I have a group of friends that have been close since high school. As we’ve all settled down, gotten married and had kids, we’ve had fewer opportunities to get together. We used to spend an inordinate amount of time together, many of us taking turns as roommates through and after college. We went through phases when we went bowling once a week, that evolved into a weekly poker game and gradually faded away. I had them over to my house for my son’s birthday party. It seems to be that weddings, funerals and children’s birthday parties are the only times we hang out. At the party we set up a poker game for this past Friday. We saw it through and I’m so glad we did. It was a blast.
I’ve given up Myspace for Lent and I have yet to create a Facebook account. I have no intention of doing so anytime soon. I even quit the bar band that I’ve been playing in for the past year and a half. I’ve discovered in the flux of this that a fundamental need for a gentleman is a social capital. Back in the day, when you could conceivably call someone that wasn’t home and not establish contact with them, men needed social organization. They needed regular meetings of their social clubs, poker or bowling games, and various leagues, committees and unions.
Sunday afternoon, I marched with my division of the A.O.H. in the Allentown St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A.O.H. stands for the Ancient Order of Hibernians. An Irish Catholic organization created in 1836 to aid new Irish Immigrants in the United States with integration. It’s a lot like the Lyons, Elks, Knights of Columbus, etc. Most of these groups are populated by older gentleman. Retired guys in need of social interaction, a charitable outlet and a touchstone of cultural pride. I typically avoid the meetings due to all the bickering and arguing. But the events and functions are a lot of fun. Old Irish guys getting drunk, telling fantastic stories and sharing social capitol. Above all, they are true gentleman. They don’t swear or swindle. They give of themselves and they adhere to the old school ways as though they’re called to it by duty.
Perhaps social networking web sites are the modern replacement of these organizations. I for one think that they’re missing a few essential elements. Their a fine way to communicate with people. A more than fair trade off for phones without caller ID or voicemail. But you really should be with people. More than that, you should belong to something. Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone that covers the changing social landscape of America. I have not read it yet, but it’s on my radar. He’s also written a book in hopes of starting a movement to rekindle this part of us called Better Together.
Even if you have to start one yourself, join a group or organization. Make a point of regular attendance or events. And garner a little honest, American, hand to hand social capitol. These times are calling for it. Break away from the “Me” generation that has created things like blogging and twittering about yourself. The real way to look and act like our grandfathers is to build a society like the one they belonged to. With bowling and softball leagues, regular poker games, beef & beer dinners and the local social hall, family picnics, hunting & fishing trips, guys with nicknames, and vegetable gardens that create enough green peppers for all the guys in the club.