Joining Groups: It is good to join things…as long as they are linked to a constructive purpose.

I have always been very cautious about joining 'things'. The problem I have with joining things is that groups want you on their agenda and want you to agree with their philosophy on any given matter. Although I recognize the importance of becoming a part of groups can enhance life's experience in many ways I am always careful to align with anything that has a philosophy which forces you to either accept it or leave the group. It is all about maintaining my own mind about things and to be able to draw my own conclusions based on a universal understanding of issues. 

So, what groups are really worth joining? What kind of groups is it good to be a part of and what kind of groups are less than desirable.

I have joined several things in my life. I was in the Royal Ambassadors at church, the Cub Scouts and then the Boy Scouts. I was on the junior high football team. In high school I didn't join anything much. The Beta Club, the Pep Club (everyone was in it) The Physics Un-Club. That is about it.

Not until college did I start to join things. One major shift for me was music. I was a member of 4 choirs in college, plus I became a member of the Recorder Ensemble. Music is a great thing to be a part of. It seems that when associated with a common constructive activity joining things is a good thing to do, as long as you don't have to subscribe to anyone's way of thinking.

I have never been a part of a social club of any kind, in fact I shy away from groups because I don't really want to become 'one of them' I want to stay myself. Even though I realize that joining social clubs can also do good in the world, it is still just a part of what it is about.

Anything I am a part of must have a constructive purpose and not be involved with influencing the independence of my own thoughts. I will never sacrifice my thought autonomy to any philosophy or movement.

Becoming a part of something larger than myself is a bit scary to be honest. It is one reason why political involvement scares me. You can't become a part of a political organization unless you drink all of, or at least a primarily, their Kool-Aid. You seem to have to "tow the party line."

Religions are the same way. The biggest problem with religions is the fact that there is a tendency to demonize anyone who is outside that religion. The greatest principle of the United States constitution is the idea that people are to be able to practice any religion they want without interference from the government and guarantees protections for religions in society.

While it is important to adopt a set of "Code of Ethics" for life, it is important that they are your own and not dictated to you by a group. It is clear that the "Ten Commandments" are a great guideline for a personal "Code of Ethics" for life. Following these will certainly keep you out of trouble. The laws of the land that enforce common held rules of living in a safe society are also obviously wise decisions to make.

While it is important for us to hold onto such a "Code of Ethics" it is important that we cannot expect anyone else to agree with them. We cannot judge or persecute those who differ from our world view. We must let law and due process of a neutral authority enforce these laws, and not think that we can unilaterally pass judgement on things that other people do. Otherwise we have chaos.

The staunch "Credo" or the "I believe" declarations serve to add rigidity to our thinking. We need to stay flexible of thought and not accept or reject things at face value but look objectively at things as possibly carrying a deeper meaning than what is on the face of it. By barricading ourselves within a doctrine we allow our minds to shrink into a small world of reality and then the world becomes black and white, us and them, good or bad, win and lose.

I am more or less weighing the possibility of starting a 'group', or 'membership'. The purpose of the membership is to help independent musicians stay musicians. So, there is no philosophy attached to it, and everyone is free to come and go as they please without fear of any kind of judgement. To me, such an alliance makes sense to be a part of because it is about a cause that guarantees the independence of the members. However, there is a danger that the group get hijacked by certain members who start having cliques form and divide the mission from within. This is the danger of any group that is formed.

Right now I am at a point in my life where I want to become a part of something bigger than myself and be able to help serve others in a real way. Deciding what that is, is a big challenge. I am so fearful of becoming pigeonholed as a person because I become a member of something.

At the end of the day what is important is that I decide what I want my life to be about and then join things that are aligned with that vision for myself and that the groups have a constructive and real purpose and isn't just massaging my social needs or need for recognition.

Groups tend to want to use terms like "family", "team", "become one of us", and I get what they are trying to do is make people feel welcomed into their community. But, there is a small element of consuming you into their mentality, like joining a church or religious organization, where you are basically subscribing to the entire theology and are assumed to be 100% on board with it all. I realize it is about building trust with them so they "know" who you are. But, for some reason I am resistant to the idea that I sell myself out to the whole thing and am good with that. I'm not. That isn't the group's fault, it is my own issue, but that is who I am.

However, what I do join I think it is important to be a 'member in good standing' with the group. In other words, it is important to take an active part involving myself in the groups mission without having it take over my life. It is a part of my life but not my whole life.

If I start my own group it must also allow the same freedoms. I will have to be more involved with that than the members and I cannot start it and then quit. I can't be inconsistent with something that requires consistency in others.

In the end it comes down to commitment and permanence. While we can never say "forever" 100% about anything really, there is an obligation to ourselves to do what we say we are going to do and follow it through. The area of commitment is something that has always been a real challenge to me because it feels like selling your soul to something and not ever being able to get out of it. Commitment feels a bit like prison to be honest so it is vital to me that the things I commit to have a built in freedom clause in it.

It is natural that we want those around us to think the same way about things as we do but as I think Patton said, "If we are all thinking the same, we are not thinking." This is of course not only difficult for me to allow, but for everyone, but it should be at the heart of a group I am a part of. It is 'un-American' to do it any other way.

"J'ai seul les clefs, de cette parade, sauvage." "I alone have the key of this savage parade." Artur Rimbaud. One of the most powerful statements I have ever heard and is the height of arrogance. Anyone who claims this is an imposter. I don't want to be that. It is my goal in life to be open and thoughtful and not rigid and self - righteous, no matter how right I may think I am.