Sooner or later I was going to get around to this subject. It has to be the most reflexive, silly, pervasive accusation within the community—leveled more often in the flaming heat of an online discussion than any other insult…and meant, for reasons that escape me, to end the argument by irrevocably branding the opposition as a tyrant.
What I find funny is that it isn’t merely a part of the RPG community…it is as equally pejorative in the BDSM community. There are strange parallels between both groups of people, in that they have a great deal of emotion (and money) invested in an activity for which there is no overarching authority.
If we are going to talk about onetruewayism, I need to pause and establish a position: for the purpose of this post, that position is going to be strictly neutral. Oh, I have an opinion, but that doesn’t matter just now. Just now, I don’t care if there is a one true way or not; I don’t care if in the past this has been leveled at me as an accusation or not; I don’t even care if you, reading this, are convinced, or not, that I am a onetruewayist. That’s not what I want to talk about.
What I’d like to talk about are two completely different communities than RPGs and BDSM, both of which include hundreds of thousands of individuals, both of whom have a great deal invested in terms of both emotion and money, and both of which are far more visible. One of these I have terrific amounts of personal experience with; the other I have almost none.
Neither include an overarching authority. Both have multiple channels dedicated to them on television.
I am talking about home renovations and cooking.
Consider for a moment the various comparisons. A vast number of practitioners. Different people preferring very different foods or home design. Literally thousands of books on the market, ALL of them describing the exact way to cook pasta Florentine or how to lay carpet. Google “chocolate chip cookies” and you will get 3,280,000 hits…with nearly every recipe arguing that it is THE real, award-winning, favorite, home-style, very best chocolate chip cookie recipe in all of creation.
If, however, you search “chocolate chip cookies” & “one true way”, you will get…84 hits.
If you search “dungeons and dragons” & “one true way” you’ll get 1,230 hits.
Okay, okay, that’s not fair. If you search “cooking” & “one true way” you’ll get 3,740 hits.
And “cooking” alone?: 187 million hits. “D&D” alone? 11.8 million.
What is the point of all these ridiculous statistics? Oh, probably nothing, if you haven’t understood yet. I’m certainly not building up the one true way to define the level of onetruewayism in D&D. I’m just throwing thoughts out there.
I worked as a cook and later, as a sous chef, for 12 years in a variety of restaurants ranging from 1 star to 5 stars, and I found one this was always true: there is a ONE TRUE WAY to make everything…for each restaurant you work at.
The entire restaurant industry has as its fundamental structure the competition between eateries, and while every restaurant will boast loudly and with conviction that they DO have the one true way to make lasagna, it wouldn’t occur to anyone in the business to complain that other restaurants are guilty of onetruewayism.
And while Iron Chef or that fanatic angry freak in Hell’s Kitchen might be rather picky about right and wrong, no one gets upset about it. Of course he thinks he has the right way: he has experience, he has a successful kitchen, he has EVIDENCE that people like the way the lasagna is prepared.
Not all people, no. But like any long-time cook, his opinion would be that people like that are STUPID.
(You know, it’s no different among people restructuring houses…I’m only concentrating on cooking because that’s what I know. The principles are, however, the same—ever talk to three different contractors for the same job?)
Most of the really good cooks or chefs I’ve known (based on how emotionally satisfying their food was) have felt that way. Don’t like my cooking? You’re stupid. The Italian I worked with for a year, who had a 5-star rating and who’s restaurant was filled with mafia, certainly thought that way. I can hear him in my head, answering the accusation that he was wrong to think there was only one true way to make cannelloni: “What the fuck do you know? You own a restaurant? Do people eat your food? Get the fuck out—get out of my place! Get out. Stupid dumb shit.”
(Working with Italians…there’s a post sometime).
But that same Italian would not have said the same thing to someone in THEIR restaurant. That’s respect.
Making a distinct, definitive statement about how a thing is done is not, as it is so often accused of being, a detraction on the way others are doing a thing. So often it’s taken that way. No one likes having someone in their kitchen. My maternal grandmother, who was a terrible cook of the first order, honestly one of the worst cooks I have ever known, was so territorial about her kitchen that she did not draw the line at throwing wooden spoons at little children. She could not be told anything about cooking.
My father, on the other hand, is the exact same way about renovations. Trained as an engineer and entirely competent in wood, steel, concrete or plaster, he has probably rebuilt his house twice from the ground up in the 42 years he’s owned it, one piece at a time. He can’t be told anything about renovations, either. Contractors have tried.
Having the genetic pattern from both sides of my family, I probably have some of the same characteristics regarding both D&D and BDSM. I can certainly understand my father better than my grandmother—before spending a week at her house every Easter, I would have to mentally prepare myself as a ten year old for a long fast. You wouldn’t believe someone would boil steak, would you?
More than once, I assure you.
The only reason anyone has, for themselves, a one true way of doing anything, its because they have reason to believe it really is the one true way. And they think someone else is going to have to make a pretty good fucking argument to prove there’s another. (In the case of my grandmother, that argument was going to have to involve the reappearance of Jesus in some degree). What I or you might think is a good enough argument may not be…not for them. We can only do the best we can, and when we fail we can only shake our heads and tell them to get the fuck out of our place.
Most of the time, my arguments fail. I’m good with that. I have my limitations as a human being. I take comfort in the fact that occasionally, other people’s arguments succeed, and I find that I have reason to change the one true way I’ve been doing something. I appreciate that other people are willing to keep trying with me.
Somehow in the midst of their trying with me, and my trying with them, I’m convinced that there really is a one true way…somewhere.
Shame none of us practice it.