Humility and Formality


Date: Wed, Mar 4, 1998 12:21 PM EDT
From: SandraDodd

A piece of old writing followed by today's commentary:


This has been said many times before, but not often enough. There are still some people walking around irritated at the way things are going for them in the Society, and it’s because they’ve set unreasonable goals. "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" works in many situations, including everyday life.

I had two wishes when I first knew I would stay in the Society for a long time. One was that a king would someday know my name. The other was that my name would appear in Southwind. Both came true! They weren’t things I set out to accomplish; I just hoped they'd come in the course of my doing what I enjoyed, and they did.

I’ve heard and overheard such wishes expressed as "I'm going to be a triple peer," "I'm going to be a baron," "I'm going to be a duchess." If these things come true after a wish/desire/plan is announced, it’s harder to congratulate or praise the person than if he’d been more humble beforehand. If they don’t come true, it’s awkward. Some people have become frustrated and left because they didn’t get the awards they thought they deserved, or because they’d entered crown tournaments and hadn't won, so they're off to do something else.

If fighting, arts and service are not rewarding in and of themselves, the Society will be a disappointing place for you. If you’re just in for awards, I am not alone in the opinion that you aren't the kind of person we should be rewarding.

When you're an autocrat, if you envision one perfect version of what the event should be, and if that's your goal and nothing else will make you happy, make an appointment with your therapist in advance, because you will lose this bet with life. Give yourself a range of acceptability. Picture your perfect event and consider that a 100%. Along with that, picture a total disaster, and score that a zero. Decide to be content with anything over 50%. There are factors no amount of planning can control, so non-disaster can be considered success.

This goes against much of what has been espoused in the late 20th century, but in the SCA it's extremely useful. For one thing, the medieval and Renaissance model of the Wheel of Fortune which turns so that "the only way to go is up" is only true until you reach the apex and then the only way to go is down. They had the hope and expectation of another turn of the wheel which would be an upswing.

In our modern society which colors ALL of what we do (everyone on this list was born in the latter half of the 20th century, and grew up surrounded by positive reinforcement and "believe in yourself") the current superstitious belief, which I believe is less valid than the wheel of fortune model, is that if you work hard and do good you will be successful. This totally ignores what is called so indelicately in this period "the random fuck factor." Do not ignore this, people. Don't say "It won't happen to me, I've thought of everything."

An acceptance of the universe is necessary for mental health, and an acceptance of the idea that you cannot control your own future is a very good thing. There's an advantage to having a direction, certainly, but in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other way, not in the "if I don't become president I might as well be dead" way.

When/if you get caught up in the emotion and elation of KNOWING what is going to happen and congratulating yourself on your total invincibility, take a deep breath and inject some humility, some acceptance of God's will (for the Christians among you) or of the realities of life and your own limitations (for the humanists here). Breathing ALWAYS helps, never hurts. One big deep breath, as full as you can fill yourself. Think of how much air is in you and how much is still out there. Still, small beings can do great things. It's very impressive when they do, and when others have the opportunity to say, "That was an impressive thing you've done, I'm proud of you," instead of them having to hear, "I TOLD you I'd do it."


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Copyright © Sandra Dodd
1998, 2002