Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fits and Starts

The first session of degree work I might have had at the lodge last Monday was cancelled due to Presidents' day. Last night I did get to the lodge and spent some time going over the work with an instructor, and I had been looking forward to tonight's Lodge of Instruction in Greenfield... however, as with last December's holiday dinner it has been cancelled due to bad weather.

Next week I'm going to be in Boston attending DrupalCon, so I'll miss out on more instruction. This winter has been especially bad that way; I've missed several other, non-Masonic events due to treacherous roads or more important obligations (work on the house trumps pretty much every other weekend activity), and cabin fever is really starting to set in.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This is why we can't have nice things

Continuing the Widow's Son's recent lament about the demise of civility in our society, I need to vent a bit about recent events at our house-- the 150+ year old place we're renovating before we move in later this spring. Obviously, since we haven't moved in yet the place sits vacant much of the time; my dad has been popping over to do work a couple days a week and I'm there during the day most weekends, but otherwise our house sits there by itself, waiting until we can make it a home again.

Arriving the other morning, my dad noticed some tire tracks in the fresh snow at the end of the driveway, and then he noticed some footprints leading over to our rented dumpster. There isn't anything in there but old plaster & linoleum, so there wasn't really anything in the way of treasure for our dumpster diver to claim.

Maybe he (or she) was mad about that, and maybe that's why they decided to steal the birdhouses and thermometer that had been left around the yard by the previous owner.

Really, dumpster diver, the 30 year old cheap plastic thermometer and the birdhouse made out of an elbow of stove pipe?!

I don't care about the purloined items themselves; they probably would have made their way into the dumpster eventually anyway... but that's not the point. What have we come to when my immediate reaction isn't indignation, but relief that they didn't steal our flag or our snowblower instead?

Was the junk in our yard stolen out of spite? Was it taken by a kleptomaniac? I just don't understand. The only remotely reasonable scenario I've been able to come up with is that perhaps it was a relative of the woman who lived there for so long, who took those items in a fit of nostalgia (really? The plastic thermometer?!) and even that is upsetting, because all they had to do was stop by one day when I'm there and ask.

From now until we move in, a little voice in the back of my head will be wondering how long it will be before we show up one day and find the place broken into, or worse.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Worth the Wait

A little more than 8 months after my first post mentioning Freemasonry, I am at last an Entered Apprentice.

I'm still digesting the ceremony, which is a pretty remarkable thing to have the opportunity to experience in this 21st century.

I am a little surprised at how much I had already absorbed by osmosis over the last 8 months... I have deliberately avoided descriptions of the degrees this whole time, and indeed that which I swore an obligation to protect was new to me... but there were quite a few phrases and concepts thrown around that I recognized from various Masonic writings I've perused over the months.

As I read back over that first post about Masonry and bullshit detectors, I can suddenly remember how vaguely suspicious I was when I wrote it - suspicious of the fraternity as possibly being just another good old boys' club, and suspicious of the rituals, which I didn't know anything about at the time. I had the typical "Why is it called a temple if it's not a religion? What do they do in there?" questions still rattling around in my head.

With the benefit of first-hand experience, I can finally, unequivocally state that that kind of unease about the ritual is totally unwarranted - so if you're reading this from the same place I was last summer --interested in Freemasonry but not sure about this "ritual" stuff you hear so much about-- seriously, don't let it put you off. Read some books, contact a lodge and talk to some Brothers, and if you're a man of good character who believes in a supreme being, then go for it.

About the night of the ceremony:

I arrived before the stated meeting as I had been instructed, and met the other three candidates - three of us are all in our early thirties, and the fourth in his early twenties. As we were getting prepared, Brothers were filing past us into the lodge room before the meeting. We were reassured several times that there was no harm or humiliation in store for us, and that every Mason in the lodge (or any lodge, through history) had gone through the same thing. We chatted and joked amongst ourselves to dispel nervous energy while the lodge conducted its business meeting before the degree. The Tyler poked his head in from time to time and talked with us as well. I learned that my lodge building had once housed a Royal Arch chapter, an Order of the Eastern Star chapter, and even a Knights Templar commandery, but over the years participation dropped off to the point where the few remaining active members wound up being absorbed by bodies in neighboring towns.

Finally, we were brought into the lodge room one at a time. As it turned out, I went last and so I had a few minutes outside the lodge room alone with my thoughts. It was a little bit strange to be in the middle of a 300+ year old ceremony while looking out the window and seeing the electric lights and oblivious traffic zooming back and forth on main street. It was quite interesting to think about my granduncle, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-great grandfather being in the exact same place in other lodges some 70, 100, 150+ years ago, not to mention all of the historical Masons whose names are always being rattled off: Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, et cetera. The "famous Masons list" has become a bit of a cliché, but knowing that those men went through more or less the very same experience does serve as a kind of bond with them, and an equalizer.

After it was over, I will admit that I felt a little bit like Inigo Montoya at the end of The Princess Bride ("I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life."); after waiting for 2/3 of a year, all of that mental energy leading up to my First Degree has suddenly dissipated! I am a Mason - since the other night it's a thought that pops into my head occasionally, and I'm still not used to it. The fact that I do indeed attach some significance to the fact is clearly an indicator some of that elusive meaning with which I've been obsessed.

After lodge was closed, we formed a reception line of sorts and all of the Brothers in attendance came by to introduce themselves and congratulate us. I'll be going back to the lodge on Monday to start working on my proficiency, and later this month I'll be heading to another lodge in the district to attend a "lodge of instruction", which I understand to be an orientation/lecture program that is part of the Masonic experience under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Me - 1, Driveway - 0

We enjoyed about 36 hours of particulary craptastic weather here on Tuesday and Wednesday, about 10 inches of snow followed by hours and hours of freezing rain. The crust on the snow is about an inch thick, heavy enough that the dogs can walk on it without punching through.

The topper is that the fellow who plows our driveway seems to have forgotten about us, and missed the window of opportunity to do anything before all the slush turned into ice.

A word about our driveway: It's long and steep, and it gets no sunlight at all. The hill slopes away on one side, so if you're not careful (or if you're slip-sliding your way down it backwards) you'll find yourself on the middle of a hill among the trees.

Fortunately, I have a good-sized 4-wheel drive truck. I need to get to the lodge tonight, and rather than trying frantically to escape the driveway in the nick of time later, I opted to spend most of my lunch trying to get the truck down to the bottom of the drive for easy egress this evening.

I only came close to getting stuck once, at which point I gunned it and rolled smoothly out into the road.

I am very much looking forward to our new driveway, which is flat and considerably shorter.

Postscript, 5:38 PM EST: It should be duly noted that our plow guy showed up around 4:30, and took care of our icy driveway as best he could - It's an unenviable task. Thanks C.!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Speculative Premasonry

As my first degree approaches, I'm becoming increasingly self-conscious of the fact that everything I've written, other than the few descriptions of first-hand experiences during my petitioning and investigation, is purely speculative... it's informed by other Masons' accounts of their own experiences, but ultimately I won't know what Freemasonry in my Lodge will be like until Thursday night and beyond.

I've also been contacted by several Massachusetts Brethren who have come across this weblog, and suddenly I'm beginning to feel a bit duplicitous... early on I decided to keep writing pseudo-anonymously because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers by naming names or lodges. However, by the same token I don't want my decision to remain anonymous to be a cause for gossip or raised eyebrows in my lodge if word gets around once I become an active member.

I think I am probably being hypersensitive; the only critical thing I have really written about my lodge was my initial reaction to our web site, and how my initial e-mail bounced. (And as it turned out, my e-mail did get through despite the error message I received.) I will raise the question with the Worshipful Master at some point after I am inducted; one of the first things I'm going to try and do is get the ball rolling on a new web site for my lodge, and questions about what's "fit to print" will definitely be a part of that discussion.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Go vote!

Hey all you Americans living in a super Tuesday state:

Polling is about to close at most places in the eastern time zone, but the rest of the country should have 1, 2 or 3 hours left.

Go cast your vote if you hadn't already! Turnout was brisk this evening at my tiny town's polling place. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out - but if you don't participate in the process you can't complain about who winds up in the white house next year.