As of December, I haven’t been wearing my ring. I have felt naked without it. Why is it that a ring can weigh so much, not only on one’s finger, but on their heart as well? Does the ring possess a certain power over who I am as a man or as a Mason? Not likely. Instead, the ring has different meanings to different individuals who choose to wear it. Some opt to not wear one, which is perfectly ok, and others choose to wear one. I am one of the latter up until recently.
As I said, I have felt naked without my ring since December. I took it off because my fiancé wanted to exchange it for a bracelet which she bought for me for Christmas. It was a great gesture and I appreciate what she did. I love the bracelet and I love how it feels on my wrist. It is one of the greatest gifts she could have gotten me. It is from Masonic Man. She understands that I am a freemason and that I love being a freemason--I love the conversation that my ring brings about freemasonry, which she was hoping would happen with the bracelet. Secretly, I was hoping it would to.
The truth is, the ring is old. It is missing diamonds, the color is fading, and the band is bent. Any logical person would surely retire such jewelry as it is not worth much of anything other than costume jewelry. The ring even turns my finger green after some time of wearing it. So why is it so hard to part with?
Katie may never truly understand, but when I asked her for it back, I tried to explain to her the significance of the ring. I failed miserably, as I am better at writing out my thoughts than I am at speaking them—especially on the fly. The ring doesn’t hold any special power, other than the power that I assign or attribute to it. It’s just an old ring that my great grandmother gave me to replace the other ring I broke.
Yes, that’s right… I broke my previous ring. I have a tendency to break rings and they don’t rest well on my fingers. I attribute that to hard work and working with my hands. Since my time as a freemason, this is my third ring that has become bent over time; the previous two rings broke clean off my hand. The first one while I was stationed in Oklahoma, and the second one while I was on deployment in the United Arab Emirates. These rings have seen their fair share of toil and work. Katie, doesn’t understand why I feel the need to wear a ring other than a wedding band once she and I get married. She feels that wearing another ring is kind of gaudy.
Since it doesn’t hold any kind of power, I should easily be able to retire the ring and be accepting of the bracelet. It is essentially the same thing, right? Wrong. Fact is, the bracelet is hardly ever seen. Is jewelry meant for me or is it meant for someone else? Well, that depends on the person and the purpose of why they are wearing it. To me, I wear the ring to show not only to myself, but to others that I am a freemason. It holds a special power that I attributed to it of being connected in a world that many have no clue about. It opens doors to talk about the things I love. With the bracelet being hidden under long sleeves or a sports jacket, it is difficult to open that conversation with a simple hand shake.
It’s the key to opening the door for a lot of people. Our fraternity is looking to find more ways to discuss freemasonry with others and to get young men interested. The ring is the key. When a young man shakes the hand of a Mason who is wearing a ring, it brings up questions of where the Mason got the ring, what Freemasonry is, and the best question that is usually asked… How can one become a freemason?
Sure, the ring is old and beaten up, but it just shows how much work has gone into being a Freemason. It is a constant reminder that I am a rough ashlar working to become perfect. If I had a ring that was untarnished and didn’t see the dirt of the world, am I really doing the Craft a favor? Am I doing myself a favor? I want it to be a constant reminder that I am always working on myself, helping others, and Freemasonry to be better for the world around us. So until the day that I am perfect, or even better the day that I can actually afford a nicer ring that shines more than the light that shines in my heart for freemasonry, I will keep my ring and wear it proudly. If the day comes that the ring shines more than the light inside, then it is time to retire the ring altogether and walk away from the fraternity that I love and hold so dear to my heart.
So, for those who are worried about if their ring isn’t as nice as some others, do not fret. The light is within… the ring is only a symbolic light that gives you the permission to shine brightly, and shine brightly you will. For a Mason who cares more about his ring, is morally destitute and should reconsider what that ring really represents.
Bro. Aaron Gardner - Emeritus Contributor