Masonic education is all the rage with the crowd I run with; and this is, by the way, a good thing. I seem to hear more about Masonic education now than ever before ("ever before" being defined as since I joined the Craft 19 years ago).
We may not always stop to think that "Masonic education" is a broad term that can take many forms. It can be a deep, spiritual, esoteric subject that, frankly, sometimes winds up being over my head. Or it can be something lightweight – maybe an account of something a Brother did or even a funny anecdote. Usually the subject falls somewhere in between. Doesn't matter. Whatever form it takes, Masonic education is the hot topic du jour. Hallelujah. When we are new to the degrees and are asked what it is we want, we respond that we want light, and progressively more of it. In other words, our Masonic journey is a search for enlightenment; and the path for that journey is education. Keep it coming.
However, I hear a lot of dissent about some of the other things we do: "Oh, man, not another bean dinner," or "what's with all the service projects, what are we, the Rotary?" (No offense meant to the Rotary, a fine organization, but different than the Freemasons).
See, I like those things, too. The bean dinners, the meals before the meetings and all the social events give me a chance to get together with my Brothers and informally kick things around. Those conversations usually aren't very heavy but they're enjoyable. The social interaction we have with our Brothers is an important part of what our fraternity is. We don't want our organization to be all joking and no substance but I also wouldn't want to exclude it. All work and no play makes Hiram a dull boy.
Also, there are the service projects. In my area we help with the Child Identification Program (MoCHIP) which, in the past decade has helped return at least eight missing or abducted children to their homes, out of about a quarter million registered. We've assisted with disaster recovery and are currently helping my city build a playground for disabled kids. We are, by the way, way over our heads financially on that one, but we'll figure something out. All of these projects give the Brothers a sense of fulfillment. You know, it's the old, "it is better to give than receive" thing. Community service – let's have more of that, too.
So, recapping, when we get together as Brothers, we're doing a broad range of things: We have social interaction at our events; we help make our communities better places through our service projects; and we seek enlightenment.
Freemasonry needs all of these. In fact, couldn't we call our social interaction Brotherly Love, our community service Relief and our quest for enlightenment a search for Truth? Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Where have I heard that before?
We are more than Masonic education, and that is outright blasphemy to some. It shouldn't be. I suspect the emphasis behind Masonic education derives from the fact we sometimes make it the stepchild of our other activities. We have plenty of bean dinners and service projects but seem to fall short on Masonic education. Still, in a perfect world, we should clamor for social events and service projects just as loudly as for Masonic education. It's "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth," not "Truth and whatever."
Maybe if our quest for Masonic Education is successful enough we can get to the point where we have to start emphasizing the other tenets: "More bean dinners!" Now that sounds like the ultimate blasphemy, doesn't it?