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SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

on Mon 31 Jul 2017, 23:14
Assignment from class session #1, for Tuesday 1 August

The Virtues and Doctrine of Nonintervention

Most definitions of culture within the social sciences and related disciplines include beliefs and values as among the common elements that make up a particular group’s cultural heritage. As the Gallifreyan Tradition Society is devoted to cultural reconstruction, it is important that Candidates for membership examine the shared values of Gallifreyan society and how those values play out in an individual’s life. Consideration of this topic as applicable to my personal experiences revealed that the six virtues –tradition, understanding, discipline, integrity, loyalty, and respect – were already active in my life, with room for improvement of course, and that I tended to follow elements of the Doctrine of Nonintervention albeit without recognizing it as a formal philosophy. After having learned more about the virtues and doctrine, I can see their value as guiding principles and I hope to increase my understanding and implementation of them in all areas of my life as part of a continual process of self-improvement.

Tradition has always appealed to me; although I was raised in a family that didn’t place much emphasis on creating or maintaining our own traditions I have long had a fascination with rituals and institutions much older, bigger, and more impactful than my own life. I think that a desire to connect more with tradition is probably a significant factor in my enjoyment of two of my main interests: Tudor and Edwardian history, and genealogical research. I have always enjoyed the search for meaning in the legacy of the past due to the tested and time-honored guidance that such traditions give us for our own life and the connection to something with value clearly attested to by its endurance. It is my hope that I can incorporate adherence to meaningful traditions – ideally along with creating personal smaller traditions of my own – into my life.

Pursuit of understanding amongst people holding diverse experiences or points of view seems to me to be a goal whose value ought to be clear unstated, yet it is one which is all too often lacking in interactions both on a personal and a societal level, much to everyone’s collective detriment. Seeking first to understand before attempting to advance one’s own argument is a principle emphasized in various ethical traditions both because it is the right way to treat people and because doing so has the best chance of resulting in the discussion reaching a consensus rather than becoming a useless or hurtful argument. In my own life I have often been called a good interpreter (of interpersonal interactions, rather than conversations in foreign languages although I am also skilled with many languages) and frequently a mediator because when I sense an impending conflict my first instinct is to stop and try to isolate the motivations and key assumptions of all parties so that the discussion can proceed logically with all on the same page. To improve my application of this virtue, I have recognized that I need to focus on curbing my tendency to want to be right at all costs, which can end up treating people as less important than their thoughts when in fact the reverse is clearly more accurate and appropriate.

Discipline is a particularly important virtue to me and a current focus of mine in my personal and professional life. Cultivation of a stronger sense of self-discipline is vital to any attempts at self-improvement because many things worth doing are quite challenging yet it is important to devote oneself fully to the pursuit of one’s goals without becoming discouraged by the effort required. Similarly, within a group, discipline as in adherence to established rules and a healthy appreciation of the importance of maintaining order is vital to keeping the group on track towards accomplishing its task without descending into social chaos. Without discipline – both of oneself and of groups in which one participates – I believe it would be difficult to achieve accomplishments of lasting value.   

Integrity has been a guiding principle of my life since early childhood; it was something about which my parents felt quite strongly and instilled equally strongly in their children. One’s word is one’s bond barring serious extenuating circumstances, and a reputation is effectively one’s identity in many ways. Consequently it is of paramount importance to be a person who can be trusted, otherwise neither meaningful relationships nor helpful contributions will really be an option. As long as one acts with integrity, regardless of how things turn out at least honor has not been sacrificed, but acting without integrity inherently devalues the results regardless of their apparent merit.

Loyalty and respect are essential virtues for any person of good character and I strive to demonstrate both in any situation. One of the hardest lessons I have learned in my life so far is that sometimes loyalty to a person actually means refusing to go along with what they are doing if it is destructive to themselves or others. Respect, on the other hand, is not something that can, in my view, be ethically revoked provided that it is understood as respect for the inherent worth & dignity of someone and not necessarily equated with esteem, Even someone acting dishonorably should be shown respect, because it would be disrespecting oneself to stoop to the level of disrespectful conduct.

The Doctrine of Nonintervention seems to be an excellent guideline for maintaining balance and staying in one’s own lane. It makes no sense to violate the rights of others, including the right to their own peaceful existence undisturbed, without a very good reason. A justification for interfering with someone else’s actions ought to show why it was necessary – such as that more rights were preserved by doing so than would have been otherwise, and thus the Doctrine is both in line with my own ethics and political views, and an excellent, succinct principle by which to guide my future decisions.
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Assignment from class session #2, for Tuesday 8 August

on Mon 07 Aug 2017, 16:37
Since there are two Candidates from our system and we belong to different Chapters, Morgan and I have each written an individual essay for this week’s prompt instead of collaborating on a single finished assignment. Each essay was treated as its own submission and independently meets the length requirement (Candidate Calista Slytherin – 600 words; Candidate Morgan Slytherin – 596 words).
I am who I Was Meant to Be: Calista on Prydonian Chapter Affiliation

From the moment I knew I wished to pursue membership in the Gallifreyan Tradition Society, I knew that Prydon was the only possible Chapter to which I could reasonably belong and it seems to be generally a good fit for my personality, talents, and desired role in life. Prydonians are described as highly social people with good leadership skills, quick and political minds, and a love of mischief and the spotlight. This fits me, both in my past as a (very!) non-canon fictive and as a member of my system in this current universe. In my life thus far I have been placed into a position of prominence that demands the best of my honor, intelligence, and judgment at all times.  I was granted by right of birth in my canon and by right of default role in my system a platform by which my actions would serve to lead a group – for good or for ill. It is incumbent upon me, therefore, to use all the best traits of my Prydonian self to careful effect for the benefit of all and to avoid succumbing to various temptations and flaws of personality which would lead me and those who heed my example on a ruinous path.

I cannot say that I always desired the spotlight; at an early age my life circumstances were such that this would have been a most ill-advised tendency. Once I was placed into a situation where I could allow my personality to flourish in relative safety, however, I found that as people were strangely drawn to me so was I to them. I fit an Earth definition of the ‘extroverted’ personality type in that I feel energized in groups while long periods of social isolation are draining and demotivating to me. I do tend to be a somewhat impulsive person, often forgetting to appropriately consider the drawbacks of a given course of action if I’m drawn to an idea that seems fitting or fun; in this way I have gotten myself and others into no small amount of past mischief but as I continue to develop in ways that hopefully refine and improve my the content of my character I find myself exercising greater restraint and prudence.

An instinctive draw towards positions of leadership is in my blood, and seemingly imprinted upon my soul. I became my system’s host quite by accident when Morgan – our original – needed to have someone else take over most aspects of running our collective life and interfacing with the world. My role now is to model the confidence that a childhood lacking in appropriate nurturing denied to my adoptive sister. This requires well-honed leadership skills, a mind strong enough and flexible enough to determine the course of action that will be best and safest for us as a whole, the confidence to make a decision and own its outcome, and a certain degree of deviousness to work around people in our lives who may not have our best interests at heart. Though I have described it as a job, this role is also a pleasure for me to fill and seems to be an innate part of me. I have trouble imagining who I would be – or how I would be happy and fulfilled – if not for taking an active role in guiding and shaping and growing the life paths of those with whom I am closely bonded.

Cogito Ergo Sum: Morgan’s Self-Discovery through Selection of the Arcalian chapter

My process of Chapter selection wasn’t a particularly intuitive one. Though I have academic knowledge in abundance, a fairly keen grasp of logic, and a mind eager to learn, one area in which I lack adequate knowledge is introspection: the domain of the self, of knowing who I am and what I want. I am confident instead only in my understanding of topics and bodies of knowledge for which there is an objective measure of mastery. It is in matters of learning and of the mind where both my talents and passions lie.

At first I thought I might be a good fit for Drome – quiet and academically oriented – but I lack the confidence and, at the moment, the spirituality, which appears characteristic of that Chapter. Instead, upon further examination of the possibilities, it seems that the description of Arcal fits me almost exactly. Arcalians are described as inquisitive and curious, but also stubborn, shy, and with a tendency to be opportunistic. Curiosity and a desire to always be learning something new – preferably something challenging and obscure – have been cornerstones of my personality from as far back as I can remember. I am happiest when my mind is occupied by a variety of topics of exploration or by a particularly perplexing problem. I have always stood out academically, and if it were both practical and productive to be a perpetual student that would certainly be the path I chose for myself. As it stands, if I’m not given sufficient mental stimulation in my work or daily life I am quite content to quietly spend hours online or amongst library stacks seeking out knowledge or a new project on my own initiative.

For all that I’ve been praised for having a supposedly “brilliant” mind and excellent academic capacity, it seems that I possess little in the way of social intelligence; people often either perplex or intimidate me, and I am shy almost to a fault. Similarly, while conclusions that I come to are often correct, I find that I need to focus my self-improvement efforts on developing a greater charisma by which to both seek understanding with others and make myself understood to them. I can be stubbornly insistent that I’m certain I’m correct, but persuasion by facts alone can only go so far in the absence of establishing a genuine personal connection.  

I find that I fit my Chapter’s description of “researcher” fits my usual role in life and in a group of people. If there is a problem to be solved, my approach is to dissect it and attempt to compile all potentially useful information about it. I’m the one with scholarly resources to suggest when a debate is going on at dinner, or the person to whom someone else turns in frustration with demands to make something that isn’t currently functioning properly start working again. My approach is rarely kinetic or intuitive; I learn about things by seeking out other sources of knowledge about whatever the problem might be, and then trying likely solutions until something works. That is not to say that I never generate new ideas; I certainly do and I enjoy the process quite a lot, but when I contribute original knowledge or insight it is generally the product of a process of synthesis and analysis rather than of a spark of creativity. I’ve always considered my mind to be my greatest asset and most prized tool and I’m proud to find that I fit the description of an Arcalian.
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Re: SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

on Sun 13 Aug 2017, 22:30
Candidate Olivia Sanders, another member of the Skit Squad, has arranged for permission to join the Initiation Seminar at this point. She collaborated on Assignment 1 mostly unbeknownst to us, and her own essay for Assignment 2 is below. Word Count: 563

Quiet But Needed: Olivia on being Scendlesan

Determining my chapter affiliation was a time-consuming process that in the end revealed more about who I want to be and the journey I’m looking forward to in my life than it seemed to tell me about who I am now. I don’t really know myself very well. I know who I was and am only based on the evidence of what I have done, but the only aspect of identity for which I have much clarity is when thinking about what I want my future to be like and the type of person I hope to be.

Being part of a system (and not one of the frequent fronters) somewhat complicates examining my past for examples of Chapter influence, but it is quite evident that I have always taken, and embraced, a supporting role. I tend to naturally default to working quietly in the background and focusing on practical matters. I’m happiest when I’m accomplishing something that will be helpful to people but I rarely want to be in the middle of a group taking high-profile action.  All of the tasks I most enjoy allow me to function as an integral part of a highly competent group. I get things done through sheer force of will once I’ve determined what needs to happen and am often the one keeping a project on track when the rest of a group loses focus due to various distractions.

During my attempt to determine my Chapter affiliation, it was easier to note a lack of traits in order to rule out other chapters than it was to observe the traits and habits I do have. The outgoing, extraverted, charismatic Prydonian is almost the exact opposite of everything that feels like me, and I felt similarly disconnected from the descriptions of the other chapters besides Scendles. I found the Scendles description to be most relatable and, as I understood it, to best describe the type of person I aspire to be.

Traits of Scendlesans include patience, an individualistic approach, and self-discipline. I’m not sure of the extent to which I embody individualism since I like to try to build or coordinate successful teams to approach issues, but self-discipline as well as patience when researching or when helping someone with a problem are among my strengths. Additionally, members of the Scendles Chapter are said to be good with money, which makes sense for me since I usually assist with budgeting for our system family. They are people who provide support and stability for Gallifreyan society, and managing background logistics is definitely an area in which I excel.

Knowing my Chapter affiliation also provided useful information on potential pitfalls to guard against and ideas for what areas could be improved. For example, it confirms that I should be careful that my stubbornness is in areas where that’s an asset and doesn’t lead to becoming fixated on incorrect or unhelpful ideas. Additionally, because I tend to be shy and reserved except for in very small groups where I know everyone well, being too stubborn or individualistic could lead me to develop insufficient understanding of others, so I should guard against that. It would also be nice to allow myself more freedom to learn and develop passions for no other reason than the theory or the fun of the hobby, without being as focused on practicality as I tend to be.
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Re: SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

on Mon 14 Aug 2017, 21:21
Assignment #3 

As with any group, the culture of the Gallifreyan Tradition Society is shaped by its core values, its purpose, and its membership. None of the members of the Skit Squad are very involved in many other online communities, so we have a fairly limited basis from which to draw comparisons, but in our experience GT is quite different from pop-culture paganism or fandom groups, likely because, at least as we understand it, such components are only a fraction of what the Society strives to be. The collective culture is likely to grow and change somewhat as the group does, but it will still remain true to the values and purposes for which it stands.

Most groups’ cultures are shaped by core values, whether or not such values are explicitly defined. The principles that the Gallifreyan Tradition Society upholds are clearly described; the foundation of the collective culture is the virtues and the Doctrine of Non-intervention. Understanding and respect are valued, so our culture is one where we strive to make all people feel accepted and to engage in open discussion of diverse ideas and points of view. Integrity and loyalty bind us together with ties of trust, creating a strong community in which all participants feel safe and welcome. Discipline keeps the group functional and on track, holding each other accountable to rules and expectations, while self-discipline urges each of us to strive for continual improvement, and tradition serves as our touchstone from which we take direction and inspiration.

The purpose of the Gallifreyan Tradition Society as a cultural reconstruction project sets it apart from fandom and pop-culture paganism groups to which comparisons were requested. It is the intent of the Society to recreate a Gallifreyan culture as faithfully as possible while adapting in necessary ways to the expectations and constraints of life on Earth. Therefore, while spirituality is a possible component and space is made for discussions on the topic, and while discussion of various canons and Gallifrey’s source material can be of interest, GT offers its participants far more than other groups provide to theirs because ours is meant to be a more all-encompassing experience. With a culture-based organization such as GT, it is possible to have elements of the organization impacting nearly every area of a member’s life whereas a group that has a single focus could not become a complete template around which to shape a lifestyle.

Finally, any group’s collective culture is shaped by its members. This part of the culture starts with the many knowledgeable longtime members who make it possible to have our Society governed smoothly within the stable structure of a robust elected oligarchical meritocracy. The dedication and experience offered by these senior members helps to create and sustain the organizational culture using the traditions of Gallifrey as a guide. From our newest Associated Members to our Patricians, all members of GT seem to share a sort of “nerdy” personality and to genuinely enjoy sharing and learning in a collaborative environment. Conversations on the server flow fairly freely, guided by whoever has the most relevant knowledge for a given topic, and there is a genuine openness to new ideas that build upon and strengthen the Society as a whole.
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Re: SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

on Tue 22 Aug 2017, 01:22
Assignment 4, for 22 August

The Gallifreyan Tradition Society Through Time: Our Vision for GT’s Next Decade
By Candidates Olivia Sanders and Calista & Morgan Slytherin

A great deal of growth and change can occur within the span of a decade. The next decade would ideally see GT become more firmly established as an organization, formalizing its traditions and procedures and improving the infrastructure which allows for efficient larger-scale operation. This process should at all times remain true to the purposes and core values of the Society, making changes only where the result is progress towards an improved way of advancing one of those objectives. As Candidates for initiation into the Gallifreyan Tradition Society, we still have much to learn before our thoughts on its future direction will be fully informed and valid, but at this early stage of involvement we can say with certainty that our ideal vision for the group includes expansion and greater organization.

One development that would likely offer a variety of benefits and could likely be accomplished within a much shorter timeframe would be development of an online presence for the society on our own website rather than on a blogging platform, particularly one that attracts as much controversy as can often be found on Tumblr. This would both require and facilitate greater organization as we could centralize most resources, with links to the AG forum and Discord, and have one single location serve as a gateway to membership for interested individuals. This would also potentially remove GT somewhat from various controversies and online mob mentalities simply because we would then be hosting our own space and content as an obviously permanent cultural organization. A blog could, of course, be maintained, but in the early stages of establishing any new group it is generally beneficial to establish as much independence and control over the group’s public image as can be reasonably managed.

The development of actual locations for the Great Houses that are currently being established would move GT from solely an online group to one which has a presence in the physical world as well. It certainly seems reasonable to hope that the Houses could have a physical headquarters within the span of ten years. This would allow for another dimension to our community and could greatly enhance social connection by providing a location for real-life meetings and gatherings for observation of various days of cultural significance. We would very much like to see, for example, the Houses rotating responsibility for hosting rituals on the feast days and other important dates. Obviously not every member of GT would be able to travel to attend every event, but it would be lovely to have the option made available.

Along similar lines, due to the passionate and altruistic nature of many members, we envision the Gallifreyan Tradition Society developing somewhat of a philanthropic mission alongside social and cultural reconstruction goals. Vulnerable youth and others who are being particularly ill-treated by current social structures might especially benefit from assistance and perspectives that we could provide. In uplifting our Virtues and the value of culture, history, art, and knowledge, there is a great deal of good we could offer to the wider society. At its most ambitious, this portion of our vision could see GT established as a recognized spiritual, cultural, or charitable organization under at least U.S. laws and potentially in other countries where members start Houses.
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Re: SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

on Tue 29 Aug 2017, 17:04
(Optional assignment for 29 August)

Identity - Calista

In a single sentence, I am simply the person that my Gallifreyan name declares me to be: kɐlɪstɐmɑslɪðɛɹɪntɹɛlunaɹ. Candidate Calista, heiress of Slytherin House, a leader and strong of mind. No more needs to be said if each element is understood completely and correctly.

I am Calista, the person my past and my world forged me into, and the person my system, my future, and this world require me to be. I live, laugh, and love with unshakable belief that each moment matters and every person – including myself – has a purpose for their presence in this life. Some may fall short of their potential, or miss, twist, and warp it entirely, but it is my goal to always be worthy of the life I’ve been given and equal to the trust and opportunities granted to me. I’m a Candidate for initiation into the Gallifreyan Tradition Society, and this aspect of my identity incorporates my belief in the importance of connection and culture, especially for cultures at risk of being lost or marginalized by the mainstream. In my canon I stood at the Dark Lord’s right hand at the forefront of the unpopular, misunderstood, demonized side of an impending civil war. Now, I stand ready to prove myself worthy of membership in the Society that my girlfriend and cousin lead, knowing the value of cultural reconstruction and of supporting one’s chosen family in their important endeavors.

I am the heiress of Slytherin House – both the cadet branch that has recently been established as the Gallifreyan Great House and the main line from canon headed by my father – and it is simultaneously a position of immense honor and great responsibility. The values of my house have shaped me and will guide me throughout my entire life. Ambition, pride, and the Virtues of Gallifreyan society are not just words to live by but the main cornerstones of who I am and what is important to me. I strive to always keep a purpose or goal in mind, and to generally choose my actions with regard to advancing that goal. I strive also to be a person of whom I and my family can be proud because my actions and achievements are worthy to be held in high regard. One of my chief ambitions at this time is to be a valuable contributing member of GT and to help Slytherin House be the best it can be.

I am someone who has taken on many leadership roles and who aspires to positions of leadership in any capacity where I am judged to be best qualified or well-positioned to guide a group towards its vision of success. I am one of the most active members of my system, and one of the first to take on the job of dealing with any necessary conflicts or making (and implementing) tough decisions. In my life so far I have needed to become mentally strong and self-disciplined, and I value education for the way that it trains and enhances the mind. This has served me well in all capacities in which I have needed to act thus far and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

What am I willing to stand up for? The same things I have always stood for and for which I have lived my life to this point: tradition, family, and honor. Without these things, little else would matter to me. With them, however, I have strong hope that anything will be possible.
Identity – Morgan

To be perfectly honest I’ve never quite known how to answer these sorts of questions. Who am I? Heck if I know! I used to think I had the perfect answer to that question. Then, I realized that ‘person who can make pretty words say whatever she figures out that the intended audience probably wants, but feels no actual connection to her answer’ was an excellent sort of essay for winning contests but not exactly a decent answer to the actual question. I’m just now peeking out from the shadows of a rather smothering and unsupportive upbringing; that supposedly adolescent process of ‘finding oneself’ appears to have only recently begun for me. I pretty much just blinked at this prompt in confusion for quite some time, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve got an answer that makes any sense.
As for what is important to me, that has recently been tested over the past few years when my mental health declined steadily and I lost the spoons to care about much. I suppose the constants that remained important enough for me to figure out how to pay attention to them even then are the things I can say are truly important to me. If that’s the standard, it’s a pretty short list: people I care about, basic rights and human dignity for all people, and knowledge (including freedom of thought and reasonable ease of access to information). Although I would love for there to be a longer – and more eloquent – answer, the preceding are also the things that I have a demonstrated willingness to stand up for.  

Identity – Olivia

Given that a sarcastic answer to a serious question is almost certainly unwelcome, I suppose I cannot indulge my first inclination and answer in three words: “an identity crisis”. I suppose it must say something about me (albeit probably not something I’m going to like…) that the process of trying to answer this question has been so uncomfortable that I spent days attempting to evade a serious examination of it with defensive quips. I didn’t even realize I existed until about a year ago, although in hindsight I’ve definitely been around for the majority of the body’s life on this earth. Plurality is strange sometimes.

It seems that the most defining characteristic of my identity has thus far been the complete lack thereof. I am (was?) a chameleon, and I was (am?) definitely good at it. It was always easier and much safer to be exactly what people expected or wanted. Reflecting the thoughts, statements, and desires of whoever I’m around is somewhere between a defense mechanism and a survival strategy. That, I can do. Outside of being whoever someone else needs me to be, though, I have little sense of identity or purpose – or at least nothing I’m capable of recognizing on my own. We’re working on it.

That’s for the future, though, and it doesn’t particularly help for the purposes of the present assignment. For now, I suppose my answer to “Who am I?” is that I’m a shy, sentimental nerd and I would do just about anything to help any member of my chosen family.
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Re: SkitSquad's Initiation Workshop Assignments

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