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It's been a hell of a week - earthquake, hurricane, power outages and downed trees almost derailed the funeral service for Bob's dad, and I put my back out, so was immobilized for a day and a half (and still ouchy, but it's fine).  I don't want to go into details, though - let's talk about books I've been reading.

While stuck on the sofa and too tired to sew, I read a book I've had for a number of years, but hadn't read in a long while, Great Exploration Hoaxes.  It's a fascinating read about big hoaxes by explorers, including Peary claiming the North Pole, and Cook climbing Mt. McKinley.  It is a well-written, well-paced book, and one of the more interesting things in it for me was the discussion of the motivations of the hoaxers.  These were men (though women can fall prey to this behavior, too) who had a vision of themselves that did not allow for failure, but more than that, they were men who could not stand the idea of someone else being successful in their place.  So, instead of saying "I got close; here's how you can get closer" and being well-respected explorers, they insisted that they made it, and therefore no-one else could claim that glory.  In a couple of cases, they exhibited real animosity towards the other explorers aiming for the same goal, and turned them (in their minds) into bitter enemies.  I sincerely doubt Admundsen cared what Byrd thought of him, but Byrd hated Admundsen.

It's a strange way of thinking, and I was running it by Bob, because it's a very alien idea to me to not only lie about one's own achievements, but to turn other people in the same field into one's enemies seems rather bizarre.  After all, lots of people try for new things and achievements; my godfather went down over the Atlantic in an attempt to be the first balloonist to cross the Atlantic in a single flight.  He was, by all accounts (he died when I was quite young), a wonderful, generous, happy man who also had a great drive to achieve something, but he never begrudged other people the striving for the same goal.  But Bob says it's the difference between people who see the world as one pie, with limited slices of each flavour (fame/reknown/resources/glory/money/etc.) to be grabbed, and those who see the world as an endless series of pies, with enough for everyone who wants some of whatever flavour floats their boat. 

And sometimes, there's ice cream.

(I'd better stop with this metaphor; I have no gluten-free pie makings in the house, and I love pie.)

(Mmmmmmmmm, pie.)

Anyway, before I got sidetracked, I was talking about these explorers who couldn't conceive of the idea that everyone can achieve fame for their accomplishments - in fact, several of the hoaxers were already hugely well-respected explorers, with a body of exploration behind them that was impressive and respected in its own right.  Yes, there were complete charlatans, but they're a little easier to understand than the people who were accomplished - they just wanted the glory and the money with none of the work.  That's pretty easy to wrap one's head around; it's despicable, but understandable.  I can even understand a bit why the real explorers would lie - shame, a need for one more success, the embarrassment of going home a failure after being a success - though it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain that lie (which would make it utterly untenable for me), but the need to turn one's competitors into enemies?  You know, I see it happen a lot from the people on the sidelines, and I think it's partly a need on the part of people to have a "good guy" and a "bad guy", but why would the competitors themselves buy into that silly idea?

Nothing is black and white.  No-one is perfectly good or perfectly evil, and in most fields, people are generally good (supervillany is probably a bad choice if you want to be a Good Guy).  There's nothing to divide one person interested in something from all the others.  Even academic or physical achievement doesn't have to be the absolute tops to be respected - there's more than enough respect to go around.  I don't know why there's a need to compete (outside actual competitions with prizes, and things).  In the SCA, I find that competitive behavior even more incomprehensible, because it's not so much the winning of prizes that gets you known, it's what you do.  For instance, one of my inspirations, one of the people who made me say to myself "I want to be that good someday", was Grace Gamble - who I don't think ever entered a competition after her first year, because she hated them.  And I certainly never put myself into competition against her - I said "I want to be like her", not "I want to smash her and take her place!!eleventy!!". 

Because that would have been a) stupid, and 2) unproductive.  You don't get respect by stealing other people's cookies, you get it by making your own.

(Mmmmmmmm, cookies.)  (And pie.) (and ice cream; I mentioned ice cream, didn't I?)

I really think there is a deep well of insecurity in people who try to make themselves look better by turning other people into enemies and putting them down.  The need to destroy someone else's achievement comes from a conviction that yours will not be noticeable on its own, so all others must be removed.  This is a weird idea to me, but I kind of get it in the abstract.

The thing is, while there may only be one North Pole to reach, in the SCA, there's a lot of ground to cover, and each achievement makes everything cooler.  The singles are not as cool as the whole.  When I see people out there embroidering, I get excited.  When someone very nicely pointed out to me that I wasn't the first to embroider a jacket, my reaction wasn't "I must keel them!!", it was "Pictures!  I must have cool pictures!  More pictures!!!!!".  I think each time something great is done, or something beautiful is done, we are all enriched.  Each achievement generates its own respect, and even if you're not the very very first to do something, you've still done it, and that's worth a lot, not only in your own right, but as an inspiration to everyone who comes after you and sees what you've done. 

And most importantly, there's only person you need respect from: Yourself.  And while you can lie to yourself, you shouldn't, because your deep self never believes the lie, and it makes you twisted and awful to be around. 

*~*~*~*

In other things, Bob has given me an early birthday present of all the threads I need to finish the jacket (I think I calculated right).  This brings the total cost of this second jacket to something like $1500.  My first one cost $50.  I'm certainly achieving on the expense front!

Comments

( 14 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
(Deleted comment)
attack_laurel
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Re: pie.....
See, that makes me feel really, really awesome (and the pie doesn't hurt!). I can't imagine a world where more jackets is not a fantastic thing. :)
(Deleted comment)
tudorlady
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
I am happy and relieved to know that you and Mr. Laurel have survived this weeks' various natural disasters ;>

Otherwise: Wise words, as always. A lot of things put me off competition, and the zero-sum outlook is the primary one. I have a lot more to say about the perception of people who Do Stuff Well is skewed by what amounts to SCAdian urban legends about same, but I can't make a cogent, non-rant statement about it right now because it's the end of a long day and anything said about this *has to* be cogent, non-rant statements, like yours are, otherwise it just makes things worse.

Also: I now totally have to get that book from the library.

xoxo
attack_laurel
Aug. 31st, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Oh, believe me, I rant. I wibble, I analyze, I wibble some more, and I bore Bob to death (fortunately, he always bounces back, like Kenny).

The book, however, is pretty great. I devoured it in a day and a half, enjoying myself and learning quite a bit along the way. Plus, the intro is written by Jan Morris, one of the most awesome trans women out there.
eleanors_closet
Aug. 31st, 2011 10:46 am (UTC)
I think alot of SCA folks believe that there's only one pie with lots of flavors. If its already been done (i.e., beautiful embroidered jackets) then you have to find something else in which to succeed. Why not explore everything that interests you and learn from those already excelling? There is still so much to learn and discover and it's getting easier to do so.
dragonazure
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
This is the first I heard of Bob's dad. You have our condolences.
grnvixen
Aug. 31st, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
Very succinct summation, and can be applied to just about anywhere in life our self-image is involved. I work with a bunch of Biochemistry PhDs, research and teaching professors. While we don't have a 'hoaxer' they do get very protective of their achievments. The better teachers seem to be the ones who can be more open. But if grant $$ are at stake, watch your fingers if you are reaching for a piece of that pie :).

Glad you have weathered the storms, condolences on Bob's father.
elasait
Sep. 1st, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
I have known several people in the SCA who were, in fact, like this. Most notably I'm thinking of a particular guy in a shire I used to live in. He accomplished a lot of acclaim for doing certain things that helped develop our kingdom "personality", and is a double peer. But he always had to have an enemy--someone accomplished, who was going to somehow ruin everything.

Sad really, because he has never really been happy. But not too sad, because he acts like a real jerk a lot of the time.

Edited at 2011-09-01 03:24 am (UTC)
attack_laurel
Sep. 1st, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
I can't talk about the people I've know, because they're all still around. :) But yes, I see it happen surprisingly often. It's a big part of the factionalization of groups - it's much easier to get everyone to follow you if you create an enemy for them to "fight" against. *eye*roll*
laughingbadger
Sep. 2nd, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
I have worked with a fellow who was very proud of being an *ethnic*. And actually said, "Why do we celebrate St. Patrick's day? Irish aren't ethnics." Oh really... would you like to tell Jean (born and raised in Ireland) that? Cause I wanna watch while she rips your ears off. He declined, as well he should have. Fool.

As social animals we are hard wired to have 'our group' and 'others'. This is normal, it's biology. It's a hard wired part of us. It is NOT something we can fight, but it is something we can recognize as so and remove the animosity. We always will have 'them' and 'us'. And, again as social animals, we do have hierarchies of leaders and followers.

But we can and should recognize this biological fact and defuse the unthinking parts of it. There are people you hang with and people you don't. It may just be you haven't had much contact with them, it may be that there's something about them that just irritates you (and likely there are people who feel the same way about you). You can just gracefully agree to disagree and stay out of each others' way if possible.

To celebrate one's own ethnicity/accomplishments/skills does NOT necessitate running down others'. If I make something wonderful it doesn't mean someone else can't also make something grand - and we both can learn from each others' work. And enjoy it. If I make something and someone else learns from what I did and makes something even more amazing... that is great. I contributed to their work, in a way.
perilousknits
Sep. 4th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
What would be your advice in a SCA-situation where the perception is that the Only way to get recognition is to do something no one else has done before? I often hear that one can get an AOA level award for (something everyone does) but if you want to win X competition or get some serious recognition, you have to show the Laurels something no one else does. Costuming? they've already seen lots of costuming. They want to see something unique like 11th century tooth-pulling . . .

Personally, I would rather skip X competition and go somewhere where I can show off my costuming. But I see how people can think they'll never get anywhere if they don't forge new ground . . .
vlruhl
Sep. 4th, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
Books and Stuff
May I suggest: James W. Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me".
It is a really fascinating book about the things American History textbook writers leave out in order to make things more Euro-centric.

In response to your comments about the SCA and pie, I see it as a bunch of very talented people sitting in a circle and they're all staring at the one slice of pie in the middle, wondering who's going to get it. They are so intent on making sure no one else has it, that they completely miss the rest of the pie that's on the table in the corner.

It's sad that we can't spend more time helping each other up instead of trying to keep "the competition" down.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 17th, 2011 11:16 am (UTC)
Questions, very glad you are safe. Earthquakes, hurricanes and back tossing , oh my!
I love your blog and was hoping you and yours came through everything safely. My condolences for Bob's Dad. I'm in Caid and the Great Western War is almost here. No, it's not like Pennsic but still has typical "war fever" craziness. Down below is my email address write it lower case, no under scores or hyphens and correct the for normal address, just trying slow down spam bots. I'm very curious about what causes your chronic pain problems. I ask because I've got fibromyalgia, most associated syndromes/illnesses and take a large amount of meds. I'll be engrossed in some activity at a tourney and then have a surprise crash. Very annoying. How do you cope? You do so much wonderful work. I'm just learning embroidery, am teaching a beginners embroidery class at GWW and helping out at the Art&Sciences area. I hate the fact my body won't mind me and do what I say! I love your clothes, they are great. I'm slowly learning 14th century Italian clothing for myself. I must go, take care of yourself. Leonarda c c jJ AT y a__h-oo do_t co_m (
( 14 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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