28 May 2008

the ugly side

The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

James Arthur Baldwin (1924-87)

James Baldwin wasn't a medievalist, but no matter. It's not about that.

Recently I spoke with a small group, at the request of one of them, about my time as steward and later as executive director of the SCA. I half wish I could do it again, but it stressed me out. I think maybe if I had told only fluffy, happy stories, it wouldn't have stressed me, but it's likely I would've felt dishonest.

I did share some very happy memories, and things I'd learned and people I wouldn't have met otherwise who were mentors to me. The negative things, though, maybe should've have been shared with them.

Years ago, in the glory-season of Duckford University, I got complaints. They were lovingly and humorously presented, but they were real. I had ruined the SCA for them, some of my associates said. I had told them I could tell them just a little or tell them everything, and they said "Oh, everything," and I said it might not be a good idea, and they said "No, we can take it; we want to know."

With that too, I don't know whether I should've withheld information or not. The complaints were made with a smile, and the charge was that before they asked me those questions, they were happier and more innocent. Once they knew more, they became critical of the slack jobs others were doing. Their expectations and standards were higher and that cast a shadow on the SCA sometimes. It also made them better peers, when that time came, though. It made them better advisors, and better teachers.

Without extremes (theoretical extremes; contrasts), how can there be exceptionality? How can there be elegance without messy confusion for contrast?

to be continued, I guess