Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
It feels like ages ago that my philosophy professor at Southern Vermont College, a Catholic priest who made a little extra income teaching us all about Kant and Smith, said that “negativism is not a reliable form of philosophical thought.”
I remember the class well because I spoke up to disagree with him. I said, in as strong a voice as I could muster, “When I was a young adult, struggling to figure out who I was, some times all I had was to know that I was not my mother. I relied on that thought until I could define who I really was.” After class, a classmate came up to me and thanked me for speaking up because she felt much the same way. At the time it bolstered my feelings of righteousness at disagreeing with my professor. Today I realize I used that because it was all I had, but I’m a much more complex person than the woman I could define within the confines of “not my mother.”
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, the philosophical concept of negativism is defining something by what it is not. Perhaps one of the most famous instances of this in popular culture is from the television series Dinosaurs. In this show, the father dinosaur is referred to by the baby dinosaur as “not the mamma.” Just like the baby dinosaur, when we only know one thing, often times all we have to describe things that are not that one thing as “not this.”
And so it goes with roller derby. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about splits and divisions in leagues.
It’s been more than three years since I was an active participant in dividing a league and the impetus of that division began more than 4 years ago. I’ve watched the consequences of that split and seen those two leagues come into their own. Right now, within 50 miles of where I play, there are at least two leagues going through the splits (one of them splintered from the league I play with) and I see a lot of the same immature reasoning happening again. Enough time has passed, both in my desire to not be my mother and in my observations of roller derby leagues, to realize how absolutely right and profound my philosophy professor was.
So often individuals and groups seek change because they can clearly see what they don’t want. Rarely do those groups take the next, mature, necessary steps of saying what the do want. If you were to ask an extant, functional league what makes it exist, rarely would it say “how we talk to each other” or “how we practice” or “because we don’t have this person on our league.” No one wants to be the recipient or the issuer of hurtful words. Everyone wants effective practices that push individual and team boundaries. Everyone wants to be as inclusive as possible.
If you’re part of a newly forming league today, especially if your new league exists because a group of you fundamentally did not agree with the people or practices of another league, take a moment to turn all of your “do not wants” to “wants.” Take some time to define the nature and direction of your league in positive terms completely independent of your previous league. It won’t be long until you’ll need to make that elevator speech (30 seconds) to tell someone who you collectively are and what you want. It won’t be long until some new recruit comes along with no concept of your old league. If all you have in your schtick is based on an environment they don’t understand, you won’t be very attractive or compelling. If all you have is based on common courtesy, newcomers to this sport will think you’re crazy people to state the obvious in human interactions. Believe me, that reporter who’s writing an article about your new league won’t care how much you think the neighboring league’s owner is a dictator. He won’t care about the gossip or how deeply you feel you’ve been hurt by petty, Barbie-bitch “crimes.” He and his readers simply want to know about you and “not the mamma” won’t make any sense.
It hasn’t been easy to look at myself and define who I am in terms that aren’t related to what my mother is not. It won’t be easy for a splintered league to honestly define itself independent of the league its founders once skated for. If how you define your self today is something an outsider would say “Well, duh, every league should be like that,” then you’re still defining yourself in terms of negativism.
Create your mission statement today – personal or leaguewide – and make it strong by making it uniquely your own.