Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Friend Walt

He is an interesting guy by his own right. An artist, a mystic, and good friend. He stands out to me when compared to most as he possesses a simply unique and unnerving quality that most can never hope to achieve. He is humble.

We were lucky to have Kirk MacNulty as a special guest and speaker at a recent lodge meeting. That is not the real story though.

The night prior to the big day, I was having dinner when the ol’ cell phone went off. I saw that it was the man I mentioned above, we’ll call him Walt, and I took the call. He explained that he was having a little trouble walking and was wondering if I might be able to assist with a ride to lodge. I was going in a little early, but knew my neighbor and Brother would love to assist and put the two in contact.

The point though. I asked, in passing, what was wrong. I inquired as to whether he had bum a knee or ankle knowing that extreme weather, hot or cold, seems to make my joints angry at mother nature on any given day. “No,” said the Brother, “I had a stint put in my heart.” He said it as matter of fact as one might say, “I had a wart removed” or “I stubbed my big toe.” The Brother continued, “That’s really not the issue, I just want to make sure I get to lodge on time.”

I was taken back a bit, but after ascertaining myself that the Brother would live, I hung up the phone. I reflected a bit upon this Brother as I have come to know him. He walks with bit of a shuffle, purposeful but not rushed. He listens intently and you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is absorbing all that goes on around him. He speaks softly, but chooses his words wisely. He is empathetic, kind, and hardworking.

He knows many of the world’s great mystics and introduced me to good friend of his that, it turns out, is worshipped as a god in Sri Lanka. He worked hand in hand with Manly P. Hall for many years and counts performers and famous authors among his close friends. He seldom refuses an opportunity for learning and takes no heed of bobbles of titles.

He is humble and he is a Mason.

The deepest and most esoteric philosophies of the Craft are well known by this Brother. He would never think to “bash” someone with them, to seek titles because of it, or to harm physically or intellectually those less equipped. He works in the quarry of everyday life for self improvement and in doing so improves the universe.

Ben Franklin once said, “Alas, if I were ever to become truly humble, I know that I would be proud of it.” This Brother has achieved it without so much as a blink. A natural and wonderful part of his nature.

In a world wear titles, achievement, and esteem are valued more than morality, kindness, and humility….I thought someone, somehow should bear witness to the fact that on a small plot of land, in the Midwest, is a relevant and humble Mason, teaching, both with is words and his actions, the life of the artist, the Mason, and Mystic. My friend Walt.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'round the Fountain

I had a Masonic speaking engagement that I attended the other day. Following my presentation, several of the men retired near an outdoor water fountain and garden area to imbibe some fine spirits and draw in on a few well rolled cigars.

The conversation drifted between current events, philosophy, esoterica, and the like. We were having quite a time of it when a man strolled up to the group and decided to take part in the conversation. He declared himself a Christian and began to speak about his spiritual journey in the Christian faith.

I was smiling and enjoying the conversation and thinking how Masonry had enriched my faith and was happy to hear the comments. Then, he went onto say that some “idiot’s” tried to convince him that the world was older that 6,000 years old and he recognized the Satanic or irreligiousness as pure scientific mumbo jumbo. He lamented that he was uncertain how people could be so stupid.

Now, mind you, the men present were men of different faiths and followings and not one person chose to engage this person in argument or negative comment. I asked question, “If the Universe is 14 billion years old, how would that change your faith?” The man responded that it would not because it is impossible for such a thing to be true because it ran counter to the Bible.

I, for one, disagree. But, that aside, I informed the man that even if scientific data proved the Universe 14 billion years old, it was likely that he could and should attend the same sanctuary, worship the same Jesus, and continue feel fulfilled by his faith. I asked him if science and religion needed to be at odds.

The conversation ended as the man left. I looked around at the men sitting near the fountain and enjoying their cigars. All of them had little smiles on their face that communicated compassion for the man.

I realized that no man at that table believed the same as the man espousing his narrow view of faith and Christ. It was likely that their beliefs, and certainly mine, would have been heretical to the man who chose to preach that day. But every man there gave him wide birth, treated him with compassion, and extended to him tolerance and a friendly ear.

While churches divide, while nations war, while people go about their day hating and searching for battles….Masons around the world and around a little fountain practice the one kind of charity…charity in spirit, that can truly save the world. That is relevance. That is Masonry.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Self Improvement and the Right Thing

“Look, if don’t want an honest answer then don’t ask me the question.” “It’s genetic, I just can’t (run, loose weight, learn math, etc. etc. etc.) “I have always had a bit of temper, it’s just who I am.” Brother Jim Tresner got me thinking about these things. These things being the obstacles to self improvement because in the end they are excuse not to expend energy in changing ourselves. We will often spend a lifetime of energy trying to change those around us. We will often lament that others “just don’t understand us.” But, truly, how often are we willing to expend the effort to radically change ourselves, to overcome a natural tendency and seek improvement. It is difficult and the excuse of “nature” is an easy one.

I was speaking to a man the other day and it hit home how important this is. He had shared with me stories of a relative in his past. The man was good, and in my friend’s estimation, dang near angelic. I am sure that death and time have purified his memories and death and time often prove a valuable forge and hone for removing impurities. But, it is fair to say that he misses this man and the impression left by a life of moral chivalry left an indelible imprint upon my friend’s psyche.

This man is not a Mason, but his mentor was. He knew I was a Mason and our conversation turned in that direction. The “what is a Mason” question popped up after telling me about his friend. I thought about it for just a bit and said, “Remember your mentor’s ability to simply do right even when it was tough?” “Sure,” he said. “Masons are all the men on the journey to achieve that same peace and comfort with morality in the face of adversity.”

I was shocked at what followed. He shared with me that parts of his life were in conflict with what he knew to be right and correct behavior and followed, “I would love to be a Mason, but I think I need to fix some things first if I am going to follow in [the mentor’s] footsteps.”
More than the fact that my friend had some moral conflicts in his life, but that his mentor’s quiet life of doing the right thing had radiated as a light he likely never imagined. This man he affected, now in his late 50’s, was going to begin of a journey of righting some wrongs and living in balance because a man and Mason who impressed him and lived by example.

Masons are those men who simply try to do right, even when it is hard. Religion might serve this purpose, in laying down moral code. But in truth, with today’s coffee bar churches preaching universal forgiveness without accountability, there is a void of moral consciousness. Masonry’s lodges and temples provide a quiet and reflective place to say, “I have my faith, but I am going to take this a step further and live my faith as action through a moral life.”

Several will read this and claim that I am preaching that faith requires good deeds and that this is against the teachings of Christ and his outpouring of grace. Yep, I am teaching that faith requires good deeds and that conflicted evangelicals claiming that it does not are deluded.
But I digress. Masonry teaches and condones right behavior. That IS something that is relevant and this world needs.