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Re: Desire for Peerage

     Gentles all, I have been trying to stay out of the bustle in 
     Cheapside, but Earl Dafydd's philosophical treatise moves me to tell a 
     story.  I offer no moral to the tale, but leave you to draw your own.
     Long ago, when I was a Countess with no polling peerage to my name 
     (Yes, boys and girls, I once was without Pelican or Laurel.  Rocks 
     were soft then.) I believed in my heart that I deserved to be a 
     Companion of the Pelican.  I had been Seneschal of the East for a 
     couple of years; I had written an autocrat's handbook then in wide 
     circulation; I had cooked and/or autocratted local and kingdom events 
     too numerous to count.  I had also been, for all intents and purposes, 
     secretary to Brigantia Herald (the East's Kingdom herald -- Gyrth 
     didn't type) and performed many other services to Kingdom and Crown 
     for several years.  I began to be convinced that I was never going to 
     be a Pelican.  It made me sad, for a time, but then I remembered that 
     I wasn't doing that stuff for a Pelican.  I was doing it because I had 
     enjoyed it for a long time, and I was reasonably competent.  It came 
     to me that, for whatever reason, I was not enjoying it as much 
     anymore.  Perhaps I was burned out, or perhaps I was simply feeling 
     unappreciated.  I remembered that there were other things I liked to 
     do in the Society, and that perhaps I should change my focus.
     At the time, few, if any, others in Atlantia were preparing feasts of 
     foods developed from period recipes.  (Happily, that is not as true 
     now as it was then.)  I decided to concentrate on the Art of Cooking, 
     something I had loved from childhood, and that I would leave the 
     running of things to others for awhile.  Several years went by.  I 
     cooked many feasts, taught classes, wrote articles, and organized 
     competitions designed to encourage people to study primary cooking 
     sources.  When Richard (Croywynn?  Corwyn?  Marshall?  FitzGilbert?) 
     won his first Crown, I offered to cook the Coronation feast for him 
     and his good lady Anne.  I thought of that feast as a Master work -- 
     the menu was as perfect a balance as I could manage, for flavor, 
     color, texture, temperature, and everything else I could conceivably 
     balance.  Deep in my soul, I thought that maybe if the Pelicans didn't 
     want me, the Laurels would.  I wanted the Laurels to see that I had 
     achieved a certain level of mastery in my art.
     During Olaf and Aslinn's last court, I was up to my elbows in chickens 
     when I was called into court.  I had the presence of mind to dry my 
     hands and throw off my apron.  There before the throne was assembled 
     the Order of the...Pelican, waiting to welcome me as one of them.

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Desire for Peerage
Author:  kuijt@umiacs.UMD.EDU at INTERNET
Date:    7/28/95 3:54 PM

Dafydd ap Gwystl greets the Cheapside horde;
Luther eloquently states the standard dogma:
 (I mean no offence to Luther here--it is just that the 
 normal position is rarely so concisely stated)
>   The token is tarnished by desire for it. 
There is a standard SCA position that wanting a peerage is bad. 
Even very bad, such that to admit it in public (or worse, to a peer 
of the flavour you ardently desire membership in) is considered by 
some to be the kiss of death to your chances.
I agree with Yaakov.  This is perfect bullshit.  (What an image...:^)
When I was a squire I wanted to be a knight.  I didn't try to 
pussyfoot around--in my heart of hearts I didn't say to myself 
that I wanted to "be worthy", although I certainly didn't want 
to be unworthy--I wanted to _BE_ a knight.  I wanted to be 
knighted, I wanted to wear the regalia, I wanted to be widely 
known and respected, I wanted it all.  Of course I wanted to 
"be worthy" as well--I didn't want to cheat my way into a 
knighthood, I wanted to _be_ a knight.
Later, when I was more mature, I wanted a Laurel.  I was already 
a peer, and (I hope) respected; in this case it was more that I 
wanted public affirmation of the quality of my work, and there 
is no higher acclaim for artistic endeavour.  (I will not
speak of the Pelican--I'm still worried they might take it away 
if I say something wrong).
I do not believe there is anything wrong with those desires. 
I expect my squires to wholeheartedly desire knighthood.  If 
they do not esteem knighthood highly, why are they squires?
Like everything else, there are good ways and bad ways to want 
something.  Letting your desire for a peerage overwhelm your 
morality is clearly wrong.  Letting your desire for a peerage 
overwhelm your enjoyment of the game itself is clearly foolish 
and self-destructive.  But the desire itself is not at fault, 
rather the priorities are.
As Yaakov implies, the standard dogma creates a situation where
we publically deny the desire for awards, yet have a culture where 
they are in fact both desired and set up as icons of achievement. 
This is hypocrisy.
Desire for a peerage can be unhealthy if it is not bounded by 
morality and common sense.  However, when such desire is 
appropriately balanced with the courtesy and other traits that 
we idealize, it is not only healthy but it is also a potent 
force for maintaining the ideals of the peerage.  Duke Richard 
sometimes speaks about "starting over"--making all peers 
re-earn their peerages.  Although facetious, the thought holds 
an important truth--it is the effort of noble individuals who 
attempt to earn the accolade that ennobles the order itself.