By Don Densborn (Indiana)
“And for the support of this Fraternity, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
It is the 4th of July, so in accord with the tradition to which we all subscribe as Americans, I am re-reading the Declaration of Independence.
Why are you laughing? We all do it, right?
OK, admittedly reading the Declaration on the 4th is a bit odd. I am a traditionalist at a time when a lot of tradition seems to be tweeted to the winds.
I attribute my odd practice to the fact, when I was in high school, I was required to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. I became addicted to great words conveying great ideas. Who would not recognize the timeless words, “When in the Course of human events..,” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” Ol’ Tom Jefferson sure knew how to coin a phrase for the ages. He knew his words would be etched into history. He understood his audience would include future generations he would never know. Thus he took great care.
I believe a lot of people think Jefferson’s preamble to the Declaration is the entire instrument—far from it. There was a committee that helped Jefferson, and the work of that committee included a comprehensive list of grievances against the “King of Great Britain” intended that the Colonies be “Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,” culminating with the following:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Reading these closing words this time, I was given to substitute “Fraternity” for “Declaration” in the first phrase. The preface to this writing was thusly “borrowed” shall we say—borrowed, but not without basis.
For much like our beloved country, our fraternity firmly relies on the “protection of divine Providence.” The earthly Knights—or Swiss Guards—of our protectorate are our staff in Lexington and elsewhere, led by Brad Beacham and Brad Hastings. They are young, honorable, talented men who have dedicated their lives and worldly pursuits to a set of common ideals over personal fortune. They personify the Life of Love and should inspire our gratitude and respect.
“We mutually pledge”—we all mutually pledged loyalty to Sigma Nu and our Knightly vows. To “pledge” means to make a “solemn promise.” By their Declaration, our founding fathers made their solemn promise to one another and to a set of common beliefs. They did so in anticipation of great toil and grief—possibly death. As members of the Legion of Honor, we similarly vowed, whatever the sacrifice, to serve each other and society according to a set of ideals and a common purpose we deem most high. According to our Creed, “in the fresh morning of our youth,” we subscribed to the “common brotherhood” of men, the “continuity of the Divine” and the “solidarity of mankind.”
“Our lives”—we pledged to believe in the Life of Love for until death.
“Our fortunes”—we pledged to lend a “Helping Hand” and do all we can to ensure the perpetuation of our fraternal ideals throughout the world, forever.
“Our sacred honor”—quite simply, ours is the Honor Fraternity. It is our raison d’etre.
You get the picture. As an analogy, it is nearly perfect. Some 94 years after the Declaration of Independence, our founding ideals were set to align with it, and 142 years hence from that date, Sigma Nu soldiers on under the same indelible banner. You can’t tweet that away.
With this in mind, I read the results of a poll which were published recently in the Wall Street Journal. The question posed was: “Are you happy?” Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they were “Pretty Happy,” and another 30 percent said they were “Very Happy.” In a time of political tumult and a dreadful economy, it is interesting to witness that our level of happiness is not dictated much by politics or the economy. That’s quite telling.
Perhaps, despite all angst of the moment, we take long measure of our blessings when presented with such a question. If one is blessed by a loving spouse, wonderful children, good health—and has not missed a meal lately—how can he not be happy in the overall scheme of things? Or maybe happiness has to do with loyal friends, fulfilling work, financial security, the beauty of nature, the wonders of human achievement, the blessings of liberty, the rewards of an honorable life well-lived, and/or a loving and forgiving God? Quite simply, we live in the greatest place in the world and the greatest time in history. We have a lot to be thankful for, and we know it. On that basis alone, how could any witting man not experience happiness, at least in a relative sense?
Relative happiness, sure, but what’s more? I would answer that “What’s more?” is the complete joy that comes from giving—giving behind the ideals in which you believe—giving in support of the institutions of goodness in the world—giving to perpetuate the type of relationships which helped mold you into a man and shape you for the better—in short, giving to ensure that the world you will leave behind one day will be better than the one you inherited.
My guess is that when a member of our Brotherhood reflects on the influences in his life that shaped his sacred honor, fostered his life success, and rendered him, at the end of the day, happy, he will find Sigma Nu prominent among them.
Quite simply, we are blessed to be part of the greatest fraternity in the world. Sigma Nu deserves another 140 years and beyond, but she needs our financial support. There is a line in the movie “True Grit” to the effect that there is nothing free in the world except the grace of God. I believe that also free is the will of man. We are free to put our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor behind that which we believe…the Life of Love, the Way of Honor, and the Light of Truth.
Thus, I pray that, for the sheer joy you will experience today—and for the benefit of generations of tomorrow you will never know—you take time this Independence Day to pledge an appropriate measure of your fortune in support of the great ideals and work of our beloved Fraternity. It will be etched in history if you do.
Br. Densborn is a past Regent and longtime volunteer for the Fraternity.
Don a great piece of writing for thought on this Independence day. You come from a great chapter–Herman B. Wells–one of the greatest Sigma Nu’s. He presented our chapter their charter in 1969. I think about Chancellor Wells quite often about how much he meant to IU and the Sigma Nu experience.
This is a truly inspiring post.. it actually inspired me to write my own piece about the duties of an American citizen and I’m glad my own chapter (Lambda Delta–Minnesota State University, Mankato) pushed me to care more about the goings-on of our country.
Moreover, I’m glad I stumbled upon this post one day because I never could quite make sense of how my duties as a knight overlap my duties as a citizen.. at least, as eloquently as Brother Densborn.
Again, thanks for posting this. LHT