From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Fifteen - Masonic Memes
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Bill Hosler
It was a typical evening meal in the lodge's dining hall. Frozen lasagna purchased from the local big box store was served on paper plates and eaten with clear plastic forks. The bag of salad was sitting on the counter, uneaten and unopened, next to the store-brand ranch dressing. Some members have often joked that the salad was bought during the first year the lodge had been chartered.
The conversation at the tables was pretty much the same conversation that had been going on for decades. The same old jokes and memories from years gone by. It was pleasant dinner talk by friends who, over the years, had become brothers - as sure as if by birth.
The quiet, polite talk was stifled by the sound of the front door of the temple being loudly slammed. Heavy footsteps coming down the hall revealed that the noise was coming from Worshipful Brother Carl Bauer. His face was red with anger as he stomped into the dining room waving several sheets of paper in his hand. Carl walked past the counter, and the lasagna, directly to the diners sitting at his normal table.
“Well hi, Carl! How has your day been?” another past master asked while the whole table erupted in laughter, which only further infuriated Carl.
“How am I doing? How am I doing, you ask?” Carl said in a high-pitched, angry voice, “I'll tell you how I am doing. I am beside myself with anger!!”
“Well, I'll be darned!” the Past Master said as the laughter got even louder, matching the rise in Carl's blood pressure. “What's got you upset, brother?”
“My Grandson was over and brought his computer with him so he could do some school work. We got talking about how to search for things on the internet. To practice, I asked him to look up Freemasonry. His search brought up a lot of pictures. Some were very nice: Photos of lodge rooms, Brethren in their aprons. Things like that.”
“Then he showed me this website that got my dander up. There were these pictures of various things with words written across them making fun of Freemasonry. I had him print these for me. Here, look at these!”
Carl threw the printed pages in his hand onto the dining room table and spread them all out to be seen. Upon the pages were photos, some with still photos from movies or photographs from various pages of the Internet. Various words were superimposed on the photos, much like word balloons on the frame of a comic strip. These pictures were making fun of masons, ranging from what we wear to how we wear it, even insulting pancake fundraisers and past masters.
“I think these are created by anti-Masons.” Carl snorted in frustration. “Who else would say such vile things about the Craft!”
Pudge dropped his plastic fork and picked up one of the photos.
“Oh, these.” Pudge said as he chuckled a bit, “These are called memes. I don't think these are the work of “antis”. “Antis” would be disparaging all of Freemasonry. Most of these talk only about the way Grand Lodges operate, one-day classes, and things. Usually, they are created by younger Masons to make each other laugh and to display their frustrations. Some of them are very funny.”
Carl's eye widened as the vein in his neck bulged out “You are telling me MASONS create these things?” They say a such vile things about our leadership and our Grand Lodges! I refuse to believe a member of our Fraternity would stoop so low. They should be found out and be thrown out of the Fraternity! Why this is unmasonic! It is blasphemy!”
The 50-year member placed the last bite of the toasted hot dog bun in his mouth. thinking to himself that hot dog buns which have been brushed with garlic butter make a terrible replacement for actual garlic bread, then looked Carl in the eyes.
“You know Carl, it is said for something to be funny it must contain a certain amount of truth. These young brothers are frustrated. They join our lodges looking for the thing we say we provide: Self-improvement and a way of making themselves better men. They come in excited and full of hope then to have their hopes dashed by us older members with the usual clichés like 'We have never done that before' or 'Grand Lodge won't allow us to do that.' We tell them we provide one thing and then provide another. How can they not feel bitter?”
“To be honest, I am surprised any of them stick around long enough to vent their frustration. Honestly, Carl, instead of cursing these young men you should be thanking them for making these, what are they called?” the 50-year member looked to Pudge, “Memes?”
Pudge nodded to the old man with a little grin. Carl’s reaction, however, was that his blood pressure nearly reached the point of having a stroke.
“Thank them? You have got to be kidding, John! Thank these kids for making a mockery of the Fraternity I have loved and served for so many years? What’s next? Give them a medal for their heresy?”
The 50-year member laughed with a sly smile and said “Well, for one thing, for saving the Fraternity you have loved all these decades.”
The old man continued “Carl, you, me, and every one of us sitting here has been saying for years that Masonry is dying. The young people aren’t joining the lodge like they did when we were youngsters. We went a few years without a single candidate and we were worried this lodge wouldn’t be around much longer. Then, all of a sudden, those movies came out that made Freemasonry look cool, like something that young pups like Pudge and the others would want to belong to. They put in a petition to join and then, once they are raised, Freemasonry isn’t like the movie made it out to be.”
The 50-year member looked Carl in the eye and said “The Grand Lodge and leadership of every other Masonic body have been racking their brains with ways to make the young men want to stay around. They have tried everything: low dues, one-day classes, and loosening requirements to join. All done in hopes of bringing the youth in. Nothing has worked; in fact, it made the situation worse. They have done everything they can think of to bring these young men in except for one thing: Ask these men what they want out of the lodge.”
The 50-year member continued “We need to take these... memes... and read them, study them, and analyze them. If we look past the jokes and the sarcasm we will see what these men want out of Freemasonry and, better yet, what they don’t want. From what I read here they spell it out. They don’t want long-winded meetings with arguments and the reading of minutes.”
“They want Freemasonry: To make themselves better men. You ask yourself, Carl, are we giving them that? How would you feel if you were sold something, and paid your hard-earned money for it to find out it was nothing like you were told it was going to be? I bet you would be sore and complaining to high Heaven and everyone else who would listen that you had been ripped off. These young fellas are doing the same thing, just in a different way.”
Carl stood still for a moment, staring at the floor. The color in his face began to return to normal as he cleared his throat and quietly said “I must look like an old fool. I see what you mean, John. If I was their age and felt like I had been cheated, or my opinion disregarded, or worse yet, if I thought I was disrespected, I would have done things a lot worse than drawn cartoons with word balloons. I guess if I were to think about it, these young fellas have a lot more reserve than I would have had.”
The 50-year member rose from his chair and placed his hand on Carl’s shoulder. “They are good kids. I guess I mean 'young men.' They are just looking for that which is lost in their generation. Maybe once you get to know some of them You can help them work through their frustrations about Freemasonry and make this an organization we all will love. As I have heard many times, 'Harmony being the strength and support of all societies, especially ours.' Why don’t you sit here with us have some supper and we can all discuss what things we would like to see in our Fraternity. Who knows, you might find some common ground.”