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


Keith said...

Once upon a time I was a kingdom seneschal and a director. A very long time ago now. I'm busy tidying the basement and came across a box of old paperwork, and in there was some paper copies of Thinkwell. Being ruthless these days about weeding stuff out, it went into the recycling bin, but I was minded to look on line. And that lead to here.

I know exactly how you felt about sharing info. How much to tell? I found that knowing too much heightened my enjoyment of the SCA for a while, in that I knew more of the story than what was presented at court or other places. Then I started to realize I knew more than was good for me, in that there were no surprises anymore.

Most people don't want to know what strings were pulled by who in order to make something happen, or not happen. Telling them only makes them unhappy. Even telling them just the good stuff about how to make the SCA work better for them and those around them doesn't go over well. I came to believe that most people in the SCA LIKE thrashing around.

Sandra Dodd said...

Yeah, I guess the biggest problem with any society is that it's made up of *people.* :-)