This being St. John’s Day, I thought it appropriate to mention a few things.
First, this is typically the time that lodges in the Northeast US “go dark” for the summer. Now, there’s some disagreement on whether the expression “to go dark” should be used in this case, since the lodges will reopen for business in a few months. Some old-timers associate the expression to mean that a lodge turns in their charter and closes for good. If the lodge still has a charter and officers, then there’s some “light” available, and the lodge can not be totally dark. That said, I’ve noticed that the expression is so widely used, that even if it may be wrong, it’s not going to make a difference because everybody will be using it anyhow. You know, similar to the expression “I could care less;” it’s obviously wrong, but the usage is so widespread that nobody even thinks about it anymore.
Irregardless*, many of my friends in other parts of the US and UK have asked why we close at all during the summer. I’ve been told (although without any substantiating evidence) that it was the farmers needed the time off to tend their fields. Now, I grew up in rural parts of Connecticut, and while I claim no experience or expertise in this subject, I’m beginning to question if indeed, the farmers actually needed this time. As I drive past fields and pastures, I don’t see very much activity going on in July and August. In fact, the few local farm stores I pass are either closed or selling produce that obviously didn’t come from their fields. Do the crops need tending? Of course they do, but is there anything more labor intensive that happens during the hot months?For that matter, a quick perusal of the area Grange chapters seems to show that they are open during the summer. You’d think that if the professional farmers could manage to till the weeds (or whatever it is that they do) and get to a monthly Grange meeting, then the suburban Freemasons could manage a night off.
Hopefully some more agriculturally educated brothers can enlighten us.
It’s interesting to note that historians are also not in agreement on when the longer summer vacation for schoolchildren started. Again, while we are told that it was to help with the farming, historians of the Colonial period in the US tell us otherwise.
My own theory on this is that most lodges in the Northeast US were formed after the Industrial Revolution, and in the days before air conditioning and wine coolers, most of the members simply didn’t want to bother scheduling meetings when the children were out of school. Family trips, beach days, and other vacation days simply made it too difficult to get all of the members at a meeting; better to just not have them for a couple of months, and pick things up in September.
Something else of note is that this marks the week that The Tao of Masonry web log was first published in 2006. Initially started as a way to track events and keep people informed during my year as Master of Friendship Lodge No. 33, I turned it into a public
sideshow for my ego collection of my thoughts on Freemasonry. The early to mid-2000s was probably the Golden Age of blogging, and I’ve listed several hundred blogs by Masons either on the blogroll or on my RSS feeds. While blogging is still a thing (as evidenced by the number of excellent bloggers listed on the Ashlars to Ashes aggregate), it’s also a little sad that most of those blogs from the early years have “gone dark” themselves. I think that the Dummy Chris Hodapp, and Millennial Nick Johnson may be the only other Golden Age bloggers still regularly writing.
Since it’s my 10th bloggiversary year, I’m including some links to a couple of old posts from that time. And enjoy your summer, whether it’s light or dark.
* Irregardless. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.
I started 2015 with every intention of getting at least one post a month up, and I actually did pretty well, only faltering in the last two months of the year. But I averaged more than one a month, so I’ll call that a win.
Last year was an interesting one for me. I completed my York Rite degrees, and even though I haven’t written much about them (okay, almost nothing, really), I can’t stress enough how they were worth waiting for, and that any Craft Masons who have an interest in the history or ritual of Freemasonry should definitely look to their local Chapter for the next leg of their journey.
Writing about that reminds me that I really haven’t been active in any of those bodies lately, owing in part to some work commitments, and to some more recent and unanticipated family commitments. I suspect that one of the reasons we see so many retired guys in the Craft, and more in the York Rite is because it’s difficult for younger guys to make the time to get involved in all the different aspects.
Freemasonry in Connecticut is beginning to settle down from the last few fractured years, after a major turnover in our Grand Line. The bigger lesson in all this has not gone unnoticed by Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions: progressive Grand Lines may be the easy way to go, but they are only as progressive as the will of the Craft allows.
We had some interesting things in Freemasonry, too, at least, in the online world. Facebook alone had several hundred conversations on which way you should wear your ring, and the topic shows no sign of slowing. Also popular on social media were discussions about Masonic bling, with the designs of our working tools becoming more stylized and less traditional looking — a trend that some people aren’t completely happy with.
And speaking of online Masonry, I’m glad to see that our Grand Lodge has thought to get a virtual lodge started; it won’t be the first, but hopefully this will be a trend that will become more common, and will be one more way for brothers to connect, who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
Many of the brothers in the online community — most of them tending to the younger side of our membership demographic — were disappointed by the actions of the Grand Lodges of both Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee, which had on their books a prohibition against homosexuality, saw proceedings against a member — a Past Master with a good record — after he posted photographs of him and his (male) spouse after a wedding ceremony. Georgia, not to be outdone, saw the outgoing Grand Master send out an edict which made both homosexual activity and “fornication” offenses subject to Masonic discipline. The real outrage (again, online) happened after the Grand Lodge of Georgia had their annual communication and passed that edict into Masonic law.
The last year also saw some nice activity on some blogs and podcasts. Whence Came You, The Masonic Roundtable, and The After Lodge Podcast were particular standouts for group podcasting, and show no signs of slowing down. On the written side, I’m glad to see that The Millennial Freemason and The Midnight Freemason still turning out thoughtful pieces, and have been joined by a new Mason on the block, Fresh from the quarry.
Naturally, I have these and other fine resources listed at Ashlars to Ashes. Go visit some of them.
Before I wrap this up, I should note another new blog that appeared at the end of the year: The Past Bastard, an Onion-ish site for humorous pieces and satire. Well, I certainly hope they are satire, although after reviewing some of the activities of real Masons from the last few years, I’m beginning to think that the line is becoming very thin, indeed.
The “Golden Age” of Masonic blogging was probably from 2005 to 2010; Facebook and Twitter became the most used social networks, and most of the existing blogs lacked for readers, which in turn discouraged many writers.
I recently went through my own archives, and over the years I have subscribed to or listed just under 200 blogs by Masons. Most are now dead or dormant, but surprisingly, there are still a number of active blogs, and once in a while I’ll run across a new one that I find enjoyable. I’ve been trying to list them on my sidebar, or add them to my RSS reader so I can keep up.
More interestingly, some intrepid bothers will take the time to sit down with a microphone and some recording software, and put together a half to one hour program of discussion. While Masonic podcasts aren’t nearly as common, they are generally an enjoyable alternative, and you can listen to them in the background as you’re working on other things, or save them to mobile device and play it in your car on that long, boring commute.
I know that some of my readers are always on the lookout for new or interesting Masonic reading, so I’ve put together a new Masonic blog
aggravate aggregate; a collection of links to the more active blogs that I’ve been reading, and that other people have kindly pointed out to me. These are blogs that have all posted articles in the last year. Right now there are about 2 dozen, but hopefully that will grow. And since blogs are not the only Masonic writings available, the sidebar will have links to podcasts, web sites, essays, and other bits of interest to Masons.
Ashlar to Ashes: An aggregate for Masonic blogs and writings
This is just a little project that I put together in an afternoon, but if people find it useful, then maybe we can keep this going. If you have a favorite (or your own) blog, podcast, web board, or website that you would like added, please leave a comment here or on Ashalr to Ashes so we can check it out.
First of all, I’m excited that Charles Tirrell of Masonic Renaissance has found the time and inclination to get back into blogging. Charles was my counterpart District Grand Lecturer in the New Haven part of the state, then moved on to be an Associate Grand Marshall, and I now see that in April he will be the District Deputy in that area. I extend my heartfelt congratulations, and I know that he’ll do an excellent job.
I like Charles; he’s young and progressive minded, and he’s the kind of person I have in mind whenever I hear the (sadly clichéed) expression “The future of Masonry.” Charles has consistently pushed for our Grand Lodge to adopt new technologies in order to reach — and be relevant to — the newer members of our fraternity. He’s bright, and well-spoken, and modest about his achievements.
And he prefers Apple computer products.
Apparently, I have so little going on in my own life right now that I have taken to ribbing friends about their choice of technology, much in the way many people poke fun at one’s favorite sports team, choice of automobile, or taste in literature. This ribbing is further driven by the fact that for the last year, my office and home networks have been plagued by more computer problems than I’ve ever seen; obviously I’m envious of anyone who is actually happy with their computer, and confess to some distrust at anyone who doesn’t have some anger, annoyance, or irritation with their gadgets.
To his credit, Charles has refused to take the troll bait; although for that matter, I don’t particularly think about Apple products except when I hear from him or a few other similarly inclined friends.
Until yesterday, that is.
Some of you may remember that last year I wrote a post that made light of the similarities between Freemasonry and the GNU/Linux community. I should have remembered that satire is based in reality.
Yesterday, while reading Lifehacker, I ran across a couple of articles about how Apple is introducing a new way to get software, entitled respectively, Why the Mac App Store Sucks, and Why You Might Really Like the Mac App Store In The Long Run. And suddenly, the pictures jumped out at me. Why?
Here’s the logo for the Mac App Store:
Umm… does this look familiar to you?
For reference, here’s a couple of random images from a Google image search.
I mean, of all the possible combinations that the graphic artists could come up with, they riff on the Square and Compasses?
Coincidence? I think not.
Although I’ve long explored the twisted logic of the conspiracy theorists, I don’t have any background with regard to the twisted logic of Apple users. I believe, however, that this bears looking into.
I know that bloggers always start off saying things like “I write for myself, and I don’t care how many readers I get,” but those of us who are fortunate enough to develop a readership find that we want to publish things worth reading, in terms of both content and writing style. I’m very pleased that some of you think my efforts are worth your time and trouble to return here in hopes of possibly seeing something worth reading, and I hope to continue.
I like to joke that I only have 27 readers from my own state of Connecticut, but recent numbers show that perhaps I’m not that far off. Each month, we post a survey on our Grand Lodge website, and we report the responses in the next issue of The Connecticut Freemason publication. Our last poll was based on our curiosity about those in Connecticut who actually do read blogs by Masons. The question and responses are as follows:
Do you read Masonic blogs?
|No, don’t know what they are||20||19|
Personally, I’m a bit surprised that there was not a category for “Yes, but only when Tom whines and makes me feel guilty”, but perhaps the CT Freemason writers were being kind.
This poll comes along when a few of my online brothers have been wondering about the seeming slowdown in the blogging world. A while ago I read that the typical blog lasts for three to six months, after which the writer runs out of ideas, time, or motivation. I think that a lot of Masons start blogging when they just have joined or are about to join, and accordingly, there’s a lot to write about because joining is new and exciting. There are all those thoughts running through one’s head, there’s the questioning, the investigating, the wondering aloud. And then there’s the petitioning, the investigating committee, and meeting new people. And after that, there is the getting prepped for the initiation and raising. Whoo hoo! Fun and exciting times, indeed.
After the raising, of course, there are a lot of meetings, reading of minutes, and discussions on fixing the roof or replacing the coffee maker. Excitement? Not so much. And that means, of course, less material to write about, and less motivation to write. It’s not that there is nothing interesting anymore, it’s just that one moves from the unknown to the known. It’s kind of like when Ross and Rachel finally got together; the culmination is always less interesting than the events leading up to it. Simply put, the early part of becoming a Mason – like becoming anything – is a process. Something new and different is happening in your life; but we need to remember that things that are happening are more interesting than things that are not happening.
And that is why, as 3M noted, that blogging can be difficult – we’ve already used up the good stuff.
Or have we?
Nothing much to report, except that last night Friendship had a
Moving Party Move Up Night in which Bro. Eric assumed the Oriental Chair. Eric has taken on more responsibilities over the last year, and it’s going to be a pleasure watching him as Master.
As expected in Friendship, all of the officers did a great job in their parts. I’m always proud to see our newest members step up to take smaller parts, and last night, I noticed that everyone who did so made the effort to put some animation and – dare I say it? – enthusiasm into their various parts.
We split up the Middle Chamber (aka: the Staircase) lecture, with four brothers stepping in to assist the JD. We’ve done this before at Friendship, and personally, I prefer this. In the US, it’s common for some lodges to put a large burden on a junior officer to memorize this one, 30 minute long lecture filled with arcane usage and words known only to sesquipedalians. The problem that I frequently see is that the poor guy is so focused on the memorization that most of the time the lecture ends up being monotonous. And while old-timers might see one’s ability to memorize 20 pages as a pre-requisite for serving as Master of a lodge, I can think of at least a few other skills that would be more useful.
|From Visiting Bros|