Looked at honestly, is (Order of the Sith) anything but a means of connecting with, using, and being used by other Sith practitioners? It can be used toward specific ends, for a greater purpose, but it also seems, over time, to have become a thing in and of itself. When you look at it like that though, you detract from what it actually is. What it can be. This order, in the scheme of things, is not very important in itself. What’s important is that it’s here for Sith, solitary practitioners, to use as they so choose. For a while we somehow seemed to fall under the illusion that training is practically the whole point of sites like this… and you know what, for a place that calls itself an academy, that might be a fair assertion. But this is not one of them.
It’s an order, and to put into words the way I’ve looked at it since its inception, it does not decide or even define what a legitimate Sith is. Here, individuals are welcome to share their ideas, practices, experimentations, and whatever else they so desire; inevitably, it shapes the Order, but that is only a side effect. Standards, responsibilities, and many other things begin to take shape and define the place, and they’re challenged, altered, championed… but all of it pales in comparison to the importance of the individual practitioner. Be what you are, and let the chips fall where they will.
It’s as simple as that, and their placement really doesn’t need to be engineered, because to do that is limited, contrived, and indicative of a persons limits. The trials here, for instance, consist of various questions that relate to your own development. They will require you to draw upon your work here at the Order, but their purpose is to get a sense of your comprehension and practice of the Sith Ways, how they apply to life in general, and how they apply to your life in particular. It’s not worth the time or effort when that time and effort can be better spent on things that truly matter. The work you do here needs to reflect the life you live, the person you are. Not whether you’re clever or eloquent. If it doesn’t, you won’t pass.
Membership here doesn’t make you Sith anymore than not being here makes you “non-Sith”. The recognition, the site itself, the connections we make with one another and the systems and methods we build around them… they’re all ripples, manifestations, of real people being here, people who live as Sith. Reptitious talked about a day at his job a while back… that is what makes him Sith. Not his membership here, or the training he’s been exposed to through this place (or others), or the recognition he might get. His practice, his life, may have been affected by all of that, but any recognition someone receives here is, ideally, because of where they’re at and what they’ve become in their actual lives. Without that the recognition means nothing.
The idea of it has always been to gauge as accurately as possible what rank best fits someone in their own lives; it’s one of the main reasons I’m always wary of over-emphasizing contribution here, or dedication, or even responsibility. All of that is necessary for this place to keep going, but none of them spring from roleplaying or intellectualizing. Stolas is another example; look through the forum and you’ll see evidence that his passion manifested in his time here. On Halloween last year he won a costume competition; more recently, he’s shared some of his music. Years before that he wrote an anthem for the Sith, applying his individual talents and passion for music to something here. What he added came from his life.
The same is true of all of us. I’m Sith because I live as one, I go to work and act as one, I get home and think like one, I call a few friends and party as one. Nothing I do is separate from my way of life. I, and others like me, are what give shape to the standards, ranks, advancement of the Sith Way, not the other way around. The heart of an Order like this one rests not in its teachings or systems of recognition, but in the people who those grew out of. The heart of it all, lies within the individual. Over the last few years, we’ve discovered ways in which the growth in the individual can be triggered through work done here, but ultimately, it’s what the individual brings and chooses to take, not what he’s told or given, that makes him a Sith.