Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ladies: They're not just for preparing food

Much is often made of the generation gap between Masons who joined in the post WWII boom and the younger Brethren who have started joining over the last few years; because so relatively few baby boomers joined, there can be some pretty big cultural disconnects without the benefit of a generation that probably would have helped ease the transition.

Perhaps one of the biggest such disconnects that I've experienced so far is the notion of Masons' "Ladies"... a term that is meant in a gentlemanly way, but also carries with it the baggage of the Leave it to Beaver era. The old-school notion of involving the Ladies at Masonic functions often seems to revolve around inviting them to prepare a dish for some dinner or collation. Brothers under the age of, say, 45: If your spouse or girlfriend got a call from someone at the lodge asking them to make a casserole to bring to some function, what would her reaction be?

Monday, September 14, 2009

When Everyone's Wrong on the Internet

One of these days, I'm going to learn that it is ultimately useless to get drawn into an argument about Freemasonry on the internet. As Jeff Eaton said, the crazy guy always has more time than you.

From time to time a post related to Freemasonry appears on BoingBoing, a site that features links to all sorts of interesting stuff, often with a pop-culture bent. I read these threads with particular interest, because Boing Boing's readership strikes me as generally intelligent and considerate when it comes to commenting. As such, most posts about the Masons turn into jokes about old guys wearing funny hats and driving little cars, as opposed to raves about shape-shifting lizard people.

But inevitably, someone cries "Hypocrisy! You Masons talk about acceptance but I can't join because I'm an atheist or a woman! You think you're sooooo much better than me because I don't believe in fairy tales!" with undertones of "I wouldn't want to join your stupid little boys' club anyway! How can you take that stuff seriously?" and suddenly you're arguing about whether or not the Masons (and other private organizations) have the right to exist because they exclude members based on certain criteria... and it's all the more frustrating because most of the people who get so indignant about the no atheists/no women aspect of regular Freemasonry don't even want to join! It's just something else to argue and snark about online.

So, all I can do is try to make a cogent, well-written post and leave before things get ugly - and try to keep myself from going back, because it's just going to get my blood up.

So Has Dan Brown Thrown us Under the Bus?

With the prologue and first chapter of The Lost Symbol out of the bag, it looks like Freemasons are probably going to spend a lot of time correcting the "facts" portrayed in the book. Like the fact that the 33rd degree ritual involves the candidate drinking wine from a human skull. Thanks Dan!

Apparently there was a Supreme Council that did in fact include the wine-from-a-skull act in its version of the 33rd degree, but they were clandestine (not officially recognized by either the Northern or Southern jurisdictions of the Scottish Rite), and it was about 100 years ago. (

When I really consider it, I guess I'm not as annoyed at Dan Brown as I am at the people who accepted The Da Vinci Code as historical truth and will no doubt do the same with The Lost Symbol. Whether the Masons are good guys or bad guys in the story remains to be seen, but already there are hundreds of people out there who probably think we really drink wine from human skulls.

I'm now also wondering if Blue Lodges are going to be subjected to the Shrine effect, where fans of the novel join just so they can go on to the Scottish Rite and become 32ยบ Masons.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How do you Reconcile the Ideals of Freemasonry with a Pessimistic Outlook on Humanity?

The tenets of Freemasonry are all about being good and true, and being serviceable to fellow creatures. I do try to uphold these ideals in my day to day interactions with mankind, but like Brother John Ratcliffe, I often find modern society to be awfully discouraging.

My concentration this afternoon has been derailed by news coverage of idiot parents who are up in arms over the fact the the President of the United States will be giving a live talk about education to kids in schools all over the country next week. Why? Because rabid right-wing TV and radio personalities have convinced them that it's "socialist indoctrination." I'm at a total loss for words. Who are these people, and how do they get mainstream news coverage? Can you imagine the TOTAL! MORAL! OUTRAGE! we'd hear from these same talking heads if a liberal parent objected to a conservative President addressing their kid in school? "Unpatriotic! Unamerican! Encouraging the terrorists!"

Meanwhile, all any concerned parent would do in a reasonable society would be to discuss the President's speech with their kids after school that day, you know, like grown-ups used to do: calmly and rationally.

While I'll freely admit to having liberal tendencies myself, what bothers me is not the fact that a person might not agree with the sitting President's political views or agenda. It's the willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism that has overtaken civil discourse in our society, and the despicable people who bend those tendencies to opportunistic advantage, poisoning the well for the rest of us who want nothing more than to coexist amicably with our neighbors.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Times and Seasons, Years and Cycles

Masonic bloggers across the U.S. are announcing the arrival of the upcoming year with a mix of exitement and wistfulness at how fleeting our summer hiatus was.

As I get ready for what is sure to be a busy Masonic year (I'll be installed as Senior Deacon and Historian of my Lodge in October) I'm feeling much the same; July and August provided a much-needed break from the weekly rehearsals, Lodges of Instruction, and stated meetings, but I'm looking forward to seeing my Brothers again and going back to the quarries. It's a feeling that is dimly familiar, and I realize that it's very similar to what I used to feel when returning to school after summer vacation.

One of the best things about Masonry is that it provides a context in which to meet men from a very broad swath of the social fabric of our communities, something I haven't enjoyed since my college years ended in 1996. In college, a student is typically thrown into a dormitory building with other students from all different majors and all different parts of the country, united by your choice of school.

When you join a Masonic lodge, you're typically thrown into a group of men of all different ages and backgrounds, united by the community you live in and the tenets of Freemasonry. The Masonic summer break restores that sense of renewal that we all used to enjoy as students... when we go out into the real world, life often turns into a 365-day-a-year grind. While you still don't get a summer break from your day job (unless you happen to be a teacher,) taking a couple of months away from the Lodge gives you a nice opportunity to reflect on the proceedings of the preceding year, and contemplate the upcoming one.