Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Cycle Starts Again

This past week we did the EA degree for a young man that was looking to join the lodge a year ago but was deployed to Iraq. He has since separated and is now waiting to attend medical school. He has done every other facet of the medical profession the last being an RN in the Army. The degree went reasonably well, I was the Master of Ceremonies and did the charge.

I enjoy the EA degree; to me it’s like the first four weeks of boot camp. It is necessary preparation for the following degrees and helps teach the newly made Mason his obligations and the basic foundations of Masonry. In Texas the catechism for the EA is by far the most difficult as the candidate must recreate the esoteric parts of the ceremony and the lecture. The good part about this that I have learned later is that this is very useful when giving the lecture. I think I am going to jump to the lecture for the Masters degree, only two other active brothers in our lodge can give it, and it’s the most important of all three lectures.

I have plenty of time to learn the masters for this candidate, and really it would be an honor to give the Masters lecture to him.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Don’t Tell Me It’s Raining While You’re Pissing down My Back

I have no delusions of grander regarding this blog, I get on average 22 visitors a day, I know that I am by no means a staple of the Masonic on-line community. I don’t have a podcast, a following of people that love me or hate me. I am just me, and really when people make blogs or post in them they sometimes take an aspect of their personality that they are not comfortable with and amplify it, that really isn’t me or the point of this blog. This blog is a correct representation of who I am and my journey as a Mason from EA to MM and beyond. When I walk into a lodge other than my own and tell the brothers my time in Masonry, I am usually regarded as a “Newbie” and that’s fine, and really the truth.

That being said, I heard the latest Podcast from X-Oriente and I have to throw out the bullshit flag. Now I enjoy the show very much, but this last one left a bad taste in my mouth, mainly that Brother Eric quoted a politician who wrote a book about his opponents. I like Al Gore and believe that he has conviction in what he believes and honestly if Gore ran today, I would seriously consider voting for him. The problem is that today we have everyone on the left and the right writing books about how the other side is destroying our great nation. If you listen to the right, it’s the left and their lack of traditional values, high taxes and socialized government, if it’s the left you believe that the right is creating a police state, fighting wars that we have no business fighting, and destroying our environment, all while in bed with big corporations.

My point is that when someone who has a clear agenda and writes a book called “Assault on Reason” and then someone else presents it as an unbiased factual book, sticks in my craw. If you want to talk about critical thinking, then read from The Philosophy of Anything: Critical Thinking In Context or Critical Thinking: Basic Theory by Richard W. Paul published by the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Heck, if you want to get even more in the mud then talk about Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or Critique of Judgment or Logic. But for the love of God don’t quote Al Gore, who has an agenda and an axe to grind as somehow a bastion of reason and critical thought.

If you want to make a political statement, than make it, don’t act like you aren’t making one when you are. By doing such you are violating one of the core concepts of Freemasonry that Dudley Wright put so eloquently “Freemasonry is a unifier, not a divider.” Masons can talk politics and Masons can disagree, but when people present a political argument then tell their audience not be upset by bringing up the subject, that is intellectual dishonesty and a dirty trick.

That being written, I don’t want people to think that I harbor any dislike towards Brother Eric, because he is a brother, and a Mason, I just believe his passions got the better of him.

I invite anyone who thinks that I am being over reactive to e-mail me or comment, but this is one of those things that I felt necessary to voice my opinion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Application to the York Rite and Mastering Senior Deacon/Master of Ceremonies for the EA Degree

I underestimated the memorization work in the EA degree, the lecture Senior Deacon and Master of Ceremonies parts are much more difficult to recite in front of the brethren than in front of my mirror or in my truck. We have an EA to give next week, the brother was voted in last night. He petition our lodge two years ago was accepted received the EA degree then was deployed to Iraq for 18 months. His membership elapsed and he returned, starting the process all over again. While he has gone through the initiation once before, the majority is most likely lost.

For my memorization work, I have been working hard on the EA degree, because so much of it is wrapped up in our catechism that I figured it to be the easiest, but it turns out that it’s becoming a bigger challenge than I thought. I don’t know if I am biting off more than I can chew, but I want to contribute so much, I guess my eagerness is causing my frustration, nothing new in Freemasonry. My goal is to have the EA lecture and Master of Ceremonies/Senior Deacon down by end of October, I think that’s reasonable considering I started work on the EA Lecture in late June. I might be handicapping myself too much, but we will see.

I have also been approached to join the York Rite, which I think I will pursue. After research between the York and Scottish, I think the York just seems to fit better, a lot of the brethren in the lodge are York Rite members, and I won’t be alone as Bro Mahlako will be there with me, so that will be good.

Masonry has taken on so many forms since I first petitioned the lodge back in October, and I hope I continue to grow in it. Isaac Davidson wrote in his blog that as he is reading Masonic Blogs he sees that a lot of them are negative in nature. This is natural as blogs are a release for a lot of people, and sometimes that release is posting frustrations with ones lodge, or the brotherhood as a whole. My frustrations have been no different, but I am very happy with my choice to be made a Mason. I know it isn’t for everybody, and I can see how some brothers join and think “Shit, this isn’t for me”. Still, it’s for me and I feel that Freemasonry is very relevant in today’s modern society, I have unabashed optimism when it comes to Freemasonry and the 21st century, maybe that will wash away as the years go on, but I hope not.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My First Lodge Visit, Mesa Lodge #68

After being raised and passing my proficiency, I have become hungry for all things Masonic, even more so then researching the degrees while I was in the midst of my memorization work; I am learning the lecture for the EA degree and the Senior Deacon’s part.

Still I travel quite a bit, I would say that twice a month I am somewhere else than home and I miss my mother lodges stated meetings. In July I had the opportunity to visit a lodge in Chicago and have fellowship with brethren, but due to circumstances beyond my control I was unable to make it. This past week I had the opportunity to go to New Mexico, and found a lodge that was not only meeting during the time frame of my visit but was conferring the degree of Entered Apprentice, I was giddy. I e-mailed the secretary and announced my visit, not because I am that much of a pompous ass, but because I think they would like to know if a brother from out of state was planning on attending their degree, just so I wasn’t a complete surprise. The secretary e-mailed back and said they would be happy to have me and gave me his cell phone number. He then CC’d all of the lodge officers, to which the Worshipful Master e-mailed me their monthly newsletter. Honestly, that e-mail made me feel better about leaving my comfort zone and going to another lodge, in a different state.

I was nervous driving to their lodge because really, I didn’t know these brothers, and I was feeling comfy and cozy with my mother lodge, and the work preformed there. What if I get up at two gavels instead of three (which I did by the way)? What if I address the lodge Texas style and am mocked and laughed at? While these seem like silly things to worry about and in hindsight they were, it still consumed me. When I arrived at the lodge I came in with a brother who I later found out to be DDGM of the district who greeted me warmly. I was then given the nickel tour of the relatively new lodge building. It is a very spacious lodge that doubles as a Scottish Rite Learning Center for children with dyslexia. They have a room which they call the “Square Club” where they would meet afterwards to play cards, have a beer (which would be clandestine in Texas) or play a game of pool. At my lodge we hang around and talk but usually within 30 minutes it’s me and a couple of the younger brothers bullshiting while the bulk of the brethren split five minutes after the last gavel.

Their ceremony fascinated me, the differences from Texas while small in some areas, is huge in others. The main being that before the candidate is duly and truly prepared, the Senior Deacon goes in the anti-chamber and asks them as series of questions to make sure that they want to be made Masons. They then are asked again before their obligation by the Worshipful Master the same set of questions, it seemed almost overkill in my mind because of the central themes of the EA degree.

It was wonderful to be a part of; at the end of lodge I addressed the lodge as I was taught in Texas and told the newly made Masons that the first degree is the most difficult degree, but that the growing pains pay ten fold in the end, and thank them for their commitment to Freemasonry. Talked with the RWB and a member from a lodge in Lubbock Texas about the differences in the work, I even broached the subject of one day classes, which they refer to as “All the way” in one day. They are more liberal regarding their rules, they allow alcohol on Masonic property (my understanding is a big no-no in Texas, but that might just be my lodge), they don’t require their officers to wear a dark suit. They have ciphers something that my mentor absolutely hates, and have shorter degree memorization requirements.

I don’t want this to come across as me looking down on them because Texas is more hard noised, because that isn’t the case. These men are Masons just the same as me, and because they have ciphers, loosened dress code and alcohol on the premises shows me that Freemasonry is something that cannot be destroyed by such small things. Am I going to start lobbing for one day classes and ciphers? No, but they do serve a purpose, no matter how much some of the old timers despise them. This visit did bring to my attention that while I am fascinated and love the esoteric work, that we are still a brotherhood a fraternity of friends, and because of that we (being my lodge) need to loosen up and have more social events and take better care of the wives and widows. We need not be so consumed with the work, that we spend two hours of floor work to run out the door once it’s finished.

See my Great Uncle was a Mason and traveled a lot (he was a diamond salesman), he reflected once that being a Mason meant that he could travel with safety and know that most likely the town he was stopping in had a lodge. While in my youth I didn’t know what that meant, as a Mason now I do. In today’s world when we travel it’s easy to run around have dinner and drinks with clients/customers and not realize that right around the corner is a lodge room of brethren that you have never met, but most likely have much more in common with them than any customer or client, co-worker or long lost high school friend. This emphasizes to me that my generation is looking for something beyond the superfluities of life and that we are looking for better understanding of ourselves and of our fellow man. Not necessarily a religion or a church of thou shall, but good honest open communication about faith, hope and charity. This has become secondary and my parents generation where consumed by self indulgences and loathing attitude towards their parents, who they saw as stoic autocrats. Their children became Generation X, while has great hopes has become over medicated cry babies that worry about how many times Lohan has been in rehab, or who is pounding Paris Hilton this week. Who’s political discussion turn into vitriol rants of hate within two minutes regardless of political affiliation, and see charity as saving Dafur or some type of criminal punishment, nothing more. Still I see hope, I see it in the young men from all walks of life coming to that old lodge building and reaching out for more than a self help book or medication.

Before the Shrine, before the Scottish Rite or any other a pendent bodies we were free thinkers and invoked philosophical thought from the stable boy to the town mayor. Not drudging up the names of all the famous Masons, because to me a great Mason is a man that did the work with due diligence and because of his membership in Freemasonry made his community a little bit better, to me that man is just as great as any of the Freemasons I hear about every time I go into a Masonic museum.

So while I am sure the debates and rants about alcohol, ciphers, one day classes will continue in the future, I realize that these things are small potatoes compared to what Freemasonry brings us, better men.