Archive for May, 2012

Memorial Day

– Topher Endress

As today is Memorial Day, I thought it would be pertinent to write a post about the Armed Service members of our country.  Naturally, this is a bit of a dicey issue, as so many of the men I am writing to are on track to be highly involved with the military throughout the rest of their lives.  Add in the fact that half of my friends think I’m a bleeding-heart liberal (while ironically, the other half think I’m a conservative nut-job), and this post suddenly becomes a potential firestorm of misunderstood words and angry backlash.  Luckily, I think my point in this post will be accepted by both bleeding-hearts and nut-jobs alike.

So, typically on Memorial Day, I’m told by a variety of pundits through my t.v. that I should be honoring our current and former military.  And I do know several people currently serving overseas (including the ‘hot zones,’ if you will), and several who did see combat (including family members), so at first it seems like a no brainer.  But this weekend, I got to thinking, “Is honoring our military valid if you do not support military efforts?  Should you in good conscious honor someone who is dedicated to doing work that you do not necessarily affirm?”  Not to say that I personally stand against our military, but many in the country question much, if not all, of our policies.   Are they truly participating in Memorial Day?  Should they be participating?  Would honoring current soldiers violate their personal beliefs and make them liars?

As I’ve thought about how to approach the holiday, I’ve come to a conclusion – the characteristics held as ideals by our armed services are by-in-large worthy of anyone’s honor, regardless of political beliefs, personal beliefs or affiliation.  These characteristics are being made manifest by those who are serving and are still present in those who have served in the past.  Ideals like bravery and self-sacrifice are incredibly powerful and should  not be lightly discarded.  However, one could not simply say that the military itself deserves the laudations of every citizen, regardless of the necessary role it plays in fostering these positive characteristics.  The military is a collection of individuals, and I do not believe that I could possibly honor a mere system, especially considering that I do not believe most people (myself included) can give a blanket affirmation of any given system that is so large and plays so many roles.  It is infeasible to assume that most Americans support every single action taken by the Armed Services, but it is my personal belief that Memorial Day should be recognized to honor every single person with the Armed Services.

Memorial Day reminds us not to honor a system or a series of numbers.  Don’t spend today paying homage to the 416,800 servicemen who died in WW2, or the 1.3 million on active duty.  Spend today instead recognizing that each of our branches and each of those giant numbers are filled with people.  Regardless of your personal thoughts on our military strategy, if we can affirm the inherent worth of each person then we can also recognize the incredible sacrifice and hardship placed on each of those 1.3 million.  I don’t need to support every war to support every soldier.  I don’t need to love the system to love the sacrifice.  And don’t assume that supporting the military equates to honoring the people within it.  Today, put aside any political cares.  Drop the liberalism, drop the conservatism.  Forget party lines.  These are men and women.  Remember that each of them is a person and that they have worth.  They are working actively within their belief that what they do makes the world a better place.  I don’t care who you vote for, that’s worth honoring.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone.  And thank you to all of you willing to sacrifice so much for what you believe in.


70 Day Challenge from Nalu!

– Nalu Camanse

This is not so much a blog as it is a personal challenge that I am pushing towards all of you who are reading this.  For the next 10 weeks as many of you know, I will be back at home in the great state of Hawaii.  That’s 70 days, 24 hours, 100,800 minutes, and 6,048,000 seconds of my life on an island.  Yes, yes I know many of you feel so bad for me.  This though for me was a very tough choice to make given the factors that are currently coming at me full speed ahead.  For example, real life starts after graduation on December 16, student loans repayments start coming in, and the never ending bills upon bills upon bills start knocking on your door.  All of this requires a great job, in a place that you will hopefully enjoy.  For me that is the west coast, hopefully southern California.  Now I know your sitting there thinking what does any of this have to do with this 70 day challenge?  Well, if I am going to spend my summer in Maui instead of working more directly with my future goals, I know I need to be using my time wisely.  I am challenging myself and all of you to beat the previous day’s achievements every day.  You know what you’ve accomplished and are the sole determinant who knows if you won the next day.  I am  doing it and will be keeping a log of it throughout the summer.  Heck it doesn’t have to just be throughout the summer, this could be something that you integrate into your everyday life.  So, what are you waiting for, get started!  Good Luck!

Hearing versus Experiencing

– Topher Endress

So as I wrote in my first photo gallery on this thing, I spent the week after Finals at a camp in Michigan.  Technically, I was working by running the rides (like the 80 foot giant swing), but I spent most of my time either hanging out with some of the people I knew up there or reflecting by myself.  It was a great time, and I’m really glad I got the chance to unwind for the week.  No matter what my experience was like, though, I won’t be able to bring you fully into it.

I have spent several weeks throughout the last eight years at this camp, and as I walked across the main field or into the dining hall, my memories of time spent as a camper, as a first-time leader/authority figure, as a college student taking a road trip and as a worker all combined to give me an emotional connection to each place at camp.  I remember freaking out in midair during my first blob experience, I remember learning how to kayak in the lake, I remember sitting with a seventh-grader as he cried about his family life outside of the snack shop, I remember trying to encourage someone stuck with fear on the ropes course.  I can’t separate the experiences from the place, and that made this last trip much more meaningful.

However, this isn’t limited to camps.  We’ve all spent years on campus and with our brothers, creating our own memories and experiences.  And while we can explain what has happened to someone else, we can never relive that moment in a way that includes them.  I remember my first experience with Phi Tau – helping a local baseball park open for the spring.  No matter how vividly I might paint that picture, even with the smell of the grass and the feeling of dirt in my hands included, the new brothers who were not there will never be a part of that moment’s brotherhood and service.

I love that camp in Michigan.  But if I want someone else to love my camp, I can’t just tell them about what I did while I was there.  I can’t just show them a picture or two of what the area looks like.  To love it, to know it, they need to be there and participate.  And just like my camp, Phi Tau is something that must be experienced.  The simple act of inviting recruits into something that we truly believe in – be it leadership, service or learning – will allow them to know what Phi Kappa Tau is and will weed out those looking only to party.

Having that service experience as my first Phi Tau event changed many of my opinions on fraternity life.  I feel that I grew quite a bit over the course of that day, not because the work was so incredible but because it was an invitation into the service of this group.  I didn’t care that our colony said they wanted to have a focus on service and philanthropy.  I cared that I actually served.  Resting on the fruit of our past work will attract no one but those who merely want to talk the talk without doing the work.  As we look forward to Fall Rush, let’s remember that actions speak louder than words.  And the invitation to action, to experience, is what will draw in the Men of Character we are searching for.

Pictures from Camp

– Topher Endress

I’m spending senior week at Timber Wolf Lake, MI, where I’m helping the camp up there and relaxing.  It has been an incredible way to spend Senior Week, and I will have a post forthcoming about a major thing I have realized as soon as I write it.  In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures that I already posted to Google+


Very pleased to introduce Former President James Camanse to the blogging world!

– Nalu Camanse

For starters this blog has been a long time coming.  I promised Topher that I would get it to him before he graduated…So in typical Nalu fashion I waited until the absolute last moment to get this blog out.  None-the-less it is not something that I took lightly.  This blog is something that Topher does care about and puts a lot goes into his written compositions.  For that reason, I wanted the one that I wrote to be not just good, but great.  Yeah, that’s pretty cliché but it’s true.

These past few weeks have been the most challenging for me as I continue to work with the present, whilst crafting a very fruitful future.  These thoughts all stem from the simple yet heavily loaded question, “What do you want to do?”  This question also comes in many different forms for example, “What is your dream job”, “What kind of career do you want?”  Either way they all stem from that simple question.  One could even argue that most times, our whole lives stem from that simple question.  Why is it, that, that one question is holds so much weight to it.  Well, I’ve come to a conclusion.  It all stems back to our age old want for money and to be “successful.”  Success too, has a very different definition to many people.  Sometimes it is defined by the amount of money that you have, some define it by how they’ve made a difference in the world, and some people may not even have a definition for it.

That train of thought always seemed to lead me to another train of thoughts.  I then started to ask myself why we came to college?  That answer also became pretty apparent.  We came to college to further our education so that we could then get our dream job that made us lots of money and we would then become successful.  That is what you have to do to become successful so you will do it.  You could also call going to college to get your “dream job” as being the social norm or the status quo.

As Topher normally does, you’re probably wondering how I am planning on tying this into Phi Tau.  Phi Tau fits into this by way of support.  I, along with everyone else that calls themselves a member of Lambda is here to support you 100% in whatever endeavor that you plan to partake in.  As long as you know what your definition of success is and that you are doing it for the right reasons that hold true to yourself.  If that means you are ecstatic going through college and getting a job then so be it and I am going to be there for you no matter what.  Or if it means that you are going to go through college, graduate, and then go back again for another degree that suits you better, so be it as well, I will still be there to support you in whatever you chose to do.  I will say this as my final words for the blog, define “it”.  If you have not defined what success is in your eyes, do it now.  Define what success is, and know that we are behind you!

Question/Answer #3

– Topher Endress

So Nalu asked me this question several weeks ago, but I just now got around to writing an answer.

Question: What would you do with time?

Answer:  When I was first asked this question, I answered it too quickly.  My first thought was something that I had thought about several times before – I would not want to go to jail, but it would be great to get away from all the distractions of normal life.  In prison, you get meals with no prep work, laundry taken care of, an interesting group of people to meet and a ton of free time to both read and work out.  In my mind, while it would still be a horrible time, I feel like I could use it to focus on getting in shape and spending a ton of time reading and learning.  So naturally, I thought that with time, I would do those two things predominately.  However, I wrote earlier about answering a good question too quickly, so I rethought about it and decided I was wrong.

I have a passion for listening to and experiencing music.  I say experiencing because my favorite music all has purpose to it – which is fun for me to search for.  However, unlike my buddy Tate (who played at our Frisbee Golf Event), I am not the next John Mayer.  I don’t know how to play any good instruments (I have a passing knowledge of piano and saxophone, but don’t expect to see me in a jazz club).  I don’t know how to write music.  I can woo  the ladies with my looks just like any good musician, but that’s just one part of the trifecta.  However, would I like to be great at creating music?  Yes.  Yes, I would.

While a good chunk of being a good musician is natural talent, being talented doesn’t mean anything without hard work.  And while I can’t control how much talent I have, I can control the effort I give.  Which is why, I realized, that I wouldn’t limit myself to exercise and reading if I had a ton of time.  I would want to work towards something and give myself a goal.  Music is a fluid, moving target, but there are milestones that I could conceivably get to – an album, perhaps.  If I had unlimited time, I would make an excellent album that I could be proud of.

Of course, it is a bit presumptuous to claim a goal that I am not working towards.  So, I am going to commit to learning how to play the guitar this summer.  I feel like if you would work towards a goal with unlimited time, it is only logical to find a way to work towards it now.  This question unearthed a passion in me that deserves some work now, and it is up to me to find the time to contribute to it.

So that is my answer to Nalu’s question.  But each of you should take the time out to find what you would want to do with unlimited time.  Maybe once you have something in mind, you should find a way to implement a plan for it in your life.