Since last fall, I've been on a push to get the Free Spirit Alliance -- a Pagan/Pantheist organization I've been involved with for several years, and of which I'm currently vice-president -- to move away from the use of Robert's Rules of Order at its business meetings. I found a more consensus oriented alternative called Martha's Rules, and was going to give a presentation on it at the FSA business meeting Saturday during the Free Spirit Gathering, our main event.
To that end, I spend several hours coming up with a handout to distribute at the meeting, listing Martha's Rules and giving my arguments against Robert's. I printed out a bunch of copies.
Saturday, getting ready for the meeting, I grabbed my print-outs -- and found that all but the top one were gibberish. I recall that there was a paper jam during the printing; perhaps after clearing that, some settings got bollixed up. I don't know. Point is, I only had one useful copy.
I went up to the "White House", the historic house at Camp Ramblewood that serves as the base of operations for our event, to see if more copies could be made. No luck. While I was up there, I had the need for a rest room break, so I left my one good copy in a safe place (on top of the White House mini-fridge).
When I returned a few minutes later, it had vanished.
Arrrggghhh! Now I couldn't even read off of my notes.
Fortunately, I am a Discordian. When Chaos and Disorder appear, I know them as manifestations of the One True Goddess, Eris. Clearly, this was a divine message.
And what was the message? To go off book, and speak from the heart.
So I did. Rather than going from my notes, I talked about how I had come to my first FSA business meeting during the lead-up to the Great Split of 2003 (if you were there, you know; if not, it's a long story not necessarily suitable for discussion here); how I thought that our president at the time, Kalibran, did a fantastic job of guiding a very contentious discussion; and how I had wanted to acknowledge that. I spoke of how I tried to bring up a motion to express our thanks to Kal -- and was told that I could not, that the floor was closed or some such bit of Robert's Rule-ness. My first experience of an FSA meeting, in other words, was Robert's Rules squashing an attempt at a sincerce expression of thanks.
I don't think that's a good thing for an organization whose chartered purposes include "Maintaining communication between congregations" and "Promoting harmony and good will within the pantheist community".
To my delight, I found that my points were well received; so much so that, rather than scheduling a vote for the next meeting on a bylaws change to use Martha's Rules, the membership decided to adopt them on a trial basis starting at the next meeting. (It certainly helped that, in the course of our discussion, we got four or five layers deep in the Rules, with a motion, an amended motion, a point of order, and a point of information all floating around at one point. I couldn't have asked for a better illustration what what we Do Not Want.)
Saturday evening, after the meeting, my friend Sigre came up me. "I have something for you," she said, and produced the missing copy of my notes -- which she had found right where I had left it. So not only did it disappear in order to prompt a change in my presentation, it reappeared afterwards.
Such is the magical path. Keep doing it long enough, and weird little things like this happen. (See, for example, the case of the confounding keys.) What does it mean? Did someone, for reasons unknown, pick up that paper in the few minutes I was gone, and replace it later? Did I go temporarily nuts, and miss seeing it sitting where I had left it? Did the forces of chaos (Hail Eris!) decide to spin me around and do-si-do? I can only report my observations.