From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Scouts: prepared for ‘any old thing,’ or new

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 2, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

“Why, for any old thing.”

This was the answer of Scouting’s founder, Baden-Powell, when someone asked about “Be Prepared,” the motto of Scouting. “Be prepared for what?” the person asked.

I am sure Baden-Powell would have agreed that Scouts should be prepared for any new thing as well as any old thing. And that is my concern in this age of rapid change and development.

It is easy enough to list tragic events that could have been prevented if people had been prepared for them. Deaths in house fires because the smoke alarm had no battery, persons drowned because they had no life jackets when their boat capsized, hikers dying from exposure because they strayed from a trail in a wilderness.

My concern is about consequences of large new developments. Atomic energy is an example. It was discovered and made into a weapon under the pressure and urgency of winning a mammoth war before the enemy could discover atom power. The need to guard against atomic radiation must have been sensed by the scientists involved, but there was neither time nor leisure to do that extra work.

Similar older problems come to mind — destruction of rain forests, the galloping increase of automobiles now congesting and wearing out highways, the overwhelming of airports by more travelers and airlines, the shortage of electricity, the polluting of our atmosphere by the products of fossil fuels, and the possibility of global warming.

Getting prepared

I think the Scout motto may need to be modified a little. In order to be prepared Scouts of today will have to foresee the changes before they arrive full force. Marshall McLuhan, an expert on the media and communications back in the 1960s, puzzled and stimulated many with his statement: “The medium is the message.” I think he meant modern media in general have influenced human life much more that any or all single messages carried by the media. And he did say something about foretelling the future. He said most of us think the present to be what we see in a rearview mirror. We cannot perceive the present time sufficiently. Only poets can see the present. And they see in the present the first beginnings of future developments before other people do. This amounts to reading the future.

Scouts as poets?

I don’t suppose many Scouts are poets with the gift of seeing future trends in their first small beginnings. But Scouts learn to observe signs of animals they are tracking, and Baden-Powell with his background of military scouting taught his Boy Scouts to observe clues that we associate with detective work. Observation skills are valuable indeed.

Another kind of observation is learning the history of a trend. When American pioneers headed West why did they clear forest areas to make grain farms? Did they foresee a time when climate would be changed and flood control be diminished by large-scale reduction of forests? Did the moving of city dwellers to suburbs, the decline of inner cities and reduction of farmland cause any foresight when these trends began?

Was it foreseen that mining for gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, and so on would someday cause leave harmful chemical in lakes and rivers?

I do not intend to lay blame on anyone for mistakes of the past. I just hope that as speedy change in communication, transportation, information, entertainment, and other influences will be closely watched, their results predicted, and corrective measures enforced.

I wish that all of us, not just Scouts, could pursue any trend from its first beginning to the probable growth and spread it will have. One example comes to mind. Petroleum at the bottom of an oil well seems to do he earth no harm. But gasoline derived from petroleum by a refining process does damage if drained into the soil. Could gasoline or any other petroleum product be restored to its original state before disposal?

I don’t know if this would work but it illustrates my hope that those who cause any change be required to eliminate the change before it can do harm.

In all this I am dealing with processes and materials I do not know enough about. But my philosophical training makes me think about original causes and final results.

Coming Events

Catholic Camporee, Saturday, Sept. 8, 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. at Boy Scout Camp Easton on the east shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Theme: Religious Emblems for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls.


For information on the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and its activities, contact Father Terence Tully, diocesan Scout chaplain, 221 E. Rockwood Blvd, Apt. 308, Spokane, WA 99202-1200, phone (509) 458-7674; or James Burgen, chairman of Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 303 W. 8th Ave., Spokane, WA 99204. Pager phone (509)-880-5498. Click here for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting's web page!

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