Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Slight Disconnect

I have yet to join any appendent bodies. Because there aren't any left at my mother lodge, I did not have the oft-described experience of having guys shoving Shrine/Scottish Rite/Royal Arch/Grotto/Eastern Star petitions into my hands as soon as I signed the bylaws. And because I jumped right into an officer's chair, I haven't exactly had a surfeit of time to go exploring them on my own.

But I do hear from the Shrine every once in a while. They send letters inviting me to one shindig or another, rehashing the good works that the hospitals do, and the $2 million per day figure, and "fun in Masonry," et cetera.

I've gone back and forth on the notion of joining the Shrine... the hospitals are certainly a very worthy cause, and I can totally get behind the idea of getting together with other grown men to wear fezzes and drive tiny cars in parades, even I don't get around to it for another 10 years. On the other hand, the Shrine's original reason for being ("Blue Lodge is boring! Let's go party!") kind of irks me.

The letter I got yesterday doesn't exactly instill me with the burning desire to become a Shriner, though. I'm cordially invited to a "Rockin' Nobles Party" (quotes and apostrophe theirs), and of course the letter said that "your Lady" is welcome too (quotes mine).

My wife was amused by the use of the phrase "your Lady," which I think has lost whatever polish of civility and refinement it used to have and now seems strangely possessive and borderline creepy. As for the "Rockin' Nobles Party"? I can't think of a time in all my 35 years that the term Rockin' was ever anything other than painfully uncool. I don't know what the typical age bracket for new Shriners is these days, but I have a hard time imagining many Gen-X/Gen-Y Masons getting a letter like this and getting excited.

Send me a letter inviting me to a black tie dinner and whisky tasting, though, and I'll be all over it. I wondered a while back about whether any new appendent bodies had come into being lately, because I think it would be interesting to see what my generation would come up with if we started fresh without the legacy of ladies' auxiliaries and potluck suppers.


Tom Accuosti said...

What? Aren't you hep cats down with Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve? It's groovy, man.

And thank you for pointing out that within our current cultural contexts, "Your Lady" really does not come across as noble and genteel as they would like. I don't know what they could substitute, but I've cocked an eyebrow at this for a while, and just can't bring myself to use it -- at least, not without a hint of sarcasm.

A.C. said...

I went back and looked at the letter. They don't capitalize Lady... so yeah, it reads "your lady" kind of like "your house" or "your car".

47th Problem of Euclid said...

The term lady is being used in a specific context here: a member of the Shrine is called a "Noble of the Mystic Shrine", and his wife is a "Lady of the Mystic Shrine". A party for "Nobles and Ladies" simply means for Shriners and their wives/girlfriends.

I'm an Aleppo Shriner, and of course I'm invited to this party as well. They are very highly motivated to keep membership above 5000, and are brainstorming ways to attract younger masons. They have a rock band, and a bar, and a place to dance, and they want it to be fun for prospective members.

I love the Shrine, but at 39, I feel conspicuously young at Shrine events. The sad truth is that Shrine Units ask for a lot of time from their members, and a young mason is balancing work, family, their religious community, their Blue Lodge, their commitments at York or Scottish Rite with any other hobbies, interests, or volunteering work they might do. The ones who go all-out in the Shrine Units tend to be a) either Past Masters/ Past DDGMs, etc, or men who have given up on being an officer of their Blue or Grand Lodge, and b) retired. For men who no longer work, the Shrine is a huge playground, and wives like it because their husbands are not hanging around the house annoying them.

That's not to say that you should wait until you're retired and a Past Master to join the Shrine.

The idea that in Shrinedom "fun" is a euphemism for alcohol should be taken with a grain of salt. On the surface, the difference between the Shrine and Blue Lodge/ Grand Lodge/ Scottish Rite is that wives/girlfriends of Shriners are invited to most events and that alcohol is served. But I've not seen excessive drunkenness at any of the Shrine events I've gone to.

A big appeal of the Shrine to many masons is that events include the wives/girlfriends, which often makes their women more supportive of the Shrine (because the women get to be included) than of other masonic events. The sad thing is that there is nothing stopping a blue lodge from holding Ladies' Nights at a restaurant or bar somewhere, and unless it's a lodge of teetotalers, they should. Also, Grand Lodge should drop alcohol prohibition so that masons don't have to join the Shrine to drink together.

Any new appendant body is going to threaten what is currently established, and Grand Lodges, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, and the Shrine have, either inadvertently or deliberately marginalized other appendant bodies currently existing. I don't know any Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (Grotto), Tall Cedars of Lebanon, or High Twelvers, as far as I'm aware. Most new groups, such as Hillbillies and Master Artisans of the Quetzalcoatl form as Shrine Units because it's easier to get the approval of your local Shrine Temple than the approval of your local Grand Lodge.

A.C. said...

Thanks, 47th. I know what they're going for when they use the term 'Lady', but in an age where many more kinds of relationships have gained in public acceptance, it comes across as a bit fusty.

I'm sure that the generation gap (with few baby boomers having joined) is coming heavily into play in the Shrine just as it is in Blue Lodges. There are some older Brothers in my district who belong to a Grotto here in Western Massachusetts, and when another young Brother asked them about it the main selling points were 1) Potluck suppers and 2) Wives get to come (and have their own social meeting while the men are doing their business.)

And that's great, if that's what the current members really enjoy! But they will be hard-pressed to keep it going if all Gen X & Yers get for their dues (and the cost of the Fez) is another potluck supper to go to every month.

Time commitment is definitely a key concern with regards to younger members. In our jurisdiction being an officer means committing to 1) Degree rehearsals 2) Monthly meetings 3) Any special communications that get called 4) Lodges of Instruction. For the Master and Wardens, it also means 5) attending the Grand Lodge quarterly communications in Boston, and 6) accompanying the DDGM on all of his official & fraternal visits to other lodges in the district.

I imagine it's the same with York Rite, Scottish Rite, and the Shrine... guys who get involved often seem to wind up getting really involved, and it can be hard for guys around our age (I just turned 35) and younger to find the time.