Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An important distinction

I was over at The Burning Taper a moment ago and noticed a small declaration in the sidebar:

This is not a Masonic blog.
This is a blog by a Free Mason.

The Examined Life, too, is not a Masonic blog. Most, if not all of the posts I have made here are related to Freemasonry, but (and I should put a disclaimer somewhere in my template to this effect) the opinions expressed herein are strictly my own, and should in no way be interpreted as representative of the views of my lodge or grand lodge, nor should they be interpreted as claiming to be somehow authoritative. Not that anyone (to my knowledge) has received them as such.

When common sense is exercised, such a disclaimer should be implicit, but in light of some of the incivility I have witnessed in the Masonic blogging community over the last couple of months, I want to say it again:

This is not a Masonic blog.
This is a blog by a Free Mason.

Part of the reason that I have posted so little since the summer has been that after all of the voluminous thinking out loud that I did back in June and July, I have worked things out for myself and feel like I have a pretty good sense of what to expect when I am finally made a Mason.

In June I spent many hours scouring the internet for information about Freemasonry, trying to find the elusive answer to the big question, "What the hell do you guys Do?"

Early on I latched on to the more spiritual, esoteric answers to that question, excited by the thought of joining a venerable group of free-thinkers and taking part in centuries-old rituals to help further the fraternity.

Later on I realized that the much maligned Potluck-and-Cribbage-Tournament aspect of Freemasonry holds its own appeal. After years of living in one community, working in another, and not making many friends in either, good fellowship is something I am very much looking forward to.

As flamewars erupted over last year's events in West Virginia and Ohio, I also realized that I am just as likely to find disagreements, sometimes acrimonious, inside the lodge as I am in the PTA, in a church congregation, or on an amateur softball team. Freemasons should aspire to subdue their passions, but they aren't Vulcans.

In other words, it comes back to another saying you often hear applied to Freemasonry: You get out of it what you put into it. For me this is best summed up by this excellent diagram (and accompanying article) by Bro. John Belton. That unique overlap of social, spiritual, ritual, and intellectual is what drew me to Freemasonry, and it seems like Masons who work at balancing these aspects will have the best experience (and make the best experience for their Brothers.)

I should point out again, however, that I have drawn all of my conclusions on second-hand experiences of American Freemasonry in the 21st century; once I am actually inducted and begin participating in my own lodge, I may find myself singing a drastically different tune... or not. I don't want to speculate, hence my relative silence as I await the first degree.

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