Friday, December 28, 2007

Chris Hodapp Needs Our Prayers

Many men talk of change or talk of writing or talk about doing this or that and Brother Chris Hodapp has been a big part of the progressive Masonic landscape. He has worked in building Lodge Vitruvian, traveled and written of his experiences for Masons and for the uninformed providing a nice balanced approach, he does lots of speaking engagements and otherwise motivates members of the Craft.

Now he has found himself in need of our thought and prayers. Brother Chris is hospitalized with his lungs filling with fluid and a growth found behind his thyroid.

Please keep him in your thoughts.

You can likely find updates to his condition at:

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Real Treasure

He was an old man by most standards and few would feel comfortable in a debate of historical fact, as it seemed that he had personally witnessed most that had occurred. He was a presence to say the least. Tall and thin as the years had withered away at the once opposing man, but it was clear he should not be approached with an attitude of arrogance or a lack of respect.

He seemed in a perpetual state of grumpiness. Not because of his demeanor, few actually had the courage to approach the man long enough to get a true read on his demeanor. It was the eternal frown that his weathered face now wore as the wrinkles around his mouth and eyes made his eyes appear half closed and his mouth downturned. It was not his true expression, if one had the courage to peer deep into his eyes there was fire, spirit, and passion—time had little effect on this spirit of the man. If anything, it had grown from what was a spark of soul to a full on explosion of wisdom, thought, understanding, and experience. If Masonry , in deed, had a hidden treasure, this was it. More valuable that any paltry pile of gold and silver. This was the kind of treasure that possessed the value that would be weighed when a man faced Peter at the Gate.

Call it courage, I call it Scotch. Anyway, if one had enough of it to decide that the mystery was too much and struck up conversation with this pillar of the southeast, this man who never missed a meeting, what could he learn? What had this man learned that we could learn from him?
· Life is short, find a job that makes you happy and do it well.
· Spend as much time with your family as you possibly can. They will pass away into that next existence and your memory of them will hardly be sufficient to fill the void that the richness of their personality and loving spirit filled in your life.
· Don’t fear death, fear your own cowardice. You can live a long life if you do what is right regardless of fear, but you will do little if fear guides your intentions.
· Regardless of what you call it, sitting on your arse all day, does make you lazy. The worst thing about laziness it that it effects the mind and most lazy people are ignorant. It is okay to confront ignorant people. Someone needs to.
· Seeing a newborn child that is yours is the closest you get to God.
· Swearing makes you sound like an idiot sometimes, sometimes it is the most effective way to communicate, in a swift manner, your intentions.
· Speak well of those who need a boost, don’t waste your energy speaking ill of those who deserve it. Their actions speak for themselves and allowing them to show their true colors does not reflect poorly upon you like speaking ill frequently does.
· There are paradoxes and it will only give you a headache trying to resolve all of them.
· Make love a lot. You will miss it.

What is the relevance of Masonry? A young man sitting at a local eatery, drink in hand, speaking with a man he would never have met otherwise and being changed by someone who has the ability to change you if you have the courage to listen and remembering, with pride, that this man considers you an equal, a brother, and the cornerstone of the next generation.

---The Relevant Mason……who still has much to learn, experience, and embrace..........

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Father is My Brother

I sat in lodge yesterday for my good friend’s installation as Master of his lodge. I have been to more than one installation, and although I normally enjoy the process for what it is, I had no idea, walking into the lodge room that day, that I would be reminded at a deep and spiritual level of the profundity of Masonry in a man’s life.

The installation had gone well. No hiccups as is the standard it seems. It was following nicely, moving along at a nice clip and I was looking forward to the fellowship at the formal dinner that would follow.

My Brother took the podium in the East and began to speak. His voice quickly choked as he began to tell his story about how he came to Masonry. A little background here will prove necessary for the uninformed. My Brother was adopted at as an infant. He found his biological father in 2003 and this is where his story begins.

He sat across from a man in a small café, far from his home in Colorado, yet he felt altogether at peace and at awe as he stared into familiar eyes. The glow that emits from my friends eyes is unique. It has a glimmer of love, passion, fire, and determination each separately but all at once.

To hear my friend tell it, he will say that the gaze of the man he looked at felt familiar. He could feel a tie that years of separation could not break. As a man who knows them both, I can describe that look and I knew, probably better than my friend what he meant, because I had just seen that same flame flickering behind the eyes of his father when I had just been introduced to him.

The conversation with his already familiar, but newly discovered, father in that little café turned to Masonry of all things.

My friend’s father had missed a lifetime of experiences with his dear son. First words, first steps, first loves were all a distant memories for my friend and they would never be known by this man who was his father. There was of course a desire to express, to share, to understand one another. I believe there was love, a synergistic connection, that was immediately understood and this is why this desire for shared experience was fostered.

So, the father, this man, this person who wanted to impart not just those things that occur genetically, but he wanted to imbibe those values, morals, and truths that he held dear. How should he accomplish these ideas, these principles in such a way as to say, “Long lost son, these are the things I value.” He told his son that he was Freemason and his son, my friend, shortly followed suit.

So there he stood in the East having made two journeys that have changed him forever. One to the rough and rugged lands of Montana to stare back at his own eyes and meet a man that would be his father, the other from darkness to light to arrive as Master of a Lodge.

His voice chocked, his eyes glassed with tears he said, “I want to say thank you.” There upon the steps of his lodge, he beheld his friend, his father, and his Brother and he continued, “..for many things, mostly for Freemasonry.”

It appears that a father and son both understood the message. They had found one another and both had received some light.

Monday, December 3, 2007

No Strings Attached

I drove past a medium sized local church the other day. King Solomon’s Baptist church (no relation for the Brothers who just gave a smile). They have one those standard church signs that have the name of the church on it and the replaceable letters below the name so that they can post kindly messages or church special services times and the like. Nothing extraordinary about it, quite to the contrary, it was quite ordinary. But, because of the King Solomon reference, I found myself reading the inspirational message illuminated upon it at the present time. It read, “True love has no strings attached.”

It seems on its face a reasonable and inspirational enough message and is likely intended to remind us that G-d’s love “has no strings attached” and because of this, you should strive for such a lofty goal.

As I whizzed by in my present mode of transportation, I initially thought that it was nice enough little message. Then, as is normally the case when I get into trouble, I got down to thinking. And I concluded the message is bunk, bologna, hogwash, fallacy, false, etc….

Let’s try, at first, for the sake of argument to define “true love.” This, in and of itself, would allow for much philosophical debate, which is not the intent of this particular espousal and would not be a judicious use of words. For the purposes of this particular address I will use the definition I believe was intended by the drafters of this wonderfully disguised little falsehood.

For the purposes of this discussion the definition of true love is: Loving someone or something the way G-d loves us.

Allow yourself to examine that love. Does it come with “no strings attached” as this message would indicate? No, you bet it doesn’t. There is a major tome called the Bible for the Judaic or Christian faiths teeming with strings. You might say that the strings allow us an avenue to express faith as an action and not sit back on our duffs doing nothing. In short, regardless of your current religious affiliation it is likely you are charged within your holy book or writings with:

String 1—Doing good. Doing unto others as you would like done unto you. This is also taught in the Christian faith in Biblical versus that reference doing things like picking up your cross to follow Jesus and the like. The Christian dogma is a moral dogma and requires allowing the “Christ within” to be the rule of guide of your conduct. This is a major string. [Side note: for those claiming G-d still loves you in spite of these. No, he sends you to hell for not following these and that is not love folks.]

String 2—Having faith in G-d and/or his representatives on earth. [Again a lack of faith equals damnation]

String 3—Valuing the proper things in life and in people. Most holy books speak to the inner part of our being and not the outward appearance being the important part of mankind. [Harder for a rich man to get into heaven…you know the rest]

String 4—More important than faith is not misplacing your faith in things such as worldly goods or riches.

String 5—Following the dictates and precepts of the particular religion, the 10 commandments for instance.

Now, the Evangelicals will be up in arms at this point screaming that it is through grace alone and no such strings our attached. I say your Evangelical actions speak louder than your words. This particular group heaps a few more strings upon its devotees in the form of its orthodoxy which it claims not to have. We will call these E-strings:

E-string 1—You need to believe the Bible is inerrant.

E-string 2—Lots of people go to hell when they don’t believe correctly.

E-string 3—We believe correctly and we are some of the few who do and even other Christian denominations are going straight to the fiery place.

E-string 4—Real Christians come to church, join small groups, and get active.

I guess no strings attached might be true as we have enough here to braid a nice rope.

Now, let’s look at what our own human experiences teach us. Because this is empirical evidence of how we administer love. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not picking on the religions of the world for doing something wrong. I think it is right and proper that love have strings. I am pointing to these contradictions to the original statement as evidence that love does, and maybe should, have strings attached.

Marriage, hopefully unions between to people that have found true love, right? So what do we do to seal the deal when we have found this true love? We bind ourselves under a marriage obligation. We give an oath to be faithful and true to one another. We agree to abstain from sex with others and to be honest with one another. We stand before a judge, priest, pastor, or whatever, and take an oath and attach a bunch of strings.

Love should have its limits. When it does not, a bunch of people believing that questioning love and using reason and logic are bad, take a bunch of grape Kool Aid and never wake up. Heck, if there was just one little string attached, like “I will never ask you to harm yourself for me” the tragedies of Jones Town and Heavens Gate would never have occurred.

Those who have managed to this point without being enraged in religious fervor may well be asking themselves what all this has to do with Masonry. Recognizing the value of an obligation as a vital and critical part of true and brotherly love is what Masonry has to do with this.

The light of Masonry provides, in allegorical format, a vivid picture of the importance of a man’s Word. It is recognizing that a man can keep his word that he is brought into the fold of the Craft and loved like a Brother.

An essential aspect of true love is the obligation. The obligation we make to our G-d in following the precepts of our religion. The obligation we make to our spouse to be good and true to them. The obligation we make to our children in rising to the challenge of raising them and sacrificing for them. The obligation we make to ourselves to do the right thing even when no one is looking because we have learned to love ourselves. The obligation we make to our Brothers at the altar of the Craft.

True love is honorable because you have honored the obligation of it, because it is hard work sometimes, because we rise to the occasion to honor our obligations in it; true love has strings attached.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Warrior Poet

Remember a time when men could dance the tango, quote Shakespeare, hold a door for a lady, but hold his own in a fight? Me neither. I am a Gen X’r, the generation of fatherless sons who learned who have mixed ideas about manhood being either that a man who wears pinks Polo shirts and cries at lots of movies or some hypermachismo blockhead who goes through life kicking and punching.

So in comes the lost art of Masonry. Chisel and maul in hand, the speculative Craft seeks to hone men from the rough stone of youth, uncertainty, and intolerance.

Masonry raises warrior poets. A man that can hug a his brother, pray with a widow, and wield a sword. The man who received little in the way of training in discourse, is taught to stand up in lodge, provide a detailed plan, and make a motion for an idea that he believes could benefit the lodge and his brothers. He practices rhetoric in explaining the logical progression of his theory, he practices logic in refining his theory when presented with obstacles that prove correct and help to improve the idea. He moves through the chairs and one day wields the gavel of authority and, in doing so, he learns the necessity of humility and discretion. He learns the hidden allegorical meaning taught in many holy books when an aspect of All Power is presented as a servant of mankind and his brothers.

The obligations, although improper to discuss in detail, are not the obligations of a weak spine. They teach the necessity for a gentle spirit in carrying for widows and orphans, at the same time recognizing the necessity for action, allowing that we should not strike in anger, providing the whispered message of the necessity to know how to strike being one of the tools of a Mason. We are taught that establishment should be strong and that strength in spirit and that courage in faith, hope, and charity are more powerful wielded by a man of his word, than the sword of metal by a despotic man or government.

We learn to appreciate “art” and recognize the downfalls and pleasures of power as we are faced with the dangers of mob rule, organized orthodoxy, and misguided desires in our Master Mason degree. At the same time, the road is perilous and we are confronted with the need for real courage in the face of physical danger. The need for physical consequences for weakness of spirit in the penalties inflicted upon these unjust and uncaring Fellows of the Craft. We learn that an apology is correct, but that it does not negate the requirement for justice.

We are taught the art of the Warrior Poet my friends. Educate yourselves so that we can educate others, arm a society with a sword of truth and public education against the tyranny of despotism whether material or spiritual.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Secrecy and Faith

There are many different groups, evangelical and fundamentalist Christian groups, conspiracy theorist, self proclaimed moralist all screaming that secrecy is evil and nothing good need remain a secret. Now for the Christian groups claiming such, never mind that the most ancient translations of the Bible provide that Jesus taught his disciples “secrets” and his “secret” teachings such as in Matthew 13, “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.’”

This country was formed because of the secret meetings of likeminded men working together for change to bring freedom to the people from under an oppressive king. The Underground Railroad operated in secret to remove men, women, and children from the bondage of slavery. There are a number of instances throughout history, when clearly; the protections of secrecy are evident. Yet, we have our detractors claiming that nothing “good” need be done in secret.
Here is what they are missing. Secrecy breeds trust and courage. There are many reasons we may love our spouses, but believing we can share anything with them is an important aspect to a healthy relationship. The idea that your closest companion will not share your private moments with anyone else is what allows you to trust them. The idea that we can trust them gives of the courage to share with them. This is the basis of the secrecy of Masonry.

In a world where everyone cannot line up fast enough to share their deepest, darkest moments on television for all to see, when peoples most intimate moments end up as the next video download on the Internet, when you share with a friend and before you leave the room, the information has been text messaged or e-mailed to someone not intended to hear it, Masonry teaches the value of a secret.

When the leaders of the Church claim there should be no secrecy, what they are really claiming is that they fear they would not be able to manipulate information if they did not have access to it. The Earth being round was a secret because the Church locked up the men who professed the hard science behind it. That man can attain inner peace without the intervention of a man in a white robe still needs to be a secret in some circles less you are ostracized in your local church community.

Sometimes we forget how valuable closing our mouths and keeping them that way can be. Listening is often an unintended consequence of maintaining secrecy and, low and behold, we even learn something here and there.

Lastly, trust and courage are the ingredients of faith. There would be no birth of faith without the establishment of secrecy.

The power of the secret is the power of faith.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Lesson of Friendship

I learn daily in Masonry and not from written by-laws or studying Constitutions, but from the simple interactions with my friends and Brothers. We can sometimes, it seems to me and I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, that we miss the simplier lessons in Masonry. The Craft teaches that instruction should occur from mouth to ear. What can this archaic method have to offer? Human interaction folks and in this world of text messages and nuclear blogging there is a lot to be said for the simple and complete lesson of mouth to ear.

How much more does one learn from the man who puts his arm around a friend and communicates his message in a personal way from the heart. Too often mean heartedness is couched as honesty. “If he did not want an honest answer, he should not have asked” is many times an explaination for rude and inciting speech. It is possible to be honest without being hurtful. It is honest to call a man’s decision a poor one without calling the man an idiot.
One on one verbal communication is a flow of energy between two humans that can not and should not be replaced. Fellowship is not negotiable in the arsenal of tools in developing our behaviors and responses. It gives us insight into others and, therefore, through the collective consciousness, insight into ourselves.

I sat with a man tonight, my Brother, we talked of life, ladies, mysticism, good Scotch, and friendship. We shared our experiences at work and at home as we worked upon our ashlars and upon his proficiency and we were richer for it. It was not drab memory work, it was human interaction. It was a sharing of friendship and experiences that create a bond that would be ineffable for those that truly can’t appreciate what Brotherhood means to the Mason.
Masonry teaches the lost art of sitting down across from your friends, from your family, from your Brothers and listening and sharing in their day, in their week, in their happiness, and their pain. Masonry teaches caring, because when you are connected it simply occurs.

When we rush a man through the degrees of the Craft we lose this experience and Masonry is one of the last places we find this. Let us not forget the relevance of the human experience as we type away in front of the luminous screens of our computers or vegetate in front of the tube.
Masonry is relevant, because our Brother’s and their lives are relevant. Let us not forget our greatest asset, the Brother.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Necessity of Change and Constancy of Truth

I was engaging in some of that wonderful parking lot oratory that I had alluded to before when it happened. My self proclaim philosophies came back to bit me square in my fifth point of contact, or as Forest Gump would have said with that strange twang, my buttocks. It happened innocently enough. We were discussing the preparation of some lodge items when one of the Brothers posed a question about it. The topic itself is not necessarily relevant to the story, so in the essence of time, it is my response that had the ability of a boomerang thrown by an expert marksman that caused my “learning experience.”

I responded to the question with, “I think we have started a tradition and that is how we should continue.” The man with the expert aim and loaded with insight said, “Wow, that is the first step to ‘That is the way we’ve always done it.’”

This might not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, but it is. The actual lodge experience has been stagnant in American lodges all over under the battle cry of, “That is the way we have always done it.” This sentimentality and fear of change has slowly metered out apathy and cynicism. Worse, it has slowly pushed out education and personal fulfillment. The worse part is that I consider myself a philosophical warrior of sorts fighting this stagnation. That’s why the ol’ reference made by the Brother mentioned above stung so deep….that and to make matters completely worse…he had the audacity to be correct. Man that nerve of that guy!

It is amazing how easy it is to argue for that in which we have become comfortable. It is amazingly easy to convince yourself that, which feels the most comfortable, seems the most familiar is the best and in many cases the only way to do things. I wonder how much cowardice of spirit has been guised as tradition so that progression and change need not occur.

Freemasonry is a progressive science we are told. Yet many of the rituals and such remain unchanged. So what is to be learned from such an apparent irony? Thank you for asking and I would love to elaborate. Masonry is a system of self improvement. An improvement is a change. Not change for its own sake, but if you decide to improve something, to include yourself, you must suffer the consequence of change. Masonry, like all institutions, is a reflection of its membership. The Fraternity must, therefore be, a progressive science as a reflection of the continual improvement of its members.

Ritual allows for the communication of truth by those who may not completely understand the meaning, so that the truth remains constant and the pupil is allowed his own pace an interpretations.

Masonry instructs the necessity of change and the constancy of truth. Beautiful really.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Who Can Be A Mason

It is ironic that we (The Craft) spend a great deal of time discussing membership. A bit too much really. When you are facing the community to shuck and jive for membership, your back is to the door and little is done for the enriching of the members in some lodges. Herein lays the danger of the membership drive.

Here is the little piece of irony for you irony addicts. We spend a whole lot of time in parking lot discussion after lodges has concluded discussing just who should be allowed to be a Mason. We go back and forth discussing different reasons a man or woman should or should not be made a Mason. Yet, some miscreant shows up with a petition and $20 at the door of some dying lodge and boom…he is a Mason. Heck, three days later in some places, he might just be a Shriner. I digress and this particular topic is not the focus of this piece of literary genius…or mad ramblings, word smith how you would like.

I had an interesting conversation the other day that got me to thinkin’ which is different than caused me to muse. It started with the question, “Can a Wiccan be a Mason?” Well, I stood shivering from the light chill that always precedes the rush of bright red blood to my face when I am not completely sure how to answer a question. I went with the most scholarly of answers and one that bought me a little time. I said, “Well, that depends.” The sneaky son of gun immediately followed with, “On what?” and I was back at square one.

I thought about the Wiccan service I had seen and could not think of anything out right that would stop a member of this community from being a Mason. I thought of fact that the founder of the Wiccan faith as we know it was a Mason. I thought of my conversation with a neo-pagan who believed in a single God that manifests through different aspects of nature. I said, “It would depend on if the man fit the qualifications and I proceeded to pontificate upon the aforementioned in the eloquent pros of someone who was not quite sure himself.

Then someone said, “What about the ritual sex that Wiccans participate in, having sex out in the open in nature and all that.” I have to admit, I have heard of some groups that practice ritual sex, but had not heard that the Wiccans do this. So I mused a bit and tapped my foot a little hoping to buy a scant of time that my mental juices could pick up to more than the trickle that I normally experience. I asked, “How about a group of people that participate in a cannibalistic ceremony where they symbolically tear at the flesh of their G-d and wash it down with a big thirsty gulp of the god man’s blood so that they can become one with their Deity?” Of course it was immediately agreed that this group should not be made a Mason. Then one of my fellow word smiths recognized that I had described, although much differently than normal, the Christian act of communion.

I did not describe it as such to offend, but to cause reflection. We all see things a bit differently from our personal perspectives. It would be different if someone said, “Can a man who has ever had sex in nature be a Mason?” Well, for a lot of 16 year old boys parking at the local park on prom night would be immediately excluded. How about a religion where a man and women make love to consummate the most beautiful act and power act of nature which is creation?

The point being is that it is all in how you say it sometimes. I am not promoting some sort of Wiccan agenda as I am not a Wiccan and down really know that much about it. I do believe that labels are a foolish mechanism for exclusion even when people choose to label themselves. Because a man says that he is a Christian does not mean that he is a good man. He might still drink too much, lie all the time, and beat his wife and kids when he gets home from work. Conversely, the neo-Pagan man completely devoted to G-d, family, and country who earnestly follows the precepts of his religion, lives a moral and upright life, and seeks admission into the Fraternity is the better choice in my estimation even though the public portrayal of his faith is a bit “scary” and conjures up people cloaked in black stirring a caldron of steaming brew.

I think that we meet with the man, get to know the man, LISTEN to the man when he talks of his faith. Then make a decision on whether to admit such a man based on a totality of the circumstances and labels be damned.

Can a Christian be a Mason? Most would answer sure. Should we be so quick? It is not about religion little “r” really. It is more about the man’s inner belief systems and whether he can practice tolerance of those belief systems of the man he will call a Brother.

It is easy to say, “To each his own.” It is Masonic to say, “This man, with whom I do not share a particular religion with is my Brother. I respect his path to G-d. I will fight for his right to have such a path.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grab the Kids' Ma...Its the End of the World

You know, you go through life believing there are just certain things you can depend on. Even the science junkies I talked about in my last rambling depend on certain constant physical laws. Without them the universe falls apart and Republican Anti-Abortionist Missouri Synod Lutherans sitting in the center pews who have never prayed with a Baptist go to heaven and the rest of us head to Hades….kidding everyone know Baptist go to heaven.

Santa is fat, mom’s are loving, and the ol’ guy from the Price is Right has had more women than your average rock star; these are the constants that hold together the fabric of space and time.

So I am on my way to work the other day when I hear a debate on the radio about a movie set to premier called, “The Golden Compass”. It is based on a book trilogy (this struck me as funny and you will understand why in a minute) called Dark Material. The author is Philip Pullman. Mr. Pullman is a devote atheist. See, that’s why the trilogy cracks me up…an atheist trilogy! Okay, I guess I am the only one laughing.

Anyway, the radio commentator, a hardcore religious fundamentalist was claiming that Pullman is the right hand of the devil, blah, blah, blah. He based this in part on an interview with Pullman where he admits that his characters are on sort of an atheist quest in which the goal is to kill G-d and be freed by the truth of your own actions.

Later that evening while pretending I had serious business to attend to so that I could abscond with the wife’s laptop, I researched Pullman for myself and I was confronted with an absolute oxymoron (and a bit of emphasis on the latter part of the word please). This guy is violating one of the rules of the universe; there are no fundamentalist atheist. Well, until there were a bunch. I am amazed to find that atheism has become as dogmatized as orthodox religion and has, in turn, been completely infiltrated by fundamentalism. And, it is as dangerous, as toxic, as poisonous, as hate filled, and as terrible as it ever was to community and society.

This man and others like him are specifically targeting children with a zealot mentality in hopes of creating a league of “free thinkers” so Mr. Pullman says that are indoctrinated with his atheist credo and belief systems. In other words, instruct subconsciously the youth of a nation so that they believe they have made a choice to believe or not believe and then claim them free thinkers so long as they agree with your version of the truth. Hey, I wonder if he learned that at Al Qaeda University. It seems to me the same system used by fundamentalist in inculcating the terrorist mindset in the unsuspecting youth of Arab nations when what they should be doing is educating them in reason and logic so that they can make their own conclusions.

Pullman says himself, “I'm kind of relying on Harry Potter to deflect all that [attention being brought to his atheist message, his two gay male angels, etc.], actually. I was quite happy for Harry Potter to get all the attention so I could creep in underneath all of it.”

Creeping in underneath it all is what truth and reason need to do right? I mean, hell, if you have no agenda, creeping in is the best way?!?

I have no beef with atheism. I do have a beef with fundamentalism, the virus of ignorance, and I amazed to find it as part of the atheist agenda now as well.

So we live in a country where every aspect of a child’s life is filled the Christian, Islamic, scientific, and now atheist fundamentalist competing to influence them before they are mature enough to think for themselves! It is sickening folks!

I thought atheist weren’t supposed to care, weren’t supposed to have an agenda! Well they do, and with Mr. Pullman’s and others like him, they are creeping in and silently competing for the free thought and free will of your child. They want him young, so that free conscious is never born and, therefore, harder to defeat.

For those of you in the Masonic community that have ever wondered why we support so vehemently public education and a strong education in the liberal arts and sciences, it is because Freemasonry recognizes the relevance a good education and exercise of the intellect as the only vaccine against fundamentalism. As with any vaccine, it is not 100%. It is a good start and apathy never is. Educate your children and teach them to think for themselves.

--The Relevant Mason

Monday, October 29, 2007

Soup is for Suckas

Okay this is my last food analogy until some other one pops up and I digress to the sundries to influence the typed word…I promise the last one for awhile. Let’s talk soup and stew, because quite frankly I think soup is for sucka’s.

Science is rooted in fact, not truth. Fact is an empirically proven circumstance based on a physical law. Truth is a philosophical premise and is not fixed such as a fact. Two plus two is four is a fact and remains constant. It is wrong to eat pork is a truth for a man of one faith and quite the opposite for the man of another. Science has little room for the philosophical.

Reductionism is the scientific belief system held as a fact by most scientists. It can be defined as: Everything in the universe, to include the universe, can be explained by understanding the sum of its parts and how they work. All these molecules, atoms, stings, or whatever, bouncing to and fro are not conscious or sentient, they simply are. The idea of a soul, of collective conscious, etc. is just mystical bologna and is not fact and is never truth. Even thought is an illusion of sorts, as the mind is nothing more than just a set of parts banging out electrical impulses misunderstood as consciousness and thought. Reductionism is, in the end, completely and utterly materialistic.

To the reductionist, everything is a soup of small particles and can be broken down to its ingredients and understood as such. Well my friends and fellow seekers of relevance, soup is for sucka's.

What the reductionist has failed to understand and taken into account for is the stew. Stew is similar to soup for sure, but to simply combine the ingredients, as you would with soup, misses the key to a good stew. It is the time that the stew simmers and slowly cooks. As the flavors leech out and mix and congeal to a new and wonderful mixture. The stew is much more than the some of its parts. It is the long slow intermingling of inner juices that flow out slowly and mix with one another that create the stew. The stew is your spiritual side my friends. The stew is the mystical part of man that science can not explain and the reductionist claim relies on midguided faith…using faith as a dirty word.

Here is the kicker, they require that you have faith that physical laws sprang from nowhere, that multiple universes exist, that consciousness is an illusion. All these things the reductionist dogma passes off as hard (albeit improvable science) with little in the way of being any more probable than any other unproved theory. That my friend is faith and it is a heck of lot more than is required for a faith in the mystical. The idea of my consciousness being an illusion is down right foolishness.

Besides reeking of the same flavor of fundamentalism held true by the religious groups, this system is intellectual cowardice of the worst kind. It covets falsehood if the truth or fact of the matter fall outside of currently accepted rules and syllogisms. Because something challenges the current DOGMA of academia, it is heretical. Sound familiar?

Dogma, be it scientific or religious, combined with fundamentalism, creates poverty of the material and the spiritual in a populace. There is not a division between science and spirituality. It is perceived at odds with one another only because fundamentalist zealots on both sides can’t see the foolishness of their single sided approach. The religious zealot sees only religion and the scientific zealot is equally as guilty.

It is the ancient wisdom of systems within the Craft and other Hermetic traditions that have ensured that throughout history, some small group recognizes the singular source of all things to include that of science and religion. Equilibrium occurs whether we choose to recognize it or not. When we live out of balance, we begin to convince ourselves that the side we see is the only side.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Necessity of Consequence

We learn from the time of our youth that we must turn the other cheek, we must do unto others as we would like done unto us, respect your elders, forgiveness is divine. These are all laudable pursuits and ideals and I mean in no way here to demean their importance, but I wonder if we have balance in our lives sometimes as we approach these principles.

In the local paper I read that a man was arrested for beating up a suspected burglar breaking into his vehicle

The report with the Associated Press states:

Twenty-six-year-old Shane Kramer is in fair condition at Medical Center of the Rockies, four days after he was beaten.

Authorities say 28-year-old Gerald Oliveri of Loveland was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault. He is being held in the Larimer County jail on $250,000 bond.

Oliveri has no listed home phone number, and it's not immediately known if he has an attorney.

Police say Oliveri suspected Kramer of breaking into a car early Saturday. There were conflicting reports on whether the car belonged to Oliveri or his girlfriend.

Police spokesman Benjamin Hurr says Kramer was bleeding and had severe injuries when officers arrived.

No charges have been filed against Kramer.

Colorado's "Make My Day" law gives property owners the right to use deadly force in their homes to protect themselves or their property from crime.

Hurr says the law does not apply in this case because the incident was not in a home.

Have we lost all sight of Justice and Consequence? It appears that we only have the right to pursue happiness if some hopped up methamphetamine user doesn’t decide to try and take it first and then if does, don’t get in his way.

Some Grand Lodges in Masonry have gone the route of removing the ancient penalties from the rituals and obligations and I believe this follows the same line of foolishness and illogical behavior.

Look, (if you have been reading the blog you understand I need to use a food analogy or two or I just don’t feel right), arresting the company that prints the nutritional information on the outside of a candy bar for making people fat does nothing to make people skinny and it targets the wrong person. It is kind of like arresting a man who beats up a burglar in hopes to decrease violence.

There is a certain kind of violence of spirit and assault on the psyche as well, and if you have ever had to sleep in a home the night after it was burglarized, then you understand this is no victimless crime. It robs you of security and piece of mind and these wounds can take much longer to heal than a good butt kicking.

When did forgiveness come to mean apathy? When did freewill become equal to a lack of consequence? Freewill can not exist in the absence of consequence. When it does we have anarchy and the mentally or physically weak are no longer free to act under the oppression of mob rule (think Hiramic Legend here Brothers).

We do a disservice to ourselves when a cowardice of spirit allows us to convince ourselves that because the business of justice and consequence is difficult and lacks fun, that it is wrong, cruel, or unnecessary.

The lamb distrust and dislikes the sheep dog, they are big, they bark, they are scary and they remind him that the wolf is ever present. Pretending that the wolf will only steal one lamb and you are most likely not the lamb as a reason to dismiss or punish the sheep dog has the same logic of the tales of old when the city sacrificed a virgin to the town monster. The true sustenance of the monster is fear.

Right and good does not always equate to happy and fun. They are all exclusive and there are more than a few things that fall into the fun category that have never even scene the library that lends the book called “good.”

Masonry provides the penalties of the obligation for a reason. With freewill there needs and should be consequence…good and bad. Remember reward is not a guarantee or an entitlement. The minute we convince ourselves that negative consequences are not necessary, the rule and guide of our conduct is out of balance.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Box Makers Unite...We are at War!

The conundrum of the Freethinker is a difficult one. They run around with ideas and opinions, with logic and reason, and often cause the box makers and label makers a problem. A real problem and I am tired of it.

In order to make the world an easier place the box makers of the world have created a nice little series of boxes that everyone is supposed to fit into. Right now on the world stage the political collection of boxes are on display. We have the liberal box, the conservative box, and in America, we have two smaller boxes we throw into them to help us out labeled Democrat and Republic. It makes the whole political process nice and tidy without a lot of real choices…nice and easy, Ranch or Italian. (You know, I have been throwing out a lot of food allegories lately, that dang low carb diet must be getting to me).

There are other popular box collections, all fitting within one another. The Christian box, which was not nearly small enough for most, so a bunch of other boxes need to be made to into the Christian box. For instances, we have the Catholic box, the Protestant box, the Latter Day Saints box, etc. Then the Protestants found the title of Protestant far too broad and we went ahead and developed some other boxes and labeled them Denominations. It is at this point boys and girls you will want to stop reading and purchase yourselves some stock in the box company because they are doing well. The denominations were simply not limited and tidy enough, so….in come the box makers to help us define ourselves because, apparently, we can’t be trusted to do this, and the evangelical, fundamentalist, and literalist boxes were created. Take a breath folks, boxing up the average day conservative, Republican, Lutheran, Missouri Synod, literalist, fundamentalist will take some time, but its worth it. Once your done with all your boxing, no room for free thought or thinking outside of such a nice tidy little box. And, holy cow, if some outside the box thinking really happens, it is captured by one of the several outer boxes and is pretty safe inside the box thinking anyway. Oh, and don’t let the aforementioned box know that his box is right next to the Southern, Democrat, Baptist, Evangelical, literalist box or we are going to end up with another dang box!

The nice thing about boxes is they are small, they limit the content by their size, and they come with labels. We don’t have to think for ourselves and the CEO of Narrow Minds, Inc., the leader in box manufacturing in the entire world, prefers in that way.

Enter the FREETHINKER and boom, the whole system comes crashing in. He would like to stand with his left foot in one box, right in the other, dabble and pick out of some other boxes with his left and right had. Some of those crazy b*s**ds like Newton, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Bacon, and others didn’t think we needed boxes! Of all the cheese in Wisconsin (another food blurb), what would the world come to if we defined ourselves. What if we used reason and logic to govern our own actions and concerned ourselves primarily with this activity instead of worrying about how to define and control others? I don’t even want to think about it.

Another irritating thing about these guys is there distaste for labels. Just when the label makers, working in close conjunction with the box makers, have printed off a nicely defined label and adhere it to a box, these guys promote ideas and espouse logic. This is something that doesn’t fit within the narrow margins of the box or label. What gives?

Let’s discuss Freemasonry, the current number one enemy on the FBI’s most wanted list. Oh, and let me clarify, the FBI is not the same one that jumped into your thoughts right away. I am referring to Fundamentalism, Bureaucracy, and Ignorance (FBI), the World’s watch dogs on free expression and free conscious. On a side note, they dropped their guard once and a group of these runaway thinkers tore up a bunch of boxes and started this completely insane experiment called the United States of America. Don’t worry though, the FBI have been working diligently ever since behind the scenes to makes sure this doesn’t happen again and to change America to a nicely dogmatic society of uniformed folks that are “too busy” and to ignorant really, to have a valuable voice in their government. This way, the vocal minority, made up of intelligently planted box makers, can dictate the sway of the government and speak for all the boxes…err um, I mean people.

Freemasonry with its heretical anti-box tendencies has the audacity, in a modernized and nicely stacked system of boxes, to claim that society should be free to govern itself, that we can put aside religious differences and come together in conscious decision making and rational thought. If that were not off its rocker enough for ya, sit down in your box because this one is going to knock for a loop, they teach that you can learn to respect one another’s religions because, and this is really why they are dangerous, get this, they claim “GOD DOESN’T FIT IN ONE OF OUR BOXES!” Yep, can you even fathom the thought of a G-d that isn’t easily defined by human thought. A God that has room for everyone under his canopy of creation and love. A God that loves all his children and promotes the idea that all of God’s children should and could love one another. A God that does not divide, argue, and dictate petty divisions among his people. For some of the Christian fundamentalist box collection, this idea of a truly universal Deity this is hard to stomach, because the Masons even let a group of men in who worship a god that prayed with prostitutes and recruited tax collectors. Clearly not a universal god.

---The Relevant Mason

Friday, October 19, 2007

God is a Twinkie and I Need a Tan

Twinkies, lushes sweet Twinkies. Faith, Deity, G-d, all tend to be a lot like a Twinkie in our lives. We learn of the Twinkie when we are young. It brings a smile to our faces and they are bountiful. We eat them as they come in large quantity. They are golden on the outside and filled with a precious mystical substance on the inside. Most importantly, however, is the shelf life of the Twinkie. We can buy into the Twinkie when we are six years old. At 21 when we go to the closet to grab another Twinkie, it looks, feels, and taste the same as when we left it. The older we get, the less and less of the Twinkie we see. But, on Christmas or the holidays, when we are ready, there is the lushes golden cake waiting for us, constant and without change.

Faith, spirituality, G-d is treated much the same way. We embrace Deity as children. What’s not to love? Then age, demands, life, job, family, all get in the way of Deity. They all come between the altar and Master of the Lodge. Deity waits, unchanged, ready to be the G-d of our youth and childhood, filled with love and patience. We, of course, see the Twinkie a little differently now as well. It is fattening, doesn’t always fill you up, taste good for minute and then comes with guilt. The Twinkie hasn’t changed folks. The part that changed was that as you grew in height, you shrank in wisdom. The adult in you has traded faith for Dogma and the Twinkie doesn’t taste the same.

This got me thinking about Freemasonry and role it plays in my life and the role it could or should play. Let me be the first to say that I think a relationship with Deity is instrumental in approaching the philosophies of Masonry. This is why we must ascertain that a person has faith in Deity before entering the lodge. This is major psychological work and must not be down without the wisdom and communication of inner awareness that faith provide.

So the first step to having a fulfilling experience in the Craft is to eat your Twinkies.

I have found word pictures are valuable in my journey so I will share another with you here. You can’t get a tan by lying out in the sun for one hour in a month. Nor can you can’t get a tan by lying out in the sun 20 hours a month with your clothes on! We seem to approach the Craft in two ways hoping or expecting fulfillment. First, we go to lodge once or twice a month, do not do much beyond that, and forget about it when we leave. We recognize that reading the minutes and doing little in the way of study is not improving us, but do nothing to improve the situation. Or, we over extend and join so many appendant bodies and groups we are always in the sun, but never take our clothes off to get the tan. We miss the point running round over worked and under appreciated and frustrated with Masonry.

In comes the membership committee to give us the one hour tan! Let us spray you with this goo and in one hour you look tan. Not really. You look orange and everyone knows the minute they see you that it is not a real tan. You have not felt the warmth of the sun sinking down to your bones and warming you from the inside out, the cool breeze of the beach on your brow, and the meditation of simply lying under symbol of the Wisdom. That’s the sun for you non esoteric types.
Either way, you were doomed from the start because you showed up devoid of Twinkies in your life. So, with your Twinkies lingering in the closet you show up for your one hour tan, and then wonder why you are stressed and unfulfilled.

Brothers, practice Masonry in your life, eat your Twinkies, lay out in the sun, and you will find that time management, education, philosophy, and fulfillment are yours. The gentle science has a solution for the post Modern hyperactive schedule. It teaches that a helicopter ride to the top of the mountain is no good for teaching someone how to climb.

Masonry is relevant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Relevance of Brotherhood

I will call them Rob, Mike, Karl, and Pat as for most this will simply prove average American names. Let’s say the names have been changed for their privacy as all of these men are very private men and their charity equally as private. I have had the pleasure of knowing these men. The kind of men who simply pick up the tab, offer an ear, lend their expertise without question. They give little thought that these services or to these extensions of their time or intellectual exercise.

Each of these men go about their daily lives without much of thought to the changes they have made and continue to make in the lives of their freinds, the poeple they interact with or their community. Hell, it is part of their charm. They make no claim upon the men that they affect. They take no notice the liberalness of their spirit and the fact that they touch everyone around them.

They do not wear giant badges declaring themselves as Masons. They do not claim titles or significance for the Fraternity that they represent. They simply are who they are. They are good. They are an action in action. They do not contemplate doing good. Good is simply apart of who they are, like a heart beat, a breath, or a thought.

They practice brotherhood, the relevance of Brotherhood.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ban the Letter F Before Its Too Late

The symbol and its language are powerful. Far more powerful than words. This is why Masonry and the world should unite against the letter “F”. It has become a symbol of failure. It destroys the self esteem of young academics and causes a desire for unhealthy competition and improvement for its own sake. The federal government needs to protect us from us and me before it is too late.

Yes, if you have not noticed from the first blog, humor and sarcasm are the preferred weapons of this self proclaimed soldier against ignorance. When I am really fired up I like to break out the nuclear equivalent of plutonium on these intellectual front lines of the war…Logic!

I listened to CNN this morning and the words “moral responsibility” popped out of someone’s mouth (I couldn’t see as I was combing the golden mane) and what scared me is that it had been proceeded by the words “Federal Government.” Holy honey bear I thought. Take cover Brothers. Whenever the government inflicts a moral responsibility upon you, you can bet your bottom dollar that it has little to do with morality, responsibility, or common sense.

This particular story was in regards to the Jenna Six story and the noose as a symbol of hate. For sure, the noose can be a symbol of hate. The problem with this logic (note sarcasm here as it will help in your understanding) is that there is a presupposition that is completely false. That is the belief that banning the symbol of something will ban the belief behind it.

Don’t waste time banning a symbol. Utilize the philosophies of the Craft…educate and inform people so that they can form their own opinions without relying on the opinions of others. Combat ignorance with logic. The government is an entity. It does not posses a conscience and does not have a “moral” anything. Anytime the government inflicts its morality, I find myself at the wrong end of some special interest group who drive an idea that started out fine and mutate it to a shadow of its normal self. The government won’t need to inflict its moral responsibility upon me if we learn to take responsibility for ourselves. Control yourself and change your community.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sugar and Fundamentalism

In a world of immediate gratification, war, famine, and refined sugar...Masonry has never been more relevant. We all have our battles, some large and some small, but for the soldier the battlefield is what it is. I was watching a popular news show espousing the danger of refined sugar and the immediately visible and immensely dangerous effects of over indulgence. The finger was pointed squarely at that precious ointment upon the beard after eating a nice round jelly doughnut, refined sugar. The evils of it, the dangers of it, the flocks of obese Americans destined for cancer, cavities, and other terrible ailments. We all have a battles and I guess sugar is a good one. The sweet crystalline substance becoming from every kind of food source, going by more names than an undercover operative during the cold war. She is a sly one, she is.

We all pick are battles and I am announcing mine for today, as one never knows what tomorrow might hold. I pick fundamentalism. The terrible plague of the zealot that permeates Christianity, Islam, and every religion and religious system that closes minds and hardens hearts.

Don't misunderstand me. I can respect the path of any man and I am not here to proselytize my personal path. I am hear to declare fundamentalism incompatible with religion, although it appears that the two have become inseparable.

When one takes the time to pick up the Christian Bible he finds tales of goodness and wisdom through the whole work. It tells of forgiving hearts and cheeks turned and turned again. The central figure of the Gospels, the Nazarene, seeks out, recruits, eats, sits, sleeps, loves, and prays with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and other less desirables. Yet in today's churches we find condemnation and division. Everyone seems more concerned with who holds the keys to heaven and just who is going on the fast track to warmer temps on the final days that we speak little of reason, logic, forgiveness, open minds and open hearts.

Fundamentalism is viral. It convinces us that truth, reason, science and logic are the boogyman and that an uninformed or ill informed faith is the strong and biblical faith of our Creator.

Fundamentalism is its own creature. It leads to brutal wars as evidenced by every news channel everyday.

It is not religious, it is not good, it is not welcome in the mind of the thinking man and it is an enemy of free will, free thought, and free conscience.

I have never known the gentle science to curb sugar except to recommend that all things (to include our diets I guess) should be balanced. I do believe that its philosophies have a cure for fundamentalism. They promote freedom and free exercise of thought and reason. It cultivates logic and wisdom.

Fundamentalist groups like Hammas share with many fundamentalist Christian movements, a declaration that Masonry is incompatible with their faith. I say bologna. It is fundamentalism that is incompatible with freedom, the foundation of the free thinker and the Craft.