It’s all Life

There is no SCA life vs
Real life vs Work life.
There’s just… Life

To me, it’s especially relevant, in this Age… this Epoch of Covid, when we’re doing many of the SCA activities left to us from our desks in front of our computers, but it’s always been a truism, I suspect. As I’ve pursued my journey along the Path, different aspects have had more or less of an impact, depending on what’s going on, but at its root, when things are great, there’s no drama, and things aren’t great, well, it all sucks.

Life is what happens to you while you’re living it. The emotional turmoil you feel when you have an argument with your Peer, or when you get a bad score on an A&S entry isn’t made less valid because you happen to be wearing funny clothes at the time. When someone is mean to you in the SCA, it hurts just as much as when someone is mean to you at your job, or the supermarket. Indeed, sometimes the emotional scrapes and bruises we suffer in the SCA hurt more; many of us refer to our closest friends in the SCA as “Family of Choice” or comparable phrases. And while it’s true that SCA Royalty doesn’t have the lawful right to command soldiers to die, or to levy taxes, or imprison people, the social construct of the SCA emphasizes rank even in what we often pretend is modern egalitarian society.

This stuff matters.
And that’s okay.

In the end, stuff is just stuff, but the experiences and the relationships you have are what make you you. So don’t let anyone tell you that what happens at an SCA event isn’t real, or isn’t important.

Life is also what you do. And this is the part that you’re most responsible for: your own actions.

Here’s the thing: sure, people in the SCA take on a “persona name,” and several people construct elaborate backstories about who their persona was, where they were born, how much a silver penny was worth, etc. And that induces folks to think that they’re playing a character — IE, they’re “cosplaying” their persona. And I have no doubt that there are some people who do that, who act somewhat differently from their work persona, or their football fan persona. And there are people like me, who have a name, cause that’s fun, and wear (mostly (sometimes)) a certain kind of garb, and that’s the breadth and depth of it for us.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter if we’re play-acting, educating and learning, sport-fighting, hanging out, and/or just looking to get laid. The foundation of who we are at heart doesn’t change.

And this is the meat of it:

If you’re a racist, or a homophobe, or a bigot, or a misogynist, or you hate catholics, or muslims in your “real” life? You aren’t going to be able to leave that at the gate. (Our BIPOC friends aren’t able to leave the color of their skin or their ethnicity at the gate either.) And if you can’t leave it at the gate? You will, eventually, slip up, and show your true self.

You are
who you tell us
you are.

The governing documents call for all SCA participants to live up to the Code of Conduct. And if you are a racist, or a homophobe, or a bigot, or a sexist, or if you hate catholics or muslims? You’re not doing that. Heck, if you’re just being a big jerk you’re not doing that.

You cannot be a racist and be a good knight.
You cannot be a homophobe and be a good pelican.
You cannot be a misogynist and be a good sovereign.

Because life is just life. And you can’t really be someone different just because of the clothes you’re wearing.

Just Don’t.

Everyone’s Facebook wall (or blog or Insta or whatever) is their own to do with as they please. I’d never argue otherwise. But telling someone “if you don’t like it, leave” when an image gives them an actual panic attack is pretty unkind, and telling them that your fear & pain is more valid than theirs is shitty as fuck.

Manipulating someone else’s pain to try and assuage your own is even more shitty as fuck.

And justifying that by implying that it’s ok because they’re not your friend is the most shitty as fuck of all.

Nobody wins the Pain Olympics.

Always try to follow Wheaton’s Law.

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As for Goodness

As for Goodness – you yourself desire rank and standing; then help others to get rank and standing. You want to turn your own merits to account; then help other to turn their to account – in fact, the ability to take one’s own feelings as a guide: that is the sort of thing that lies in the direction of Goodness.

Lúnyŭ (Analects)

On Leadership

Originally published on August 10, 2019, but relevant enough that I wanted to bring it back up now. I wrote it for two Protégé groups I was in at the time (and I’m not anymore, of course) but I feel like it’s relevant still.

So I don’t really want to talk about failed leaders; people who are in positions of authority or rank, who aren’t good leaders. Instead, what I want to talk about is the very last thing that Sinek says in this clip here:

“But the rank itself is not what makes you a leader, it just gives you a leadership position.”

Nothing he’s saying here should be a surprise to anyone — we all know of people who have been promoted beyond their level of competence; at work, in our hobbies, the military, the grocery store, heck, look at the very top of the US government and you can barely swing a congressional subpoena without hitting someone who is in a position of immense authority who can’t lead a group of devoted followers out of a paper bag. Stephen King books are FULL of these types, and they’re almost always the ones who end up dead, hurt, or imprisoned because of it.

In short: the world is full of petty tyrants in all walks of life, and while SOME of them are this way because they’re actually not great people, a large number are like this because they don’t actually know how to lead. They haven’t been taught.

Which is what makes those people who -can- inspire and lead, no matter what their actual rank or position, so special. I’m privileged to know several of them. But… I’m not going to name them, because invariably posts where we start talking about the people we appreciates most (is THAT what you appreciates most about me, Squirrely Dan?) they end up being mutual admiration circle jerks, and that’s not what I’m trying to discuss here.

Instead, consider these four questions:

1) What are the qualities of leadership that you admire the most?

2) How do these qualities of leadership manifest in the people around you? This includes your co-workers, your boss, even the people who you supervise, as well as your various circles of friends and larger social groups.

3) What qualities of leadership do you see in the people you don’t like, who inexplicably (you may think) are able to inspire and lead their friends, or co-workers, or direct reports? Note: this can be something negative – in your opinion – but still seems to inspire others. Take that step back. Look at things unemotionally. Like I said, it’s not a circle jerk of mutual appreciation.

4) MOST IMPORTANTLY: How can you incorporate these qualities of leadership that you value into your everyday life? How can -you- become a better leader?

A big part of why this clip resonates with me SO MUCH is the acknowledgment of the person in the trenches, with the rest of us, who looks to the left, and looks to the right, and says “I’m going to be there for these people.”

That’s what I try to do, every day.

HANGGAI HAMTLAG!

I love this song. I don’t understand a word of it, but it completely speaks to me. A big part of why I don’t record is that I’m a big believer in the whole “wall of sound” concept, and well, when I’m on my own, my wall of sound is more like a chain-link fence.

This is what it means to be a bard. Giving people the feelings that I get listening to this, that’s what I want to do. I’ve been told I’ve achieved it a few times, but it is the goal, every performance.

Unbelieving Compassion

Whatever Deities that may exist no longer reach down with their fingers or burning bushes in direct action. Look around you. See who needs help. Help them.

Act with the compassion of surety of someone who does not believe in a higher power, but in the needs of the people around them.

And when someone directly helps you, don’t thank a deity. Thank the person themselves.

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I Suppose You Think That Was Terribly Clever.

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and Proudfoots.

Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday!

Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

I have things to do. I’ve put this off for far too long. I regret to announce — this is The End. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.

Happy Baggins Birthday, everyone!

It Doesn’t Have to be Like This

Originally published as two separate posts on April 6 and April 7, 2018. I have chosen to republish it now, because it remains very relevant in September of 2020.

Today I worked from home, but left in the afternoon to come down to a going away party for another SingleHopper.

Getting into Union Station at 5pm means you’re the one late salmon swimming upstream, so I walked a slightly different way to get out of the station, which means I came out slightly more west than I normally do. As I headed north, west of the river, I came upon a young man, somewhere in his 20s, clearly homeless, cold, hungry, sitting on the freezing ground, and wracked with body-shaking sobs of despair.

And of course, since it was just after five, there were hundreds of people walking past him, ignoring or pretending to ignore him.

I was late to the party. I could have kept walking. I almost did keep walking, but I stopped instead.

I actually had a few dollar bills – not enough, of course, but I got them out to give to him. And I knelt down next to him and touched him on the arm to try to reach through his sorrow, and the first, ridiculous, heartbreaking thing he said to me was,

“I’m sorry. I’ve been so depressed.”

And part of me wanted to laugh in disbelief, and part of me wanted to weep in horror.

So I swallowed all of that, and gave him the money and asked him if I could buy him something to eat, which he turned down because someone had given him some granola bars earlier that day.

I tried to convince him to let me get him something, but he wouldn’t budge, and just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean I get to insist you take more of my charity than you want. So I said “good luck” and went on my way. The party was fun, and I got to see my friends, and we all spent money that probably could have been used better on drinks and ping-pong at the most ridiculous bar.

Of course, I looked for him on the way back to the train, but he wasn’t there. I’ll look for him more. But before I do, I’ll get to sleep in my bed, in my house, with my dearest wife, after checking on my amazing children, and then tomorrow, I’ll go to an event to be with other friends to watch people hit other people with sticks. And I’ll feel simultaneously overjoyed and terribly guilty about it.

But under all of it? Is all this:

Life is short and hard and the black dog always wins in the end. I spend a fair amount of my time bewildered about how and why human beings are terrible to each other.

We are failing as a country. As a people. As a planet. We have got to do better. I didn’t post this so people will tell me how great I am. I’m not. I left him there, and for all I know he’ll be dead before morning. And I left him there anyway.

People think I have no sense of humor. People think I’m too political. People think I waste my time posting memes about overturning the established order. Well, this is partly why. Because sometimes I cannot think of anything else to do.

And I will keep trying. But this post from Jim Wright ties in perfectly.

There are so many empty houses in America, we could house everyone. There’s so much food we could feed everyone. But instead, we’re obsessed with quarterly profits and shareholders.

Sure, I stopped and treated another human being with respect and caring and gave him a couple bucks so he could have some food, but in reality, I should never have had the interaction in the first place. He shouldn’t have been there.

Everyone should have shelter. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have health care.