Chivalry and Civilization

It’s so hot! We are WAY above normal temperatures for this time of the year! It was never this hot before! Thunderstorms are popping up all over the place with little or no warning, and they’re happening too frequently! This clearly IS the ”end of days”! The Mayans are winning! Global warming or something, it’s game over man!

Well, no. It’s July. Yes, it WAS this hot before… Remember last July? How about the July before that? And guess what, it’ll be worse next month. In fact, it’ll be twice as bad in September because we’ll all be thinking that it should be cooling off, without remembering that it doesn’t really cool off to what we think of “seasonal” until at least mid October. You may think of this time in history as being hard on weathermen, with all the “500 year floods” and epic tornadoes, but I can pretty much sum up all the weather for the next three months; It’s going to be hot, humid, with a chance of thunderstorms. It doesn’t pay to keep dwelling on the whole “it’s never been this bad before” thing. Sure, it seems like the natural disasters are coming far more frequently these days, but a better statement might be;” It’s hot, it’s July, we didn’t see it coming because our memory doesn’t extend beyond last week, and saying that things are “epic” makes us feel better for not being properly prepared for a situation that we should have known would happen.” Most people just barely got properly prepared for winter when it started getting warm this Spring! We’ll all be ready to deal with the heat right about the time that we have the first hard frost of the year.

Be prepared! It’s the boy scout motto. I was a boy scout, in fact, I was an eagle scout, then I was an adult leader in the troop before joining the military. Scouting is a great organization. I learned a lot in scouting. If we all lived by scouting values, the world may be a far more civil place.

The motto; Be prepared.

Slogan; Do a good turn daily.

Oath; On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to help other people at all times, to obey the scout law, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Law; A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Very much like the Air Force core values; integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Imagine if everyone was held to that standard. Imagine if everyone really was “trustworthy”. How would life be different? How different would things be if everyone really was “reverent”, and not in the religious sense, but if everyone really had a reverence for life, other people and the world we live in. How about if everyone really tried to do their best, to be moral, and helpful rather than try to step on everyone they could to get ahead in life? Life would surely be different.

With every good deed we do for others, every kind word, and moral obligation that we meet, we stave off social chaos for another few moments. Hold the door open for someone, and civilization lasts that much longer. Have reverence for our world, and we make it that much more of a beautiful place to be in. Our duty to others as humans could be summed up by the desire to leave the world better than we found it. You don’t have to be a goody-two-shoes, or a saint. Just have the bravery to do what’s right, live honestly, and help others. Simple as that.

Being prepared is the first thing you’re taught in scouts. It’s the basis for living in a chaotic world, and the mantra of those who would want to minimize the damage caused by that chaos. You know it’s tornado season, have a plan for your family in case one comes. You know gas prices are getting higher, better buy a little more food at the store so you don’t have to make another trip. You know there’s going to be lots of thunderstorms, better clean out the gutters. Oh, and the time to buy all those summer clothes was last fall when they were all on sale… Forethought is a wonderful thing. Here’s a tip, it’s kind of late now, but if you see any nice winter clothes on the rack that are on sale from last season, go ahead and buy them now. It’ll be much more expensive if you wait until it gets cool outside, and besides, by that time, you should be planning for what Christmas presents to get the kids and starting to stock up on rock salt for driveway. It’s much easier to get all that out of the way in October rather than waiting until December when you really need it but all the stores are sold out. The hardest part of planning ahead is finding room to put all this stuff until you need it. But, the reward is peace of mind when all others are losing theirs.

Add to that preparedness a dash of character. I remember when I was just a lowly cub scout, and we went on a hike and all we did was fill in pot holes. I asked why we were doing this when we could be out having fun. “It builds character” was the answer I got. I have to say, that stuck with me. No one prior to that had ever talked to me about character. Character and integrity are kissing cousins. Both entail doing what’s right, even when no one is looking. Having character is rarely about doing things that are easy. It’s not even really about doing things that you “have” to do, it’s about going above and beyond. Lord knows we’ve done so much crap that we didn’t really have to do that we must be some real characters by now! But seriously, character is important. It encompasses the ideal of honesty and the ability to help others. How does this relate? Well, maybe if it’s snowing outside, you don’t take the last bag of rock salt in the store… Maybe you leave that one for someone else who didn’t think as far ahead as you… Maybe you saved someone from getting hurt by slipping on the ice. Maybe that’s the modern equivalent to helping an old lady across the street. The person who buys that last bag of salt will never know that you made a conscious effort to help them out, but it was the right thing to do. That’s character.

If we have good character, a sence of duty to our fellow man, the ability to be prepared, and the desire to help people, then we have reverence for our world. If we are men and women of honor, maybe the chaos of this world wouldn’t be so devastating. Maybe society lasts a little longer. Maybe we save the day one more time…  integrity lives three doors down from chivalry in this big neighborhood we call civilization. Keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Summer Requiem

The heat waves linger low along the pavement in the distance like a dark swamp spreading its tentacles from one side of the road to the other, welling up on the sidewalk and swallowing up the cracked paint on the lanes. The smell of hot tar and asphalt mix and the sweltering heat of the sun radiates from the sweltering greenhouse of your shoes all the way through your body. Sweat pours downward and your whole being longs for even a moment of relief. Yes friends, its Summer in the south. Wet, smelly, suffocating heat is the order of the day. Oh, and a chance of thunderstorms. I’m sorry, when was Spring? Did I miss something?

One minute I was scraping ice off the windshield and the next I’m woefully overdressed and wishing I had some sun screen. Eh, apparently some people were waiting with eager anticipation for Winter to lose its grasp on the land and at the first sign of heat advisories they burst out of their homes and apartments with unparalleled enthusiasm, fanny packs, sun visor hats, and shorts so short that they seem almost comical. Ah, it’s Summer in the south. Cars are riding around with the top down and music too loud, as if I really want to hear what they’re listening to. Kids are out of school and in every store I go to I’m stuck behind some family brood with fifteen children of varying ages who all want something very badly and they aren’t afraid to let their wishes be known at an incredibly undignified volume and if they don’t get their way they roam around the isles acting like hoodlums on parade, picking things up, throwing them, playing with things that don’t belong to them and ignoring the personal space of others… Take a deep breath… It’s just another sign of Summertime.

But, there’s something much more sinister about Summer, the crime rates skyrocket! Beggars and thieves take up post along street corners and alleys, the caravan of pedestrians pass by blindly as the thugs carefully single their victims out of the crowd. Car jackings escalate since the cavalcade mess of unwashed masses clog the streets with their freshly washed sedans, slowing traffic down to a limping crawl. Tourists stop to take pictures and drive around lost as they try to find their way to the next attraction. Road rage abounds and the cursing is only punctuated by the spewing sounds of someone asking for spare change. Gas prices are high, muggings are up, everything is crowded and all the worst aspects of the metro area are hung out in the open for everyone to see like sweat stained laundry hanging on a line to dry. Yes, again, ’tis the season… Or as I like to call it, Summergeddon!

As you can probably tell, Summer is probably my least favorite season. Bah Humbug! Things seemed so much better when the fresh snow fell silently upon the ground, sparkling in the cold moonlight like tiny stars and covering all the blemishes of the world in a wonderous blanket of natural beauty… Now the trash lays in the open, thrown along the roadside, bare in the bright daylight and the smell of body odor, tanning lotion and grass clippings cohabitate in an unholy motherload of funk.

I tried to retreat to the wilderness for some relief from the rat race as I have done for more than a decade, but even nature has turned into a thorn laden grindhouse. As soon as I opened the door of my Silverado, the heat struck me like a solar wind. I sprinted for the shade of the trees but to no avail. The forest was strewn with spider webs, I ran headlong into one, turned around to flail my arms about in a futile attempt to free myself from the invisible foe, jumped backward to avoid stepping on a copperhead snake and a cicada punched me in the face… Defeated, I slumped back to the truck. “Screw this”, I said to myself as I picked several ticks off my jeans and swatted at a mosquito. “I know where there’s an indoor pistol range I can have some fun at”. Anything to get away from this horrid season!

I once heard someone say that “cool heads prevail”. I’m inclined to believe that more and more with each passing day that brings nothing but record setting triple digit temperatures. The apocalypse is measured in degrees fahrenheit.

Alas! The worst is still yet to come. August looms ahead, ushering in the dog days of the season. Drink lots of water and remember the bug spray. Woe to those who do not heed my warning of excessive heat and perspiration! The end is nigh, be warned! Summergeddon is upon thee!