Thursday, October 04, 2007

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

Regular Taper participant Hannah recently pointed out to me in a private email that I've sort of painted myself into a corner, blogwise, with my post last week about not focusing on negative things. I wrote in Bloggers Unite for Love and Compassion about the Sept. 27 "Bloggers unite against abuse" multi-blog project sponsored by, and their plans to decry abuse in all its forms, saying that putting that much attention on such a negative thing might help bring such things into further materialization instead of helping to reduce them.

Hannah wrote to me: "I read your blog post ["Rosalind Brodsky: The Delusional Time-Traveler", about the conspiracy artist] and remember the blog post from the day before [about abuse], about not giving energy to things, and about The Secret. Aren't you giving energy to these wingnuts? Why go there?"

She brings up a good point.

Let me see if I can rationalize my way out of this quandary.

Over the past two years (I missed the 2nd anniversary celebration on Sept. 28) The Burning Taper has become infamous for pointing out the flaws and faults of Freemasonry, especially in the southeastern United States. That old Masonic curmudgeon W. Bro. Ed King wrote that the Taper is "known for never missing the opportunity to make a disparaging remark about the fraternity," and countless others have misunderstood me since I began, calling me a pot-stirrer, a propagandist, preachy, a seedy journalist, and a planter of dissension.

Certainly I've written many blog posts critical of Freemasonry. We're not a perfect organization, human nature being what it is. Pointing out our group's flaws is, to me, a necessary thing, having lived through a particularly ugly pogrom against me by my lodge brothers back in 2005.

In spite of that, and the numerous other negative Masonic acts of racism, deceit, power-grabbing and outright stupidity across the country and world by Masons that I've written about, I still love Freemasonry.

And that is why I write.

Shining a light on what's wrong in Masonry can only help, in my opinion, make Masonry better and stronger. It's not like I've encouraged 500 other blogs to write about the same topic on the same day. It's simply the path I have chosen to follow.

I've changed over the past two years. My anger against W. Bro. Grady Bozeman, the man who led the "attack" on me for having done my duty as Junior Warden, has gone away. My anger against the other brothers from my lodge who were involved has subsided. I now attend my lodge again; I'm just not as active there as I was before, and will probably never again be an officer of my lodge.

I've come to terms with the fact that there are still men in my lodge who strongly dislike me, but that's now their issue, not mine. Through this blog and my Masonic travels, I've come to realize that all of Masonry is not what I've discovered here in the backwaters of north Georgia. The regular readers of and commenters on the Taper, Masons or not, have become my brothers and sisters. I've built strong Masonic bonds with brothers and sisters I've never met from all over the world, as well as face-to-face Masonic relationships with Bro. Tansey and other brothers in Connecticut, and with the Atlanta-area members of the Rite of the Rose Cross and the United Grand Lodge of America.

I still think there are things within Freemasonry that need to be pointed out, things that need to be remedied. Intolerance, for example. Racism. The heavy influence of fundamentalist Christianity seen in some lodges. The debate over whether women can be, or are, Masons. The blind obedience to unelected Grand Lodges. And much more.

And I still think organized religion, especially of the fundamentalist variety, is a danger to our society.

I'll continue to write about these and other things, as the mood strikes me. I don't necessarily think talking about them will give power to these things or will make them stronger; I hope bringing these things to light will empower those who agree with me and who disagree with me to think in new ways, and perhaps to take action to make things better.

I like what the Portuguese blog A Partir Pedra said of me:
Widow's Son is a Mason who cultivates controversy, but respects other people's opinions; foments a quarrel, but intends it to be enlightening; and defends his intransigent ideals with a democratic spirit.
If my rationalization here isn't convincing, then I'll shift to Plan B, and quote a few passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. His essay "On Self-Reliance" has influenced me greatly since I was 23 years old. I've read it countless times.
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world....

No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways....

...[T]ruth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached, as the counteraction of the doctrine of love, when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the doorpost, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation....

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude....

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with packthread, do. Else if you would be a man speak what you think to-day in words as hard as cannon balls, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. Ah, then, exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure to be misunderstood! Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood....
Image: Ralph Waldo Emerson. His essay "On Self-Reliance" can be read here.

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  1. You know, Mason or not, I'm really glad I found this blog.

    There's no shame in self-examination, and there's likewise no sin in shining light on the less-than-savory aspects of society. What makes fraternal organizations exempt?

    I don't know many Masons (at least not that I'm aware of!), but judging from your overall outlook, I'd say you represent your Brotherhood rather well.

    And if nobody makes noise about our nation's fundamentalists, they'll take over more than the courts. . .

  2. NICE! Emerson always draws a line in the sand between you and the world. It's been a pleasure reading your post and thank you for all the questions you've put in my head.


  3. "Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none."

    Ahh, I like that very much.

    Thanks WS, for doing what you do.

  4. Keep on keeping on. Freemasonry needs the Socratic gadfly. Doing things the 'status quo' way has put us in the position where we are today: we have slipped from being a society of gentlemen, discussing Newtonian physics or the ideals of liberty, to a society of know-nothings whose idea of Masonic education is five minutes of being read to from a page someone scored off the Internet. Freemasonry will change or die. You are on the "change" side of the scale. May your tribe increase.


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