Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Fifth Degree -- Perfect Master

As a Master Mason when you go through the Scottish Rite degrees in America, it is fast and furious, and depending on the location, can happen in one or one and  a half days.  Men when going through the degrees are either trying to take it all in, or completely falling asleep.  I tried to pay attention to everything I possibly could to ensure that I was getting it all.

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." 
 Author Unknown    

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

-Bro Vick    

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Do You Use the Trowel for the Spreading of Brotherly Love or Resentment

   First, my recent disappearance has been because we moved, and renovated, neither of which was a lot of fun.  I am very thankful and lucky to be a homeowner again, it has been 2 years, and I am grateful.  Secondly, I have been active in my real life Masonic pursuits, including leading up a couple of apendent bodies, working in my Blue Lodge line-up.  This is of course is coupled with my other obligations of work and serving this country as a reservist.

   Also, and I will be honest, I haven't gotten the most glowing reviews lately, and apparently have pushed some of you off from my writings.  This includes my criticism in the establishment of the Masonic Rangering Company here in Texas and the execution of Traditional Observance Lodges, across the country.  I will address these both separately:

Masonic Rangering Company:  I am not alone in my issues with this organization and it as it isn't providing any further light for Masonry and seems to be more of an expansive Square and Compasses club than anything else.  The amount of effort put into this very niche masonic organization by our Grand Lodge, doesn't seem like the best use of resources, both financial and human capital.  I was decried because it gave some non-masonic critics fodder, to which I say "So?"  This happens all the time, and I didn't post anything that was secret or not readily available to the general public.  The Masonic Rangering Company still moves on despite my post, and I doubt it will go away anytime soon, but I did exercise my right to not agree with the organization, which is completely legitimate.

Traditional Observance Lodges:  My intention of this post was to show that Traditional Observance lodges while very appealing broadly to "younger" masons has been lacking in the execution department.  The belief that a Masonic concept is somehow above reproach is completely irrational.  The crux of the matter is simply that TO/EO lodges don't have the ability to start daughter lodges in North America (not that I am aware of), this makes the lodge in theory stagnate after 30-50 members, and breeds a level of cronyism and nepotism that is much higher than in a standard blue lodge, inventing in essence an invitational blue lodge.  Another cultural disconnect is that Past Master and PDDGM don't carry the weight in Europe that it does in the states as a form of rank and structure, which add to the cronyism and nepotism.

For the record, I don't believe that Traditional Observance Lodges cast any disparagement on our fraternity, that the practices of TO/EO concepts is irregular or clandestine, or that current standard blue lodges are just fine the way they are.  On the flip side, the belief that TO is the only thing that is going to somehow going to magically save our fraternity when it copyrights it rituals, has had high fees associated with it in the past, and ignores the issues above, isn't doing them any favors, and denial of it doesn't bode well.

My intent of these two articles, was not to spread resentment, and it saddens me that some of you have taken them personally.  Some of you stop communicating with me entirely, and again, my apologies if my message came across poorly.

I always want to use the trowel for the spreading of brotherly love, not resentment.

-Bro Vick