Musings on Scouting

by Csaba Orbán, translated by Erzsébet Jakab

Time is flying toward Thanksgiving.  Next, a few nights’ sleep until Mikulas (St. Nicholas’ day).  Almost imperceptibly comes the final stretch of the year with Christmas, then the New Year of 2022.

Nowadays most people are rushed, feeling there is so terribly much to do, without enough time.  Life seems to be flying by, and we are “missing out on something”.  Perhaps feel sorry for ourselves about the perceived losses.

In physics class we learn that everything is relative, including time. The more we enjoy something, the faster time flies. This is a nice thought, because if true, everything would be enjoyable today. However, in reality, today’s perception of time is due primarily to our channels of communication. We strive to communicate quickly and effectively.  For ages, when aquintances met in person and started a conversation, time flew by quickly. However, today one of the biggest users of our time is the multi-step process of modern connections.

These days we primarily use remote communication. Whether it is between friends, relatives, or strangers, we tend to relate electronically. The choices available to us are abundant and everyone uses these channels according to their preference. 

It can be readily observed that communication in our society has become impersonal. We frequently sense that communication is not so much a dialogue, but the expression of ideas.  This type of self-centered communication can result in indifferent responses.  Even when the communication yields results, it is a product of compromise, rather than agreement.  The difference between opportunistic compromise and agreement is in the details.  In the case of compromise, a solution exists, but no one is satisfied; with agreement there is the feeling that everyone’s opinion has been heard and considered.    

But how does this relate to scouting? one might ask, since this is a societal phenomenon.

Robert Baden Powell, the founding father of scouting, said more than one hundred years ago that the main goal of scouting is the development of character.  A person of good character doesn’t focus only on what is important to him or herself, but cares about others and works toward benefiting them. This is what we call “good intention.”

Many of our fellow scout leaders perceive that today’s plethora of communication channels do not support character development. Most channels blare the message “live for today” and “live for yourself”,  as well as “you are successful if you are better than others.”

Today’s young peoples’ time is so extremely busy.  School bombards them with all kinds of complicated thoughts, challenges and assignments. Parents do a lot for their children to create lifelong pleasant memories, while the children search for their self-identity. In their scant free time, young people, as well as some of their parents, enjoy fast-paced, electronic games. Television provides interesting content 24 hours a day. Everyone is present in the digital space.  Parents strive for their kids to experience individual victories early on, with the idea that early success will prepare them to face larger future challenges. Everyone has been to Disneyland, Universal Studios, Legoland, and become acquainted with the “seven wonders of the world” early in life. No wonder young people feel over-burdened and do not want to add much in the way of personal connections. 

In contrast with busyness and indifference, scouting teaches measure, self control, respect for ourselves and others.  For instance, it is better not to look at trees as raw material or something to satisfy our needs. If a scout needs a stick, they will choose one no longer alive lying on the ground, even if it’s not the most beautiful or straightest piece. If a rope needs to be tightened between two trees, they don’t use nails or screws, but rather make knots that don’t damage the trees. 

Unlikely as it seems, the above example represents a method of communication.

We can continue this line of thought, getting in touch with people we are able to communicate with on the basis of mutual respect.  Of course we always respond to people who address us.  The response is commesurate with the greeting, according to the Hungarian folk tradition.

We achieve success in life through friendship and community rather than through the temporary, individual enjoyment of the world’s miracles.

It is also said that when we talk we don’t listen…

Scouting teaches us to talk when we actually have something to say to each other:

“Respect the word and work for the common good, since actions speak for themselves!”

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