Monday, June 18, 2007

Excitement, not Impatience

I had a great conversation with the Junior Deacon of the lodge last night. I had come across his name while searching around online for info about the lodge, and from there it was only a hop, skip and a jump to his MySpace profile. He's in his 20's, and it was great to talk with a younger Mason who's really engaged and involved.

My petition was indeed read in lodge this past week. I asked in what I hoped was a casual tone how long it typically is between a reading and the formation of the investigative committee. While his guess was about as good as mine (either over the summer, or first thing in September) he did mention the occasional one day class that might happen, along with an "accelerated degree" program that raises a person to Master Mason in the span of a single month.

I stated emphatically that while I am excited and eager to get started, I'm not in a rush to become a Master Mason. I'm glad to have put that feeling into words, so that I can remind myself of it as the summer wears on. A build-up of excitement and enthusiasm can be channeled a lot more constructively than a build-up of impatience.

I think it's too bad that American Freemasonry seems to marginalize the two degrees leading up to Master Mason. I know part of that is the fact that U.S. lodges only open meetings in the 3rd degree, which leaves the first two degrees out in the cold a lot of the time. From that perspective it does make sense to get people up to speed as quickly as possible so they don't get bored or frustrated and walk away, but I like the suggestion in A Laudable Pursuit of updating charters to allow U.S. lodges to open in the first degree again. Accounts I'm reading of British lodges indicate that the journey takes a minimum of a year... but over the course of that year there seems to be a lot involvement for first and second degree Masons.

Comparing the process to Boy Scouts, as I continually do, the American 1-2-3 approach is like making a Scout a Tenderfoot at his first Troop meeting and then making him earn his First Class the next month, and his Eagle the month after that. (For those unfamiliar, the BSA ranking system goes: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. For scouts who go all the way to Eagle it can be a 6 year journey, with a lot of cumulative work --mental and physical-- along the way.)

I never made it to Eagle, but I have an appreciation for that kind of long-term achievement. I know Freemasonry has plenty to offer along those lines, but that initial "get one and two out of the way" custom is unfortunate.

I should amend the scope of 'American Freemasonry' in my statements above to 'Massachusetts Freemasonry'... accounts from other parts of the country would seem to indicate that becoming a Master Mason is a much slower affair in some places. I suppose it may even be a lodge-by-lodge thing, but I wouldn't know.


Jim said...

I received my Eagle Scout in Dec 1983--just two days before the final deadline of my 18th birthday. From start to finish, it took years of time and work.

I just recently received my first degree, and my WM told me that if I study and memorize, I can receive my second degree after 28 days. Assuming diligent study and memorization, I could then receive my third degree 28 days after that. On one hand, I'm very excited, because I could become a Master Mason within a couple months, but on the other hand, the memorization is daunting. In South Carolina, our lodge requires lots and lots of memorization. I've never been one to memorize things, and particularly lots of detail. I tend to be more of a "concept" person. Fortunately, after a week or so, I find that I'm starting to "get it".

All of South Carolina's work is ciphered (not coded) with nothing in clear text, so it took me a while to be able to even read what the text said. And to make matters even more difficult, the actual wording differs from several of the versions available on the 'net (differing in some places only slightly, but greatly in others.)

But interestingly, I find that because of the cipher, I actually am remembering it quicker. THere seems to be something about having to translate the cipher in my head that makes it "stick" versus just reading it from plain text.

I have a LONG way to go I may or may not be able to complete the work within 28 days to get my second degree, but in any case, it's interesting and challenging. And I see som many people who have either already done it or are soing it that I keep thinking that there's no reason why I can't accomplish that also.

A.C. said...

Thanks for the insight, Jim. I'll definitely have a better sense of what I'm in for after my first degree.