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I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

April 3, 2014 4 comments

There’s been some interesting online discussion about the video The Grand Leveler from hip-hop artist Apathy, not just for his use of a Masonic Lodge, but because he, himself is a Mason. Some people in our fraternity enjoyed the music and his vision, while others believe it portrays Freemasonry in a bad light.

For anyone so inclined, you can jump into a discussion with Bro. Apathy that’s happening right now on Reddit:

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

 

And after you’re done, then stop by the Reddit Freemasonry group to discuss it some more.

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Ancient or Modern?

January 22, 2014 3 comments

Freemasonry Today, the publication of the UGLE, has a short article from Bro. John Hamill, Director of Special Projects,  in which he asks the question “Is it time to modernize the rituals?” It’s a great topic, and one that has initiated some bickering discussion in some of the online Masonic communities, with the general consensus that this question should be answered with a resounding “Hell no!”

One might think that being a Past District Lecturer that I’d be completely against this; but I’ve given this some thought, and I think that one could make a case that modernizing the ritual might not be such a bad idea. As Bro. Hamill points out:

The English language is said to be one of the most difficult to learn, in both its written and spoken forms. Part of that difficulty is the wonderfully idiosyncratic illogicality of how we pronounce many of our words, which often has little bearing on the actual letters they contain. Another problem is that a simple word can have different meanings, or shades of meaning, depending on its context, or even where in the country it is spoken.

Our familiarity with words and phrases affects how we use them. Over time, the words develop different meanings or connotations. For example, our current Masonic usage of the word “clandestine” now means something slightly different than it did 150 years ago.  Similarly, some words fall out of favor, some are preferred for written discourse, but are rarely used in spoken conversation. For example; “inculcate.” I suspect that nobody uses this in speech because it’s just a jumble of misplaced consonants.

Bro. Hamill also writes (and many others have pointed out):

English is a living language in which the meaning of words changes over time…

If our language is “living,” does this mean that some of our words and phrases can be taken out to the back field and buried when they are dead?

I bring this up because of practical reasons. As a visitor to many lodges, both in and out of my district, I watched as officers strained to deliver their various lectures and charges. You could see their brows furrowed, perspiration on their foreheads, and the tension just radiating from their body movements as they struggled to recite passages in a dialect that was strange and unfamiliar. Their lack of familiarity with the archaic expressions, I contend, is what gave many — perhaps most — of my brothers such a difficult time. Imagine someone from, say, the US trying to memorize a passage of French or Spanish, with little working knowledge of the language. Yes, you’d recognize some words, and perhaps some would sound vaguely familiar, but how well could you actually deliver the lines — especially knowing that some of the people in the room were listening for each little mistake? I think that the typical 30 to 40 year old Mason probably hasn’t read much 1700s Brit-Lit, at least, not since high school, so the lack of familiarity with the terms and usage turns a few paragraphs of a lecture into something akin to a foreign language.

Yes, I know that part of the appeal of Freemasonry is the rich history, but I sometimes think that those of us who decry the modernization of the ritual — or of any other aspect — is really saying that he made the effort, so now he expects everyone else to do the same. This position can be declared elitist, or possibly libertarian, but to some degree, it’s simply wrong. For example, I don’t hear very many of my brothers asking to bring back the even more ancient usages, such as:

Articulus octavus.

The eghte artycul schewt zow so,
That the mayster may hyt wel do,
Zef that he have any mon of crafte,
And be not also perfyt as he auzte,
He may hym change sone anon,
And take for hym a perfytur mon.
Suche a mon, throze rechelaschepe,
Myzth do the craft schert worschepe.

 

You recognize that, don’t you? Of course you do;  it’s the 8th Article of Freemasonry from the Regius Manuscript. What, are you having a hard time with the 14th century script? Here, let’s modernize the text make it easier to read:

Eighth article.

The eighth article sheweth you so,
That the master may it well do.
If that he have any man of craft,
And he be not so perfect as he ought,
He may him change soon anon,
And take for him a more perfect man.
Such a man through rechalaschepe, (recklessness)
Might do the craft scant worship.

So much easier to understand, don’t you think? Personally, while I find it interesting from a historical aspect, I suspect that if you went back to the late 1700s, we wouldn’t find a lot of Freemasons bemoaning the dearth of 15th century style lectures.

As a counter-point, I also suspect that if you sat down with a bunch of your brothers after lodge, most of you could act out and recite entire sections of favorite movies or TV shows. Most of the brothers around my own age could probably quote passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that are at least equal in length and difficulty as any of our lectures, and I know for a fact that quite a few of the younger brothers at my lodge can quote and act out scene after scene from most of the Star Wars movies. What’s the difference between Monty Python and the Middle Chamber? You might argue that it’s the repetition, but I’d say that part of it is the familiarity with the language.  Yes, there’s the repetition, but think about this: Most lodges meet twice a month. A Mason who attends most meetings is going to see and hear the opening ceremony at least 20 times in a year. By the time he’s a senior officer, he could have well seen 80 to 100 opening and closing ceremonies.That is a lot of repetition, certainly much more than one would experience with most movies or TV episodes. And yet, how many times have you  seen a Master of a lodge who could barely stumble through a proper opening and closing?

In answer to his own question,  Bro. Hamill concludes his essay by saying:

Occasionally, we hear calls to modernise those ceremonies, to take out old words and phrases and replace them with modern, instantly comprehensible ones. I hope those calls are never answered. Our ceremonies contain some wonderful set pieces of English language that would be destroyed if we modernised them. Freemasonry is a learning process, and if we have to resort to a dictionary to fully comprehend what we learn, that can only enrich us.

Personally, I enjoy the works as they are. Although not a history buff, I appreciate the connection to the older days of Freemasonry, and I quite like the challenge of tackling some of the unfamiliar phrasing in order to present it as I imagine a brother of 1814 would have done.  But if “modernizing” the ritual means that more members would be able to memorize it — and more importantly, to deliver it well to the newer members — then maybe this is an idea worth examining a little more closely, before we toss it into the “we’ve never done it like that” discard bin.


Join the Freema$on$, Make $$$!

August 29, 2013 1 comment

It seems that I joined the wrong lodge. Or perhaps the Grand Lodge has been holding out on me.

Apparently not satisfied with generously sharing the bank accounts of deposed princes (for a small fee), Nigerian Freemasons have been offering a special deal: Join now, and after your initiation ceremony, you’ll be awarded such things as:

  • A Cash Reward of USD $300,000
  • A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000
  • A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice
  • One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
  • One year Golf Membership package
  • A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World
  • A total Lifestyle change
  • Access to Bohemian Grove
  • One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World.

All they need is $300 initiation fee, and in seven days, you can be driving your BMW to Oprah’s house to have lunch with the Bills (Gates and Clinton), and then you’re off to a round at Pebble Beach.

Well, not at first. They go on to say:

Once you make the Payment and after filling and submitting the Registration Form,you are then invited to the Freemason Lodge where you undergo the Initiation Ceremony.

Seven days after the Initiation Ceremony, you are then Invited to an Awarding Ceremony where you are rewarded with USD $300,000

This Money is to enable you change your Lifestyle and your standards of Living so as to match with that of the Club Members.

This is important, because Freemasons certainly can’t be seen hanging around with anyone that isn’t up to their standards. I’m sure I’m at the wrong lodge, because I have to park my Chevy pickup next to a Ford pickup, a Toyota Prius, and a few other cars that cost considerably less than $120,000.

Wait, what’s that? I missed the deadline?

DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS: 30thAugust, 2013.

NB: After the Expiry of the Deadline above, FREEMASON and ILLUMINATI Membership Registration will close indefinitely in the above countries.

Dang! I hate it when that happens.

For those of you who might be able to get your bank cheque off by tomorrow, you can see more information below.


Click here to view the actual website.

Freemasonry Membership Registration - Home

5th District Blue iLodge Council

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

We have nine Masonic Districts here in Connecticut, and the “guys who have been around” tell us that they were created according to the old rail road lines that ran in those areas. Back in the pre-automobile days, the District Deputies needed to take the trains (and then what, a horse cart?) to visit the various lodges. An amusing idea, although I have my doubts as to the veracity.

Several times a year, usually in a month with 5 weeks, the senior officers and other interested members of the lodges in a district will get together in order to keep abreast of what’s happening, to ask for (or offer) support for upcoming degree work, or to spread the news about some community activity. These meetings are called Blue Lodge Councils, and most lodges find them helpful. Our district has a little competition: the lodge with the most members that show up are awarded the “Traveling Gavel,” which entitles them to nothing except bragging rights. But it’s fun.

image

Friendship Lodge No. 33 is located at the southern end of the 5th District, and last night I drove up to Canada Collinsville to sit at the Blue Lodge Council meeting held at Village Lodge No. 29. As it happens, this was the Annual Meeting, which means a changing of the guard. Traditionally, the outgoing District Deputy for the district is arm-twisted elected to the position of BLC President, and his Associate Grand Marshal  is brow-beaten politely agrees to be Vice President or perhaps  is blackmailed into fills in Treasurer/Secretary position.

Last night, the previous  Associate Grand Marshall was in attendance, but the District Deputy was fishing and gambling away on an important business trip in Las Vegas. However, a fortuitous circumstance allowed a brother from Frederick Franklin Lodge No. 14 to contact RW. Bro. Larry over Skype using his iPad. The outgoing President, wanting to make sure RW Larry didn’t escape  seeing an opportunity for efficiency, was able to install his successor by placing the iPad in the East and swearing him in.

image

We rounded out the evening by playing Masonic Jeopardy, a trivia game in which teams (in this case, the A side of the district vs the B side) answer various questions on ritual, rules, and history.

And then I had to take the train back from Canada make the long drive back home.

Categories: freemason, Freemasonry, mason

Shake ‘n’ Bake

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A Worshipful Master noticed there was a newly proficient Master Mason who came to diligently practice the ritual every time the lodge was open. So the WM went to question him: “Dear brother, what are your intentions in practicing the ritual? What do you want?”

The MM said: “More light!”

The WM then picked up a tile and began to rub it very vigorously. Of course, the MM noticed this and asked: “What are you doing?”

The WM said: “I’m polishing it to make it into a mirror.”

The MM asked: “How can you make a mirror by polishing a tile?”

The WM said: “You’re absolutely right, polishing a tile will not make it a mirror. How can practicing the ritual give you more light?”

The MM scratched his head: “Then what am I supposed to do?”

The WM replied: “It’s like an ass pulling a cart. If the cart does not go, should you hit the cart or should you hit the ass?”

The MM had no reply.

The WM continued: “Do you think you are practicing ritual or do you think you are practicing Masonry? If you are practicing ritual, ritual is not degrees, or opening and closing the lodge. If you are practicing Masonry, it is not a fixed form. In the midst of everything that is changing you should neither hold on nor push away. If you keep ritual in the lodge, this is dowsing the light. If you cling to the forms of Masonry, this is not attaining its essence.”

From Zen Masonry

Most lodges probably have a “move up” night, during which the officers will move up and perform the duties of the next station, usually as a way to help the newer officers prepare for the duties that they will most likely have during the next year. Once in a while, Friendship Lodge has a twist on that idea. We sometimes have a “Sideliner Night”, during which we randomly have the regular members draw a position out of a hat and fill it for the evening. We also have a “Shake-up Night”, in which the officers are randomly reassigned to different stations. It’s not really a big deal for the Senior Warden to fill in at the Junior Deacon’s chair, but it’s much more interesting when the newer, junior officers are suddenly promoted into the senior chairs. The other night, the Senior Deacon ended up in the East, and our “Associate Steward” ended up in the West, and our Junior Deacon ended up in the South.

Anyone who has watched experienced officers barely get through an opening ceremony can imagine the smiles (and groans) of the Past Masters watching such a display, but the Friendship officers usually practice several times for any degree ceremony, and so each officer certainly has seen an opening quite a few times during his membership. I happened to be sitting next to our Past District Deputy, and we joked that we’d seen worse at lodges on their regular nights.

Well, okay, maybe I wasn’t joking.

But here’s the interesting part. I was sitting there, watching the displaced officers trying to brazen their way through an Entered Apprentice opening, when I found myself ignoring what they were actually saying, and listening to what they were trying to say. Yes, most of them missed some of  the words, or substituted similar words, or switched phrases around — but that was just on the surface. When you listened closely, the words were wrong, but the ritual itself was right.

Masonic ritual is not simply a ceremony denoting the opening and closing of a lodge. Nor is it (as it seems to be practiced in some lodges) a memory competition designed to show who would make the better officer.  Our rituals, and the lectures during our degree work, are not empty passages, but lessons. Indeed, when the Worshipful Master is charged with giving instruction to the Craft, most people aren’t even aware that the ritual itself, is part of that instruction.

I have seen lodges in which Past Masters critiqued new officers, admonishing them for missing a word in an otherwise well-delivered piece. If that makes that officer concentrate upon the words, will he then begin to miss the underlying meaning, or maybe to miss the overall lesson of that particular piece? Personally, I think so. I’ve seen some officers literally close their eyes and stand , trembling with effort, to deliver a rushed, albeit word-perfect memorized lecture. I’ve seen more than one charge delivered at high rates of speed by men intent upon getting all of the words out lest they forget something and freeze up.

What is the lesson here? What values and precepts are being taught — or learned?


 

On another note, I’m happy to say that this week marks our Grand Lodge Annual Communication. I’m particularly happy about this one because it has been an excellent year for the outgoing Grand Master, MWGM Jim McWain. Bro. McWain has been a particularly good example of a Grand Master who has been able to blend vision with practicality. We wish him well in the future.

And adding to that, Friendship Lodge will see one of it’s own entering the Grand Oriental Chair: RWB Gary Arseneau will be installed on Monday afternoon. Gary has shown himself to be a dedicated and resourceful Grand Lodge officer for the last ten years, and we’re all looking forward to another excellent year. We understand that we probably won’t get to see as much of him in lodge as we would like, but the members of Friendship wish him well, and hope he gets a chance to visit, with or without his purple apron.

Writer’s Ashlar

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It Will Pass

An Entered Apprentice was waiting to enter the lodge. He sat down with the Tiler and said, “My life is in chaos! I feel so distracted, I cannot concentrate on my questions and answers, and I’m so tired that I keep falling asleep in lodge. This is just horrible! What shall I do?”

“It will pass,” the Tiler said matter-of-factly.

At the next lodge meeting, the EA came back to the Tiler. “You were right! Everything is great now! My life is in order once again, I can focus on the questions and answers, and I’m not too tired to pay attention in lodge.”

“It will pass,” the Tiler said matter-of-factly.

From ZenMasonry

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Except for a handful of officer’s installations, I haven’t been to a lodge function, let alone a lodge meeting in two months.

It’s not that I’m upset with anybody there, or because I haven’t paid my annual dues (umm… I’m pretty sure I sent out that check), or because they don’t serve low-carb dinners. It’s because after 2 -1/2 years of a miserable economy, I’m suddenly working like crazy. Customers that pushed off orders indefinitely all seem to be calling them in. While this is a good thing indeed, at the moment we’re lacking in manpower to meet the demands. I’ve had to cut 30% of our personnel over the last couple of years, and now we’re trying to meet production schedules with the people that are left.

I’m not sure if this is a sign that business in general is coming back, or if it’s simply a temporary spike as customers replace depleted inventories; accordingly, I’m hesitant to hire more people in case I have to let them go in a few months. This means that I spend half of my days doing paperwork, and the other half working out in the shop;  I’ve been working twelve to fourteen hours a day, and by the time I get home I can barely stay awake enough to read my messages and do a little internet surfing. More than once my wife has nudged me when I’ve started to doze behind my laptop. I have a few other writing gigs, and lately I’m way behind because I’ve been falling asleep at the keyboard.

And of course, holidays, family time, school plays, music recitals, charity functions (can you believe that not every community function I do is not some Masonic thing?), home repairs, and the annual pasta dinner at the local church fill in the other gaps in my  many heures joyeuses.

My lack of personal time has also taken a toll on my blogging — I barely seem to get an article in each month. It’s not for a lack of ideas; I’ve got a dozen drafts that I get a couple of paragraphs into, and then can’t seem to finish because after a week or two I lose the train of thought behind them. I used to write a bit in the morning, but lately, instead of writing I head to my exercise room (actually, it’s the laundry room-slash-pantry) and work out for an hour. Sit mens sana in corpore sano and all that.  Actually, those of you who have been following my Tweets, Facebook, or Buzz have seen my not infrequent complaints about my exercise routines, my diet, or my (lack of) weight loss — and even at that, I can barely find enough energy to micro-blog more than a couple of times a day. I mean, how much energy and inspiration do you need to grind out 140 characters?

Anyway, you’re not here to read about my busy life. You’ve got your own busy lives, and can barely squeeze in enough time to read your favorite blogs.

Over the last few years, I’ve met people in town who say things like “Oh, my father (brother, grandfather, uncle, husband) is (was) a Mason.. But he doesn’t go anymore.” When I ask about this, it seems that many members stay active for about 10 years or so, and then wander off into other things. Yes, there are exceptions, but those that do seem to lose interest after that time rarely come back. Perhaps it’s because many of the people that they knew — the officers and other regulars — have also run through their own 10 year span; when a member goes back and doesn’t recognize anyone, he feels out of touch, and loses the motivation to come back again.

Or maybe  it’s because, having been an officer, perhaps even having been the Master, they no longer feel that they have any purpose in the lodge anymore. Yes, I know that many Past Masters seem to believe that their purpose it to make the newer officers miserable, but I suspect that such PMs are actually a minority, albeit at times a loud, vocal, annoying minority. But some Past Masters really have no role in lodge anymore; once in a while they are called upon to sit in a chair for a degree, perhaps to take part in a Past Master degree, or maybe to deliver some lecture or charge on short notice.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week. But this is the longest I’ve been too busy to make lodge meetings, and it did make me wonder why some of us simply stop going and drift away. Were they suddenly too busy with work or family issues? Did they expect that it was only temporary, and that they would soon be back in their regular seats? When did they realize that they just aren’t going back at all? Does some psychic inertia take over that makes it just too difficult to start going again?

What do you think? What makes you or your brothers wander off for long periods of time? And why do you (or they) lose the motivation to come back?

299

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment

The number 300 now being associated with half-naked, well-muscled Spartans, I didn’t want to confuse anybody with the approximate number of  Masons who attended the Grand Lodge semi-annual communication in mid-October of this year. Last year I complained a bit about the people who come to these meetings and then leave as soon as possible, so I’m not going to revisit that topic. I was, however, pleased to see that all of the lodges were represented, with only one exception — a marked improvement over the last few years. It might be cynical of me to mention that some lodges may have been motivated this year by one of the items to be voted on: the increase in a monetary fine to those lodges that fail to send any representation from $25 (barely the cast of gasoline and lunch) to $250.

This is Grand Lo-o-o-odge!

I got there about a half hour before the session started, got a coffee (no donut, thanks), and chatted with people I hadn’t seen in a while. When I finally went inside the main room to find a seat, I discovered that the Deputy Grand Master had gone to the hospital the previous night for chest pains (at this point, it seems that he’s fine), and would not be attending. The rest of the officers were in a mild panic because they would have to move up a chair in order to open the Grand Lodge session.  Why is this a problem? Because the nine members come from different lodges, and most of those lodges have peculiar traditions and customs. Since Grand Lodge officers don’t have any rehearsals (ahem), it’s not unusual for somebody to miss a cue. And even for those officers who are familiar with what passes for standard Connecticut ritual, it might have been years since one of them actually sat in that respective chair in a Blue Lodge. What with the rituals for York Rite, Scottish Rite, Eastern Star, Rainbow, the Shrine, etc., in our heads,  it’s a wonder that half the Masons remember as well as they do.

During the break, I twittered “Who certifies Grand Lodges officers, anyway?” This is a reference to my one actual duty as a District Grand Lecturer (as opposed to those duties which I’ve made up for myself), that being to watch a potential Master properly go through the ceremony for opening and closing a lodge.  I meant it to be funny, but after the session when people got home, some of them commented about this  on my Facebook page. Soon, it became  a (yet another!) discussion about the perception that Grand Lodge is perhaps out of touch with what the real needs are in the lodges.

Comments about the ritualistic slip-ups were good natured ribbing, however, one brother brought up some good points on the relatively new practice we have of setting standards (and giving out certifications) for anyone aspiring to be the Master of a lodge.

Brother Frank expressed the general frustration that I’ve heard from others around the state.

“There’s so much emphasis on getting these little certifications these days. Does anyone actually look at a Warden and evaluate whether or not he’d actually BE a decent WM? No. But if he’s good at ritual, and can regurgitate the stuff on the little tests, then he gets the nod of approval. Granted, you need to be a decent ritualist, but that’s only 25% at best of what the job is.”

And he’s right, of course. Being able to memorize a few paragraphs of ritual doesn’t make you qualified to run a lodge. Neither, in fact, does your attendance at a couple of half-day seminars, nor your ability to memorize the various rules and regulations that the Grand Lodge has codified.

Frank sums this up nicely:

“[Grand Lodge] is overly concerned with certifications these days and not concerned enough about whether the Master is making lodge … Read More ENGAGING for this great crop of new Masons we have coming in. We should be concentrating on giving these new guys a great sense of fraternity, and in many lodges that is missing. Passing the WM certification does not guarantee that a WM can LEAD a lodge — and LEADERSHIP is the key.”

Ironically, the Grand Lodge would agree. That’s why in the last couple of years, we have changed the format of our officers seminars from serial lectures to mini-team building exercises. Aspiring Masters and Wardens are arranged in small groups and mentored through various tasks. The exercises are not arbitrary; all of them are based on developing the kinds of programs that have been shown to work well in lodges. Even better, each officer has a chance to talk to the others in his group about possible issues he might face in implementing such programs in his own lodge, and to get input from those in different circumstances.

Does even this type of education guarantee that someone will be a good Master? Of course not. But it’s a step in the right direction, because it makes potential Masters aware that there are various ways to approach developing a program for their year.



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