There was a certain army doctor whose job it was to accompany soldiers to battle and tend to their wounds on the battlefield, but it seemed like every time he patched someone up, the soldier would just go right back into battle and end up being killed.
After this had happened over and over again, the doctor finally broke down. "If it's their fate to die, why should I try to save them? If my medicine means anything, then why do they go back to war and get killed?"
Not understanding what significance there was in being an army doctor, he felt extremely confused and couldn't go on with his work. So he went into the mountains in search of a zen master.
After studying with a zen master for several months he finally understood his problem and descended the mountain to continue his practice. When troubled with doubts thereafter, he simply said:
"Because I'm a doctor!"
Sometimes when you don’t know who you are, or what you’re suppose to do, or how you need to react, confusion will take hold of your collar with a death-grip and start dragging you down into the basest of realms where chaos rules and disorder runs rampant. It is also during these same moments when The 'Verse will send you a message to help you avoid falling down that slippery slope, but only if you allow yourself to be aware of the signal.
As many of you know, I’m a relatively new vegetarian having started this journey a little over a month ago. During that time I have been reading some books and publications that would probably be classified as "green planet" literature. (Yes, Keith has been pretty proud of me.) Unfortunately, last week I began to feel the juxtaposition of differing ideals start conflicting within, furthered by the increasing problem I was having regarding the ethical ramifications of buy huge quantities of cheap meat that would be needed to feed a number of hungry SCAdians for lunch.
It was shortly after that original post when The 'Verse decided it needed to set events in motion that would help correct the balance. These events coalesced into a message, which appeared to me in the form of the above story as I opened the book I picked up to read. It didn’t take me more than one reading to start on the path of understanding what was being said to me.
By the day of the event I had: utilized all of my renown grocery shopping skills and bought all the meat I needed for a pretty good price; had a great discussion with the manager of a local college campus who wants me to pass on some of my recipes to her — vegetarian, non-vegetarian, and medieval; and completed all pre-prep with a group of extremely helpful individuals who probably do not ever want to see another piece of sushi
Saturday found me in the kitchen at the event. Although I was only suppose to provide lunch for everyone, I stayed in there the entire to day to help out with feast and cleanup. Despite some of the incidents that occurred during the day (like the kitchen equipment arriving much later than expected and some server confusion at feast), it was a marvelous time! Heck, I’d like to think I was still pretty much on my game at 1am while cleaning up the kitchen and packing everything away for storage.
There was one situation that occurred on Saturday that helped me get further along my path to understanding the message that was sent to me. It happened just before feast while most of the populace attended court and those of us in the kitchen were making the final preparations for the meal. Felicity had just returned from being summoned before Their Excellencies. They had just inducted her into the Order of the Capstan.
Aine took a moment to admire Felicity's new medallion and then turned to me. Knowing that I had created all of the new orders when I had been invested as Baron of the group, she asked, "Which one is the Capstan?"
"That is for Arts & Sciences," I replied.
"I know the Windmill is for Service," she continued. "Isn’t there one for Martial Arts?"
"That would be the Millguard."
"Isn’t there another one?"
"The Mistral. That one is only given out to one person, once per year at the end of each year during a Baron and Baroness’s reign."
"What’s that one for?"
"That’s the Spirit award. It’s for the person the Baron and Baroness feels best exemplifies the spirit of Delftwood over the past year."
The discussion went further into the reason why I created the Mistral (it was my version of the Jewel of Æthelmearc), the reason for it only being once a year (because that would make it the one order that couldn’t be filled up), and the reason why it was at the end of the year during each Baron and Baroness’s term (so that way nobody could do what I did, which was give it to the outgoing Baron and Baroness).
Within moments, Justin burst into the kitchen looking for me. "You've been called into court."
"Huh?" (Yeah, I know. It was a brilliant moment of clarity for me.)
"Their Excellencies have called you into court."
Confused, I followed Justin through the feast hall to the sanctuary where Court was being held. I waited as Their Excellencies finished a piece of business that was presented before them. After its conclusion, they called me into Court. I wasn't a pretty sight. I was wearing my drab brown kitchen garb with a baseball cap on my head. (It's a special baseball cap. Gwenhwyvar made it for me during my last year on the throne. It is blue with a six-pointed coronet painted on it and pearls sewn in its outline. It's perfect for the kitchen — it allows me to wear my "coronet" without getting my fancy coronets dirty and it provides regulation hair covering in the kitchen.)
After I bowed to His Highness and Their Excellencies, I knelt before them and asked, "How may I serve you?"
They both turned turned to the Herald. "Call in the Order."
My mind suddenly hit the stop and rewind buttons. I could hear a little voice in my head speaking out the question that was on my lips. "What?"
"Their Excellencies request the presence those members of The Order of the Mistral," announced the Herald.
I will be the first to admit that I personally do not think I deserved the award. I hadn't done anything special during the past year. In fact, I had actually tried to pull away from stuff. I went to fewer events, I spent three months singing with RGMC (which kept me away from much of the SCA), I dabbled here and there, and generally stayed away from Their Excellencies so they could begin Their reign without Their predecessor lofting over their shoulders. I planned on taking the year off.
Amazingly enough, for a person who created this Order, it wasn't until that moment when I began to understand what it really meant. It would take me a couple of days later before I was able to really grasp the concept behind the award and eventually the tale of the doctor.
When I looked at each of the other members of the Mistral, I remembered why I had inducted each of them into the Order. It wasn't because of any skills that they had. It wasn't because of any talents they possessed. It wasn't because of point values or bouts won. I had inducted each of them because of their selfless attitudes and actions.
Jen and Rian selflessly gave of themselves, many times using their own funds to promote the "beautification of Delftwood." Alheydis selflessly gave of her artistic talents with some of the most amazing scrolls for both Barony and Kingdom. Helené selflessly gave of her bardic talents to make sure that the bardic arts were alive. Edward selflessly gave of his archery skill, which in turned developed the huge number of Delftwood archers — double and sometimes triple of other groups in Æthelmearc.
All of these people love what they do, and they do it because they love it. They don't do it because it's going to gain them recognition or awards or honors — they do it because it is in each of their individual natures. They selflessly give to all — great and small.
I see some who will only give of their talents to pointy hats and only if it is very public. When given a chance to serve a pointy hat, they are right there to show off how important they are. When given a chance to serve invisibly, like serving the populace at a feast in a darkened hall, they will refuse to perform the selfless action and not give up their seat to a weary traveler.
And what about me? I do not know exactly what thoughts were going through Their Excellencies' mind when they decided to give me that award — I can only assume and guess at the reasoning. It is possible that they viewed my actions and attitude as selfless — I would not be a very good judge at that for myself. If one views themselves as selfless, then just the very thought proves that they are not.
What I can
say is that I love being in the kitchen. I love cooking and making food. It is where I have fun. I know that Their Excellencies know it too because they told me so in Court. As they said to me, I didn't disappear from the SCA, I just disappeared into the kitchen.
So, getting back to the original point (and I do have one). Just like the doctor in the story, whenever I am troubled by the conflicting ideals regarding the ethical ramifications of buying huge quantities of meat needed to feed a number of hungry SCAdians, I'll just simply say:
"Because I’m a cook."