Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peer pressure

Because of the nature of Army rank structure, Officers of similar rank often sit together in the DFAC (Dining Facility). Very often groups of Captains or Majors or Lieutenant Colonels will move en masse to or from the Headquarters at meal times.

When I see this, I'm often reminded of the schooling behavior of fish, or the movement of herds of hooved creatures across the plains of the Serengeti.

Lately I found myself wondering that if we refer to "prides" of lions, "gaggles" of geese, and "exaltations" of larks, what might the collective nouns be that would describe the curious movements of my fellow Officers? (I'm especially fond of the notion of an "exaltation" of larks.)

It seems to me that in a discussion of this sort among some of my Jesuit brethren a few years ago, some wag came up with the notion of a "cacophony" of pundits, a "rudeness" of New Yorkers (he being from New York), a "condemnation" of televangelists, and a "condescension" (or was it "conspiracy"?) of Jesuits.

I'm not going to venture a guess as to what the collective nouns might be for groups of Lieutenants, or Captains, or Majors, or Lieutenant Colonels, but it might be fun to try!

As I was considering these various groupings of peers it occurred to me that my Army "peer group" consists of Soldiers who, by and large, are more than 20 years my junior. Many of them are more than young enough to be my children. This is especially true of the Lieutenants I hang out with (there are actually very few of them around where I work, so they often meet up with us Captains).

In conversations amongst ourselves, it's clear that we're very different in terms of just about everything but rank. While my fellow Captains have been in the Army probably four to six years longer than I have, I've been a Jesuit for 30 years. More often than not, I wind up feeling more avuncular than fraternal when I'm with them. (It's probably only a matter of time before they lock me in the attic, which is what happens to the crazy uncle in a 'respectable' family.)

I'm nearer in age to, but older than most of the field-grade Officers (and above) around here, with the exception of some of the medical personnel and a very few others. Though I am much closer in age to these Soldiers, there are only two of them (both a couple of years younger, but two pay grades above me) who speak to me more or less as a 52-year-old.

Because of the rank structure of the Army I almost never have "peer" conversations with people my own age.

This fact struck me as very odd today, for some reason. Not bad, mind you. Just odd. Another thing to chalk up to the Toto-I-don't-think-we're-in-Kansas-anymore nature of having joined the Army in my dotage, I guess!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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