attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

This post was fueled by a long week of mayhem.

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!

Tags: blah blah blah, deep thoughts, mental wandering, nonsense

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