Big John: Freemason or Not?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 

Fellow Midnight Freemason Darin Lahners and I were returning from a road trip when we decided to pull off the interstate to visit Metropolis in deep southern Illinois.   If you are a fan of DC Comics, you might recognize Metropolis as the home to Superman.  Superman dutifully watches over downtown Metropolis in front of the Massac County Courthouse and will on a moment's notice leap into action to save the day. 


As Darin and I were traversing our way to Superman, lo and behold we see another super life-sized statue of “Big John”.   Big John stands on east Fifth street in Metropolis in front of the Big John Grocery Store. Big John was the creation of the store owner back in the 1960s and is also very popular with tourists.

As Big John stands watch, he is carrying a bag of groceries, waving to everyone who passes by, and he always has a big smile on his face.  He is dressed in a red polo shirt with brown khaki pants and has on a ….wait for it…... AN APRON!  Now, being a Freemason, I immediately wondered if Big John was a Freemason or not.

How can we determine if Big John is a Freemason?  My first indicator is the huge smile that Big John has on his face.   He appears to be a pleasant individual who enjoys working and helping others.    As a Freemason, our disposition towards others is important as others form an impression of who we are and what we do 

Big John also is waving to passersby which creates an inviting and welcoming atmosphere.   Does your lodge, chapter, etc, create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that brothers want to return to?   Are you actively engaging new brothers in helping them get acclimated to the lodge, helping them understand what happens within the lodge, and encouraging them to come back?  Are you a mentor to others and assisting them to grow?

Carrying a bag of groceries shows me that Big John is proud of his work.   He appears to have his 24-inch gauge well situated with 8 hours for his usual vocation and probably utilizes the other 16 hours in helping others, learning and resting, and refreshing himself.   How do you utilize your 24-inch gauge?   Are you effectively managing your time and putting forth your best efforts in your career, to your family, and community?  Are you taking time for yourself and caring for your health and mental well-being?

Finally, I notice that the apron Big John is wearing is in perfect condition and unspotted to the world.   As Freemasons, it is our duty and obligation to keep our aprons pristine and unspotted for the world.   Not only our physical apron but keep our daily lives unspotted as we seek to do our best for others, contribute positively to our communities, and further our own personal growth through continued learning and engagement with others.

Big John, Freemason or Not?   My conclusion is yes, Big John is a Freemason.  

~GJK

Gregory J. Knott, 33° is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com

Brother Richard Dreyfuss Speaking This Friday

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson




In 2011 The Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. took Mr Richard Dreyfuss and made him a Freemason. He then went on to become a 32˚ degree Brother as well. Ten years before this, a film was produced called, Mr. Dreyfuss goes to Washington. The film is a an exploration of the US Capital and its monuments. The film teaches us about our nation and our founders--our values. Among these values is civics.

Brother Dreyfuss has always believed in the idea of Civics and what it means to be an American. In 2008, the Richard Dreyfus Civics Initiative was created. His unique perspectives tend to inspire. You can catch a ted talk about bringing civic education back to the classroom here.

Civics and Freemasonry go hand in hand. Civics is not politics, but rather, for Freemasons, it might relate  those things you agree to when becoming a Freemason. It is your (civic) duty to conform and to stand up for those things that we're called to do--to be an informed citizen. Not much is taught in the way of civics in today's learning environments. This makes it doubly important that Freemasonry make an impact on our communities and our spheres of influence.

The only reason I have for this post today, is to let you know that Brother Dreyfuss is going to be joining a webinar where he is interviewed by several well known Freemasons that you all know. And this will be happening this Friday at 6:00 P.M. Central. We've got space for 500 and the overflow will go to the Valley of Washington D.C. Scottish Rite's Facebook feed.

The event is free and I hope you can join us.

Register by visiting www.tinyurl.com/aasrdreyfuss

~RHJ

RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.

Moral Courage in the Lodge Room

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Greg Knott.  Greg has a home right off of Lake Barkley.  Saturday while trying to decide what to do, I asked Greg if he had ever been to the Patton Museum of Armor at Fort Knox.  Greg had not, and after deciding that it wasn't too far away; we took off for that destination. The Patton Museum has been rebranded as the "Patton Museum of Leadership".  Upon entering the museum, the visitor sees several screens projecting qualities of leadership.  It should come as no surprise that Character was one of the very first screens. 

The quote displayed on the screen, by George S. Patton Jr; "Moral Courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men" really struck me.    Let me define what Moral Courage is.  I know Wikipedia isn't the greatest of sources, but it says that: "Moral Courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.  Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences.  Moral courage, therefore, involves deliberation or careful thought".   

Another word for deliberation or careful thought is Contemplation. Contemplation works on two levels for me personally:  
1. It is the act of thinking profoundly about something.
2. It is the act of having an inner vision into oneself that transcends the intellect, entering a state of mystical awareness of God's being (however you define "God") through various practices like prayer/meditation.  
I'm sure I've oversimplified the definition, but as I said, this is my definition of my personal contemplative practices. 

This being said, the majority of our society and Fraternity seems to be lacking both Moral Courage and the ability to contemplate on both levels.  I am the first to admit that I am among those lacking Moral Courage.  Let me explain.  I have for far too long seen the polarizing influence of the profane world invade the sacred space that I call my Masonic Lodge(s). I have endured my brethren talking about things that we know to cause disharmony in a lodge (politics and religion) building, in a lodge room, and sometimes during the meeting itself.  My personal failing is that I have lacked the Moral Courage to say anything.  I have used the personal mantra of the Duties of a Senior Warden as an excuse for my personal cowardice. "Harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, especially ours."  I say nothing because I don't want to cause issues with my brethren.  I realized in reading the quote from Patton this weekend, that I am wrong. 

But what about the idea of whispering wise counsel?  Wise counsel works when it's another brother.  Wise counsel doesn't work when it's a majority of your lodge members.  What needs to be said, is that to paraphrase the song lyrics by Twisted Sister: "I'm not gonna take it anymore".  What I need to communicate is that the lodge is where we do contemplative work as defined by both of the above, and that should be our business. If we can't leave the outside world behind when we enter the building, then why are we here?   Are we really becoming better men by regurgitating everything that we are hearing in the media or reading on social media to our brethren in a lodge building?

The goal of our lodges should be to practice contemplation.  Masonic Education should have the goal of improving either our critical thinking skills (definition 1) or how we view our relationship with the divine (definition 2).  Something that is done in some jurisdictions is that at the close of a meeting, the brethren come out on the floor and they form a circle around the altar, which is to illustrate the universality of the memberships of all being on the level in the lodge and the eyes of God, but also to focus the Supreme Blessing upon the brethren.  Some jurisdictions have ritual to accompany this.   However, something as simple as this is a contemplative practice that can be done prior to closing in those jurisdictions that don't already have it as a moment of unity and silence.  

Ultimately, we need to take back the sanctity of our lodges.   We need to have the moral courage to fight back against the influences of the profane world.  We need to engage in contemplative work so that we can help each other use the tools of Freemasonry in our own lives.   The tools that should be allowing us to display moral courage in our own lives.  Because if we start showing that we're Freemasons, and living according to the values that we're taught, and displaying moral courage in the profane world, then we can be a force for good.  Let's put in the contemplative work to make that happen. 

~DAL 

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.  

I Was Second

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

Anticipation consumed me as I sat in the large dining area with my father. A voice from a man I did not know came out of the hallway to my right and bellowed, "It's time, let's go." The room, filled with about 40 others, began to clear. Each got up, including Dad, and stood in line in front of a logbook on a counter, and signed in. Within minutes there were only four of us left in that empty room. 


I sat in eerie silence with two other guys I didn't know at the long table where I had eaten breakfast. The fourth guy in the room was, we learned, the Tyler. He introduced himself. He joked, told us stories, and tried to put us at ease. I was not at ease. It wasn't because I was concerned about what I was going to go through, but because I wanted to get right to it. Time drug. In fact, it seemed to stop altogether. What were they doing in that Lodge room that was taking so long?


Finally, a guy stuck his head around the corner to my left and called out, "Randy!" 


Rats. I wasn't going to be first. He took Randy away. More joking with the Tyler. More waiting. Eternity came and went. Finally, the same guy appeared at the corner to my left. I said a small prayer: "Make him say my name. Please make him say my name…" 


"Steve." 


Prayer answered, I leaped up and followed him into a place that was more a closet than a room. The three guys in there helped me put on a pair of… well… pajamas. They took a gold cross I wore on a chain around my neck, replaced it with a cord of some sort, slipped a sandal on me, and then in their haste apparently forgot to put on the other one. After they blindfolded me, the main guy, followed by the other two, escorted me to a set of double doors, knocked, and announced my presence. After a small wait, I was, for the first time in my life, in an open Masonic Lodge room.


I went through the degree, trying to soak it all in. I learned the lack of a second sandal was not a mistake. I learned why they took the gold chain from me. But it was like drinking from a fire hose. Other things I had experienced… well… I had questions. 


They took me back out of the Lodge room, had me put on my street clothes, took me back in and we wrapped things up. It was amazing that the degree that seemed to take so long while I was waiting had passed in a flash. Parts of the degree swirled through my head as I tried to remember everything I had been through.


Then, suddenly, as they sat me on the sidelines, I realized there would be another degree for the poor guy who was still waiting outside, and I would get to see it. I was elated they had called me second, so I could immediately review what I had seen. 


There was a knock at the door I had recently passed through. The same three guys walked in with the third candidate. I focused my attention. I hung on every word, every motion, every symbolic allusion. I watched transfixed with my Brothers… my BROTHERS… and tried to absorb it like a dry sponge in water. My Masonic education had begun.


~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also 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. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.