These past few weeks, I have presented some principles I find indispensable for the steampunk genre: Be Mindful, Be Courteous, and Be Creative. This week, I offer you the last, perhaps the most important one.
If there were a battle cry for steampunks, the words “Be Splendid!” would ring out the globe over.
You see, “splendid” is more than a word to express interest when someone asks if you’d care for tea and a biscuit. It is a call to rigorous and deliberate excellence in all that you do. This characteristic has the potential to hold all the others inside of it, but there is a very important aspect to this principle that I wish to talk about.
Splendidness is an active, on-going process, and, above all, a mindset.
Consider this definition from Merriam-Webster:
: very impressive and beautiful
: possessing or displaying splendor
: shining, brilliant
: marked by showy magnificence
: illustrious, grand
: being out of the ordinary
All of these criteria are things that are the result of continuous effort. Excellence is shown through dedication and discipline—in music, in athletics, in academics. Grandness and splendor are built over time, carved by wind, water, or people who can see what something might someday become. Stars, like us, find their brilliance when all other lights go out. Beauty, even the beauty of flowers, is the result of growth and the change of seasons. Being extraordinary takes work.
This means that we strive to be our best. We take what we have learned from past experiences and press forward. Even when we have done good work, we have to keep making decisions, keep creating. Even when we have not been all that we wanted to be, we should get up and try again. Like the characters of the best novels, we develop.
As with the other principles, being splendid is a conscious choice.
In this series, I haven’t talked too much about the appearance of steampunk, but the iconic goggles of the genre have relevance here. Scholars Rachel Bowser and Brian Croxall* argue that goggles are more than a fashion statement—they show that the work the steampunk does is dangerous. We try new things and get our hands dirty. We tinker, make maps, and build bridges were there were none before.
Whether you actually wear goggles or not, being splendid is a risky place.
It reminds us that we are all works in progress, continually tweaking and making adjustments. We all have areas in which we can improve and areas which we can make better by being in them. Being splendid is making new roads as much as it is making amends and apologies. Move forward and don’t give up.
So make, do, and be. Roll up your sleeves!
We are not finished yet, and there is much work to be done.
This is the last segment of this series. Please leave a comment saying what steampunk is to you. I’m curious what you think!
Looking for a definition of steampunk? Please take a look at Steampunk (A Mini Manifesto)
The illustration for this post was inspired by one of my favorite paintings–Wanderer Among the Clouds by Caspar David Friedrich.
*Because I’m a well-trained student of letters, I cite my sources. For an interesting read, please check out this article, a few years old but still relevant:
Bowser, Rachel, and Brian Croxall. “Introduction: Industrial Evolution.” Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 (2010): 1–45. Print.