Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happiness inside yourself

There's an interesting phenomenon I sometimes encounter in the SCA - and in the mundane world as well - wherein the idea of self-satisfaction has been completely removed from the individual and placed upon others. This sometimes plays off mildly with moments of cranky and sometimes seems to lead to intense dissatisfaction with almost everything.

There are two key facets to this I've been contemplating.  The first is that someone else doing something they enjoy does not reduce or depreciate the thing you enjoy.  We all have vastly different interests and its important that we give ourselves - and our populace - the opportunity to pursue those interests.   Events do better when they are open to any number of those interests and offer activities that hit more than one area. We've seen this again and again with "specific" events that cater to only one subsection which then do substantially better if other interest areas are pulled in in various ways (Art Sci and Scots Welsh being combined, for example.)  Not only does this offer more people a chance to be involved, but it does not in any way depreciate whatever the original focus was.  Essentially, just because everyone is not enjoying the exact same experience or moment doesn't make anyone's choices invalid.

The second facet is the nasty habit of comparing our own work or progress to others. This is, admittedly, human nature, but it leads to all sorts of dissatisfaction.  I'm not speaking of competitions here - that tends to be another kettle of fish - but the general self assessessment of your work and worth compared to others. This is so hard to stop - I still struggle with as do many Laurels I suppose - but its vital to actually being happy with yourself. Instead of going "that person is a better scribe" try focusing on "I did so much better on this scroll than the last."  Variations in style alone mean that comparing one person's work to another is difficult at best. 

It's possible - likely even - that we are *all* good scribes or artists and are all learning and none of us need to decide who is better than the other.  We can all belong to the artistic community without needing to best our fellows or continually compare ourselves to their speed, ability, or progress. Work for you. Work to improve and enjoy your art. The rest comes out in the wash.

Courtesy and Being a Peer

This one's a bit rambling but is something I'm contemplating.

Courtesy tends to be a double edged sword. We seek it as a laudable quality but the practitioners of it who value it the most are sometimes then caught by it as we try to maintain it around those are acting discourteously.

I have a pretty strong stance on addressing issues of rudeness or discourteous behavior. I am strongly in the camp of "if it's not addressed it will continue to happen" but I struggle with how best to do this, both as a person and as a peer.  There is, in the end, no one right answer I suppose which is why its something we always struggle with.

 I have realized I don't like the internet for these purposes - FB and email and other electronic forums lack the force of having a face to back an opinion and make it easy for arguments to spiral out of control with name calling and commentary, often from parties who have nothing to do with the original problem.  On the other hand, discourtesy is rampant online for that same factor and so I remain torn between calling it out and taking it off thread or in-person because that's more personally effective and provides a calmer scenario and image to everyone at large.

Similarly, not everyone sees the "behind the wall" conversations where rudeness is addressed and so many people think those conversations don't happen - even when they do.  I have no idea how to address this save that I wouldn't call out one of my students in the middle of class either, so I would be discourteous to address an adult in that manner as well, even though that is often my preferred method of telling someone they've been stomping on feelings.

In the end, there's a few important things to remember as we continue to work on this as people who come from a modern world that are trying to live up to an ideal of courtesy that has always been an ideal.

* Our job as peers - and populace - is to try and *always* be courteous, be that online or in person. When we slip - which we will - it behooves us to address those moments and make the necessary apologies and alterations to our actions.

*You should expect the best from people. People tend to live up to expectations and generally, if we set out the expectation of courtesy, it will rise to a more prominent position.

*Our job as peers, in particular, is to help address those who are not behaving well in a manner that is effective.  As noted above, I don't think this is always the same method or that all methods are equal. If I ever am brilliant enough to find a good answer to this, I will tell everyone.  At this time, all I have is that this is an intensely uncomfortable but necessary job but it does not need to be done cruelly or with embarrassment in mind, nor does it always need to be public.  Remember my epiphany of "help people be better"?

*Our job as peers and populace is to make things better, not tear things down. When we belittle ideas and efforts, when we tell people that their efforts are not enough, we don't help them be better - we pull the carpet out from under their feet and make them feel useless.  A person's efforts may not be enough to resolve or fix a situation - but they can be a start.  I'll use my students as an example here. We started a forty book reading challenge this year and for some of my students novels are a true challenge. They are starting with smaller books and that's fine and someday their confidence and ability - along with sound advice and teaching - will help them read longer things.  Everyone starts somewhere. Sometimes we *restart* somewhere and need a reminder to try to be better than we are. But each of those steps is vitally important and should not be belittled.

And lastly, my constant reminder to myself.

My job is to help people be better. In whatever way that better is aimed or that their happiness leads them.

In short, I wish I had more solid answers on all of this but I will continue to wrangle them in my life.