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Claims Adjustment

June 16, 2017 2 comments

Anyone who has been paying to US political news for the last year or so knows that 2016 was a particularly divisive national election year, and that 2017 has been pretty much one “crisis” after another, as Republicans battle Democrats, and Trump supporters battle “Never Trump” activists.

I’ll admit to having done a bit of troll baiting over the last year, mainly because, well, I’m a 15 year old teenager trapped in a grown man’s body. Despite that, however, my Facebook friends list has stayed fairly steady. I’ve been blocked or unfriended by a few family and friends, but for the most part, the people that I’ve gotten to know – online and off – as fellow Freemasons have managed to keep their conversations level; they have been all over the political spectrum, but our disagreements have not been enough to have them drop me as a friend, nor I them.

Until this week.

The shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise earlier this week should have elicited sympathy, if not outrage. At the very least, one would have thought that the more enlightened people would have abided by the rule “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I was not just surprised, but saddened at the comments of one of my friends who wrote, in essence, that Scalise deserved what he had gotten, that it was re-payment for his being a Tea Party supporter, and then added something about karma and female dogs.

The comment was not part of a conversation in which I was involved; I just blocked and later, deleted him from my friend list.

Oh sure, we’ve all had our moments of righteous anger. I can think of any number of times that I’ve read about some thug holding up a store, getting shot in the process, and thinking “Oh, good, maybe that’ll teach him a lesson.” But Scalise was not a thug; in fact, I had no idea who the guy was until I’d read the news, which indicates to me that he probably wasn’t an especially bad person. I’m guessing that for a lot of other people this was also the case.

“Okay, Tom,” you’re saying to yourself about now, “if I wanted to read about politics, I’d be on Facebook. How is this related to Freemasonry?”

Some US states have a piece at the closing of lodge (sometimes called the Closing Charge), that is sadly absent in Connecticut (and apparently elsewhere), but which I’ve run across, and I think it’s a moving bit of ceremony. A typical version runs like this:

Brethren: You are now to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember that around this altar you have promised to befriend and relieve every worthy Brother who shall need your assistance. Remember that you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful. Finally, Brethren, be ye all of one mind; live in peace; and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

I don’t know what made that pop into my head at some point yesterday, but there’s a part in there that I believe gets overlooked far too often:

These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful.

That is, we have an obligation to be tolerant, if not downright charitable to everyone, regardless of political outlook. Maybe some of us need to be reminded of that not just in and around our lodge, but also whenever we log into our social media.

Darkness Falls

June 24, 2016 2 comments

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. tmtlampoonsvacation2

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.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Masonspotting: You’re doing it wrong.

WWHD?

But what was Plan A?

Cui Bono?

Who’s in charge, anyway?

 

* Irregardless. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

Tidings from the West

February 29, 2016 16 comments

This evening, the news began to spread around the Masonic internet haunts about the message from M. David Perry, Grand Master of Masons in California. I received several from brothers who were proud, excited, and who wanted to make sure the message went out.

From the GM of CA today

Dear Brethren:

You might have read about recent events in some US states including Georgia and Tennessee where Masonic grand lodges have adopted new rules or have enforced existing rules that discipline Masons because of their sexual orientation. Such rules and actions do not coincide with the principles of Freemasonry as practiced by the Grand Lodge of California and do not support what we understand as the great aim of our fraternity.

Freemasonry is a universal system which uses the tools and techniques of the old stonemasons’ guilds to illustrate simple moral and ethical principles. To this it adds a philosophical and spiritual framework for personal improvement. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better by improving their relationships with others, by practicing a life of tolerance, compassion, honesty, and the pursuit of justice. Freemasonry instructs its members to uphold and respect the laws of their government and not to undermine those laws. It attempts to make the world a better place by making its members better citizens of the communities in which they live.

Freemasonry may be found worldwide, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Freemasonry works through local lodges. In California and elsewhere, some lodges are comprised of men only, some of women only and some of both men and women. Each lodge typically operates under a grand lodge, and there are a number of these grand lodges operating in California. Each grand lodge is independent and operates under its own set of rules as its members may decide.

With more than 50,000 members statewide, those lodges under the Grand Lodge of California are open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, economic station, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian.

Through this universal brotherhood, California Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites us. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance.

It has been a week now since the news of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and their expulsion of two seemingly well liked and active brothers who were accepted by the members of their lodge, but who were not accepted by other members of the fraternity in the state.

The discussions have continued on Facebook groups and other Web forums since then, with the overwhelming majority of Freemasons sympathetic toward Brothers Clark and Henderson; and ranging from irate to incredulous at the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the opinions of the several thousands of Freemasons will probably have little impact, since most of the support for the brothers has been from members who aren’t from Tennessee. This may have something to do with the recent directive in Tennessee that forbids members from discussing the matter in public; indeed, rumors have circulated that the GL officers have noted some of the brothers who have spoken out on social media. So far, reports that those members have been disciplined have gone unsubstantiated.

Fortunately, however, it seems that the conversations have not gone unnoticed elsewhere. California is the first to release a public statement to the effect that the Grand Lodge does not condone or support the discriminatory actions of several other states. Hopefully others will follow shortly, before the Grand Lodge of Tennessee convenes at the end of March.

= = = = =

Edit: Chris Hodapp has posted the text from the Grand Lodge of Utah, and the Grand Lodge of DC, both of which came out several days ago.

Social Masonry

May 22, 2015 7 comments

The question came up with one of my friends on Facebook: “Is there too much Masonry on social media?” By that, he was asking if the dozens and dozens of similar Facebook groups, often with overlapping membership, and all seemingly having the same conversations (and disagreements) over and over is somehow bad for the society. Naturally a few wags jumped in to suggest that the problem was that there wasn’t enough Masonry in the Masons on social media. An amusing retort, but it misses what I think is the real issue.

Social media, specifically the big groups like Facebook, offer an opportunity that we constantly remind new Masons about: the ability to “travel” to foreign countries. On Facebook, you won’t attend a lodge, but you can certainly find yourself in a conversation with someone from a different state in the US, or a Canadian province, or (if you don’t mind the time zone lag) brothers from across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. secret-society-social-network

American Freemasons are somewhat insulated by the above-named oceans; most of the US practices some version of the Preston Webb lectures, and the variations between most states are fairly minimal, at least in contrast to the workings and customs in lodges in the UK,Scotland, Ireland, France, and other areas. And because most of us lack some exposure to other workings and customs, we often tend to think that our way is “correct,” which leads to long pointless discussions on why you should (or shouldn’t) wear your ring a certain way, or why our English brothers don’t seem to get into arguments about the feminine Masonic orders, or whether the workings should be learned from a book or verbally, or why a tattoo isn’t a violation of one’s  Masonic obligations.

I’ve often seen a picture of some brother’s new tattoo or some Masonic item, followed by a few comments like “You forgot your oaths,” or “Why are you displaying the secrets?”or “I take my obligations seriously and would never do anything like that!” or even “Are you even really a Mason?” To me, the disturbing thing isn’t that those commenters didn’t know about the different customs elsewhere, but that they immediately jumped to a conclusion and instead of questioning, responded with criticism. Perhaps when we talk about “the universality of Masonry,” some people make the assumption that Masonry is universally practiced the same way as it is in their lodge, instead of assuming the bigger picture, that Masonry is a way to encompass a universally agreeable set of moral values.

Masons on social media would be better served by giving some thought to their comments before typing. Of course you take your obligations seriously, but why would you assume that the person in question does not? Instead of jumping to conclusions when you see a brother espouse a different opinion, ask yourself what may be different about his lodge, his community, or his Grand Lodge that would cause him to think differently. And if you can’t come up with an answer, then ask him directly. Questions like “Hey, I saw that you have a different way of doing ___. Why is that?” will go a lot further toward spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection than assuming that he’s simply doing something wrong.

You may not be able to actually travel to far-off lands, but thanks to the internet and the various media platforms, you can at least get an idea about the different customs and cultures elsewhere. Freemasons should take advantage of those opportunities to learn about each other because we are, after all, one of the oldest social networks in existence.

 

Connecticut Casual

March 22, 2014 6 comments

If you had to make a Venn diagram of the categories “Rap Videos,” “Connecticut,” and “Freemasons,” you’d probably think that the intersection would be 0.

You’d think.

Reel Wold Productions presents: Apathy – “The Grand Leveler”

With special thanks to the officers and brethren of Coastal Lodge No. 57 in Stonington, CT & Bro. Jim Johnson.

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