"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Courting the Devils
fra·ter·ni·ty Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ties
Date: 14th century
1 : a group of people associated or formally organized for a common purpose, interest, or pleasure: as a : a fraternal order b : GUILD c : a men's student organization formed chiefly for social purposes having secret rites and a name consisting of Greek letters d : a student organization for scholastic, professional, or extracurricular activities [a debating fraternity]
2 : the quality or state of being brothers : BROTHERLINESS
3 : what I had no business trying to join in college
In the middle of my first fall at Furman they had something called "pledge week." This was when young impressionable freshmen could commit to "pledge" to a fraternity, to which he would belong the rest of his school years.
For a loose cannon like me, well, I should have known better.
I chose a fraternity called Pi Kappa Alpha. They seemed like down to earth guys, most of them were likeable. Well, over half anyways. And the girls that hung around them were cute. That, above all, I think was the main reason I liked them. Sheesh, how often did my life decisions get based on hormones alone? Too often.
As pledge season progressed, things got more difficult for the pledges. Pretty soon, we were having to do some pretty humiliating things. But it was OK because we were trying to reach that elusive and oh-so-special goal of "fraternal membership."
The idea of "why would I want to be a member of any group that did this sort of thing" never crossed my mind.
So, here I was, in a situation where I was expected to perform in order to be accepted. As you might surmise, for a person like me that's playing with dynamite. And it went off.
One of the things we had to do as pledges was to get three signatures in a little book from each member of the fraternity. It sounds easy, but usually they would make you do stupid or menial things before they would sign it. One of the worst ones to get a signature from was a guy named Rick Henderson.
One weekend, I had one of those ideas that looks brilliant at the time...
I got together with two other pledges, including a friend of mine named Brad. There was a town not too far from campus named Hendersonville. It occured to me that Rick would probably love a "Hendersonville" sign in his dorm room. So we would go get (read "steal") one.
We armed ourselves with a few tools and waited until late at night, then headed down the highway to Hendersonville. I imagine we probably had a bit to drink as well. It really didn't matter to me though, the situation was triggering me way into the manic side. And these poor guys were following me.
Eventually, we came to a Hendersonville exit. And there was a sign, with the word Hendersonville. It wasn't one of those huge interstate signs, just a little one. It looked perfect.
If you ever want to do something idiotic like this, you might want to remember that the size of a sign is an optical illusion. They are really huge.
So, we had the sign about halfway loose, and we hear a car approaching. We all lay down in the grass, because there was not any time to get back to our car.
It was a police car.
I can still see it now, pulling up slowly to the stop sign as I lay there not daring to breathe. After what seemed like forever, it pulled away and went down the road. We finished removing the sign in a flash, and to our consternation this four foot sign was more like ten feet long. We had to fold it to get it into my trunk.
The next morning, we presented it to Rick. He looked at us stunned. He asked where we got it. We told him. He was speechless. I think he signed our books.
The next night they blackballed all three of us.
Which was dissapointing at the time, sure, but now I see that it was a good thing. I still ended up dating one of the Pi Kappa girls for a while. And you know what? The people that didn't get in the fraternity were better friends than the ones who did, and friendship is the real fraternity, the real brotherhood.
Who needs Greek letters when it is written on your heart.
When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.