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What Would Hiram Do?

July 3, 2006 17 comments

I was reading some of the other bloggers, and two recent posts jumped out at me because they lead to a similar issue. In the blog Within Due Bounds, blogger J. Roberts admits to having been a rude driver, and gives a few thoughts on acting “Masonically”. In The Burning Taper, “Widow’s Son” mentions a humorously titled post on yet another blog, and is called to task for it when someone asks “What does that have to do with Masonry?” WS answers that “A True Mason can not compartmentalize his life…” These posts led me to revisit a topic that I wonder about occasionally.

As Masons, can we ever really be “off duty”?

I’m not talking about our obligations to respect the laws of our Grand Lodge or to not reveal the secret entrance to the sub-levels of the Denver Airport complex. I’m talking about those rough edges on our personal ashlars and whether or not we choose to smooth them a bit every day, or to ignore them and hope that years of erosion and other frictions will do it for us.

Elsewhere I’ve mentioned that I’ve noticed small changes in the way I act and react to people and situations. I’m sure that part of this is just plain old “growing up”, something one would hope that any man of for(*cough* *cough*)ght would have been doing. But I’m aware of this on another level as well, not just an awareness that I’m more mature, but a meta-awareness that I often check my actions and reactions against some ideal that I’ve begun to internalize. That is to say, I now have an “awareness” that I am a Freemason, and I find that this adds a layer of conditions against which I monitor myself. But here’s the difficult part for me to answer: Am I actually monitoring myself as myself, or am I monitoring myself against some blueprint that is not actually real?

Yes, I’ve been reading too much Zen lately, why do you ask?

At some point, I started thinking to myself that because I had such a high regard for our institution that I wanted to be the best person possible, if simply to not bring dishonor to the fraternity. Back when I joined, that was actually a motivation for many of the things that I did, in fact, perhaps because joining was a new thing for me, and at the time I didn’t feel that I had much to else offer. Now, though, I rarely think about it – at least, not in the sense that I say to myself “Oh, I’d better not do that, I’m a Mason now.” I don’t think about it – at least, I don’t think I think about it – because I’m too busy simply working to make myself a better person to worry about what I’m supposed to be doing on behalf of the fraternity – if anything.

Back on 2003, our Grand Master at the time, the Most Worshipful “Chip” presented all of the lodges in Conn with a 3/4 length mirror, upon which were stenciled at the top: “Take a look at yourself – YOU are someone’s impression of Masonry.” Those so inclined to pause at those mirrors for a moment of reflection would often make the expected little jokes, but used to I wonder how many men walked away honestly contemplating the impressions that their attitudes, actions, and demeanors have made on people – family, friends, cow-orkers, and those people who really didn’t know anything about them except that they wear the S&C logo decoder rings.

The mirrors also made me wonder about how we judge our own impressions of ourselves. Some of us join the Craft because we like the idea of being historically associated with famous historical persons. Others joined because of family members, and others to make business or social contacts, or because of the esoteric ideals. When men with those motivations pause for reflection, do they judge themselves by the number of contacts they’ve made, or by the number of books about arcana that they’ve read?

More importantly, though, I now realize that maybe what I need to do is to define what “Masonry” is to me, before I can worry about what kind of impression I’m making on somebody else.

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