Add my name to the list of fellow bloggers and Masons who are saddened by the untimely death of WB Theron Dunn, author of Beacon of Masonic Light, and prolific contributor to a number of other web forums, message boards, and online publications. Add my name as well to the list of those who occasionally disagreed with his perspectives, but managed to do so in a fraternal manner. Our disagreements never prevented Brother Theron from emailing some joke, a Masonic inspiration, or a funny video. I’d like to think that Bro. Theron believes – believed – as I do: that our agreements are far more important than our disagreements, and that our appreciation for the fraternity is the basis for our mutual respect. May the Great Architect of the Universe grant some peace of mind to his grieving family and friends.
I was thinking, understandably, of Bro. Dunn’s death in the context of the dramas of our own fraternity. The Hiramic legends in the 3rd degree deal with the tragedy of death. But what is it that makes death a tragedy? reflecting upon this question, I thought about the death of my grandmother a few months ago. I wrote
“She was 95 years old. She died peacefully in her sleep, in a warm room surrounded by trashy romance novels, jigsaw puzzles, and loving family members. We should all be so fortunate.”
Maybe our connotation of “tragedy” is the concept of “unfinished business.” While there are certainly some people who are still vital and active in their mid-nineties, my grandmother certainly fit the definition one thinks of when hearing the phrase “lived a full life.” She was a nurse during WWII, she raised 4 children, and then had an active social life. She lived to see grand-children, and even great-grand-children. She’d never been sky-diving or hiking in the Himalayas, but she didn’t seem to have any regrets.
Our unrealized potential, the things that we will never have the chance to do boggles the mind. I may be reacting to Bro. Theron’s death out of a certain sympathy, as he and I were of a similar age; perhaps I’m saddened because I realize that I, myself, will probably not be able to accomplish many of the things that I’ve dreamed of. And perhaps this is why the death of a child or young adult affects us so deeply; the unrealized potential in all of us is tragic, but the younger one’s life, the more potential we see. We say that we are saddened by the loss of life, but maybe what we are really saddened by is the loss of potential realization – the songs that will never be written, the stories that will never be told, and the work that will never be completed.
I have always thought about the tale of Hiram Abiff as some kind of Death allegory, but now I’m seeing it as a metaphor that points out the unfortunate – and inevitable – inability of all of us to fulfill our dreams. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should always feel sad, though. We all work on our own spiritual buildings, and none of them will ever be complete. But ultimately we will all need to lay down our tools, if indeed, those tools do not simply fall from our own nerveless grasp. Maybe the story of Hiram should remind us that it’s not the completion of the building that is important, but the fact that we’ve started it at all.