I Have a New (Old) Skill

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Latin is a dead language
Dead as dead can be
First Latin killed the Romans
Now it's killing me.

There were times I felt as if that was my anthem during the four years of Latin I took in high school.  Latin?  Four years?  Why?  I had my reasons… beyond openly exhibiting the fact that I was a pathological masochist.  Even back then, however, I knew — and others did not hesitate to point out — I was studying a language no one had spoken for centuries.  

"Impractical," they said.

Maybe so, if I was looking for a functional language; but not if I was interested in the Roman history that went along with studying the language; not if I wanted to study a language that formed the basis of many others and led to a better understanding of English.  Besides, when I took my college entrance exam, I tested out of all language requirements.  Take that, ye naysayers.

Still, I would never have advocated Latin should be a required subject.  To some it was, and remains, unnecessary… irrelevant… maybe even useless.  Today, many high schools don't even offer it as an elective.  I think that's unfortunate but I guess it's a sign of our times… and school budgets.

So now, it seems a new subject is the target of those who think it's unnecessary, irrelevant or maybe even useless: call it cursive, longhand, script or, in my case, scribble.

"Irrelevant," they say again, "We're all typists… uh, make that keyboarders," as they toss it onto the junk heap of forgotten subjects along with music, art and God knows what else – maybe Freemasonry; lots of people think that's archaic, too.

This, too, I think is unfortunate.  There is something to be said for studying subjects beyond the "Three Rs" — to broaden our cultural backgrounds.  But, sigh, I understand.  We must be practical.

I spent the bulk of this past year transcribing the Masonic memoirs of Frederic L. Billon, a 19th century Grand Secretary in Missouri.  Written in fading longhand, this was a difficult task, but well within my capability — and probably yours, given the fact schools didn't ditch cursive before our time.

As I went through this exercise I realized, in years to come, what I was doing would be a specialized skill.  Without its use being universal I can see cursive becoming a prerequisite for someone wanting to study history, as long as history doesn't fall off the educational cliff, too.  Those Founding Fathers didn't use keyboards.  

I suppose I could be an old fogey and lament the passing of another "useless" subject, but I might as well accept it and take heart in the fact I have a new (old) skill: I am a cursive specialist.

Cursive is a useless thing;
I've other skills to hone.
They should have written the Bill of Rights
On an Android or iPhone. 

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Burl Green

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

We all knew it was coming. Worshipful Brother Burl Green, Tuscola Lodge’s oldest Past Master, had been in steadily declining health for a couple of years, and had recently had to move into assisted living a couple of hours from home. Knowing Burl, that was probably the last straw, so a few weeks ago he just laid back in his bed and died. He was 93, and had been a Master Mason for 69 years.

Burl was there for my degrees, and was at every meeting and degree I attended as long as he was healthy enough. When we had a lodge work day, he was there, on his hands and knees, using a hand vacuum behind the sideline. He was in his late 80s at the time. Burl was just always there, doing what he could, whenever he was able. He was Master of the Lodge three times, but was one of the humblest men I’ve ever known. Every stated meeting or two, Burl would slowly rise, be recognized, and talk about how wonderful it was that we had so many young men joining the lodge, how impressed he was at their devotion to the Work, and how good it was that they were doing what he could do no longer. When we had our lodge rededication on our 150thanniversary, he served as the Oldest Past Master, was expressly grateful throughout the day, and talked for years afterwards of how nice the Grand Lodge officers had been. 

A few months before he died, Burl stood in lodge, was recognized, and said, though he hated to do it, that he needed help with his yard, and was wondering if any of his Brethren might be able to help with cleaning it up. That Saturday, the lodge was out in force. To help a Brother is a privilege, and with Burl, we knew we might not have many more opportunities. 

We’ll miss him. We’ll miss the coffee stains on the floor that followed him wherever he went. We’ll miss his red truck driving fifteen miles an hour past the donut shop. We’ll miss his unmistakable cackle when something tickled his sense of humor. But we won’t miss his example, as it lives in all of us who knew him, and will live on in the stories we tell of a just and upright Mason who did what good he could, when he could, and always talked of how grateful he was to be a Freemason. Rest in peace, Brother Burl. Your column is broken, and your Brethren mourn.

Burl Green, 1923-2016


~MHS

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley is a Certified Lodge Instructor, past Leadership Development Chairman, and past Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F & A.M. He is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, Illinois, AASR-NMJ. The author of several article on British and American history, he retired in 2016 from the History Department at Eastern Illinois University. You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

Day By Day, The Masonic Way: Disappointment

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Brethren, as I look back over the pieces I’ve written in the past few years, I see many things I’m very proud of. There were a great many papers on various topics, full of emotion and passion, but what I’ve found missing is what I would consider “solid” education, that is, a practical application of the instructions we are taught in our three degrees. Over the next series of papers I write, I plan to address that issue. I hope to be able to provide some solid teachings, and learn something myself in the process!

Many minds far greater than my own have written examinations of the symbols that are presented, and I promise that if you spend the time pouring over their writings you will find it to be a rewarding and enriching pursuit. Instead of retreading the words of our forefathers, I hope to break new ground by discussing the issues that face our brothers today. I won’t even pretend to be doing this for entirely noble reasons; to a degree (if you’ll excuse the pun), this is my attempt to deal with these issues in my own life and, through that process, find peace for myself.

Tonight, the issue that is most heavy on my mind is that of disappointment. Disappointment comes in many forms; maybe you didn’t get the promotion you deserved, or your team ended their season with a 6-7 record (I’m looking at you Cornhuskers), or maybe your evening just didn’t go the way you had hoped it would. Disappointment is a common human condition, however to dismiss it so easily is to downplay how absolutely crushing the experience can be when it occurs.

At its core, disappointment comes from reality not living up to our expectations. Perhaps our expectations were set too high, perhaps we ignored the reality of our situation, or perhaps the world is a complex, sometimes cruel place where things don’t go the way they should. Whatever the real reason, disappointment taken to an extreme can lead to severe anxiety issues, with sufferers going out of their way to avoid any risk that may lead to disappointment.

King Solomon knew disappointment; even with all of his accomplishments he saw failure after crushing failure, leading him to say “I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” King Solomon definitely had a flair for the melodramatic, however I believe we can all identify with the sentiment: after all of our hard work and effort, when everything comes crashing down around us, what is the point of our labors?

When faced with disappointment, my mind first goes to thoughts of the mosaic pavement. Being the representative of human existence, it is necessarily equally checkered with both white and black tiles, which we are taught is emblematical of the good and evil in our lives. It could also be said to represent our victories and our defeats, our joys and our disappointments, which equal out in the long run of our lives.

A man much wiser (and significantly cheesier than I) once stated that walking the mosaic pavement is very hard on the feet. This is most especially true when we’re face to face with our disappointments.

There is an insidious danger in disappointment: often, we turn to our vices to help ease the pain. Solomon turned to both wine and women to make him forget the suffering crush of his disappointments, and it worked… for a while. However, he learned what we all must learn: the harder you try to escape reality, the more painful it is when it reasserts itself. After spending many drunken years amassing a fortune filled with every pleasure money could buy, he found himself more emotionally destitute than he began.

Truly dealing with our disappointments head-on takes courage, but it also takes a humble spirit. It begins with accepting what has happened, which many of us have a very difficult time with. It also takes time, something that I myself have an issue with; we want everything fixed right now, not at some magical later date. Finally, it takes a willingness to learn from the situation, to prepare us for future storms.

Here’s a little secret from me to you: life is full of disappointments. Rather than letting them destroy us, we have the opportunity to learn and grow from them. If the human life is an alchemical process, then disappointment is the process which transforms our rough ashlars into perfect ashlars.

I hope you can learn to channel your disappointments into your passion; for me, that passion is writing, and the large number of papers that have been posted since my first guest post nearly two years ago is a testament to the disappointments in my life. For one of my good friends, he pours his disappointment into music, and has constantly improved his talent to a near professional level. Whatever your passion is, I encourage you to pour all of your frustrations into it; let them fuel you as you strive to become ever greater.
I won’t leave you with a banal platitude like “when one door closes, another one opens” (in the words of Bill Murray, just open the door, that’s how doors work), but I will tell you that I have learned this: life is like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. You can’t start to make sense of it until it has all fallen apart.

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

Interview with the Grand Master of Queensland

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Wayne Greenley


*Editors Note Last Friday, we ran an interview with the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the State of Illinois, as promised, here is the interview with the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Queensland by Aussie Correspondent and Midnight Freemason Contributor, Bro Wayne Greenley.

1. When were you first initiated?

I was initiated in June of 1973 in a small country lodge called Tibrogargan Lodge, number 305 UGLQ. I am still a member and I’ve been secretary for the past 22 years though I handed it over at the last installation and I am now the treasurer.

2. Why did you become a Freemason?

I joined because I was stationed at a forest research station at Beerwah. My next door neighbour had a BBQ and there I met a group of men from Beerwah that my neighbour knew, who wasn’t a freemason, but a number of these other men I met were Freemasons. Over the course of the next few months I got to know them, respect them, and I asked them about Freemasonry. Then I was in the lodge. (And now you’re the Grand Master, it’s been a good long journey) A 43 years long journey from today, sometimes one needs to cover a long period of time.

3. What are you favourite memories being in the lodge?

Without a shadow of a doubt it’s the mateship, the comradeship, the enjoyment of each other’s company, and especially that surrounding the new men into our craft.

4. If you could go back in time and witness any masonic event, what would you choose?

I would have liked to have been in Edinburgh in December of 1598 when William Schaw produced his first Statutes. (I do enjoy history and I look forward to reading the Schaw statutes). The three constitutions were present in Queensland from 1859 when the English came, 1863 when the Scots came and 1864 when the Irish came. For our 150 anniversary, we needed to do something very special. So the Librarian and myself decided to have in our presence the 1598 and 1599 statutes as they were delivered in Scottish brogue, a direct translation and a modern translation. I quote them quite often. Whilst my own lodge has an English background and I am familiar with the first premier lodge of 1717, I still if I was asked who do you think is supposed to be the father of Freemasonry, and I know that almost impossible to say, but for me the first person to put it on a map in a structured way was William Schaw.

5. How much of a difference do you feel you have made to Queensland Freemasonry?

Well I believe passionately that no-one person an affect change or achieve by himself. Thus in a team approach, I’ve had a very creative team around me and using their skills and expertise we have been able to introduce some structural changes. Importantly, thought, those structural changes have come associated with some significant constitutional change and that has been a significant change from the past. It was effected by communicating the need for change to our brethren. I went around the state with a campaign with ‘Organised Development equals change’ and the membership at large voted favourable for those changes.

6. What is your message to future Brothers?

The enjoyment of our fraternity and of your fellow Brothers. I sometimes highlight Freemason as three things. Mateship, Giving and Integrity. When you have a look at those three things and they are just a sort of modern way of expressing the old way of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth but in a sort of Aussie way. They for me are the things that are most important, what we don’t involve in there are the real landmarks in order of our terms of belief of a supreme being. However, what they do say is that we are about good, doing good within ourselves, doing better for ourselves and by doing that we become better members our community, better members of our family, better members of the workplace. There is no doubt in my mind that Freemasonry is a great good for an individual and for our community.

Listen to the audio file for the bonus message the Most Worshipful Grand Master has for the world of Freemasons on an upcoming episode of "Whence Came You?"

~WG

Bro. Wayne Greenley is member of Mount Pleasant Lodge No. 361 and research lodge Barron Barnett Lodge No 146 both holding under the United Grand Lodge of Queensland. Currently he is studying a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Business at QUT. In his spare time he likes to read, listen to music and research the Craft. He is looking forward to joining other orders when he’s permitted to in the next year and also to soon begin his journey through the progression of officers starting off with the Inner Guard.