The Boy Scout Oath
On my honor, I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times,
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Today begins a 20-part series covering a set of tenets I've lived by since childhood: The BoyScout Oath and Law. I've recently had these two mantras running through my head on my runs and I haven't figured out why, though I can say that running, like long-distance motorcycling, tends to help me focus my thoughts, solve problems, and examine events of my past and attitudes I've held to see what help they can provide me in the future. I am preordinately concerened with living a life that I can be proud of when I'm at the end of it, to look back and see a life not wasted, but spent in worthwhile pursuits. I don't know that I'll ever change the world, but I can certainly avoid being a black mark upon it. And there are a whole lotta black marks out there masquerading as....not.
We begin by examining (for this and the next seven entries) the Boy Scout Oath. Is this about to be an example of over-analysis? Of dissection to the sub-cellular level, when all we wanted was a general autopsy? Wait...autopsy is the wrong word. Whatever I am examining, it is not a corpse; at least I hope not. I truly, desperately hope that the principles by which I try (and sometimes fail) to live my life are not a body of guidance that is considered passe or old-fashioned. The Oath and Law we're about to look at don't quite encompass all of my moral guidance, but like the ten commandments, they do an admirable job of summing up a decent code of morality in a few words.
Today I ran for the first time in a week. Between work and getting my motorcycle ready for this trip, I barely had time to sleep, much less eat or exercise. It was not a pleasant last couple of weeks and the tension and strain were getting to me. But this trip, now going into its third day, is going well and I was finally able to get up early this morning and go run. I am in Carlyle, Illinois and the weather is exactly what I remember summer mid-West mornings to be: muggy.
I put in three miles by my watch, which is to say I ran for 35 minutes and held a good medium pace throughout. Breathing was difficult in this humidity but I expected that challenge. My legs had no pain whatsoever. Maybe taking a week off was a good idea; give my body a chance for some repairs. I ran along a frontage road today, alongside large cornfields. It is absolutely flat here and I could see my entire route without obstructions. I could see for a couple more miles in all directions. It was quiet and the air was clean, if humid. I was tempted to put in some speed work, since I was passing regularly spaced telephone poles...but I just didn't have the energy today. It is enough that I got out there, even if I'm not back on the training schedule I've so badly fallen off of.
As I ran, I began to look at this thing, this body of suggestions instilled in me by the Boy Scouts. The Scouts are under a lot of fire these days, under pressure to accept - and I mean a codified acceptance by the national council - gays and atheists. I suspect that to Lord Baden Powell, these two creatures were pretty much indistinguishable, being destined to burn in hell and so lumpable under one banner: undesirable. (We won't even touch the girls in Boy Scouts thing; I will lump them in here, call it a given.) The Scouts are being asked to change all that. Some troops and local councils already have. Rationally, they recognize that being a good citizen has little to do with which religion you belong to or which way you swing. Gay doesn't mean promiscuous; atheism doesn't mean one completely lacks character and fiber. The Scouts can teach a moral code to anyone outright stupid or evil. The national council should have a more open mind.
On the other hand, the Scouts have always been a private organization, and as such absolutely have the right to refust admission to whomever they wish. That changes somewhat when using public resources, such as school lunch rooms for meetings, and the like. But a lot of troops use churches or private homes and receive no funding from public sources - these troops are not beholden to politically correct liberal wisdom. I believe they have the right to say "no gays or atheists". But I don't see anywhere in the Boys Scout Oath or Law that says stuffy, old-fashioned, or conservative. I think if the organization wants to live by it's own principles, it necessarily involves seeing how accepting an organization it can be.
Well, I must wrap this up for now. Next post, we'll look at that very key line: "On my Honor, I will do my Best..."