Thursday, June 7, 2007

Grains of Salt

When researching anything on the web, it's always important to step back and remind yourself that the most prominent voices are going to be the most passionate ones... it has been easy to dismiss the anti-masonry voices as the complete nutjobs they clearly are. I've gotten caught up in the weblogs of people for whom Freemasonry is a passion and major part of their lives - of course that passion has the potential to be off-putting, in the same way that a hard-core Star Wars nerd can take the fun out of those movies you grew up watching.

There are some more objective posts on The Straight Dope forums that provide some more measured opinions and observations on the subject (a couple of trolls notwithstanding):

They contain plenty of non-plussed "Just another club for guys to shoot the shit and get away from their wives" opinions, and an excellent summary from a former member:

"What do they teach the new brother? I'll paraphrase and condense a bit.

Be a good man, because it's the right thing to do.

Help other people, especially widows and orphans.

Have faith in your religion, whatever that may be.

There are some things a good man should know. If you aren't hip to geometry, architecture, math, and ethics, study them.

If you see somebody in dire trouble, try to help, unless the effort will cause your death.

That's really about it. No magic, no Illuminati, no location of the Templars' gold. You get to meet regularly with other guys who are also good men.

As for the 33rd° guys, they're mostly men who have served the lodge for years in various offices. I know a few of them, including one who is a past Master of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. He's an ordinary guy, and when I last spoke with him he was still working for a living. Now, if he ruled the world, do you think he'd still be working?

How come the Moose lodge never got attached to all this mystery? Nobody thinks the Odd Fellows run everything."
So, you get out of it what you put into it. I am seeing a lot of internal parallels to my experience with the Boy Scouts, and the brief window when I was old enough to take some of the oaths, mottoes, and general "being a good young man" stuff seriously, but not old enough to be distracted by girls.

I remember feeling very solemn and proud of some of my accomplishments and some of the time-honored, historical stuff like hiking the Isaac Davis trail. At the same time, I remember having a hell of a lot of typical bullshit adolescent male fun at campouts, patrol, and troop meetings. That stuff was an integral part of Scouting, but it was not a part of any ritual associated with the Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent recitations. There were other guys who doggedly worked towards their Eagle badge, not out of any inner drive but just because their parents demanded it. I was never pressured to go for my Eagle nor did I ever pursue it on my own, but that didn't keep me from learning a lot and becoming a better person along the way.

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