. We’re a religious community that uses terms like pagan, witch, and heathen—words that have a negative and sometimes blasphemous connotation in other communities. By being a part of the Church Lab, I hope that I’m able to share a bit about myself, a bit about my religion, and help to allay fears that we’re all mustache-twirling evildoers.
What's one thing you wish more people knew when it came to your particular religious/spiritual identity?
That Paganism is truly a creation of the modern world. We may have our reconstructionist traditions that are working to try and take what we know of the ancient world and make it live again in the modern one, but even they know that not everything believed or practiced by some dude in Europe in 400 BCE is going to be appropriate in these times. We’re not all luddites that eschew modern technology to live in nature dancing under full moons. In fact, most of us love computers and drive our cars to the forest to do our full moon dancing!
What's something you've recently learned about a religious/spiritual practice other than your own that you'd like more folks to know?
To be honest, I feel like we don’t learn as much about our spiritual practices through the Church Lab. Maybe it’s because I only join remotely, and therefore, never cross paths with any of the other, but I feel I learn much more about the people that attend our meetings and not as much about their faith practices. For example, learning from a number of Muslim women about how their faith inspires them to act politically in the world was a joy. To hear one of our conservative Protestant members talk about how she’s moved to work both at a crisis pregnancy center and an abortion clinic blew me away. It’s these moments that make Church Lab valuable and different from other similar groups, like the three Pub Theology meet-ups that I attend monthly in the DC area.
What are you reading right now? What's one book you'd recommend we all go out and get from the library today?
Right now I’m reading Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored by Sarah Kate Istra Winter and A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. As for book recommendations, my favorite book of all time is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.