Mito’s Boy Scout World

[In this story, Mito is a wacky guru.]

Mito’s Boy Scout World

Mito was sitting in his backyard on a summer day, brooding about the state of the world. While he was trying to get at the root of the world’s suffering, a big Dalmatian-mix dog galloped through the back alley. He could see that its tail was up like a flag at full mast and it had a look of doggie happiness on its face. Mito had seen the dog a few times before. It was always happy.

Mito thought to himself, ‘How is it that this dog, an inferior life form, is happy, while I, the great Mito, always feel morose and sad? It is almost as if things are reversed, as if the dog that romps, the cat that loafs, and all the other animals that go about their business are superior to us.’ Suddenly, Mito had a disturbing and shocking revelation that made his jaw drop and his mouth hang open.

The next morning, as usual, his disciples sat in a semicircle on the floor in front of him to hear his daily words of wisdom. So he began to explain to them what had horrified him. “You know that we and the animals all have DNA which carries the coded instructions for life. For them, it is a complete ‘Code of Life’ because it not only contains the design of their bodies, but it provides them with all the survival and social behaviors that they need, from the bee that is hatched knowing how to gather honey, to the beaver which knows how to build dams, to the dolphins that are born knowing how to team hunt. Only humans have incomplete codes of life. A baby knows almost nothing. Therefore we have to learn in order to complete our Code of Life. Here is a list of the kinds of things we must learn in order to survive.” He handed each disciple a copy of this list:

We must learn:

• An ethical code: how to treat others

• Personal health and hygiene techniques

• Physical safety (around household chemicals, electricity, cars, and strangers)

• Economic viability: having some job skills

• Home economics: maintaining a livable home and budgeting

• Political stabilizing: citizenship duties, political awareness and advocacy for keeping the government and community stable

• Mate selection skills and standards

• Child-rearing practices

• Practices that protect or repair the environment

• Language and communication skills: for taking in and sharing new information

• Social skills: learning who to trust and who not to trust

• Learning and critical thinking skills: for drawing correct conclusions in new situations

Mito continued. “Unfortunately, a full Code of Life is not learned by most humans. Our learning is defective and incomplete for at least seven reasons: It’s disorganized, unfinished, out of date, primitive, de-prioritized, avoided, and compartmentalized.

“It’s disorganized because we learn pieces of the code from many sources: parents, teachers, TV shows, religious leaders, friends, advertisers, books, the government, magazines, the Internet and elsewhere. Sometimes we get two or more versions of the code that conflict with each other. For instance, your religion may give you one ethical code; your parents may live by another ethical code; and your friends might live by another.

“For most people, learning is incomplete simply because it’s unfinished. If you study the list of twelve areas of learning, you’ll probably find many gaps in your practical education. Furthermore, those who usually have primary responsible for our educations, our parents, are often amateurs who themselves have had incomplete educations.

“Some of these gaps in learning are due to the information being out of date. Our world is rapidly changing. Medical knowledge is growing, but equally, threats to public health are growing as new, resistant disease strains emerge. Information has exploded, but most people lack the skills to manage it and sift through it. So we become overwhelmed by junk mail, multiple cable channels, unwanted email and clutter. The pace of life speeds up, and the mechanisms to update adult learning fall behind.

“Human learning is primitive because it’s still mostly done through lecturing and repetitious drilling, rather than with the advanced memory techniques that produce efficient learning, and with experiential learning processes that produce flexible thinking and creativity. In other words, people are more often trained like dogs to perform specific actions in specific situations, rather than being educated to create solutions tailored to the situation at hand.”

One disciple had raised his hand, so Mito stopped talking and called on him, the disciple said, “Master, I can’t help noticing that you are lecturing us at this very minute. Does that mean you are training us like dogs?”

At this, some of disciples laughed. Mito knew that this disciple liked to show off, so he said curtly, “Please stand.” The disciple did so, expecting a reprimand. Mito then held up his index finger and looked off, as if he were weighing some alternatives. Then he said, “On second thought, sit back down.” As soon as the disciple did so, Mito said, “Good boy! Now roll over and play dead until I’m done talking!”

This got laughs from the others, and even a smile from the show-off.

Mito continued. “Human learning is often incomplete because it is de-prioritized. Generally speaking, the poor are trapped in a struggle for survival, so that educating their children must be put off. This helps to continue the cycle of poverty. On the other end of the continuum, the wealthy invest great time and energy on business, but instead of business being a means to supply people with what they need and want, people become a means to supply businesses with labor to make a profit. Meanwhile, the middle class spends much of its time focused on work and entertainment. Ultimately, however, human learning is de-prioritized because you and I often put what we want ahead of what we and others need.

“Human learning is also incomplete because adults often avoid it. Pain is a signal that a change is needed; often it’s a signal to learn. If your back or neck is sore, for instance, you might first change your sitting position. If this doesn’t work, you might learn stretching exercises, yoga, or massage. But people frequently avoid learning in favor of quick fixes, such as taking a pain reliever. In the same way, trouble in a relationship, finances, health or career are all signs that learning is needed, but people avoid learning in favor of escapist entertainment, blaming others, or resigned acceptance.

“Finally, learning is incomplete because it’s too compartmentalized. As an adult, you may actually want to learn more about finances, be part of a support program for your emotional growth, learn how to repair and maintain your house and your health, and so forth, but there’s no time to take a class or join a support group for each of your needs.”

Mito paused. “Any questions so far?”

A disciple raised his hand. “Well the obvious question is ‘Where do we go from here? How do we complete the Code of Life?”

Mito shook his head. “While that’s ultimately the question, we would be better served to examine five great attempts throughout history to complete the Code of Life. Moses, Jesus and Mohammed provided us with religious laws, commandments and recommendations. But Buddha and Baden-Powell in addition taught techniques from how to meditate to clear the mind to how to do first aid to protect the body.

A disciple asked, “I know the others, of course, but who is Baden-Powell?”

“He was the founder of the Boy Scouts.

“But Boy Scouts is not a religion.”

Mito smiled, “Ah, yes, but that was Baden-Powell’s big mistake! I’ve been thinking all night about this, so hear me out. Baden-Powell emphasized practical learning and not dogma. The only dogma is the Scout Law, ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, thrifty, brave,’ and so forth. That’s why advanced scouts know how to do first aid, swim, survive in the woods, appreciate and protect nature, participate in the political process, and so forth. All that advanced Buddhists know how to do is meditate, which by the way, would make a good addition: Meditation Merit Badge. Boy Scouts earn these merit badges so that they can pin them on their chests. But badges and awards only motivate boys until they are eighteen or so. After that, boys and girls have outgrown Scouting, mainly for two reasons. First, while some essential code-of-life skills are taught like First Aid and Citizenship in the Nation, others are not taught, such as Time Management, Assertiveness and Fooling the Boss into Thinking that You Are Really Working. If essential skills like these were taught, as well as recommended merit badges, such as ‘Increasing Your Sexual Prowess’ and ‘Raising Your Baby Because You Increased Your Sexual Prowess,’ then more adults would continue Scouting into adulthood.

“But Baden-Powell’s other mistake was not making Scouting into a religion. The Queen of England tried to give him a hint by knighting him Lord Baden-Powell, but he missed her big fat clue. So, what we need to do is tell people that if they get 100 of our Merit Badges including 50 required merit badges that teach them essential methods for learning the Code of Life, then they very probably will go to Heaven.”

“But you don’t know that!” protested a disciple.

“And you don’t know that it’s not true!” Mito replied. “Why I could be receiving divine revelation right at this minute! Never limit what God can do.” He then continued to address the group. “So we need to add certain ranks. Boy Scouts ranks end with Eagle, so we need to add more advance animals such as Lion, Dolphin and Chimpanzee, but I think we should end with Super Eagle, since at the end of their life, a Super Eagle’s soul will fly up into Heaven.”

The disciples just looked at each other in disbelief as Mito rattled on, “And as a further incentive, men and women can camp together and sleep in the same tent, as long as they have the Raising Baby merit badge. But I am more concerned about the required Merit Badges that teach people methods they can use every day of their lives: Goal-Setting, Active Listening, Assertiveness, Negotiation, Computer Literacy, Critical Thinking, Ad Neutralization and many others.”

“What is Ad Neutralization?” asked one disciple.

Mito explained, “Advertisement Neutralization is automatically reframing the ads that you hear and see. For instance, today when people hear that a certain product is 30% off, they run to the store as if a gold mine had been discovered there. But when they have learned Ad Neutralization, they will say to themselves, “30% off is 70% on, and 10% off is 90% on!” He paused. “But these are details. The other advantage of making Scouts into a religion is the big tax break that we’ll get! Thus it is an article of our faith that Lord Baden Powell was the Eagle of God and Revealer of the Way of Fullness.”

“But the Boy Scouts would never go along with that!” a disciple protested.

Mito pondered this a moment. “You’re right. Let’s give our movement a different name, a classy name. Let’s call it the Tuocs.” (Mito was fond of spelling things backwards to create a new name.) “Tuoc sounds like “to walk” as in to walk a path to wholeness—and that fits in nicely with this Oath that I’ve written based on the Scout Oath, but pumped up a bit:

On my honor, I will do my level best to appreciate, learn and serve. To increase my capacity; to trust arithmetic; to strive to give back as much as I take; and to care for the whole. To find and walk my path to the end, and support others to find and walk theirs. In all, to send a signal in action so as to ignite a second sun on Earth, one radiating love.

Mito continued. “Just imagine a world containing several billion Tuocs who have learned methods and passed tests on everything from child rearing to socially responsible investment, to evaluating charities, to lobbying corporations! They would have weekly meetings where the more advanced Tuocs would teach the less advanced Tuocs skills, and then they’d have brief support meetings to share progress and appreciations, and then they would have a half-hour for games, maybe touch football or spin the bottle. It wouldn’t be heaven on Earth because there would still be earthquakes and hurricanes, but there would be a hundred times less suffering because people would have the skills to find jobs, manage their emotions, counsel and support each other, and even do emergency care for victims of floods and famines!”

“So we must get to work immediately to save the planet since it could fall apart at any minute unless we stabilize its vital life-support systems. I will now form you into small groups that will each write one of the merit badge booklets that teach the needed methods. Meanwhile, one of you will pursue tax-exempt status and proclaim this new religion and path to Heaven. Finally, since I spent all last night doing all the intellectual heavy lifting, I will now begin my retirement, having earned the title for life of “Nearly Divine Re-Interpreter of the Message of the Eagle of God, Lord Baden-Powell.”

The next day, when the big black and white dog galloped through the alley with his tail bolt upright, Mito was racing behind it on his bicycle with an exuberant smile on his face.


Commentary

All silliness aside, Mito realized two things. First, he realized that human learning, even in our modern age, has many serious defects. Second he recognized that a program like Scouting could create a learning environment that can enable adults to remove the common defects in human learning.

Of course, I realize that adults don’t want to dress, learn and act like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Instead, Scouting helped me realize that a new category of learning structures was possible. I call the new category superprograms, and I created a handful of model superprograms. Like Scouting all of these provide an ongoing structure for learning. Like Scouting all of these blend personal growth learning with service to others. But superprograms have a few elements in their design that makes them superior to Scouting. One is that they have a chain reaction growth pattern build into them. A second is that they have a higher quality learning environment that makes them more flexible and more adaptable. (See superprograms.)

The “Code of Life” perspective in the story allows us to see estimate the vast potential of superprograms. Compared with most animals, human DNA is “defective” because it doesn’t contain all the knowledge we need to live secure and fulfilling lives. Superprograms enable us, in a sense, to complete our DNA. They make possible the equivalent of a genetic improvement for humanity.

Of course, the whole reason for this odd perspective is not to prove that one person can become superior to another. It’s to begin to explain the unprecedented power of new learning structures like superprograms to change individual human lives, and human destiny.

“No learning. No hope.

Little learning. Little hope.

Learning. Hope.

Systematic learning. Systematic hope.”



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