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.


Chris Hodapp said...

A wise old-ish Grand Master once cautioned me, "the deadliest thing that a Lodge can say is, 'come to our 10th annual – ANYTHING.'"

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

The Relevant Mason said...

"The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth."

I love that and it is so true. I just wish I could go back to being a teenager when I knew everything and all the lessons I learned that hurt were somebody's "fault". :)

The Punisher said...

A good analogy for this I believe is hiking thru the have a compass which tells you what direction to take a reading, and head out...because of barriers and obsticals along the way you are forced to change directions ever so slightly...and from time to time you check your compass, take a reading, and check to see if you have gotten off course...and posibly need a course correction...Masonry is the same way...we take a reading...head out, and necessarily change bits here and there, but every-now-and again need a bit of course correction to get us back ONTO the right Path which is the Constant path of Truth.

Theron Dunn said...

The problem is, this presumes that there is something innately wrong with tradition. Now, tradition simply for the sake of tradition, with no understanding is kind of stupid, but sometimes, traditions create the camaraderie that we want and need in freemasonry.

For instance, there is a kind of unofficial tradition in my lodge, at a certain point in opening, the JW raises his right hand to the heavens as he intones: As the sun at meridian height...

Its telling, its humorous, and it is a tradition... partly because the grand lodge ritual forbids it... sort of, and because Wr. Art Philamarie did that one night by accident as he stood in the South.

So today, in commemoration of that, and in camaraderie with our worshipful brother, we carry on that tradition. It serves to bind the officers together, and is something you will only see in my lodge.

Marriage is a tradition that I do not think anyone would like to see done away with, as are many family traditions, like Grandma baking a pumpkin pie HER WAY for easter and so on.

I take your point about getting into a rut, but the ritual we work as we initiate, pass and raise a brother are traditions, as are the tenets and teachings of our ancient and honorable institution.

We should be careful what we allow to become tradition, that's for sure, and we should be careful that we never allow the phrase: because that's how we have always done it to become a mantra... but neither should we be afraid of them.

its about balance.

The Relevant Mason said...

I agree Brother. I would never advocte a change to ritual...I was pointing out how beautiful the system works. We have ritual as a tool to keep the Truth constant...I just don't like certain things never changing under the guise of tradition. Thank you for the well thought out post Brother.