I just finished reading a piece written by fellow Midnight Freemason contributor, my friend and Brother Robert Johnson, called “Is The Honeymoon Over?” As I sat here reading his work I began to notice myself nodding my head in agreement with every word RJ had written.
I have a rather unique position in the Craft; I am not an old Mason, but I am not a new guy either. At the time of writing this piece, I became an Entered Apprentice fourteen years ago. From the time I signed my petition, I couldn't wait until I was a Master Mason. Before the ink was dry on my signature, I was looking at Masonic books and looking at Masonic rings. I couldn't believe how slow the petition process was. And the thought of waiting between degrees was agony!
Within the next three months I had became a member of everything: the Shriners, the Scottish Rite
Once the dues cards were in place, the offices came. My first lodge meeting as a Master Mason I became Junior Steward, and since I had shown the Brethren I had an ability to memorize, I also received multiple pieces of ritual to learn. I was asked if I wouldn't mind filling a chair in one of the York Rite bodies. In my zeal I agreed and I received an office in body of the local York Rite. And with the jewels of the office, came even more ritual to memorize.
I can honestly say I gave Masonry my all. I had a meeting nearly every night for almost seven years. I became a Past Master and a Past High Priest in my Royal Arch Chapter. Along the path I picked up other responsibilities. I was a member of a Grand Lodge committee and I became a webmaster for a Grand York Rite, while still, I gathered even more jobs within my local Shrine temple. I can honestly say I loved most every minute of it.
But with problems within my family and my job, the burnout sat in. Real life began to invade my Masonic fantasy. The 24 inch gauge I had thrown away came back with a vengeance. The politics I once shrugged off began to anger me. The pieces of ritual I had been juggling for four different Masonic bodies no longer came easy to me. The representation of King Solomon’s Temple I built within myself fell apart. I went into a Masonic funk. I guess it could be called a period of Masonic darkness.
Just as Brother RJ wrote, "Masonic burnout" set in. For the longest time I was like everyone else: I thought burnout was a bad thing. But much like an old forest fire removes much rubbish and allows new life to set in, maybe Masonic burnout can be useful as well.
If you go to a drag race, people talk about burn outs as a positive thing. A burnout is when you make your rear wheels spin as fast as you can while sitting in place with your foot on the brake. When a drag racer brings his car to the race track in his preparation to race he will intentionally burn out his tires, which gets his tires warm and helps create traction which, if properly, done can be the difference between winning the race or losing.
As I'm sure you have been told many times “Masonry is a marathon, not a sprint.” That is all well and true, but if you don't get warmed up and gain traction you will fail at that race. Why not try a little of everything and find out what parts of Masonry you like and discover the ones that aren't for you?
Much like an all you can eat buffet, the first trip most people mound their plates full with as many types of dishes as they can heap on. When they return to the buffet a second time, they have a better idea of what foods they want to eat and only fill their plate with the foods they have found they liked.
After a period of Masonic inactivity and self reflection I got my life back on track and began to think about the parts of Freemasonry I liked and missed and the parts I could live without. I realized that being approached with the possibilities of Grand offices and the honors I received gave me a swelled head. I lost my perspective. I began to look at the Fraternity in a different way. I also discovered, thanks to Brother Robert Johnson, I enjoyed writing about Masonic topics. My burnout period also provided experiences for writing. It allowed me to use the experiences as “teachable moments”.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating you take your zeal for Freemasonry and fill every night with a different meeting. I advocate moderation, not excess. Use your experience to find your place within your fraternity. If you find your place you are more likely to get the traction you will need to make that sprint into a marathon.
If you only take one thing away from this piece is DON’T QUIT! You joined this fraternity for a reason. Don't stop searching until you find it. Don't let the bickering or the politics or even some of the rules you find silly discourage you and make you demit. All of these silly things will eventually go away. Masonry is just like life. There will be things you love and things you hate. Just take it all in stride and make the fraternity yours.