Ok, that might be a little bit of an overstatement. I’m just a working class schlub, but something interesting did happen, and I wanted to share it.
I’ve sat in the East Chair twice before, both this past year, but for degrees. They were good degrees. I think I stumbled through the opening and closing during one of them, but for the most part I’ve not come too near leadership in the lodge, despite my swirling ascent through the chairs. And my brothers have noticed. I’m a joker. I’m a smoker. (I’ll stop there.) But despite never being shy to shout out an idea about every five seconds, I’ve never expressed a particular vision for my lodge. I’ve never displayed many measurable leadership qualities. I’ve mostly just been good for one-liners.
But for those who have been paying attention, and there have been some, I do take the Craft seriously, even if I don’t take myself seriously sometimes. And one thing I appreciate about the Craft is the traditions we have. I’m not looking to dazzle people with my particular notions of what masonry should be. I don’t care to express my will and pleasure that all brothers come in a jacket and tie. I don’t care to express that we have too many pancake breakfasts or not enough. I don’t see the Master’s chair as a way to express my personal tastes, even for just one year.
But I will try things. Because I’m not scared to try things.
This week was Senior Warden’s Night, where the worshipful master takes the week off, and everyone moves up a seat. We do it for fun and for practice. But for me this opportunity was different. Some said this was my chance to convince some doubters that I could lead. And maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. Honestly, that wasn’t my goal. This was my chance, possibly my one and only chance, to try things.
One thing I tried, which I will detail once we’ve worked out some kinks, is the education portion of the night, which we did in a second tiled lodge in our dining room, where brothers could have a casual masonic discussion on the topic of the night, and it was well received.
But the main thing I did, I almost did as an afterthought.
No, that’s not fair. I’ve been mulling it over for years, but I added this at the last minute because, honestly, I thought the business meeting would be too short, and I wanted to give the stewards time to set up the dining room.
I asked questions.
Our business meetings go like most lodge’s meetings. “Brother secretary, is there anything on your desk?”, “Brother treasurer, do you have anything to report?” , “Are there any announcements?”, “Is there anything else to come before the lodge for the good of the lodge?” Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? It’s pretty dull stuff.
And then I asked:
Have you met with anything in what you last read, heard, or have seen, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Lodge?
Blank stares. I don’t think they even knew what I was saying. I had to repeat the question. More blank stares. And then the LEO stood up. He had run into an interesting thought in a book recently that had changed his outlook of some things, which was pleasing to hear.
Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? Or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoided?
Hmmm… A brother stood up and wanted to give the treasurer a sincere thank you for all the work he had done planning and executing some fun and unique fundraisers. A round of applause followed, as did reciprocal thanks to everyone who has pitched in.
Do you think of anything at present, in which the Lodge may be serviceable to mankind? To their country, their friends, or to themselves?
The junior deacon stood, and described an outreach program to the military he had been thinking of, to help reinvigorate freemasonry in some of the more rural lodges, which are in desperate times, and one of our newly passed fellowcraft, a veteran, stood and offered his considerable advice and assistance, and they formed an informal committee to continue that good work.
Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Lodge, or any of them, can procure for you?
It almost seems like a selfish, networkey question, but actually I spoke up. I need to be introduced to some tattoo artists and shop owners for an idea of mine, to benefit others.
Has any man injured you, or attacked your reputation, and what can the Lodge do towards securing it, or to procure redress?
This one took some of them aback. Was I actually inviting drama in the lodge? No, I wasn’t. But I was inviting masonry into the lodge. This is the work we do, cementing bricks into one common mass.
A brother stood up and spoke generally about how isolated he, and some of his brothers felt in lodge this year, after such a contentious political season, and pleaded for understanding and brotherhood.
I asked the question a second time, because it was that important to do, and brothers had to know that this was a safe place to bring up their problems, but brothers were generally shy, and that is understandable.
In what manner can the Lodge, or any of them, assist you in any of your honorable designs?”
You know what? No one had any honorable designs. That would change, though. And finally, the game changer…
Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Lodge may be of service?
We waited. I honestly didn’t think anyone would have have one and was about to call from labor to refreshment. And then a lone brother stood up. He needed some advice on a family matter. Of course, I won’t go into the details, because those things are the actual masonic secrets we swear to keep; the intimate situations of our brethren. But he needed advice, and he got it. It wasn’t monolithic, but a broad spectrum of advice from a broad swath of brothers of differing backgrounds, experiences, and natures.
I don’t want to overstate it. We have an active fellowship. Chances are the brother would have brought this up over coffee some time, and received some of the same good advice, but probably only surrounded by the one or two guys he felt the closest kinship with.
It’s a cliche to say “diversity is our strength” because in most situations I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but in the Craft, where we separate ourselves from those things in which we most fight over–politics, religion, and women–where we can put ourselves, through ritual, into a mindset closer to the Divine Creator, than our animalistic bodies, then our diversity really is just our experience, and training, and expertise. It becomes a strength.
We called to refreshment, and had the rest of our meeting with food in our bellies, and philosophy on our brains, and the night went long (very long, actually. I need to work on that), but I don’t think one brother left tired and bored, and I don’t think any left unfulfilled, either in body or spirit. They felt good. A few still felt that way a day or two later. They had nourishment. They had been paid, some of them for the first time ever, their true wages: the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy, and did it by doing the one thing in lodge assembled, that they all knew we had all wanted each any every time we came to lodge, but received so little of.
And we left justly tired from a hard day’s labor.
I think, I hope, something changed that night. That there is a practical way to practice this Craft. That it need not be either alchemy and esoterics, or light bulbs and bill payments. I don’t have any wish to change masonry. I don’t think I’m even capable, really. But I do want to help my brothers change themselves.
Now, as much as I’d like to take credit for this, these questions were actually written by Worshipful Brother Benjamin Franklin, but not only these seven, and not for freemasonry. He asked them during each meeting of the Junto, or Leather Apron Club, which was about as close to a Colonial version of Facebooking as one could get back then. The details, and all the questions in full, can be found here.