Baden-Powell’s Last Message to Scouts

Most people that know me are aware that I owe much of my foundation and success in life to a very positive experience in the Boy Scouts of America.  There were many lame troops and leaders not worth their salt but I, and several of my closest friends, were fortunate in finding ourselves thrown together as a cohort in an excellent troop that spent much of it’s time camping, hiking, and generally messing about in outdoors; we were unknowingly living the roots of Scouting and loving it every day.

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Scouts camping; early 20th century America.  I think that is a 42 star flag? Interesting.

I recently came across a copy of what is known as Baden-Powell’s (founder of the Boy Scouts) last message to Scouts.  I even kept a framed copy of this hanging on my wall for many years.  While working at camp, we often read this short piece out loud at closing campfires as a fine message and an excellent way to bring an end to an exciting week of learning and adventure.

I think he does well to distill his core values in a few simple lines.

“Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.”

B-P knew both great hardship and prosperity during his life and understood that most youth to whom he was speaking had very little themselves.  Real happiness come from within.

“Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.”

A core value in Scouting has always been to give cheerfully to others and in that way find satisfaction and meaning in one’s own life.

“the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.”

As he ends his letter, he segues from childhood to transition the message into one of lifelong relevance.

“‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy – stick to your Scout promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy.”

Rules of Conduct – From the Pen of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson wrote reams of good advice, important political philosophy, the Declaration of Independence, and many other things (which is why we know so much about him).  To some of his younger relations he sent his favorite “Rules of Conduct” to help the people he cared for better and more insightful humans.  These thoughts evolved over time so versions vary slightly depending upon the source.  Here is a facsimile of the ten point “rules” with a slightly different version spelled out below.

Thomas Jefferson's Advice.

Thomas Jefferson’s Advice.

  1. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do to-day.
  2. Never trouble another with what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.
  5. Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.
  6. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  7. We never repent of having eat too little.
  8. Nothing is troublesome that one does willingly.
  9. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  10. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  11. Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.
  12. When angry, count 10 before you speak; if very angry, 100.
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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Charles Peale, 1791.

Despite some obvious flaws that glare in the light historic hindsight, Jefferson was steeped in classical philosophy and was a great thinker in his own right.  If we all could live by these rules the world would be a better place.

And finally, while providing an outline for his daughters’ education he suggested while he was away on business:

“With respect to the distribution of your time, the following is what I should approve:

From 8. to 10. o’clock practise music.
From 10. to 1. dance one day and draw another.
From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next day.
From 3. to 4. read French.
From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
From 5. till bedtime, read English, write, &c.

..I expect you will write me by every post. Inform me what books you read, what tunes you learn, and inclose me your best copy of every lesson in drawing. Write also one letter a week either to your Aunt Eppes, your Aunt Skipworth, your Aunt Carr, or the little lady from whom I now enclose a letter. . . . Take care that you never spell a word wrong.  Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelt, and, if you do not remember it, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well…

If you love me, then strive to be good under every situation and to all living creatures, and to acquire those accomplishments which I have put in your power, and which will go far towards ensuring you the warmest love of your affectionate father,

Th. Jefferson”


He was known, like most of us, as a far-from-perfect father but his advice was sound.  Three hours of music per day, be good to all living creatures, draw, dance, and read. Obviously, this advice applies to the wealthy and elite who do not toil all day but even in the modern world there are worse ways to spend an idle day.

It sounds like a wise path.

Escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane…

This thought feels more pertinent than ever right now.    Instead of just finding faults in others,  I think it wise to examine who else stands on the side you are on.  Are these the people you want to be?

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.  ~Marcus Aurelius

Dugald Semple and a Simple Life

I would like to re-share this older post I wrote about a caravaner, scholar, and philosopher I am quite intrigued by – Dugald Semple

Dugald Semple was a Scottish philosopher of the early 20th Century and an advocate for simple living.  After becoming and engineer he took to the woods and, for a period, a life on the road, living in a tent and in various caravans in order to write and travel and avoid the enslavement of increasingly urban society.

Semple on the beach.

His major question was always “How ought we to live?” an ancient subject for thinkers the world-over and a very important topic in Asian philosophy as well.  His teachings are interesting and he still has a serious following of vegans, fruitarians, and Christian Phlosophers around the world.  He apparently never ate meat, eggs, or cheese, and subsisted on a mostly fruit diet.  It clearly worked well-enough, as he died at the age of 79 in 1964.  Not bad, but think of all the bacon he missed!

DugaldSemple

Of course, my interest in Dugald lies primarily in his simple lifestyle and his fondness for caravans and living in the open.  He married well.  Cathie, his wife was a widow who was independently wealthy, owning a large house and grounds.  This certainly contributed to the success of the life-long experiment in simple living.  Even as he settled down, he still philosophized and associated with his old friends who roamed the countryside and set up guilds of craftsmen (Nerrissa Wilson, Gypsies and Gentlemen).  He envisioned a new generation of skilled travelers who could pack up their trades and families and move to where the work was, thus alleviating some of the new stress of urban life.

Semple

Semple in his summer camp.

I love this camp.  This wagon seems perfectly suited for summertime use with the fully opening sides.  Too bad his dream didn’t catch on, but he admitted that life on road could be stressful and difficult.  At least we can give it a try; even if in a limited capacity.

Joy-in-Living

As an end note, here’s a quote he is well known for on his philosophy of a vegan lifestyle:

Personally, I began rather drastically over 50 years ago by cutting out not only all meat or flesh foods, but milk, eggs, butter, tea and coffee. Cheese I have never eaten; indeed I hate the very smell of this decayed milk. Next, I adopted a diet of nuts, fruit, cereals and vegetables. On this Edenic fare I lived for some ten years, and found that my health and strength were greatly improved. Probably this was also because I lived more in the fresh air and closer to Nature. (Emphasis added by the ed.).

I just don’t know if I can fully trust a man who won’t eat cheese…

Henry David Thoreau, “Woods Burner”

Here’s an interesting article about Thoreau’s early career and the incident that may have been a catalyst for his move out of town into the woods nearby.  As it happened a year before the Walden experiment, it may have had some bearing on the idea.

From the Boston Globe:

On April 30, 1844, Thoreau started a blaze in the Concord Woods, scorching a 300-acre swath of earth between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. The fire was an accident, but the destruction of valuable woodland, the loss of firewood and lumber, and the narrowly avoided catastrophe that almost befell Concord itself angered the local residents and nearly ruined Thoreau’s reputation. For years afterward, Thoreau could hardly walk the streets of his hometown without hearing the epithet “woods burner.”

…at the end of April, Thoreau went boating with his friend, Edward Sherman Hoar. They caught a mess of fish and Thoreau built a fire in a tree stump near the water’s edge to cook a chowder. The winds were strong and the woods were exceptionally dry from near-drought conditions. The fire leapt from the stump, into the dry grass, and then rushed toward the trees.

Thoreau and Hoar tried to extinguish the flames on their own, stomping in the burning grass and beating the flames with a board from their boat. But once the fire reached the trees, they knew there was no stopping it without help. Hoar set out for Concord in the boat, and Henry ran through the woods ahead of the flames, seeking help nearby. He encountered one farmer who refused to help him, because he thought the fire was “none of his stuff.” Thoreau ran on, eventually encountering an owner of the woods then ablaze. The man ran to Concord to summon the town, and Thoreau, exhausted, climbed to the top of Fair Haven Hill to wait for help and watch the woods burn.

A few months after the fire, Emerson purchased a plot of land at Walden Pond in order to protect it from woodcutters. And in March of the following year, Channing wrote to Thoreau, urging him to go to Emerson’s plot at Walden and begin the “grand process of devouring yourself alive.” Thoreau moved to Walden four months later. Perhaps he sought refuge from the angry people of Concord, perhaps he felt compelled to atone, somehow, for his offence, or perhaps the fire awoke him to the fragility of life: nature’s, man’s, his own.

Years before the fire, Thoreau wrote in his journal, “To regret deeply is to live afresh.” And later in “Walden” he wrote that he came to the woods because he did not want to die having never lived. Perhaps this keen sense of urgency – the impulse to live the life he has imagined before it is too late – derives in part from Thoreau’s having witnessed how quickly an unthinking act can turn tragic.

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There is some interesting history I was not familiar with until a few years ago.  Here’s the link to the full article at the Boston Globe.

A shiftless, bookish fellow, who worked well with his hands but without much career direction or ambition to take the easy path.  Sounds like a familiar story.

A Need for Heroism

There is a need for learning the right stories in childhood.

A young knight facing a dragon, Warwick Goble (British, 1862–1943).

“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

― C.S. Lewis

Hiking, Backpacking, or Just Enjoy the Walk

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”   John Muir
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I’ve spent a lot of my adult life walking long distances, without a trail to follow, through wild and untouched places, mostly as part of my job. This can be a thousand miles or substantially more some years and it was usually the most enjoyable part of my work.
Walking gives you a lot of time to think or meditate and is really a lost art to modern folks.  I have worked with college students who don’t know how far or fast a human can walk in a day or even in an hour.

Hiker with walking cane, hat and backpack – Photographer: Eduard Schlochauer – via Getty Images)

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I find that I walk a little slower than most of my colleagues and friends.  I am a natural saunterer and like to look around which is maybe why, as an archaeologist, I find a lot of artifacts and cultural features when I walk.  I want to take in the landscape, the plants, animals, the geology, and the smells of a place. I like to walk in silence.  It is rarely a race for me and I don’t like to focus on the destination as much as the walk.  Many people I know walk with a pack by putting their head down and looking at the ground while trying to walk as fast as their bodies will take them along.  This is no fun to me.  Walking is about the most enjoyable thing I can do.  That’s why I’m so fond of writers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau.  They loved to walk and see its value on so many levels.
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So, I’d like to suggest leaving the insanity behind for a while, pack a small rucksack, grab your best guy or gal friend, and take a walk in the wild.  Your mind will thank you for the break.
Who knows what great memories you’ll make along the way?
When I’m asked if I want to go hiking or backpacking I usually say ‘no but I’ll walk with you while you hike.’
I’m strange that way, I know.
GTC

Education

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“I never let my schooling interfere with my education”

Mark Twain

Wise words.   Sometimes I think we’re entering a Dark Age just at the moment when we have vastly more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before.  We can look far out into space and at the tiniest of the tiny to understand our universe like never before.  Schooling is not the same thing as education.  I believe in both.  One teaches us what we need to know to cope with the basic expectations of society; a normalization of sorts whereas the other teaches us to think and analyze and build upon our prior knowledge.  Neither does the job perfectly and both are necessary for a decent life.

A look at the news or social media shows that people like simple answers and especially those that reinforce what they already feel or want to believe.

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Never stop learning…