Humility and Formality
To the humility/formality group, Thursday March 12.
I said I'd quit at two weeks or ten e-mails, whichever came first. At that I won't tell you everything I know, but it will be enough for this season.
I am honored by my association with you all. The feeling that someone hears, reads, and considers my opinion is a comforting and good feeling. I've thought and experimented and gathered what I think is useful truth for many years, and to have people who are willing to try to assimilate some of it is a treasure for me and for the kingdom and for the future. The hope that some of my convictions might be passed on to another generation of people after I'm gone is a joy that I have no way to express. It's immortality.
When you're older and have students of your own, if one single thing from this passes to them and makes them think, "Hey, I can use this!" I will not have done all this thinking and writing in vain. The really wonderful thing is that you all have access to dozens of people, maybe hundreds, thousands, and you can take the best ideas and tricks from lots of them and build yourself a philosophy and toolbox that make you so calm and strong and compassionate and invincible and moral that students flock to you.
It doesn't take a flock of students, really, although it could happen. It just takes one. It just takes one person to sincerely listen and consider. Look how lucky I am: I had eight, for over a week, who sincerely listened and considered.
And so to #9, Transformation
Growth itself is transformation.
Erosion is transformation.
A bookshelf is transformed by sitting and getting dust and cobwebs.
When someone consciously (or involuntarily) changes drastically, it is rarely all of a sudden. Even if you dye your hair orange, it will take you a while to remember it, to recognize yourself in the mirror, to think of yourself as orange-haired, and even then you will have to maintain that condition if you want to maintain it, or eschew and undo it if you want to revert.
"Being better" only sticks if you keep on maintaining your roots.
I am going to tell a story. I asked the other person "Is it okay for me to tell this? How much mystique do you want to maintain?"
"These guys NEED to know these things. They NEED to know I didn't always write my own speeches."
"No, I wasn't going to tell them THAT, but other, more secret stuff."
I have permission to tell you whatever I want to.
Artan and I were friends before he was a knight. He was always extremely respectful of my rank and experience and I was supportive of his obvious desire to learn everything. As time passed we developed a relationship that involved insults for fun. We'd zing each other affectionately. We'd play rough verbally. I teased him in writing, played practical jokes. He responded with vigor.
The day he won his third crown tournament I came by where he was sitting and congratulated him. He said "I want you to help me." He said he wanted me to help him a lot. I had not the first two reigns, in hopes that it would keep people from saying he just did what I said. I wish it had worked. He lived without my assistance and was accused of being a puppet of me and Gunwaldt. I hurt to the bone, to the soul, in those days, for him.
So it was the dawn of the third chance, and I had been asked to help.
We talked then and later that day, very seriously. I said the joking would have to stop. I would have to change my demeanor toward him. The relationship would have to change.
This might have been a cause for grief if I'd been younger and more insecure, or if the purpose had been unworthy. It was not the end of a relationship by any means, and all of you reading this know it didn't kill any trust or regard. We did, though, from that day, become more formal. It was like flipping a switch, only when I looked in the mirror I didn't recognize myself, at first. And it was a bit awkward when others expected us to *ZING* and we didn't zing.
Some people probably didn't perceive the change. Maybe most didn't. Some did. Most important of all, we did. The relationship changed because I treated him like a prince, like a king, like a duke. I consciously worked to treat him like the wise man he had become, and not the eager boy he had been.
If this had embarrassed him so much that he had resisted, or avoided me, or begged to be zinged, we might have lost a relationship, or reverted to that one which would not have survived due to its own limitations. Luckily for me, he trusted me and he understood and he accepted and embraced the change.
We have worked together for peace and prosperity in the kingdom, no matter what positions we held, ever since. Some kings want help. Some don't. Some are fearful and suspicious. Some seek the advice of one or the other of us or both, but I think if either of us started working against the good of the kingdom that would be the first threat and possibly the death of our friendship, which is based on this duty and honor. I respect and trust Artan. I have a great deal of faith in him. I hope you will all have continuing opportunities to partake of his wisdom and knowledge and advice.
There is no doubt in my mind that some or all of you on this list will surpass me in many ways—socially, intellectually, morally, financially, procreationally—already physically and in various other ways I am surpassed. If I do not recognize and honor your achievements I will be a hypocrite and you should come and delete these files and warn others away from me. When some of you are barons, queens, dukes, I will bow to your persons and bend to your directives and ask your leave to do and say. When I am old and hungry and some of you have great jobs and new cars I might hint about dinner. Don't forget me.
Relationships always change. If there is one you need to change now, just do it. Talk to the person. Say, "I need to be more formal with you." Blame me if you need to. Blame Olaf or Artan or Gunwaldt if you need to. Say, "My master would prefer I'd use your titles, I'm sure," or " I would hate for people to think less of His Grace because his squire got drunk and loud," or whatever the situation might be. You don't have to let others drag you down. If they like you and respect you they will only like and respect you more when you stand by principles and morals and ideals. If your lifelong drinking buddy becomes king treat him like the king. Support him in the appearance of being the king. Remind him that he is the king. Drop the drinking buddy behavior and expectation.
Do not let anyone call favors on you that go against what is right and best for the kingdom. No friend will want that. Do not let "friends" shame or jolly you into base and embarrassing behavior that you will have to apologize and do penance for later. If you go to that place, go there on your own power and consciously, not because someone else said "weenie" or "I guess you're too good for us now." It takes less strength to lift a gallon meadhorn than not to. There are times and places for everything. When your duty is to your knight, to your office, to your position on the court, to the kingdom, keep your feet and eyes and mind where they need to be.
Respect people for their goodness, regardless of age or gender or experience or origins. When you find truth, honor it. When you fail, admit it, examine the reasons, and resolve to do better.
You all could have chosen easier paths. I'm glad you didn't. Stand up and walk.
Ælflæd, who has one e-mail or two days left