The Wind Between the Atoms
The morning email from my friend 3M was my first clue.
Yet again high praise for my CT blog brethren. Scottish Rite Journal!
Congrats guys for getting etched in the annals of history.
Not being a subscriber to the SRJ – in fact, not even being a member of the SR, I Googled my way through several links to find that one of their book reviewers must not have had any interesting Masonic tomes this month, and decided to do an article on some of the denizens of cyberspace.
written by James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross, Book Review Editor
I must admit that I have not been a fan of the Internet phenomenon known as “blogs” (from web logs). For one thing, irrational as I know this is, I simply think the word itself is ugly. It does not “ring with a joyful tune upon the ear.” In fact, it sounds distinctly disrespectful. In addition, I have never been enough of a small-d-democrat to be interested in what the uninformed had to say on any topic. I grudgingly admit that everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but I am less willing to grant they have a right to publicly inflict it on others. One only needs watch the talking heads of celebrity experts on any cable news channel or listen to “talk radio” to see what I mean.
I have to admit that I was a bit put off at first; I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to in the last couple of years that, upon hearing that I write a blog, have proclaimed similar sentiments about blogging, and it makes me think that they are either short-sighted, or have not bothered to read very many.
Recently, a columnist in a local newspaper wrote almost exactly the same thing as Bro. Tresner, adding that she had no desire to read about the dull aspects of other people’s lives, such as, e.g., what they had for breakfast, or to see pictures of their kids, or to hear about their shopping trips. It’s the height of irony that she, herself, has a regular weekly column in which she writes about exactly those topics. It’s fascinating to think that people who get paid for writing their opinions so often have such a low opinion of those who simply give theirs away.
Fortunately, Bro. Tresner has a good friend who was able to give him a more relevant perspective:
So when I was recently shamed into visiting a Mason’s blog, I was greatly surprised at what was to be found. There was some first-rate writing, and an expression of ideas that stimulate thought. I found that to be true of other blogs as well. There is also a great deal of dross mixed with the gold.
While I’d like to think he was writing specifically about The Tao of Masonry, the fact is that a good number of bloggers really are talented and interesting writers. I read a few years ago that most blogs fail within three to six months, presumably for lack of interest on the part of the writer. That means that those blogs that have crossed that particular bank of the Jordan have done so because the writers have displayed an above-average amount of effort in their craft. They have a dedicated number of readers, they publish with some kind of frequency, and they manage to follow most of the rules of grammar and usage in order to make an article easy to grasp.
I read most blogs through Google Reader, and I catch some of the less-frequently posted blogs through the excellent King Solomon’s Lodge Feed Aggregate – a website that collects RSS feeds from dozens of blogs with Masonic content.
And yes, there is dross mixed in with the jewels; even some of the better blogs have the occasional off day. However, with over 100 blogs (by my last count) with some Masonic content, it’s natural to expect that a few will not meet one’s particular interests.
Rather a bit like those “book” thingies that I keep hearing about.
But since blogs have become the major forum for the exchange of Masonic ideas and debate about modern interpretations of traditional values as well as the forum of most Masonic publishing today, it seemed appropriate to spend a little time alerting you to some of the most interesting. If I omit your favorite, please forgive. There are many, many of them out there.
While I disagree that blogs have become the major forum for discussion – I still believe that web forums are the preferred choice for those interested in the give-and-take of debate – you can’t ignore that blogging has grown incredibly in the last decade. Masonic blogs were virtually unheard of just 5 years ago, and have probably doubled in number just in the last year. Much of this is due to the ease of use of the major blogging platforms: Blogger (now owned by Google), WordPress, and TypePad – all of which have had major upgrades in usability, and all of which are free to use for the basic packages. In other words, nobody needs to be a computer geek to blog anymore.
In Connecticut, no less than 5 blogs were started in the past year. I suspect that most of my brothers, having seen my own modest attempts with the cyber-pen, said to themselves “If Tom can do this, anybody can.” The result is that the Nutmeg State now has the highest per capita Masonic Blogging Density (MBD), which I expect to double in the next month after a few dozen more Connecticut readers see this post.
For the 23 of my Connecticut readers, here’s what Bro. Tresner had to say about one of your local media stars:
Many blogs focus on specific sets of issues. Masonic Renaissance, http://masonicrenaissance.blogspot.com/, created by Bro. Charles Tirrell, PM Momauguin Lodge No. 63, Connecticut, DDGM, and 32°, focuses on the general renewal of interest in Freemasonry and the opportunities and problems it creates.
I’m sure that VW Bro. Charles, my District Grand Lecturer counterpart in the 4th District is aghast at learning of his promotion to District Deputy. Over the last year, I’ve realized that many US states do not have District Lecturers, and for some people the Very Worshipful title doesn’t quite register. I suspect that they see purple and immediately start thinking DD or DDGM.
Of course, as a DD he would only be responsible for 5 or 6 lodges, not the entire 18 in that district, so maybe . . .
Bro. Tresner didn’t comment on the other Nutmeg State bloggers, either for lack of space, or because they choose to write (sort of) anonymously. I’m sure it can’t be for lack of interest, because we’ve got some excellent writers in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th districts.
A word or two of warning. Many of the writers on these blogs are young men. Even Gandhi, as a young man, did not understand the importance of sacred cows. It was only in his more mature years that he realized that the sacred cow played a truly vital role in the social life and economy of his country. A second, very important point to keep in mind is this: Not all cows are sacred.
I’ve subdued my passions enough to avoid the offhand snarky comment, but I do have to say that the above paragraph made me wonder about the typical reader of the SRJ; why would Bro. Tresner feel compelled to warn the readers about some of the topics that appear on the various blogs? Wouldn’t most readers be able to judge for themselves the worth of a writer’s opinion on, say, Prince Hall recognition, or the seemingly unfair expulsion of Past Grand Master Haas, or Traditional Observance lodges, or the desire of some younger Masons to jettison the fish fries and pancake breakfasts in favor of something else?
I’ve been told by a number of my brothers – usually, but not always older members – that the openness of the internet would be the death of Masonry because too many contentious writers can anonymously sling mud at our sacred cows, which could be read by just anybody, including potential members. Presumably, these potential members would be turned off by the nattering nabobs of negativity and stay away in droves from petitioning.
I still maintain that we, as a fraternity, are better off when those who apply have shown themselves to have critical thinking skills. As I wrote recently on this issue of contentious internet writing:
During my travels, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to meet another half a dozen new Masons who came up to me after a degree to mention that they’ve read this blog. Not only does this increase my readership by almost 50%, it indicates that more and more men – mainly the under-40 group – are using the internet to discover more about our fraternity. It also suggests that they are not being frightened off by some of the contentiousness that can be found on blogs and web forums, to the contrary of those who have decried the use of this medium. Being one of those who used the internet heavily in his own research before joining, I still maintain that those people who are so easily swayed in their opinion of the fraternity by the antics of a handful of anti-Masons Masonophobes – or by a few disgruntled Masons – are probably not the best candidates in the first place.
It may sound as if I’m complaining about the review; I’m really not, and I’m actually pleased to have been included in his list. I’m also glad to see that Bro. Tresner managed to develop a better perspective on blogging during the course of his research. I am, however, just a little disappointed to see that some people – and Bro. Tresner is by no means alone – still regard “Masonic blogging” as an inferior medium. I’m all the more mystified because Bro. Tresner, himself, has his own section – “Tresner’s Talks” – on The Sanctum Sanctorum, one of the latest blog/web forums to have been set up in the last year. More interestingly, I’ve seen several discussions in the Sanctum Sanctorum forum decrying certain forms of “internet Masonry.”
A web forum for Masons in which some of the participants have issues with Masons on the internet? Really?
I suspect that the big problem is that Masonry – or, more correctly, Masons – on the internet is still a new concept for the Fraternity, and most of the brothers, many of whom remember a life before television, have not adopted the working tools of the internet. That’s to be expected, of course; new technology that brings about cultural change is often viewed with concern until a large population manages to figure out what to do with it.
My own observation, which is purely anecdotal and not to be taken as any type of statistical study, is that most of the Masons joining in the last few years are under 40 – indeed, we’ve seen a lot of them under 30 at Friendship Lodge – and most of them have used the internet as a tool in deciding to join. Maybe it’s time that some of us learned a little bit more about how that tool works.
That said, the article finishes on a good note:
As you can imagine, the blog list is endless, and as you follow different links into the deepest, darkest regions of Internet Masonry in search of light, remember: have fun, take nothing at face value, and research things for yourself so that you might form your own opinion—although reading the opinions of others makes for fun and education.
Bro. Tresner goes on to list several blogs which he thought worth a look.
The Relevant Mason, by Cliff Porter, who I know mainly through his participation on various web forums.
Freemasons for Dummies, by the irrepressible Chris Hodapp, author of several of those book thingies that people used to read before the internet came along.
Dispatches from Maine, by the engaging Christian Ratliff, who is the District Education Representative, which appears to be similar to the District Grand Lecturer here in Connecticut.
Kingdom of Conscience, by Osiris, who appears to have taken his blog down a year ago.
The Inquisitive Master , by Nimrod, who appears to have made 13 posts early in 2008, and has not updated since.
Bro. Tresner also had something to say about my favorite blog:
For Masonry taken seriously, but no too seriously, visit The Tao of Masonry, http://www.masonictao.wordpress.com. It is run by Brother Tom Accuosti, who lists among his credentials “Past Master, Friendship #33.3, AM&FM, Area 51, Atlantis.” Again, thought-provoking articles with a fine sense of balance.
“Not too serious” and “a fine sense of balance?”
That’s Taoism in a nutshell!