[Bards] no suger coating on this

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Wed Nov 1 13:33:12 PST 2006

Michael Silverhands and I have exchanged:

>> Lots of people watched Eisteddfod when we had an active college...

> Empirically, yes, I accept that the two statements "we had an active
> college" and "more people watched {and competed in} Eisteddfod" are
> both true for that time frame. But I have yet to see demonstrated how
> they were connected then -- or more relevantly, how they might be
> connected today. (I'm not saying I can't be convinced; just that I'm
> not yet.)

I understand completely.  You wonder if I am committing the fallacy of "post 
hoc ergo propter hoc" (after this therefore caused by this).

And I might be.  I'm working with the following facts.
There was no real bardic community in Ansteorra, or at least none that I 
could perceive, when I joined.
After Willow started the college, the bardic community grew within it.
The bardic community grew to encompass people who weren't in the college.
After the college was stepped on, leaving many of us with bad tastes in our 
mouths, the bardic community became less and less a part of everyday life in 
Ansteorra, although it never died away.
We have a vestigial bardic community now, with lots of enthusiasm, that 
would really enjoy being a part of something bigger than themselves.

That makes me believe that it might be time to start a real college again. 
But you're right; I might be misreading the data.  I have no theoretical 
proof of my assertion.

In the early twentieth century, experts "proved" that bumblebees could not 
fly.  They accepted the statements that bumblebees could be seen in the 
meadows flying, but they had yet to see demonstrated how they could do it. 
Nobody could show them *how* the bees could fly, and for the same reasons, I 
can't show you how the college will help.

But I know it helped me, and that means it's my job to try to use it to help 

> I find it easier to believe that both statements are true
> because of some other reason -- such as: we had an active, thriving
> bardic community -- which caused a college to be viable and caused
> more people to enter and attend Eisteddfod.

This might be a valid explanation if it were true.  But it's not.  There was 
primarily filk singing and dirty songs, and any mention that there could be 
more than that was met with cries of "Authenticity police!"

So Willow formed a college, and went around giving out prizes, in the name 
of the College, to worthy performances.  It became worth trying to get one. 
More bards got involved, and the number of bards in the kingdom grew.

It is simply a historical fact that there was not an active, thriving bardic 
community until after the college was founded, and that it came in large 
measure from the new bards brought in by the college.   It is also a 
historical fact that there was a thriving, active, often cantankerous bardic 
community until two kings in a row stopped the college as an active body, 
and that the bardic community is nowhere as big today.

The bumblebee flew.  It did.  I don't have any theory for why it flew, but I 
was in that meadow.

> I guess the crux of the matter is this: what would an active college
> do for us today, that merely having an active bardic community would
> not?

It would exist.  Today's "active" bardic community is less than half the 
size of the bardic community in 1988-1991, at the height of the college's 

In 1988-1991, the Steppes had the following people, all active in the 
college, and all of whom considered themselves bards: Adelicia, Amra, 
Cairenn, Desiree, Galen, Gwyneth, Hossein, Llereth, Robin, Rosario, Tadhg 
and Vashti, and probably some that have slipped my mind.  That's twelve I 
can name off the top of my head, fifteen years later, in a barony that just 
barely grew past 100 paid members in 1990.

"Merely having an active bardic community" isn't the tool; it's the house we 
want to build.  The college is a tool that I have seen used to build a 
large, vibrant, active bardic community in Ansteorra.  I don't know or claim 
that it is the only tool, or even the best tool.  But it's the one I've seen 

I've helped build the fencers from a nothing little group of fringies to 
what it is today, and the Legion was a crucial tool in doing it.  Go to 
Queen's Champion and watch the morning court, when the Legion is called up 
to swear their oath to the Queen.  Ask yourself if it could be done without 
a group to belong to.  (Answer: yes -- you're right about that.)  Then ask 
yourself if the strong emotions are in fact tied to, and intensified by, the 
feeling of belonging to a named group of people all officially dedicated to 
the same cause.  (Answer: yes.  People believe in their own symbols.)

> For an example: do we need a college in order to wear a blue favor on
> our belt? (Of course not.) Would it help promote a sense of community
> among the bards, and presence among the non-bards, for bards to
> voluntarily wear a blue favor on their belt? (Of course.)

The sense of belonging is in fact greater when one belongs to something.

I know my answers sound vague.  I can't help it.  The way people work is in 
fact vague and unclear.  But the exact same questions can be asked about a 
lot of things, with equally vague-sounding answers.

Do we need a kingdom in order to wear black stars?  (Of course not.)  Would 
it help promote a sense of community to voluntarily wear a black star?  (Of 

But it wouldn't mean as much as Ansteorra.  And blue sashes wouldn't mean as 
much without the college.

People like to belong to groups.  They really, really do.  Fraternities, 
sororities, clubs, guilds, colleges, teams, parties, fellowships, lodges, 
unions, sodalities, clans, households, societies, associations, co-ops, 
confederations, orders, and ten thousand other groups people join exist 
because people want to join them.

> Am I opposed to having a bardic college? No, absolutely not. If it
> makes some folks happy to have one, then "it's a free country". But
> when you suggest or infer that a college would carry some benefit, I
> want to understand why that might be true.

Can't help you.  *I* want to belong to the College of Bards.  That's my 
number one benefit.  But I've wanted that continuously since the college was 
stopped.  I have been waiting for a time when lots of other people would 
also want to be part of one.  I believe that time has now come.  That's why 
I sent the message asking if others thought it was a good idea.

I could be wrong; maybe this is not a good time.  But I've gotten enough 
support that I'm willing to risk it.  Even if I can't explain the benefit I 
expect to come.

> Do we need a college in order to have an active bardic community?
> Would the mere fact of having a college promote having an active
> bardic community? Would the mere fact of having an active bardic
> community promote the existence of a college? (Is it a "chicken and
> egg" problem?)

I don't know if we "need" a college to have an active bardic community.  And 
frankly, I'm disinterested in that theoretical question.  Probably there are 
lots of ways to build one, many of which don't require a college.  I don't 
know, and don't particularly care.

Meanwhile, I want to build an active bardic community, and I'm going to use 
the only tool I've seen work.  Would some other tool work instead?  Who 
knows?  Who cares?  I'll use the tool that I've seen work, and that I know 
how to use.

But I probably won't try to give a theoretical explanation of how it works 
anymore.  I'll do it the right way.  Come out in the meadow with me, and see 
for yourself that the bumblebee can fly.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin 

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