Stop Reacting To The Problem, Respond To It

"Do we value anything as much as our time?"
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


The best conversations on Freemasonry always happen with Brothers from "good" Lodges. Those talks are noticeably different, for starters, they are positive. They begin with "what we are doing," ideas instead of problem-solving. These talks are what make a three-hour train ride home from Grand Lodge (the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York) seem shorter than the chat you had with another Brother over a drink. These moments were the best part of my visit to Grand Lodge in New York City this year.

Reaction vs. Response


Two weeks before I traveled to Grand Lodge, I was talking with a friend about the difference between a reaction and a response. I like the way Quora compares the two. "Reaction is quick. Response takes time. Reaction is emotion-filled. Response removes all emotion. Reaction is often aggressive. Response allows for assertiveness without aggression. Reaction snowballs into unnecessary and prolonged periods of discontent and disagreement. Response resolves conflict quickly." I thought of that conversation when our Grand Master, MW William M. Sardone, proudly announced during his address, that New York State is launching an awareness campaign to address sagging membership numbers. He played two commercial videos while he laid out the distribution details; we were going to reach new men interested in Freemasonry online and in-person. As he said, "New York is going to do something." You can image the sideline conversations that came after that announcement! Soon there will be Facebook ads, billboards in high traffic areas, and operators standing by to take the calls of prospective gentlemen interested in visiting a Lodge. This was not a reaction - this was a response!

The lunch break conversation at my table that afternoon was focused on the Grand Master's announcement. We concluded that MW Sardone was right; Freemasonry was not passed from the greatest generation (who never talked about Lodge), to baby boomers (who didn't know about Masonry), to millennials (who can't find a Lodge). The Brothers I shared lunch with that afternoon were from a Lodge that owns its building and is now struggling to afford the up-keep that has been passed to the incoming Masters for years. I asked the Master, "How would your Lodge be different if you had 300 members back on your rolls?" "We wouldn't have to worry about how we were going to pay for our roof repairs," he instantly replied. "But would your meetings be different," I probed. "I don't know," he said.

"What Night Do You Guys Meet?"


Back to those "good" talks. At Penn Station, our growing party of 12 Brothers heading home from Grand Lodge took in three more traveling men. These three were fresh from Midtown still in their black suits and ties. They didn't have luggage. They didn't stay in a hotel. No, these Brothers took the morning train down from Albany to attend the second-day session, hopped back on the train to make it home for their Lodge meeting that night. The same meeting, come to find out, that was also their election night. I was the fourth in our seating group that included their Master, Senior Warden, and Secretary. We had the best conversation on "culture" that I have shared in a long time. This was the kind of talk that made a two-hour ride home seem like 20 minutes.

How much do you value your time? The first thing I hear when I ask a friend how are things? "I'm busy." Too busy to return calls, answer emails, even come over for dinner with the guys. I get it; we're all busy, that is part of the problem. The other half is we see our time; I'm talking about the "not at work, few hours you get with your family and loved ones on Saturday" time - as that sacred space that would take an act of God to upset. We value OUR time more than anything else. There's a reason why you can order the same thing on your phone and get it to your house tomorrow. Time has value.

What is worth your time to see LIVE? Better yet, what must be done in person? That is where the real value is: the experience. We'll watch the game at home but go to see a three-hour movie in a packed theater because seeing it --- feeling it with everyone else --- makes it better. Does anyone else say, "Monday night is my Lodge night." Followed by, "Well, every 1st and 3rd Monday of the week from September to May." Brothers who value their Lodge time do. And when you meet them, you ask, "what nights do you guys meet again?"

Our conversation eventually evolved into Masonry, as these three couldn't wait to tell me what works in their Lodge. They shared how they onboard new members, how the guys all share in the pre and post-meeting roles (setup and tear down) to close their meetings by 9 PM, and that when a candidate takes his 1st Degree, he feels like he's already a member of that Lodge. That last one was my favorite point. What they were saying wasn't anything new --- it wasn't a directive from Grand Lodge --- they had a culture that was leading from the ground up. The Brothers held each other accountable if you brought a guy in to petition a Lodge, you were expected to be at his degrees and help him with the degree work. Brick by brick. They were raising this Lodge together, building it from individual stones into one common mass. You join a conversation like this, and you can't help but soak up the positive energy.

I asked the Master, how would things be different if instead of three or four candidates a year, they had 15, say from the new Grand Lodge awareness campaign. The Secretary said, "We'd be a little overwhelmed at first..." his voice trailed but before he could finish, "but we'd be able to change our system to adapt," the Master finished. "Yeah, nothing would change why we do it because all of the guys in our Lodge get it, this is what they want," the Senior Warden said. Perhaps that is the larger question we should be asking. If three interested gentlemen showed up at our next meeting, walked in right off the street, would we be ready to greet them? Better yet, would we be a good fit for them? We talked about culture, that shared attitude which drives everything and separates winning teams from the rest of the pack. Good or bad, your Lodge has a culture right now. Here's a quick test you can do to assess your culture. If your Lodge was a store, based on your level of customer service, which one would you be? It's also fair to ask, would you choose to shop there?

Ironically, MW Sardone revealed his updated "Building the Future" Grand Master's pin, on the final day of Grand Lodge, with the additional line "Share the Experience." As we neared the train station in Albany, I needed confirmation from my travel companions as we gathered our luggage to disembark. "You guys meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, right?" I cannot wait to visit their Lodge in September.

~MA

Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at: michael.arce@me.com

Taking the Oath

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott 
 
University of Illinois ROTC graduates take the Oath of Office

Recently I attended an officer commissioning of new 2nd Lieutenants and Ensigns from the University of Illinois ROTC program. These young officers were graduating from the University of Illinois and officially receiving their commission to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Part of the ceremony was the officers taking the Military Oath of Office. The Military Oath of Office is, “I, (state full name), having been appointed a 2nd Lieutenant or Ensign, in the United States (Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.”

The ceremony program noted that this Oath of Office was essentially the same as that taken by American officers since George Washington. Now over 240 years later this oath is still being administered in the United States.

I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to the oaths taken by Freemasons, whether during a degree or upon being installed as an officer of the lodge. These oaths emphasize that you will fulfill your obligation or duty freely. They state the seriousness of the work you about to undertake and that you are committed to doing that work to the best of your ability.

Oaths in and of themselves are just words and are meaningless without actions behind them. They do not guarantee success and do not discourage failure. What an oath does is set forth an obligation and set of duties for you to strive for. They can serve as a reminder as they why you are doing what you do. They are a common bond that tie those together that have taken the same oath.

Are you upholding your oath?

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

Metaphors to Mortar 1: Begin Anew


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks



An integral aspect of Masonry is applying the metaphors with which we work to our daily lives—to operationalize the speculative in every moment. Whether or not there is proof the metaphors are real or possible, treating them as such has powerful implications on the psyche. To experiment and build with them is to see how they affect the way one interacts with the world; living the metaphor in action changes how one conducts the self.

Mortar is the glue that holds the blocks of the building together. When the individual relates to the everyday world through the medium of our metaphor and lessons therein, contemplation of aspects of self through the speculative becomes the Mortar for the construction of the individual’s temple.

Raising and resurrection:
The metaphor of the candidate embodying the Grand Master being Raised is for many a high point in the process. I'm using the ideas, as does the craft, of death, raising or resurrection for the basis for a psychological, cognitive, and spiritual process to inspire and create change in the here and now within the individual man. The ritual implies one can be "reborn" at any, every, moment, we always have another chance to do the right thing, get it right. It teaches it is possible to be “reborn” into higher states of consciousness and spiritual awakening(s). Through the metaphor in action, we receive instruction the work of change takes preparation, effort, and practice—and isn’t without barriers and challenges. Within the frame of the ritual, it is with the aid of the Worshipful Master. We could take his representation to imply with the aid of Brothers, Friends, Family, or as a representation of our higher or ideal self, maybe the Grand Architect. Elaborating the interpretation: the metaphoric death might be a mis- or missed- step, an error or failing in everyday life. When we keep the Oath and practice close in the moment, the sprig is always nearby. Staying grounded, contemplative, we have the opportunity to search ourselves and find the way to save the moment—even if we return to the scene some measure of time after the incident. We have the opportunity to act with integrity and justice. Through practice and repetition, we can make real-life changes in how we respond next time around.

While considering ways to operationalize the changes to a recently Raised self, I was reminded of two ideas: "if [people] pray for courage, does God give them courage? Or [are they given] opportunities to be courageous?" and "There is no way to Love, Love is the way." The former is a quote by Morgan Freeman in the movie Evan Almighty. The latter is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. For the words courage and love, one could replace with: Peace, Kindness, Charity, Justice, Integrity, etc. Taken together, all challenging situations are opportunities and underscore intentional practice. Words are the currency of our lives and our minds. Words are the medium of our ideas, exchanges, vows, oaths, what soothes and enrages us. So, changing a word in how we talk with ourselves and others creates change within our metaphoric operating system code—changing the words has power. Which is why we don’t often change the words in the ritual, because then we change the meaning and effect.

If you choose to conduct these experiments, it is possible for them to remain fully hidden, secret, from the world around you unless you choose to disclose to an other. Keeping the "secret," of this opportunity reframe, strengthens its function on the self. If it is assumed the past me acted a certain way and cannot change because of the historical fact, then present me is more likely to also be stuck and cannot change. However, if reality is accepted along with the idea that rebirth (forgiveness? Self-compassion?) is possible, then hope returns, work on ashlar resumes, and growth and change may occur; The search may commence along with the opportunity to be raised towards an intended, ideal, obligated, self, and be born into a newer version or world.

Reincarnation:

Though this concept is not overtly embedded in our ritual, taken as an extension of the above, it can be a potent metaphor and speculative tool through which to embody our Masonic obligations. The concept of reincarnation leads me to wonder how I would change my behavior if I treated everyone around me as living represntations of spirits or souls with whom I've interacted in other lifetimes and in other stations in life. Further, I could consider this an iterative process that goes on and on until we find "liberation" from the cycle of death and rebirth, in which my station in the next is mediated by my action in the present. So, I end up with a world populated by people who have always been here with me, but our relationships are changed in each "birth." Now things get interesting, speculatively speaking. Each person could be experienced as a former or future Brother, family member, a parent or child from another, or future, life. I might change how I react to someone who presents to me in a manner I dislike. I could be kinder, more charitable if I assume a greater obligation to the person with whom I’m confronted. Or I might find a way to help them stay engaged—assuming I wanted to live my Masonic obligation in that moment (though aren't we really always on duty (another post perhaps)). Mortar is never off duty—it is always there, holding the building together

Presentation of the hand:
When the Worshipful Master of the lodge greets us, a newly made Mason, a fellowcraft, a master, he offers us his hand. He reaches out to express his love and affection on his own behalf and the brethren of the lodge. It is welcoming. It is accepting. It is an offering. It is a metaphor. Regardless of country of birth or station in life, there are repeated offerings of connection, openness, and affirming equity. The Master of the Lodge shows he is willing to welcome and meet the brethren, whom he serves on the checkered floor of life with an open hand. For the year (or years as the case may sometimes be) in the East, he sets forth the plan on the trestle board and offers it to the brethren. The hand as trowel, the master models the application of mortar between brethren in plain sight and good faith. Despite what is to come in life, the temple will continue to be built.

In one form of dream interpretation, all content of the dream may be seen as representations of the dreamer. We could take the above literal welcoming as a metaphor in like manner: the wiser, stronger, more beautiful representation of self, welcomes the rough to be worked into its own image. Through the hope of raising and resurrection, the aspects of ourselves we seek to perfect are always welcomed to the work. We do not disavow, deny, reject them. Otherwise, they become split off and neglected, undeveloped and wasted. Even worse, the despised or disavowed part(s) becomes an anti-masonic detractor seeking to tear down the temple in self-sabotage! Therefore the Master of his own temple greets the rough aspects of himself openly, lovingly, with curiosity and care, to treat charitably as he would a brother in need of relief. This can be hard work, by the way. When he accepts the stone as it is, he begins the work of shaping (behavior, habit, etc.), fitting it into place anew, and applying the mortar so the temple may be built toward perfection.






~EM

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org

Honor the Service

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson


There is a phrase - all gave some, but some gave all. I was thinking about this as I researched the history of Lieutenant Frederick John Holt Beever, the British Freemason killed in the Dakota War of 1862. While the Nation was ripped apart in Civil War, there were wars on the frontier that were also destroying lives. The Minnesota Regiments were on the border of the Dakota Territory, and were heavily involved in the battle. General Henry H. Sibley of the United States Army was leading the effort to drive back the Dakota Tribes. Among his infantry was Lieutenant Frederick John Holt Beever.

Lieutenant Beever was killed on July 29, 1863, while on assignment from General Sibley. In an effort to memorialize the loss of all Brothers on the Frontier from 1860-1890, the Frontier Army Lodge of Masonic Research included Lieutenant Beever's name in the ritual of the Empty Chair Degree. This ritual was adopted in 2001 by the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and has been used to honor Brothers in the military who never came home.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of the Dakota Uprising, as I believe in nearly every battle, you have supporters and those that disagree. There are certainly portions of our American History that I'm not proud of, but I believe every nation has gone through such dark periods. Regardless, over the years, men and women step forward in an effort to service their Country. Some step forward out of family tradition. Some because they see it as a way to support their family. But I believe that all step forward knowing that they might not return. In a matter of speaking, these men and women gave up their freedoms to be a resource for the country.

My own Lodge, Montgomery Lodge in Milford, MA, includes members that have fought in numerous wars, and was chartered by the Most Worshipful Paul Revere. We are named in memory of Major General Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War soldier killed in combat in Quebec, so although we are not a "Military Lodge", we do have strong military ties. As an aside, Major General Henry Knox Lodge would be a good reference for those seeking a Military Lodge. I know there are men in my Lodge that fought in the Vietnam War, and I'm quite sure there are men in my Lodge that protested that very same war. They are still Brothers, however, and treat each other with the respect due.

On Memorial Day for the last couple of years, after marching in the local parade, Montgomery Lodge opens its doors to the public and performs the Empty Chair Degree in memory of Major General Richard Montgomery. This has become a tradition that I hope will continue. Instead of focusing on the battles during this time, I prefer to focus on the men and women that gave their lives in service to their country. They had the bravery and courage to step forward, and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice. Remember them. Honor them. And the next time you have the opportunity to stretch forth a hand to assist, channel their courage, and make a positive impact in somebody's life.

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and Secretary of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org