You Can Be an Elk
I go to breakfast at the Elks Club on S. Magnolia today and figure I fit in pretty well till I hear an Elkette say, "Well, I see not everybody's an Elk here this morning." What is an Elk, by which I mean not the large hooved land mammal common to North America and Eastern Asia but the man who belongs to a local chapter of that redoubtable fraternal order, just as Elkettes are, according to the web site, “determined and dedicated women” who participate “in the general welfare of their community and their Elks Lodge in reaching goals not otherwise obtainable.” I could be all the things I’ve never been: soldier, athlete, skydiver, Jane Austen heroine. It would just be a matter of completing boot camp, discovering a sport I’m good at, having someone shove me out of an airplane since there’s no way I’d do it myself, and learning to do needlework and play the pianoforte, which can’t be that hard since I can already sew a button on a pair of shorts and strum a guitar. Earlier this week I was reading John Dewey at McDonald’s and took a break to talk to a crossing guard who told me that little kids want to be good but don’t pay attention (“well, half of them don’t”), although he can see them take the world in bit by bit and process it and change their behavior, sometimes in ways he hardly expects. The great philosopher had just said the same thing this way: “As with the advance of an army, all gains from what has been already effected are periodically consolidated, and always with a view to what is to be done next.” That’s the secret to reaching goals not otherwise obtainable, isn’t it? Gradual degrees. I’m pretty sure I was the only one reading John Dewey at that McDonald’s, but, yeah, there are philosophers everywhere, and I've never met a single one who wasn't willing to share his philosophy; all you have to do is give them a little head toss and say, "What's your job like?" Not everybody’s an Elk. But you could be an Elk if you wanted to be—okay, not the animal.