Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts from a Slightly Older Masons

It was years ago, funny how time flies, that I had written a short paper called “Thoughts from a Young Mason.” I railed on the many programs that failed to recognize the need for a fulfilling Masonic experience that lacked educational aspects. I recommended several changes that would not be difficult or costly to implement.

The speech was intended as a parting speech, in that, I thought it would make me so unpopular I would be run out of the Fraternity for having the gall to go against, what was then, the status quo. As with many things in my life, I learned a lesson. I learned that age was not the divider I thought it was. I learned that Masons old, young, tall, thin, new, seasoned, and the like were, in the end, Masons. Many were unfulfilled by business meetings with little or no education, many felt that the degrees were extraordinary and deserved further study, many identified with the ideas presented and desired changes, progressions, and fulfillment.

The speech became a paper, the paper and article, and the article spread on the Internet to the degree it was e-mailed to me as a “MUST READ” and listed as having an “anonymous author.” I laughed.

The article still floats around the cyber Masonic world and even now, years later, I received an e-mail from a Brother thanking me and finishing with the question, “So how old are you?” He had not realized the article was written years ago and I responded as such and indicated my current age. The response, “Wow, the way you wrote that, I thought you were actually young.” Ahh, life lessons.

But my space is limited, and I should probably get to the point or, at least, identify the point and meander towards it.

Most will likely not remember this, but I wrote that article when a man several decades my senior began to lecture me on what young Masons want. It spurred me towards action, not that I was offended, but I realized there was a complete misunderstanding of what young men coming to the Craft and to the Scottish Rite were searching for and I wanted to set the record straight.

It amazes me how things come full circle and so the same Brother who, years ago, had spurred my writing frenzy has once again captured my attention and fired my passions. The other day he made the statement that Masonic education was a waste of time and hoped the “fad” that had been going on would die out soon; he continued then, that he hoped the “young guys” that had been “acting like they were running things” would learn a lesson. He didn’t elaborate on what the lesson might be.

This time, I must admit, my immediate response was anger. Why? Well after the first article things changed with my Masonic experience, not because the article per se, but because change was in the wind, and the collective voice of the unfilled Masons, young and old, had ushered in desperately needed changes. The Supreme Council started the Master Craftsman program which was a success by anyone’s standards. Blue Lodges around the States began shifting their focus to a fulfilling educational experience and my local Scottish Rite was excelling in every way. Meetings had become interesting; reunions were filled with debate, discussion, and study. Every aspect was progressing and growing our members. Members of the “last class” were jumping into things at the following meetings with both feet. All the way around, I had no complaints accept those brought on by my own lack of patience.

So, I had to wonder, what lesson would the “young” men learn? Why was Masonic education, to this Brother, a fad?

I was truly baffled until I had one of those small epiphanies. This brother was not angry, he was not ignorant, although his statements were, he was not a “bad” Brother. He was afraid.

The Masonry he recognized was passing away before him and he wished for a time, for men, for friends that were no longer there. Life has little stability, and with Masonry, at a minimum, the tradition, ever unchanging, offers a bit of safety net. A little cornerstone where even the rooms in which we meet have changed little for hundreds of years; it is traditional and it is safe.

This story is not new. There is a lodge in which the Past Masters all sit in the North and grumble. They are collectively referred to in a respectful, but humorous manner, as the Northern Lights.

The things is, we are all moving north, if you catch my “drift,” and yes, the pun was intended. There will be a time that the familiar will bring comfort and the desire will be to see the young “learn their lesson.”


This division represents a failure on both sides of the issue so to speak. Education need not be lofty and difficult to understand. Sharing personal experiences, expounding on a symbol, discussing the inner meanings and life application of the degrees are valuable to all Masons in Masonry. Nor does education need be, nor should it be, a pursuit of the young. What lesson are we applying in Masonry when we believe we have learned all it has to offer?

We need to work to make education applicable, interesting, and valuable to all of our members. There are many aspects to Masonry and we cannot allow ourselves to focus the resources of our educational programs solely on singular object or particular personal interest. We need to fulfill our members and that means working hard to do so.

That being said Brothers, and this if for my scared friend, we cannot allow the fear of change to give birth to ignorance, disparagement and discontent. Time will temper our young friends, life will mature them and Masonry will improve them. Wishing upon them the negative or viewing education as adversarial is foolish, regardless of our age.

The sad lesson of the Northern Lights is the fact they have relegated themselves to irrelevancy through their negativity. Rather than becoming trusted mentors, they are viewed as humorous grumblers. If we react with anger, fear, or distain to all things that are unfamiliar because discomfort moves us to this, we will only isolate ourselves and remove our relevance and influence that our years and training could have provided.

If our voices are always angry and become nothing more than echoes from the dark part of the lodge, sitting alone and hoping a similar fate upon the happy and fulfilled members we have no influence, no say, and no personal growth.

Brethren, our numbers our stabilizing, our experiences are improving, and our knowledge of the Craft is growing. If just a few Brothers with an idea could form the great nation we know call home, imagine the force and impact our Fraternity could have on our individual communities if our members chose to work together.

The greatest thing that we can learn in Masonry is that we have more to learn. Let’s learn about one another, lets respect our various approaches to Masonry, lets end the ignorance, lets shed our fear, and lets change ourselves and maybe just the world.


Quarryman said...

Keep the faith Brother. What is funny about your post is that I recently commented to several Brothers that if my 21 year old Masonic self could talk to my 41 year old Masonic self - he would be pretty angry. This is mostly because over time I have come to the exact spot you are now.

mjbackus said...

Very well written Brother. I am, along with about 10 or so other brothers from my area in NW Indiana (40 minutes from Chicago), are also somewhat taken back by the amount of resistance there is from Masonic Education. Lodges need to give both the new EA and the 50 year "in my year as Master we..." grumbler, something fresh to part with from a tyled lodge, if not every night, then mire often than not.

I am 30 years old. I didn't become a Mason to work fish fry's once a month and go to business meetings. I accept that those aspects of our Symbolic Craft exist. Yet I will push until my dying day, to make the Masonic Experience what it should be for every new man, who wishes to be given Our Fraternal Light.