Two unrelated thoughts.
First thought. I think I have some small understanding now of my friends with anxiety and depression. I am not saying I have full understanding. I don’t suffer from these things. But I have found that the SCA is probably like having rabid brain weasels. Let me explain.
Any question or thought you throw at the SCA will result in EVERY possible answer coming back to you. It is what I imagine the guy possessed by Legion must have felt like. Pieces of thought and advice without any internal consistency bombarding you. Much of it contradictory and of widely different volumes. How do you decide which advice to take?
The only answer I have to that is do your best to find a small number of voices that you trust. Voices that support you. Voices that lead you to a path that makes a better you. In the cacophony, block out the rest and heed these voices. These are the people who want you to be you. And a side note: they are often the quieter ones but not necessarily.
I am going out on a limb here. I am not casting aspersions at anyone nor railing against anyone. It is just a thought I had in the shower. Who else ends up with deep thoughts in the shower? Raise your hands. Good!
It seems to me that the service in the SCA operates in a scarcity environment. And that seems weird. What do I mean? Service in the SCA seems to think there are limited opportunities. And the other parts of the SCA operates in an abundance environment. Let’s look.
Fighting, rapier, archery, thrown weapons, basically all of the martial activities want as many people as possible. The more people doing the thing, the more people who can do the thing. Even the service side of the martial activities is abundance; the more marshalls, the more people who can participate. And since the majority of marshalls are also people who want to do the activity, there is no overlap or competition. Too many marshals that day? You get to fight or whatever.
Similarly on the arts side, it is an abundance environment. There is no such thing as too many blacksmiths or too many people making trim. There is no call of “what do we do if so-and-so stops smithing?” There is no call of “I wish so-and-so would let others weave for a change.” The SCA can support as many people doing as much or as little art as they want to do. In part, that is because there are just SO many arts that it would be almost impossible to find someone to do each of them. But the rest is that there just isn’t a limit. You can make as much art as you want and the A&S community will cheer you on. The only limit I see is that if you want to connect to a certain teacher, that person might be limited in terms of how many people they can mentor. But for the most part, I haven’t seen this as problem.
So Service. Why is it a scarcity and more importantly, should it be? That is what I would like people to think about.
To an extent, I think there are some limits that we impose. We only want one Kingdom Seneschal for instance. Some positions require or at least work better with specific skill sets that not everyone has. But also, some positions carry prestige and/or power. And that is not present in the other parts of the SCA.
Service gets tied up with other things too. There is need and desire. Let’s imagine a quadrant graph with need and desire on the two axes. When jobs are both desired and needed (Q1), lots of people want to do the job. When a job is desired but not needed (Q2), there are still plenty of people who want to do the job but the job is not very fulfilling because it is not needed. If the job is needed but not desired (Q3), there are few people who want to do it. And lastly, if it is both not desired and not needed (Q4), there are no people for that job but really, we probably don’t have those positions because they are not needed.
In a scarcity model, let’s take these kind of jobs. The highly desired and highly needed jobs are limited in a scarcity model. We only need a few of them (or one of them) but lots of people want to do them. The highly desired but not needed jobs are also limited in a scarcity model. We don’t need those jobs (or not many of them) but we have lots of people for them. The highly needed but less desired jobs are self-limiting. We need people in those positions but we have few people who want them so we may have beg but they get filled. And lastly, the less desired and not needed jobs are self-limiting. We don’t need those positions and no one wants to do them.
In an abundance model, Q1 jobs are great. We need them and people want them and because we work in an abundance model, we have as many open positions as we want. The Q2 is the same as Q1. Yes, we don’t necessarily need that many people to do the job but we can make many positions if called for. Q3 is about the same as under scarcity. We need people to do these jobs but they are not as desirable so we probably have enough people. We can still make more if we need though. Q4 is the same as well as they just aren’t needed.
Lastly, I see in service that it is viewed as a sacrifice, a burden. The whole idea of “need” also implies burden. “Someone HAS to do this job.” “We don’t want you to burn out.” No one tells fighters they fight too much or artists that they make too much art. Heck even the symbol, the pelican in piety is about sacrifice. “This must be done (feed the chicks) so I will give of my own life for them.” What if the symbol for service was something else? An otter frolicking in the sea with its raftmates. “I have fun so others can have fun.” Would our view of service be different?
I don’t have an easy answer. For the sake of efficiency, the number of certain jobs is limited. But is there a way to push service into an abundancy model? That all who want to serve can serve? That more jobs can be Q1 jobs, that are both desired and needed? That service isn’t seen and talked about as a burden? Something to think about when you are next in the shower.