The Scout Meeting

Note: This was, of course, written during a Boy Scout meeting.

Why am I here? Why am I anywhere? But why am I here specifically? Week after week I return, for no apparent reason. I can give no explanation. I can only say what I see at these meetings, these two hours each week that I torment myself with, asking the same question after each and every one.

Tonight, chaos reigns. Communication, as usual, is nonexistent between those who run the troop. Those who know what's going on aren't here; those who are here don't know what's going on. Tonight someone decided to place one of the final activities - the game - at the beginning of our order of ordeals. And, of course, a game symbolic of our chaos - dodge ball. A blue foam ball amid a sea of olive green and khaki. Voices amid bodies, running to the ball, running away from the ball, getting hit, hitting someone else- they never stop. Those who seek to maintain control can't - order in a chaotic environment becomes chaos. Chaos is the accepted order. Only in this one corner where I reside, pen in hand, can order remain uncorrupted. Only when that blue ball happens to cross over into my domain does the chaos get a chance to enter.

The chaos reluctantly yields its all-encompassing power to the forces of control and order. Usually done at the start of the meeting, the uniform inspection begins. The patrol leaders need paper for this, and of course they have none of their own. Who better to go to for paper than a person writing in a notebook? After sacrificing a few of its precious sheets, my notebook is once again ready for its intended use. And so it continues.

I've been reassigned. I vacated my position in the far-off corner, and set off toward the door. I'm needed to relieve a fellow lost soul at his position there, ensuring that the chaos cannot spread through that gateway and into the unsuspecting world outside. Finally, tonight's session of skills is ready to begin. Through misguided attempts, each patrol will endeavor to orient a map, using that ever-present compass, and then follow a set of instructions to answer a page of questions. Will they succeed? I doubt it. I used to teach that kind of thing every once in a while, or at least try to teach it, but I had success only in losing their attention. As with the other nights, another futile session.

Not long after the onset of this task, a few scouts grew tired of the planned activity, and began to wander. In their wandering they ended up on a course which led toward the door, not noticing the notebook wielding guard stationed nearby. After a short confrontation, during which I tried to explain to them that they were to remain inside the building, they turned around and started back the other way. My purpose fulfilled, I watched as others explained to the wayward scouts that they were supposed to be in their groups, pretending to learn. Nobody wins, but somehow everyone moves on.

A pair of older scouts, pillars of our troop, prepare for the next part of tonight's meeting. A small television, seated on a table against the wall, was just turned on. At that nearly imperceptible click, half a dozen dedicated scouts raced toward the source of this aura, a new distinct presence in this otherwise jumbled mass of existence. Immediately turned away, they reluctantly retreated toward their distant corner, order winning a small victory once again.

The TV once again commands the attention of these scouts, so easily led by an inanimate object. Representative of most of the troop's activities, this hour-long video on trout fishing has finally started with half an hour left in the meeting. For once, all but the television is quiet. All stare at its bright, glowing screen, not really giving thought to the pictures they see, or the sounds they hear, but respecting the almighty presence of the entertainment facilitator. All else is a blur, only useful in passing the time until the glow of the screen is no more.

With but a few minutes remaining before we all go free, the video stops, and the chaos begins anew for the few moments it takes for order to reestablish its dominating presence. And so begins the closing. All in our own distorted version of a circle, we wait for the end, when all will be finished. That moment passes, and the doors, closed since I departed from my post, are thrown open. A large force of order lies outside, waiting for the chaos to overflow, and then be subdued and removed from this place. And so it ends, as I once again ask myself that question. Why? Well, at least tonight I completed this written composition. Maybe something good can come out of these meetings. Or maybe this is just the exception.

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