During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
ENFORCED solitary leisure spent among mountain tops is so good for the soul that every man would be the better for such “retreat” if he forced himself to take it occasionally. The quiet meditation, remote from the rush and unrest of ordinary life, cleanses the mind, and gives it ease and inspiration. Sitting here, unperturbed by Press headlines, and looking at Mount Kenya with his hoary old head standing four square as ever, one sees the clouds come and cover him for a time, and though they bring thunder and storm, they rift away again, leaving him standing there unmoved in the sunshine, as he has stood through thousands of years of similar passing showers.
So too, on a larger scale, this world is, from time to time, disturbed by clouds of war and unrest; but these pass away and, together with them, thank goodness, the agitators who brought them about; and the old world wags on unmoved as it has done for thousands of years through similar nightmares.
So you say to yourself, why get rattled about troubles that you can’t prevent? But can’t you? Browning says: “God’s in His Heaven; all’s right with the world.”
But a certain head-hunting tribe says that this is not so. Their belief is that the devil has for the present got possession of the world, and when that possession is over God’s reign of peace will come.
The devil’s agents are, after all, merely men, and it is therefore possible for man also to counter his devilments, and to bring about that reign of Peace and Goodwill which is the reign of God.
Here seems the opportunity– indeed the Duty– for every individual to take his share in preventing recurrence of those evils. It is in such crusade that I see a goal open to Scouters and Old Scouts.
My mountain says “Look wider; look higher; look further ahead, and a way will be seen.”
Moral Rearmament, a vague term, though much used, is open to many interpretations, but among these few have so far supplied practical steps for making it a definite quality in our citizenship.
Yet the spirit of it is essential. I ventured to write a letter to The Times last year, recommending the adoption of some simple form of self-dedication to the service of Goodwill and Peace, much on the lines of the Boy Scout Promise.
This brought me numbers of letters of approval, but I don’t hear whether anything definite has been done about it. Before the war a scheme for our national education was formulated “to build citizens rather than scholars”; but like many other good intentions it was dropped during the war, and has never been fully revived.
Now, even more than in those days, is such training needed if we, as a nation, are to keep pace with the developments of the age and hold our own, in giving a moral lead to others.
The character of a nation depends on the individual character of its members.
Our falling birth-rate demands extra efficiency in every individual, to compensate for our lack of numbers. The steps taken by totalitarians abroad should be a spur to us where they are enforcing the universal training of their youth. This is done on lines based on Scouting methods, but confined to purely nationalist ideals of citizenship.
Citizenship has been defined briefly as “active loyalty to the community”; but should aim at securing peaceful and friendly relations with other nations. In a free country like ours it is easy, and not unusual, to consider oneself a good citizen by being a law-abiding man, doing your work and expressing your choice in politics, sport, or activities, “leaving it to George” to worry about the nation’s welfare. This is passive citizenship. But the times to-day demand more than passive citizenship if we are to be a sound and solid nation, able to stand up among the others, and able to uphold in the world the virtues of freedom, justice, and honor.
Members of the church realize that it is not possible for them alone to accomplish this change of spirit. Indeed Totalitarian States look on the differing denominations rather as elements of discord in their peoples, where unity is essential for making a nation.
If, however, the individual believes that peace and goodwill are needed it is a matter for that individual, however humble, to contribute to their promotion.
It seems that each has to so discipline his conduct and, character that in his daily life he sees the other fellow’s point of view as well as his own, whether it is in business dealings, or in politics, national and international, and that he is prepared to give Service wherever he can see it needed.
To believe that Peace and Goodwill– instead of war and ill-will– constitute the reign of God in the world is in itself a “religion.” It is a religion to which all can subscribe, and one which no denomination will deny.
Its practice is citizenship of the highest type.
After all, are not these the tenets which are, and always have been, the underlying aim of our training in the Scouts?
If you could get them more fully understood and more widely extended it would be a direct and practical, if minor, contribution towards eventually bringing about the Kingdom of God in the world. Can you see a higher, or more worthwhile. Life Crusade than this for a man?
As very many Scouters have already realized, it opens up a wonderful opportunity for each of us, according to our powers, whether we be Scouters, Rovers, or Old Scouts, to take a hand in spreading by personal example, by teaching and talks, this practical step in the so-called Moral Rearmament. One man cannot hope to do much, but tiny individual coelenterata have built coral islands by co-operation in an ideal. It needs a highly optimistic acorn to start hopefully on producing an oak tree.
But here, in our Movement, we have all the encouragement of a pretty big plant already existing as a nucleus, in our four and a half million of boys and girls in British and other countries.
Then besides them there are the many more millions of Old Scouts and ex-Guides who will rally to the call.
To descend to details:
Let us therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves become too absorbed in the steps.
Don’t let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, backwoodsmanship, camping, hiking, good, turns. Jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end.
The end is CHARACTER– character with a purpose.
And that purpose, that the next generation be sane in an insane world, and develop the higher realization of Service, the active service of Love and Duty to God and neighbor.