Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thoughts for the New Year

Balanced Men?

"Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence." - Norman Podhoretz.

Have we become too goal driven? Are we becoming too much like society that we are experiencing the problems of stress and burnout in our Fraternity? Are we overlooking our goal of developing balanced men and just concentrating on the measurable items we equate with quality and success? Corporations are losing many of their best men to the "disease" of stress. Every profession seems to have its crisis. Perhaps what we are now labeling as chapter apathy is merely the result of the stress our chapters are placed in to be successful. We can pump up our bodies, work to become scholars, but are we neglecting the truly noble component of fraternity life - the development of a healthy and happy psyche (or mind)? We have kindled our fires to be successful but have eliminated the one element that can keep us working with the energy of a nuclear reactor. This element is passion for living, not "making a living." When we spend all our time doing what we have to to as chapters to be successful simply to give us "recognition" we inevitably get bored and depressed - or as we call it, apathetic. We neglect using our creative potential. We are in a battle zone of competition - to produce more, faster, and winning is the only thing that counts. If we don't change our approach and our attitudes we will become "stressed" and ultimately fall into the chasm of "dumb attacks" - and you know where that may put the chapter.

The secret of long term prosperity and happiness with the fraternity experience must permeate the member development agenda (this means an ongoing member development program for ALL members). Have you really looked at what you are doing? In ancient China the feet of upper class women were broken, bent backwards, and bound to make them more "beautiful." Are we breaking the souls of our best and brightest members to make them successful or to conform to a set of rigid guidelines that results in attaining and empty goal that does not better the "spirit" or "soul" of the member? Are we helping our members find the meaning of their true selves and find their "road not taken" to reach their full potential. At what cost to the life of our body and spirit do we purchase perceived measurable success? What sacrifices are we required to make to these upstart materialistic gods.

History is a game on leapfrog in which yesterday's gods regularly become today's demons, and the rectitude of the fathers becomes the fault of the sons. The Greeks invented the idea of nemesis to show how any single virtue stubbornly maintained gradually changes into a destructive vice. Our success, our industry, our habit of work have produced our fraternal nemesis. In today's economic crisis, we are driving to the poor house in new cars, spending our inflated dollars for calorie-free food, lamenting our failing productivity in an environment polluted by our industry. Work made modern men great, but now threatens to usurp our souls, to inundate the earth in things and trash, to destroy our capacity to love and wonder. Are we doing the same sort of thing in the fraternity world?

Somehow men got so lost in the doing we forgot to pause and ask, "What is worth doing? What of value are we creating - and destroying - within the world order?" We will have a hopeful future only if we stop asking what we can produce and begin to ask what we can create. Our dignity as men lies not in work, but in our vocation. How much of our healthy minds will we trade for profit, power, and prestige. Excessive work, without passion, may be hazardous to the health of your body and spirit. If you cannot bring to your activities some of your creativity, all will be lost. If you are not putting passion and creativity into your activities - your fraternity responsibilities - you will gain nothing. You will become apathetic. The opportunity is there - find the passion, develop your creativity, and help your fellow travelers do the same. This was the dream that became a reality in 1901. Will you, your chapter Brothers and your alumni Brothers do your part to perpetuate it? It is not an impossible dream, but rather a tangible reality embodied in the application of our cardinal principles of Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love.

(adapted from "The High Price of Success" in Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen)