Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Is real altruism possible? (Ipswich Maritime Festival 2014)

I try to live my life with a generous spirit and an altruistic outlook, and hopefully this spreads out into the community around me and is picked up by my own kids.  However I'm questioning whether I can ever be truly altruistic - the act of helping without reward - when rewards come unexpectedly one way or another, whether it is in the glowy feeling of having completed something I set out to do to help out, or more concrete gains.
 A few weeks ago a friend from the Vikings was asking for volunteers to help out at an event at Ipswich Marina.  It was a bit close in time to another event, a long way to travel and financially a burden because of the cost of diesel, but it was important to have a good number of reenactors there so I offered to help.  I then found out that this particular event came with diesel money and a free two night stay in a Travelodge hotel!  So much for altruism.  We kept other costs down by taking porridge pots and other food with us for breakfast and lunch so we would only need to eat out for dinner.

Matt had been on a business trip to Edinburgh earlier in the year and had been taken to a Loch Fyne fish restaurant.  He had been so impressed that when he got home he really enthused about it, so when we saw one near the hotel he offered to take me to try it.  We were concerned about cost as it looked very nice, but Matt wanted to treat me so we went in.  Then the anti-altruism struck again because it turned out that kids eat for free before 7pm, and Ollie and I got free oysters to try as we hadn't had them before (Matt hadn't either, but he had a good idea he wouldn't like them).  In the end the meal was cheaper than if we had gone to the pizza place down the road.

The event itself, with our Vikings being one of the attractions at the Ipswich Maritime Festival, was tiring but brilliant.  An estimated 60 000 people attended last year, and I think at least that many must have come this year.  I had so many people watching me narlbind socks and lucet weaving cord on Saturday that I woke that night convinced someone was standing by the bed staring at me (my sleep addled brain then thought 'tired, don't care so long as they're quiet' and went back to sleep).  As well as demonstrating my crafts and learning a great deal from listening in to other Viking's talks, we also saw some superb street performances, including a lady performing gymnastics from ribbons hung inside an inflatable dome which led to Ollie attempting to recreate the effect by swinging off me.

I'm so tired after the weekend I feel hollow, and it isn't getting the OU assignment done, but overall I think we had far too many rewarding experiences to count this attempt at being helpful as true altruism.