[r-t] Sacred cows part two

Frederick Karl Kepner DuPuy neminicontradicente at googlemail.com
Thu Oct 8 21:36:49 UTC 2015

Hi, all. I hope you will indulge me while I make a brief philosophical

What is change ringing at its heart? We all will have different responses.
For various people, the answer might be...
1) a framework so that, when we swing metal bells to broadcast their rich
resounding tone, we do so in an orderly way;
2) a musical performance, such as a choir or instrumental ensemble would
produce, for the enjoyment of listeners;
3) a service to the church or a way to mark public occasions;
4) a group activity, arising in its very essence from teamwork and
5) a fun mathy game with patterns and permutations, and sense of
satisfaction from truth and completeness;
6) a series of challenges to be tackled, offering a chance to compete
(whether against other ringers or, more mildly, against oneself);
7) a living tradition, with links to the past and to our predecessors in
the exercise.

(Obviously this list is not exhaustive, and obviously most of us will
respond to several of these impulses, not just one.)

Now consider the ‘sacred cows’ whose planned demise I lamented — the
requirement for peals to be rung on real bells, and that there be at least
four of them; the requirement for teamwork among multiple people; the
requirement for full extents (or multi-extent blocks) whenever possible.
Note that (in addition to the traditionalists), each of these cows is
particularly sacred to one or more of the first five groups above.

Next consider the sacred cows whose existence appears to be safe for now —
the prohibitions on relays of ringers, external aids, standers-behind, and
non-ringing conductors outside the circle. Note that (again in addition to
the traditionalists), each of these cows is sacred mainly to the sixth
group — who I suspect make up a rather influential constituency on this
discussion board.

As an example of this group's perspective, consider the recent argument
from Philip Earis that standard performances should be ‘comparable’.
Clearly this is an important consideration if peal ringing is a competitive
sport! But for those of us who care more about music, or math, or
camaraderie, comparability is relatively unimportant, and other factors are
much more essential to our definition of the word 'peal'.

It's natural that we all have our own perspectives and that we would all
focus on our own particular areas of interest. I don't fault the
competitive-streak constituency for defending their own sacred cows. But I
wish they would stop accusing me of special pleading when I try to defend

Deciding how to define things (including the word 'peal') involves tough
decisions and a host of sometimes competing values — tradition, simplicity,
coherence, music, comparability, rigorous standards, camaraderie, ringing
culture, precision, latitude, future-proofing, symmetry, a feeling of
satisfying 'rightness', laissez-faire ideals, and so forth.

We should acknowledge that these trade-offs exist, rather than pretending
that it's all some manichean struggle between good and evil.

Rick DuPuy
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