Last Tuesday, for the first time since the last election night 12 months ago, I attended a Masonic lodge meeting. I went to the Stated Communication of my home lodge, on election night.
There were a few fresh faces — a couple of new guys who appeared to be around 30 or younger — and many of the old faces I'd known for years. Some of the older guys seemed to have aged quite a bit, several were now home sick, and one had been put into a nursing home....
Most of the men greeted me warmly, as I did them. One — in his shiny suit and gold chain — did his best to avoid direct eye contact or having to speak to me. He stumbled as he zigzagged around a brother and me having a conversation in the vestibule.
One brother asked "Where ya been?" and I answered, "Learning to subdue my passions," which got a chuckle out of all those within earshot.
The meeting was the same as it ever was... some of the officers knew their opening lines, others (who had been in office since last December) still giggled and fumbled their way through the ritual.
The same Past Masters sat on the sidelines, talking too loudly to each other throughout the opening, mostly telling each other that one of the officers should have said this instead of that.
The opening prayer by a chaplain I didn't recognize was long, filled with faux emotion in the style common to fundamentalist church-goers around here. I'm sure I was the only one there who thought it unmasonic or even unusual, the prayer pleading with and begging Jesus-God-Father-Lord (every fourth word was one of those names) to save our souls, heal our bodies, and make us "ever humble in Thy sight," etc., etc. The prayer closed with a thunderous evocation of "in JEE-zuz PRECIOUS and HOLY name! Amen!" and we all sat down.
Before I knew it, just like every other meeting at this lodge I'd ever been to, "applications for relief" turned into men standing up and reciting a long list of ailments, maladies and diseases of everyone they knew, with a request that the rest of us "remember him in your prayers."
Finally, a break was called so everyone could smoke, go to the restroom, and/or put donations for "higher education" into a basket.
If you're not a Mason, you may not know this... but the above description is pretty much what all Masonic meetings are like, at least in the South. Unless there is a new candidate to be initiated, passed or raised, or an election (once a year), that's pretty much it for Masonry until next meeting. Except when the Gold Chain Guys show up to promote the Grand Master's "program for the year." The pretend humbleness is always interesting to watch.
I left at the break, as did several of the regulars. Masonic elections are never exciting. Campaigning, electioneering, or even saying you want an officer's position are against the rules. I left before they voted, yet I would bet $1000 that I know who was elected to every chair. The name of the man that "should be" elected to a particular office is whispered down the line as each vote takes place. I don't know why it's called an "election," or why they bother.
The most amazing thing to me about my attendance at this lodge meeting was this: I don't care anymore. I'm at peace with it. I see what's wrong, wish it would change, tried to change it, but don't care anymore if it does or if it doesn't. As some of my more enlightened friends say to me from time to time, "it is what it is."
The majority of the men in my lodge think that is what Masonry is — opening a lodge, saying a prayer, pledging allegiance to a flag, sharing all the details of his or his neighbor's recent surgery or illness, tossing a dollar in a basket, occasionally watching a new guy join (900 out of 1000 new members will stop attending within two months of joining, 90 will keep coming but never learn much about Masonry, and then there's that one in a thousand who will try to effect change from within, be beat down, and then start a blog like I did, or start a whole new Grand Lodge, like the UGLA has), closing the lodge and going home. Maybe their joy is in just being there, basking in the brotherhood or experiencing the sameness of it all, year after year.
Good for them. Good for you. Enjoy it, brethren. I wish you well.
I paid my dues. Figuratively as well as literally. I'm current. I'm legit. I'm "in good standing." I'm a Mason, a Freemason, and will always be. I remember my obligations, and I'm here if you need help.
Maybe writing this blog for the past 15 months really has helped me learn to subdue my passions, or at least get past my anger at what happened in 2005. I've often focused here on the bad things about Masonry — hypocrisy, lying, fraud, financial misdealings, backstabbing — and there is much wrong with Freemasonry today.
But just as you can't change the world unless you change yourself... you can't change Freemasonry without changing yourself.
I'm changing. A change in me will be reflected in a change in this blog, in Freemasonry, and in the world. I hope it's a change for the better.
"Change your thoughts and you change your world." — Bro. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)
Masons | Masonic Ritual | Small Town Freemasonry | Freemasonry | BurningTaper.com | Grand Lodge of Georgia | United Grand Lodge of America | Burning Taper