Joining the Club
by Jake Block
“I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”
― Groucho Marx
This somewhat humorous quote was attributed to the late comedian, Groucho Marx, when he resigned from the New York Friar’s Club. His resignation came when he realized that the Friar’s Club was not what he had been led to believe it to be. While he had no problem with the the club’s social nature, which was often just drinking and dining together, he valued his time professionally and personally, and wanted more substance for the time and effort he was willing to contribute.
I can totally relate to Mr. Marx’s resignation, and the reasons for it. I also think that I would resign from a club that would accept just anyone as a member. If a club or an organization simply rubber stamps a big “OK” on applications for membership, with no consideration of an individual’s appropriateness for inclusion, it indicates that the organization has either lost its focus, or has become more interested in numbers than substance.
Few people these days know that Groucho Marx wasn’t just a comedian or a film star, but an intelligent and self educated man, a voracious reader and self described student of the world. He wrote several books and became friends with some of the era’s greatest writers, notably Booth Tarkington, T.S. Eliot and Carl Sandberg. Professionally, he was a comedian, and it sometimes irritated him that he had to deal with people who “thought they were funny,” when in actuality, they were just “inappropriate.”
One of the main reasons that Marx resigned from the Friar’s club was that he had hoped he could contribute to the group with his knowledge of the business side of comedy and he was interested in speaking to others about cultural trends, economics, and the human condition. He was able to separate his humor, which was his business, from his desire to mentor, which was his passion, but despite his stature and his passion, his inclusion in a group of already successful and professional people left him little room to excel. He bridled at the thought of just being just another “Friar.”
So, I could understand Groucho’s personal dilemma. A creative individual is most often a solitary individual, even in a group. When that group becomes a herd, rather than a cohesive force, creativity and leadership is stifled. It was important to him that whatever he did had personal meaning and satisfaction. He said, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet, I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
It’s hard to find those kinds of people today! The Internet has provided a smorgasbord of “clubs” for people to join, all for the cost of a click of their mouse. They don’t have to know anything about anything, they don’t have to participate, and they don’t. I’ve lost count of the number of people who make their way to The Sect of the Horned God’s “like” page, “knocking on the door.” I check the pages of each one that I see, and am no longer even the least bit surprised when I see that there is either nothing there, or they have damned little knowledge or understanding of the concept of the Left Hand Path.
Joining things seems to be another version of Pokemon cards for many people… a fad… something to do. The proof of this is in the number of people who “belong” to any number of these websites. I have seen some people who “belong” to over a hundred websites. Thousands may “join” the website, but perhaps no more than ten people are active at any given time, and of those ten, probably five do nothing but post tired old memes, as if they are meaningful commentaries. Two or three others might add some comment of sorts, and don’t care enough to at at least check their spelling or sentence structure. They don’t care if their poor writing makes their message unreadable or if, on a personal level, makes them look illiterate. If they don’t care, why should anyone care what they have to say? The point is that they “belong.” Most people will endure humiliation, disrespect, and even pity, just to belong. So, “they join” and then try to justify being that square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Their reasoning seldom works.
I couldn’t justify being a part of a herd, even if it was a means to an end, and NEVER just to say “I belong.” In the 1950’s Jackie Gleason and Art Carney starred in a TV program called “The Honeymooners,” in which they portrayed a bus driver and a sewer worker with nothing much going for them in their lives, but they joined “The Raccoon Lodge” with its silly costumes and sillier uniforms to belong with other men, like themselves. They took it seriously, because it gave them an identity in a world in which they were dispensable and therefore invisible… but they belonged. All hail the Loyal Order of Raccoons.