Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross
By Lynn TerryFrom the May 1958 issue of The Torch, paraphrased by Marilyn Ross
"Four men met at a business luncheon, and in the course of their conversation one mentioned, as a truism, that among people generally, material values were gaining ground and spiritual values declining. Economic problems, the shadow of war, the atom bomb, all the anxieties of modern life appeared to be seeking answers only in the material realm. Yet the courage and the wisdom to solve such problems can come only from the individual, and his courage and wisdom, in turn, come from his personal credo. Seldom had there been a time when an inventory of one's personal beliefs and sense of values seemed to be more needed.
These four men decided to do something about it. They planned to have a chosen number of men and women express their personal philosophy, tell what they deemed important, and give personal rules they used for living, in a daily radio program.
One of the men at the luncheon was Edward R. Murrow, who agreed to introduce the guests. Within three years the movement had expanded to 196 radio stations, broadcasting 2,200 times a week and reaching an estimated 39,000,000 people. It was broadcast 900 times weekly on 150 stations abroad, and over the Voice of America in six languages. It was published millions of times as a newspaper feature, and in book form it was widely sold and used in classrooms.
It was called "This I Believe."
Every Beta Sigma Phi will recognize the analogy of this story of the birth and growth of an idea and an ideal. For such an ideal began for us with the formation of our first chapter in 1931.
The men and women who stated their credos in "This I Believe" were from all walks of life, but each successful in his or her adjustment to life and living. They knew that the most important job any person has to do is to run his own life. And his life--his whole life, that which truly constitutes him--is based on his beliefs.
Beliefs change importantly over the years. They grow as we grow, regress if we regress. They constitute our strength and our weakness. They give us courage to live--or to die if necessary--for things worthwhile. Above all, they help us answer the practical daily question, "How can I help myself to a fuller, happier and more useful life?"
Beta Sigma Phi programs are all aimed at answering this question. They help the member to know herself and be "true" to herself. They focus on the individual and the development of individuality. In the foreword to the introductory program for pledges, Invitation to Life, we are told, "Your sole contribution to the sum of things is yourself." Your ideals are your life portrait seen in advance.
The first program book of the Ritual of Jewels cycle dealt with self-improvement--behavior and conduct, expression and communication, and with purpose--the ideals and plus values of life. We studied the rules and found the reason for the rules of good conduct to be none other than the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would others should do unto you."
Life proceeds by patterns, by designs. As our next step we chose to examine, and embrace, the great aesthetic formula of all the arts and of philosophy--the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Now, indeed, we were embarked on a glorious adventure!
The Good, the True and the Beautiful had served as an ideal for the masterpieces of music, sculpture, painting and all the arts, and would unquestionably serve as an ideal to create the masterpiece of life. It would, in fact, create as an art the art of life. In this definition and in the realization of this definition the principal ideal of Beta Sigma Phi came of age, and formed for all time a firm and forward design.
As wide as the world, as high as the heaven, as deep as the deepest desire of the heart spread the scope of ways and means by which to progress to a better life. To make an art of life! Ah, there's the challenge.
In Paths to Loveliness we examine masterpieces of art. We try our hands at each as amateurs, with the only equipment the true amateur needs--a bit of love. Here we find new principles to apply--the principles of elimination, simplification, and selection. We learn that treasures, sought in works of art, lie only in us, in our loving effort, our seeking to know and our enjoyment of the book, the canvas, or the musical harmonies. The artist becomes our friend and his art a contribution to our life and to the art of living.
From such foundation, what more natural a sequel than Happiness? Our faith has grown to where it can affirm and ask for happiness.
Lauritz Melchior, one of the great dramatic tenors of the 20th century, had an approach to life as hearty and ebullient as his approach to singing. Noted for his cooking, his helping the blind, his collecting of art objects, and his enjoyment of nature, he was an artist not only in music but in living.
He said, "I believe that a human being can do a lot himself to shape his life. As an artist, my first belief must be in myself. Talent in a person is a touch of God's finger, yet any artist must work hard to grow into his art, going slowly, acquiring all possible knowledge going with it."
So we, more than ever aware that we must keep growing into our art, become Exemplars. We sharpen and re-sharpen our tools for the art of life. Our "words, deeds, thoughts" must help us lay hold of the substance of things hoped for--the Good, the True, the Beautiful. We examine our motto, Life, Learning, Friendship. Then we take a long look at the Festival of life and make for ourselves a reappraisal of our own conscience as Written in Our Hearts.
Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." By examination we discover our good and our own potential for good. Our belief grows. We come to the faith that the power of good within us is real and comes there from a source outside and beyond ourselves. We work to translate that good into life.
The troubled world in which we live need not dismay us. General Lucius D. Clay, who supervised the gigantic World War II air-lift operation into Berlin, cited an incident in support of the decency and honesty of the individual man. He said, "In the middle of the war against Hitler, if someone had told me I would some day be standing in the heart of Berlin before several hundred thousand citizens demonstrating their desire to be free, I would have said that person was crazy. Yet that very thing happened to me when I returned to the former German capital with the Freedom Bell. If they believed in tyranny a few years before, they believed in it no longer."
And without the belief of men to support it, tyranny cannot prevail. The force of an idea is the force of the people who support it. Here then lies the value of the old, old verities . . . and the importance of the individual belief.
"Man must be arched and buttressed from within, else the temple wavers to the dust," wrote Marcus Aurelius hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And earlier than that Jesus said, repeatedly, "Fear not; believe only."
Belief in the Good, the True and the Beautiful leads to an ever firmer faith in the highest of all man's ideals, his religion. Plato says, "If there exists a good and wise God, then there exists a progress of man toward perfection."
In times of crises, people tend to lose faith in the future. The great thing to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward. And the greatest privilege and most natural duty of the individual is to exercise to the utmost his ability to believe, to have faith in himself, his fellow man, and in his God . . . to make of his life a ladder to the heights."