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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.



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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.



Masonic Parochialism

October 21, 2008 2 comments

For several years now I’ve gone to Grand Lodge sessions, and each time I’m amazed that a majority of the people attending get there just a few minutes early, and then leave as soon as the gavel bangs the meeting closed. Okay, I’ve never been much of a fan of sitting in meetings, especially meetings in which other people do the talking. In fact, I can imagine that for a lot of people, Grand Lodge sounds like this:

“Blah blah blah… declare the session open … blah blah blah… welcome to the two hundred and mumblety mumbleth annual… blah blah blah… welcome the Past Grand … blah blah blah… presentation by Masonicare… blah blah blah… elections for the next year… blah blah blah… the proposed budget includes … blah blah blah… lack of membership… blah blah blah… new programs will include… blah blah blah… show our appreciation to … blah blah blah… results of the voting… blah blah blah… congratulations to … blah blah blah… please inform the Grand Tyler… blah blah blah… Thank you all for coming.” BANG

Even though it ended a half hour earlier than anyone had expected, some people zoomed out of there so quickly that I thought we were serving free donuts in the lobby.

I don’t get that. For me, the best part about Grand Lodge is the hour before and the hour after the actual meeting; this is the time to get together with people that you don’t normally see every month, to renew old acquaintances, and to hear about what’s happening in other lodges and in other parts of the state. There are not a lot of ways that the Grand Lodge can communicate ideas about its various programs until after they are instituted – which, to my way of thinking – is usually to late. People on various committees who talk about new ideas with the Craft are in a position to get input. The flip side, of course, is that the Craft – that’s you and me – manages to have some input at the planning stage. And, this is the opportunity to meet those junior Grand Lodge officers who are going to be leading the Craft one day.

Additionally, I get to see other District Grand Lecturers so that we can complain discuss the issues in our districts. I have also found that there are a number of old-timers who are full of ideas and opinions – but good ones – and I enjoy talking to them and getting some feedback. And truth be told, I also enjoy listening to the latest gossip news about various lodges and officers and the people I’ve met.

In current business parlance, this is known as “networking.” Now, networking has developed a bad rep, mainly because people imagine a room full of insurance brokers and used car salesmen who are trying to get you to buy something that you don’t want. But consider: we explain to our Fellowcrafts that the pillars representing  Strength and Establishment are adorned with net work because it represents “unity.” And truly, how can we have unity – that is, a cohesive Craft – if members on one end of the state don’t know (or don’t care) what is happening at the other end?

When talking with a few other brothers after the meeting, it came up that very few people had – according to the poll on the Grand Lodge website – visited lodges outside of Connecticut. That led another wag to note that most Masons don’t even visit other lodges inside Connecticut.

Brothers – what’s up with that?

Before a member is even raised, we are talking to him about visiting other lodges. “Wait until you’re a Master Mason,” we love to tell them. “You’ll go to all those other lodges and see how other people do things,” we explain. It’s as if other lodges are foreign countries. In fact, part of our degree ceremonies here in Connecticut do allude to traveling in foreign parts, and how that is one of the benefits of being a Master Mason.

So why do so few of us actually take advantage of that privilege?

Sure, sometimes there is a time factor. Many of us barely make time for our own lodges, even when we know what the schedule will be. Members with a family – or a life – are already juggling evenings off. In my own family, my daughter has music lessons, Girl Scouts, and tutoring, my wife has church meetings, and I have a few non-Masonic duties each month, and I imagine that many families are not much different.

Yet I’m still amazed at the number of masons that I talk to who have never – as in, you know, never – visited another lodge. Others have gone once or twice, but “not in years,” or only for some special program. Simple curiosity isn’t enough to get somebody out of the house and into another lodge once or twice a year?

The underlying attitude that puzzles me – actually, that bothers me – is that too often I get the impression that many members forget that we are all part of a larger organization. I understand that some members feel very strongly connected to their own lodge, and that could possibly be a reason that they do not have much interest in the lodges around them. But still, why bother even mentioning “the ability to travel” if you are not going to avail yourself of the opportunity?

For that matter, why not simply remain a Fellowcraft?



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