The Scout Oath is divided into three parts — Duty to God, Duty to Others and Duty to Self. We recognize and remember this each time we make the scout sign or offer a scout salute — each typified by keeping three fingers straight.
Our duty to self comprises of three equally important elements: to be physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight (or unbending in our adherence to our morals).
Tonight I wanted to spend a little time talking about “mentally awake”.
What do you think this includes? Would you say:
- studying hard in school?
- keeping up with current events?
- practicing word games to increase vocabulary?
- building mental discipline to control your body? (i.e. to make yourself go to the gym, to avoid “bad for us” foods, to find that emotional “push” to keep going when you’re tired, etc.)
What else could we add to describe being mentally awake?
The classic definition of awake comes in two parts:
- waking up from having been asleep, and
- to become conscious or aware of something (sort of like being “alert” — quick to perceive or notice).
I like both of these definitions because they call attention to different ideas. First, we need to recognize that being mentally awake is a different circumstance than being mentally asleep. Have you noticed people who are mentally asleep? I’m not talking about a medical patient in a coma, but how about people who we might call “zoned out” or “walking dial tone”, etc.?
We’re not using these expressions as slurs, but to describe people who have become either out of touch with reality, or ultra-focused on a video game, smart phone, texting, etc. that they’re flying blind in the real world. When we become too focused on a thing it can prevent us from being in full control of our circumstances which brings us to the second concept — we need to be looking outward to see what’s going on around us. Just as driving and texting is dangerous because we’re looking away from the road, we can’t go through life with our heads someplace other than the here and now.
I have a different question for you to consider. Does being in the “here and now” mean that we don’t have room for introspection — or searching our mind, heart and soul to understand what’s going on inside of us?
In William Bennett’s book titled “The Book of Man” he introduces a chapter called “Man in Prayer and Reflection” Here are a couple of quotes to consider:
It is natural to think of men first as physical beings and to describe manhood as muscle, strength, power and actions — whether heroic and courageous or weak and timid. But the true root of a man’s existence is his ability to think and reflect. In the Bible, God’s first task for man was to name creation and be its caretaker — an internal, reflective activity…Reflection and contemplation separate men from the rest of creation.
“There is one art of which every man should be a master–the art of reflection–if you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?” asked English poet and philosopher Samuel Coleridge….Without reflection men would be nothing more than walking appetites, driven to and fro by natural instincts. Reflection allows us to weigh our actions, judge the consequences, and proceed circumspectly.
A man sharpens and strengthens his body through exercise; he sharpens and strengthens his mind through thought and reflection–like spiritual calisthenics and study. Much like a body goes to waste without exercise, so, too, will a thoughtless mind.
In the act of prayer, man studies and dissects his own soul while recognizing that there is an order and a power greater than himself to whom he is accountable. Prayer brings us closer to God in the same way that engaging in conversation with another human strengthens our relationship with that person…As you will see throughout this chapter, men who prayed incessantly believed that God would answer–and he often did so in powerful ways.
- So would you agree that internal reflection and prayer and faith practice have a direct role to play in becoming and maintaining our mental health?
- What would you question or add to this concept?
- Do you feel that spending a little time each day reading the bible, or praying, or going to Sunday school each week helps keep you mentally awake?
- Would you, personally, feel the same way if you simply substituted your favorite comic book or such in place of the Bible? Why or why not?
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul writes “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” How does this scripture reference relate to tonight’s topic?
I’d like to conclude with one last quote from William Bennett’s book and the story of the Fox and the Goat:
Whether an athlete or a construction worker or a doctor, a man is better off if he is a thinking man and a prayerful man. Reflection and prayer are a man’s internal GPS system, and to neglect this part of his life would be like going on a journey without a map or a compass.
The Fox and the Goat
A FOX one day fell into a deep well and could find no means of escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure, and encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape. “If,” said he, “you will place your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards.” The Goat readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat’s horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out, “You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had no means of escape.”
Moral — Look before you leap.