Posts Tagged ‘freemasons’

The medium is the messed edge

November 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Another blogger comes out of the closet this week. In real life, the mono-nymed Radcliffe happens to be one of my best friends, and has been writing The Metaphysical Freemason for the last year or so. For reasons as yet unexplained, he decided to cast off the cloak of anonymity with the anagrammatically titled post “Edman named.” As it turns out, Radcliffe is really WB Dave Edman, Past Master of Friendship Lodge (voted “Best Lodge in Conn” by 33% of Connecticut bloggers). WB Dave joins the surprisingly small number of blogging brothers who publish under their real names, and I welcome him to the club.

Being an inveterate attention seeker and egomaniac, I fail to understand the hesitation which many of my brothers seem to have over such public disclosure – at least, under normal circumstances. I do understand that some brothers feel the need to publish anonymously, though. In the UK and other parts of Europe, Freemasons have come under scrutiny because of accusations of nepotism and favoritism in government and business dealings; and let’s not forget that Freemasons were actively persecuted in WWII. In the US, some Masons in the Bible Belt might be hesitant to announce their memberships because their neighbors, co-workers, or employers might belong to a congregation that looks askance at the Order, which conceivably could impact one’s job security.Some brothers are just new to Masonry and are shy and unsure of what they can write, for rear of ridicule from less their expressive brethren. And, unfortunately, some Masons even fear reprisals from their own, as last year’s events in West Virginia have showcased.

But these are exceptions. To me, the surprising thing is that 2/3 of the 100+ bloggers that I’ve counted choose to do so under a nom-de-plume. Bro.  Radcliffe Dave writes something that echoes sentiments that I’ve seen elsewhere:

“[…] does it matter what a persons name is, does it cause less credibility or more, when one is attempting to move ideas. I would generally suppose that while of potentially little harm it probably causes even less good.”

The essential question that Dave – and others –  poses is this: “What difference does my name make? What does it matter who I am? Why can’t you just evaluate what I’m saying on its own merits?” And on some level this is a perfectly valid issue: The truth – or at least, what one believes is true – really should take priority over who is reporting it. The value of an opinion offered should not change depending upon who is opining.

At one time in our society,  you might have seen advertisements like “Try Doc Johnson’s Vit-A-Tonic. It adds pep to your step!” in magazines and newspapers. Those were simpler times, though. Marketing experts have long since realized the importance of adding some amount of authority to the context of the message in order to create a degree of  verisimilitude in order to increase the attractiveness of the product. My grandmother would buy almost anything endorsed by Robert Young, the actor who played Doctor Marcus Welby, MD on a show of the same name.

But now, in our post-modern, self-aware society, the discriminating among us demand more than the patina of realism; we want actual authority in order to give meaning within the context. And while the desire for meaning within context is a mark of critical thinking, do we sometimes discount the validity of facts or opinions when they are divorced from the context? I would say that we do, especially in the internet world – but that we do so not without reason. The speed in which various internet hoaxes are passed around by the unaware is amazing, and the tenacity of these hoaxes (or rather, the belief in them) rival the faith that some people have in religion.

Don’t believe me? How many times in the last decade (yes, it’s been at least that long) have you seen emails promising money, free meals, or prizes (from a merger of Microsoft, AOL, Outback, and Disney, apparently) based on your propensity to forward it to as many people as possible. And almost every such email contains the phrase “I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?” Newer versions, ironically, even contain such “authority” phrases as “My sister in law is an attorney, and she says it’s legal” or “My accountant says that this is binding” or now, the ultimate in authority:  “I saw this on, so it must be true.”

Yet, the messages which some people would claim have merit even without a context, have certainly been created with some context; context that enhances the impact of the message itself. If I wrote an article about my concerns over publishing something critical of my Grand Lodge (Connecticut, one of the more progressive and forward-thinking states), it would not have the same impact as (for example) an author from West Virginia, knowing that some members of the Craft have been expelled for speaking their mind, and that their Grand Lodge has been actively seeking the authors of an anonymously written blog chronicling the issues involving the Past Grand Master Haas. Indeed, the words of both articles may be the same, but the knowledge of the environment of the authors impacts the sense of meaning that the reader develops.

I’m not suggesting that my brothers in self-imposed anonymity suddenly announce their names; they obviously have their own reasons, and I would never suggest that their reasons are not valid – at least, to them. But I do encourage anyone who can, to write freely about Masonry; to write about their experiences, their beliefs, and their education. In our post-modern times we have opened up our lodges so that non-Masons can see what goes on, in hopes of encouraging some of them to join our ranks. Maybe, by being more open amongst ourselves, we can encourage those of us in the ranks to help mentor and educate each other, as well as those who have chosen to follow similar paths.

Queen for a day

November 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Or rather, Grand Master for a year or five.

Fred  Billiken Milliken over on The Beehive has been feeling a bit lazy uninspired, and so he asked a few of his fellow bloggers to write a small essay, with this topic in mind:

You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term.  As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth?

Personally, my first thought as to what I would do if I were the GM in Connecticut would be to curl up into a fetal position and hope that it’s all a bad dream.

Of course, I’m sure that some other members of the Craft would have the same reaction to my being a GM, too.

You can read the rest of my essay over on his blog.

Read more…

Mason-Ink Displays

October 31, 2008 Leave a comment

Sometimes internet life takes the strangest turns. Despite the fact that I have written a number of essays on various topics of interest to the 23 regular readers who frequent this blog (none of them being from my own lodge, let alone from Connecticut), the single topic search that attracts the most visitors to this blog  – yes, even more than anything to do with religious Anti-Masons, Illuminati/NWO konspiracy theories, our Zeta-Reticulan overlords protectors, or even the Southington Apple Harvest Festival – is “Masonic Tattoo.”

I kid thee not.

About two and a half years ago, I ran across the Masonic Ink web site, and me being just childish enough to think the idea was cool, I wrote a small blog about it, called “Not your grandfather’s Square & Compasses.”  I followed that up a year later when I discovered that some of my brother Masons right here in Connecticut had some pretty cool skin art, not the least of them being the Grand Master himself; Most Worshipful Bill Greene, who graciously allowed me to feature it in the article.

Since then, my visits from web searches on some variation of “Masonic Tattoos” have steadily increased. More impressive, though, is the growth of the Masonic Ink website. Started as an offshoot of “The Master’s Jewel,” a site that sold Masonic jewelry, it had only a few dozen pics a couple of years ago; it now rocks the body mod world with almost 700 pictures in close to 200 galleries. More interesting, though, is that the variety of pictures show a lot of members who are anything but gray-haired, moss-backed, old turtles, testifying to the resurgence of Masonry among the younger crowd.

So naturally, I was pleased when the October issue of our own state publication, The Connecticut Freemason, featured a two-page, full-color spread about the body ink amongst our own brothers, accompanied by a several page article. I was also pleasantly surprised  to learn that several of our own not only wear the ink, but do the artwork: Chriss Finalis, Mark Roberts, and Michael Jay, all of whom have studios in different parts of the Nutmeg State.

Of course, they copped my shot of Grand Master Bill’s tattoo, but I guess it’s understandable, as most of the other Grand Line officers don’t have Masonic Ink. There are, however, several purple-aproned Masonically inked brothers. But you’ll have to read the article to discover who.

I could end this article right now, but that would be one-sided. Last year, I had an anonymous comment on my Grand Tattoo article that appeared to have been left by a brother Mason who objected to the idea of tattoos as intemperate and excessive. While I personally disagree, believing that – as expressed in our charges – it is the internal, and not the external qualifications of a man that is the most important, I can understand that some people grew up in an era which regarded such outward displays as unseemly. And that’s okay, we are a big fraternity, and there is room for disagreement.

Surprisingly, though, our state publication (which receives very little in the way of “Letters to the Editor”) has had some feedback to the effect that some members did not appreciate the featured tattoos, and especially not the full color front page picture. While I know this because I happen to be a member of the committee that publishes The Connecticut Freemason, I would have liked to have been able to discuss the issue with those who objected, if only to offer them equal time to present an opposing viewpoint.

Anyway, one would imagine that, having had a couple of years to think about it, I’d have my own tattoo now, perhaps even displayed in the October issue, right? Unfortunately, no. The truth is that while I’d really like one, I have not yet hit on a design that I think that I would be happy with when I’m, say, 80 years old.

Essentially, this is what has kept me from getting any tattoo; frankly, I’ve had a hard time imagining liking anything enough to want it for the next 20 or 30 years, especially not being able to get rid of the thing.

I have to stop writing now. My wife, who had been reading this over my shoulder, said that she needs to have a word with me. Something about being lucky if I live for the next 20 or 30 years. . .

Grand Master of poppin’ & lockin’

October 29, 2008 Leave a comment

Not all Grand Masters are heads of a Grand Lodge.

Sci-Fi maven Cory Doctorow’s freaky & fascinating blog Boing Boing has a mention of a brother who is a Grand Master of a different obedience.

HIS NAME is Grand Master Priest Faustus, and I had the honor of seeing him perform at the 215 Festival on Friday at the Society of Free Letts, where he appeared as part of Patrick Borelli and Douglas Gorenstein’s “Holy Headshot” project.

HE IS, frankly, the poppingest, lockingest Freemason I have ever met, and also a contemporary of many of the men who invented things like popping and locking. (He did not invent Freemasonry, however. HE IS NOT IMMORTAL. But he did have an amazing square and compass belt buckle, which started our discussion of The Craft)

There is a little more discussion in the Comments section below the main post, and a follow-up post from later today.

What strikes me is that it’s no longer surprising to see that Freemasons have a wide range of ages and interests. Although one commenter did quip “It’s not your grandfather’s Masonry” (making me wonder if he was quoting my post from a couple of years ago about Masonic Ink), more of the responders – several of them members of the Craft – were quick to point out that Masons are not all a bunch of fossils.

I’d write more, but I’m a little sore from break dancing at the all-night rave over the weekend.

Shelter from the inclemencies of the weather

October 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Our family spent the weekend in New York City, just doing a little sight-seeing and soaking up the local color. Expecting rain and cold, we dressed like typical New Englanders, but were pleasantly surprised when the rain held off for most of Saturday. Having spent the afternoon wallowing in little souvenir shops in Chinatown, and late lunching at an open-air bistro in Little Italy, we spent the evening getting culture-fied at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the Upper East side of Central Park.

When I was in my 20s, I used to take a lot of trips into New York City, and spent most of my time in the lower island browsing shops and bookstores, eating in odd restaurants, clubbing in SoHo and Greenwich Village. And once a year I’d get together with a few of my friends and we would tackle the Five Borough Bike Tour, a 25 to 30 mile route that started in Battery Park and finished in Staten Island. Once or twice, the cold, wet spring rains determined us to seek shelter from the rigors of the seasons; we might have dropped out early from the inclemencies of the weather to seekk solace in the local watering holes. But those are stories for other days.

When you live in a small New England town (are there any other kind?), you can easily be overwhelmed by the majesty of the architecture in a big city. We stayed in an area that had a mix of old brownstone mansions (converted into co-op housing) and new granite faced behemoths. Thirty years ago, I’d never given much thought to the decoration and ornament on those old buildings, but – as I imagine happens to every Mason – I now marvelled at the work and detail that went into the various columns on the buildings, old and new.

Even more inspiring was the architecture of the outside of the older section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From Columns

Need I say more?

Okay, then how about a taste of the inside?

From Columns

We simply do not see things built to this kind of scale in our small ex-farming communities.

In one of those synchronistic linkings, just a few weeks ago I rehearsed a section from a lecture pertaining to columns such as these, so I might have been just a little more attuned to noticing them in passing than I otherwise might have been. Coincidentally, by the time we got to the galleries, there was a rather nasty storm raging outside, so the opportunity to seek shelter from the inclemencies of the weather was not lost on us.I enjoyed the opportunity to point out little details to my daughter, after which we spent some time in the inevitable museum gift shop.

As it happens, the Met has a wonderfull gallery filled with a number of similar items, plus several entire rooms devoted to the art and scuplture from that period. I know that most of my brethren think of visiting famous lodges when on a trip to NYC, but hopefully I’ve suggested a curious way to spend an afternoon before those lodges are in session.

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