34. Phi Beta Delta: Red of the Incas

We think Phi Beta Delta has unusually beautiful colors, red and golden yellow. Red to us in the society is fire, the feelings of the heart, the blood that flows through all humankind. In the Inca Empire, there was an exceptional system of rapid communication, when from post to post runners would relay messages that used the Inca system of knots on cords, called quipus. Every knot and color meant something different. The red represented the Inca Emperor himself, along with life and power. A cord tied with the right red knots at the top would mean a great battle.

The Incas used several shades of red. Some came from the brazil tree, others form the annatto plant, and then there was the extremely special red ruby shade from the cochineal, an insect. Red is a magnificent color and when we see it in the sunrise and the sunset, we are minded of its universality -- it literally orbits our earth.

These days Phi Beta Delta members use the Internet rather than cords, and our bright reds come from paint boxes rather than beetles. But the red color adopted by our society carries just as important a message as that of those Inca runners, of the universality of scholarship and learning, and of the significance of the commonality we all share as citizens of one world.

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