In the very beginning, after the fourth degree we were communicated the fifth degree of the Scottish Rite. It is interesting as that lot of Scottish Rite Masons gloss over this degree, you see a lot of the more esotric, specifically the higher degrees, but ones like the Perfect Master are just kind of lost in the wash. Part of it is the degree itself isn't that mysterious, nor is it veiled in symbols, it is constructed over the notion that life is short, so make every day possible productive towards mankind. For some reason this degree had a profound impact on me.
In a Bridge to Light we are instructed that up until 1937 candidates had to sit down and write out their last will and testament before the start of the degree, this isn't uncommon in the Scottish Rite back in the day, but was done more for the candidate to start thinking earnestly and honestly about their mortality. Before a man deploys he is required to get a last will and testament, before my last deployment I got all of my paperwork in order, including and up to funeral arrangements to ensure that my family would not have arguments if I was to be buried in Texas or Colorado (it was/is Texas by the way).
Staring death in the face is something that every adult, and specifically every man does in his lifetime, if he doesn't or doesn't know he is doing it, than he is far more of a fool than anyone else. When you go to a funeral, and leave if you don't reflect upon your deeds and your life, then you are far more delusional than most. That a measure of ones life cannot be in years but in acts of accomplishment both for himself and for society. This message had an impact in my life shortly after I graduated college. In college I was far from the best student, always looking for the shortcut to get my degree, and not really caring about the lasting impacts of this attitude. When I deployed for this country, I did it balls to wall, I didn't do it to check a box, or to further my civilian career (as others have done). I didn't spend three hours at the gym and hours playing videos games. If I had nothing to do, I would read, read, and read some more on Afghanistan. This fulfillment of my time made it that I don't look back on those events with much regret. We have to see death as a catalyst, mourning brings regret to man, and makes him reflect on his wasted days, the following quote always comes to mind:
"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good."
Reminders of this degree are virtuous and necessary when a man is battling complacency of life and becoming lazy after accomplishment. Still, we as Freemasons cannot become worshipers of death, I have been around men and women where their entire life revolves around dying, and that is something that we do not want to become. Death cannot offer you any type of salvation of your soul or a healthy matter in which to live your life.
Be mindful of everyday
Be mindful of mortality
Don't allow death to consume you, but motivate your actions, to always strive for more