Friday, February 22, 2008

A New Perspective on Sumble

Sumble is a means of building local, do-it-yourself, mutual credit. By vowing deeds within the circle and carrying them out, your credibility within the circle rises, and over time, each of those people can become people who will vouch for you and thus extend your credit. (And vice-versa.) The Anglo-Saxons had an institution of local, mutual vouchers, who could be called upon to give credit in a case, the compurgators.

Here we might inflect honor as credibility, as social credit built through the carrying out of worthy deeds which demonstrate integrity. Honor as integrity and boldness brought to fruition to build local, social credit. The question "Who are you?" often means, "Who knows you, and will they vouch for you?". And what is the basis for their vouch? Is it a vouch founded in values? Or simple popularity or kinship? Neither of those are sufficient for the compurgator-relation. While relatives in Icelandic sagas are willing to help each other out based on kinship, notice how reluctant, hesitant, and guarded they are with their help to those kinsmen they feel are unreliable or lack integrity.

Building your social credit is building your social power. When people in the old days said, "I haven't heard of you", or "There are no deeds spoken of in your name", they were looking for absent signs of social credit that indicated willingness to enter into relations with integrity.

It is true that there was a sacred element to sumble, but as with all things heathen, part of this was the sacredness of the pragmatic. The pragmatic world is not unspiritual -- if approached with depth and integrity.

In this regard, a sumble is not just a drinking-party or a social toasting. Those may, at their best, give an inkling of what sumble is all about, but they are as identical to sumble as arithmetic is to algebra or even calculus, or as a careless, drunken one-night-stand is to a loving act of making love.

The sumble-group (the so-called "kindred") should not leak, but hold. If it leaks, what is the point of building all the honor and luck? It must hold that honor and luck. The point is to build a mutual bank of credit and aid. If this does not happen, something is wrong. In fact, if people approached their sumble-group and the behavior of its participants the same way they did a banking venture -- which is to say with carefulness, seriousness, dedication, and a demand for integrity -- things would turn out much better. If a bank employee demonstrates unethical behavior, it could affect everyone's accounts. Leaks should be identified and plugged. If mutual advantage -- real, tangible, everyday-life mutual advantage -- is not slowly growing (we are not discussing the equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes or miracles, but some form of measurable advantage, however humble), something is wrong, because the practice of sumble over time should be helping to increase our effectiveness, not reinforce our impotence. One can be impotent well enough on one's own without help in the matter.

If all of this sounds superhuman in its perceived unattainability, that just demonstrates the degradation of the social fabric that has occurred ; sumbling is in part an attempt to rebuild that social fabric --- not as an entirety, which an individual has little power to effect --- but locally, in order to be part of the solution. This is not to say either that the mutual bank of sumble must have infallible participants, but they must own up to their mistakes and do their best with right, good will to correct, repair, and repay them. If there is a breach of faith, trust, or confidence within a sumble-group, it is a serious matter that must be given full attention and depth of wisdom, including good horse-sense. It is not to be taken lightly, because it concerns the integrity of the entire bank that is being built.

Sumble is not a drinking party, it's not a toasting affair, it's not an AA meeting. It's not casual, it's not a game, and it's not dress-up. It is a gradual pouring of hearts together, and you are not going to pour your heart together with those you cannot trust. If trust cannot build, heart cannot grow, and there is really no point.

In sumble, we are pouring our heart out to the gods, the ancestors, and each other, and through this, building mutual good faith and credit. With that kind of grounded, gradually proven trust, we can all gain in strength, if we will honor and invest in the bank of credit being built. Sumble is an opportunity, therefore, to not only grow in spiritual, but in social strength as well.


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