Seven paths to peace

The Path of Loyalty

He will urge and practice a spirit of understanding of every other man’s beliefs as a step towards international good will, recognizing that there are certain basic moral and spiritual standards which, if practiced, will insure a richer, fuller life.

(From the Outline of Policy in International Service.)

THE ROTARIAN who has seriously considered these paths to peace might ask himself: “What more is needed?”

Surely these six paths – patriotism, conciliation, freedom, progress, justice, and sacrifice – represent a catalogue of courageous action tempered by vision. Here is a balanced picture of an enlightened man:

  • A patriot whose pride in the contributions of his beloved land rises above all assertions of national or racial superiority;
  • A stalwart defender of freedom for every human being;
  • An optimist vigorous in support of action to improve living standards;
  • A realist determined to uphold justice by applying its principles world-wide;
  • A man prepared to make personal sacrifices for peace.

What does he lack but the spiritual strength to sustain him in this quest for peace?

This seventh path must involve the recognition that man does not live by bread alone, that in this world of competing ideologies, the cause of world fellowship must reach beyond material considerations to encompass what is of ultimate significance. Yes, this cause is practical; it wrestles with such specific problems as prejudice, tension, poverty, and injustice. But it must also be practical in the most down-to-earth practicality of all – in giving point to a man’s life, and in seeking answers to the eternal questions: What is the meaning of it all? Why am I here?

Can Rotary propose such a path? If this seventh path were to espouse any such teaching, it would be stepping outside the function and sphere of Rotary. This fact can hardly be stressed sufficiently. To dispel misconceptions, it may suffice to quote the categorical reply of a president of Rotary International to one great religious community which raised the question:

Rotary is not a secret association. Rotary has no vows or secrets of any kind. All of its meetings, activities, and records are public.

Rotary does not seek to supplant or to interfere with any religious or charitable organization.

Many years ago, by convention action, Rotary International asserted: “Each Rotarian is expected to be a loyal member of the church or religious community to which he belongs and personally exemplify by his every act the tenets of his religion.”

Qualifications for Rotary membership do not require information as to race, religion, or politics.

Rotary assumes that its program of service is in accord with all religions.

The key word in this statement is loyal. Each Rotarian is expected to be loyal to the religious community to which he belongs. And the Outline of Policy goes one step further by urging an understanding of the loyalties of other men as basic to the fulfillment of life’s purpose. Unwillingness to understand persons with divergent loyalties is no small problem today. Rotary brings together men of different religious persuasions in a fellowship of mutual respect. Acquaintance in an atmosphere of mutual respect embraces a great deal. Given this setting, acquaintance ripens into friendship.

Project upon the world the simple ways of any Rotary club: the friendly greeting, the sitting down together, the exchange of experiences, the growing sympathy. Can this familiar process be developed between peoples now separated by barriers of suspicion, bitter memories, and differing loyalties? And could such world-wide acquaintance help heal the wounds of mankind? If it could, we might see realized the dream of the poet Whitman:

I dreamed in a dream that I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth. I dreamed that was the new city of friends, the only city that will last, the only city that is impregnable, the new city of friends.

Much of the spiritual unrest which typifies industrialized society, and which, according to most authorities, is rapidly increasing, finds its origin in the pressures of society. The individual, floundering in events he does not understand or cannot control, looks inward. What does he see? He sees other persons like himself. And he discovers that his self-centered, self-sufficient being is only part of his reality. Behind his mask of selfishness is a truly spiritual being which is intimately concerned for, and linked with, other men and other women. This is the inner dynamism which reaches outward to others in the realization that, as Paul Tillich puts it, man is not “a thing among things” – he is a Person.

Ibsen in Peer Gynt has the superintendent of an insane asylum tell what is wrong with many of his patients. Those whom he described have psychopathic anxieties about themselves, not about others:

Beside themselves? Oh, no, you’re wrong. It’s here that men are most themselves – Themselves and nothing but themselves – sailing with outspread wings of self, the cask stopped with the bung of self, and seasoned in a well of self. None has a tear for others’ woes or cares what others think.

There is a universal “I” in humanity at its higher stages, and observers of social development see evidence that it reaches for, and interacts upon, others. The results of the “inner discover” of Man may be gradual and at times uncertain, but they are unmistakable. There is a growing acknowledgment that if a person would serve himself, he must serve others. This fundamental truth is basic in Rotary.

Society being what it is, however, there is another side to the coin of such understanding. A canon of the Church of England, renowned for his wit, once put the matter thus: “Today,” he said, “we are all wild men, tired men, or puzzled men,” as a result, he suggested, of the growth and spread of knowledge, of the corrosion of personal belief through association with other beliefs.

The attitudes and activities proposed for the path of loyalty are designed to guard against these corrosive effects of diversity. But first, perhaps, the effects themselves should be considered further. How, for example, does an individual respond to the discovery that others differ from him in belief? He may be one of the “wild men”. When told that the world is gray, not black or white, he sees red. He regards the one who differs from him as a rival and an enemy. He resents his loyalty, burns his books, breaks up his assembly. He seeks to protect his own loyalty by isolating it; he relies on vehement and fanatical expressions; he may provoke his neighbors until they consent to make a martyr of him. He is the man who sees what he chooses to see and hears only what he wishes to hear. He is like the minister who, in making penciled notes in the margin of his sermon, wrote in one place: “Argument weak here – shout very loud.”

A belligerent response to the discovery of diversity or unpleasant facts destroys the possibility of contribution along any of the paths commended to the Rotarian. No less destructive is the alternative response of the “tired men”. Their interest and energy are sapped by the inability to decide for themselves. Like the “wild men”, they demand a simple solution. Diversity distresses them, and often, tired of being tired, they make common cause with the fanatics. A great host of such weary souls are to be found in the train of any dictator. They may be among the millions who have concluded that what they think does not matter, anyway – that “they” will make the decisions.

According to the canon, the remainder of mankind consists of the “puzzled men” who have neither isolated themselves in fanaticism nor surrendered to world weariness, yet who – confronted by many winds of doctrine – wonder what their answer should be to the eternal questions and how they are related to those who believe in other answers. They are forever gathering facts, searching out new “authorities”, pondering new theories, and discussing the relevance of history; these are the persons who defer action or commitment until “all the facts are in”. Consequently, their decisions, such as they are, are “decisions by default”.

For the “puzzled men” the path of loyalty provides an answer which can rescue them from the state of suspended judgment. Loyalty means commitment and action; commitment to something larger than oneself, and beyond oneself. It means “digging in” at a logical point and saying: “Here I take my stand. From here, I can go on exploring. But as of now I stand here with my fellow men!” It involves others who share the same devotion – “the dear love of man for his comrade”, as Whitman called it. For the “tired men” the path of loyalty is presented as a delight and an encouragement to living. Come what may, there is something that the loyal person can harvest home: the challenge of the probing spirit, the thrill of creative service, the solid anchor of personal responsibility. It is normal that men should look for easy methods – the down-hill paths, the ready-made solutions. In a push-button, free-wheeling age, it is natural that men should look for Instant Loyalty, Instant Peace. If there can be Instant War, the others should be available, too. But they are not here.

A fable illustrates the ultimate tragedy of the “tired man” – the person who, from weariness or from laziness, concludes that one man’s contribution will never be missed, anyway. It was decided that all the people on earth would shout “Boo!” at the same time so that the voice of the world would be heard on the moon. When the moment came for the mighty shout, all the people were so eager to hear this loud noise that each person decided to listen and not contribute his “Boo!” It was said that this great occasion passed as the most silent moment in all history.

To the “wild men” it must be said that others are inspired to see one who knows where he is going – yet one who rejoices in encounters with loyalties different in object and origin from his own. Knowing and appreciating the depths of their devotions, his own allegiance gathers fervor, just as travelers who chance to meet in their journeys are cheered on their several ways. Acquaintance, the heart of Rotary, is also an act of the imagination – a projection of the soul into the soul of another human being, or of several others, or of a whole people.

Rotary is designed to amplify and multiply this process for the advancement of understanding, good will, and peace: intensively in the club – men of different occupations and different faiths are brought together; extensively – through the world fellowship of Rotary – each member has the chance to inspire and be inspired by men of other nations, cultures, and traditions. One man’s witness to the meaning of life strengthens the sense of meaning in others.

At many points along the line, however, loyalty has been discredited. How else can be explained the apathy toward religion, as distinguished from mere church-going, the weakening of family attachments, the number of broken homes, the rash of treason to country which has been revealed even among persons of the finest backgrounds and privileges, the wild fanaticism and the listless emptiness of so many lives? Many reasons, social and economic, can be advanced for these developments, but would they have occurred if the training in loyalty had not been neglected or cheapened? One disillusioned writer put his experience this way: “I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.” What a picture of futility – the absence of any loyalty to anything or to anybody!

To the Prince of Darkness exulting on his throne, the story goes, came one who whispered evil tidings. Somewhere on the earth, man had discovered a good idea. For a moment, Satan was abashed and shaken, but he soon recovered and with a devilish grin replied:

“Never mind, I will teach them how to organize it.”

Throughout the world are countless manifestations of the tendency to cheapen good ideas, to organize the heart out of them, to dilute them with words and trappings until they have no meaning. Even the natural impulse of children to group themselves in pursuit of an interest is routinized and exploited. Athletics, which provide such wonderful training in the team spirit, is often corrupted by emphasis on star performance and box office receipts. Sublime moments in the year consecrated to religious and patriotic devotions have been perverted to base purposes.

Around the world in many places, loyalty has been perverted on a grand scale, because it serves immediate ends – without any regard for whom or what may be sacrificed in the process. In such a setting, a Way of Life becomes an obsession, a scheme of economics becomes a religion, words become realities. The ongoing search for Truth becomes not a discovery through observation or experience but a quest for facts which confirm pre-conceived axioms. Regimentation and totalitarianism reach into the mind and lock the gate against Truth. In totalitarian countries, loyalty is always under direct attack. Children are trained to spy on their parents and teachers. Ideas are strictly censored lest loyalty to truth and justice question the aims of the State. Fear of guilt by association discourages personal friendships. Independent groupings for social, religious, or political purposes are subjected to persecution.

Yet, despite all these depressing circumstances, the impulse to loyalty refuses to be crushed. Under the fire of martyrdom, it burns brighter and purer. Even the terrors of the concentration camp and the sacrifice of security have not prevented hundreds of thousands from breaking out for refuge in those parts of the world where voluntary loyalty is still possible.

The heroic motives of those who risk much for freedom, however, should not be misunderstood. A pertinent comment came from the young Polish flyer who deserted his homeland to bring out the first Russian jet plane the West had seen, except in combat. A few weeks later a reward of $100,000 was offered to any MIG pilot who would emulate his feat. The response was disappointing, and the Polish pilot was asked for an explanation. He suggested that those likely to take the risk would be prompted by honor and love of freedom, not by hope of gain. Loyalty cannot be purchased.

But the press of materialism has made inroads against loyalty. The whole world is rushing toward the creation or accumulation of things. Nations vie with each other in steel production, in car loadings, and in manufacturing. The symbol of a successful society is not the great ideas or great men it creates, but the things it produces. And things have their place in the process of emancipating mankind from toil, privation, and drudgery, but emancipated for what?

It is a picture typified by a man and wife making a long journey by automobile. The wife was reading the map and giving directions. Suddenly, the wife exclaimed, “John, we’re lost.”

The husband clenched the wheel, pushed the accelerator even harder, and said, “What’s the difference – we’re making wonderful time!”

Mankind lives in an age of technology, with machines harnessed to almost every facet of life – even to the thought processes. The “march of progress” has become the end, not the means; the destination of life is of little consequence. It is not surprising that men tend to emphasize action rather than thought, things rather than persons, progress rather than loyalty. Materialism without the tempering of loyalty leads inevitably to the attitude which says: There is no future, there is no past, there’s only now.

Observing how loyalty has been cheapened and suppressed, some might conclude that loyalty is a lost cause. But appearances are often mistaken for reality. Time and again through history, causes that seemed to be lost inspired the heights of loyalty. The strength of loyalty is not manifested in applause for the conqueror or in mounting the triumphant bandwagon, but rather in the moments of utter despair. Consider the Christian martyrs braving the might of Rome . Think of the patriots who sustained their loyalty through centuries when their countries had been wiped from the map.

The richest personal experiences, too, may come at the time when the presence of loyalty is most keenly felt. Are not these the times of trial and faint hope?

The statesman who exemplified the stubborn will of a nation standing alone against impossible odds voiced a confidence that subsequent events have made more plausible. “Laws just or unjust may govern men’s actions,” Sir Winston Churchill told an American audience in 1949. “tyrannies may restrain or regulate their words. The machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood and deny them truth for many generations of time. But the soul of man thus held in trance or frozen in a long night can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where, and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trial for its life. People in bondage need never despair.”

Many spectacular headlines are created by men who suppress freedom, embrace selfish goals, and exalt brute strength – those whose loyalty, such as it is, remains in the cave-man stage. Their narrow causes, gnawing at the spirit of men, are still taking their toll, but the human spirit springs back if it is nurtured and inspired by steadfast loyalty. Rotary’s appeal has been to the loyalty of men – to the selfless spirit reaching out to the same spirit in other men. Patriotism, conciliation, freedom, progress, justice, and sacrifice – each of these represents a counsel of perfection which is hard to achieve, but Rotarians possess a deep feeling of loyalty to a world fellowship which links them with all people. Theirs is an expansive loyalty, but grounded well on foundations which have withstood the tides and currents of their communities.

Loyalty belongs to what has been called the “unyielding frontier” of the human spirit, which will not submit to laboratory or test-tube. Scientists can shrink the world to one geographic neighborhood, but they cannot make the neighbors like or respect one another. They can neither isolate nor create motives which can be applied automatically to produce respect and service in an interdependent world. Research geniuses are more likely to produce life than to create love. The last word belongs to the spirit.

A scientist, however, speaking to a Rotary International convention, sketched a passage out of the Valley of Imminent Destruction – a passage which can demonstrate how a blending of the path of progress and the path of loyalty could lead to peace. Dr. Donald H. Andrews, a chemist, told the Rotarians and their families:

The same experiments which have given us atomic energy are giving us … atomic vision. We are looking inside the atom and we are seeing that the atom is more than matter. If you want it in a word, we are seeing that the atom is music. And it is because of this new vision, the fact that science points to something beyond the material, we can find hope for the future, hope that we can at last build this great, new, wonderful world of peace and abundant living for everyone…

What is this mysterious force within each of us that dominates and controls this vast flux of atoms that goes through us in every moment of our living? Science today asserts that the quantity which stays constant under transformation has the deepest reality.

Here is this life spark, call it spirit or soul, if you like, which somehow within us stays constant and dominates this vast change, that constitutes our living, and there we have the supreme reality. Science says the reality which we know and with which we have contact, the supreme dominant reality, is the human spirit. Now, if we turn to the universe without as well as the universe within, we find the same answer. The stars are made of atoms. Their atoms are singing. The music of the spheres is more than just a poet’s fancy. The stars are singing. And, as we look further out at the nature of time and space, we see again a new answer …

The real power of the universe is not the shattering power of the atom but the power of love, the love that we should have for our fellow human beings, the love which our Creator has for us and which we should have for Him. And in terms of these new visions of science we see hope for bringing in this new world of peace, good will, and abundant living for all mankind. …

Rotarians can provide no instant magic in bringing in this new world, but they are in an enviable position to engage in a “chain reaction” of fellowship and service. One Rotarian – like the process of the exploding atom – can be the catalyst for two; those two can touch off four; four can reach eight – and so on. They can have such faith and vision that their loyalties can ignite others with the same vision.

Rotary has no quick solution to offer a harried world, but Rotarians – individual Rotarians – believe they have widened the crack in the wall of misunderstanding and distrust. With every passing day they hasten its disintegration by a barrage of fellowship and service. They do not toil alone, and they take courage that all men of good will are joined, in spirit, in the universal quest for peace.