As we progress in Masonry and in our humanity—our perspectives progress too. When I was a kid, Memorial Day meant that the Friday before the three day weekend was an easy school day. Color a picture of the flag in grammar school, write a letter to a widow/widower in high school, and in my twenties? Nothing. Like a “lost boy”, from Neverland, just like that—I had forgotten.
You would think with a family history of Naval service I wouldn’t forget, but I did. At best, I was apathetic, I think many are. Then, Freemasonry happened to me. I was 27 years old with a good education, a solid job, and a budding family. Freemasonry has a large basis in civic engagement, in the transformation of the consciousness of a person, and hopefully, the uplifting of the human condition. This transformative art, so well exemplified in our degrees DID change my thinking. It woke the sleeper—I remembered.
“My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn't sure how I'd feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. And I've tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me. -James Ryan at Captain Miller's grave.I think we all know it isn’t about the barbeque, or the day off of work or school. The ancients didn’t know if our consciousness was in our head (the brain) or in our hearts. I tell you it has got to be at least, a little of both. Because at the center of it all, it’s about giving and those who gave so we could continue on, and maybe, just maybe, through the sacrifice, our lives and our children’s lives would be better.
For the men and women who serve the cause of protecting Freedom, Liberty, and Justice—sacrifice means something a little different. It means they might not come home. It means they hope against hope in the direst of circumstances that it won’t come down to the last stand—but also knowing it might and that they are ready to stare death in the face to protect the rest of us.
So Memorial Day is about the gift. The gift of corporeal endowment—of remitting a body and conscious experience in the trade, for us all to enjoy the greatest freedoms, and also the most basic qualities of life. Is there anything else more stoic? More honorable? More deserving of a place within our minds, where they might live on forever?
I'd like to call to your attention, to a document. Likey you haven't read it since the last time you were made to. As we age, we tend to read things differently. Instead of just stringing words together, we understand--like a new language somehow unfolded before our very eyes, thanks to some unknown force. That document I am referring to is something very special, something I can never read allowed without choking up. The Gettysburg Address. I leave you now with the final paragraph. I challenge you to see it, to feel it, and to understand it.
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." - President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19th, 1863
RWB Johnson is the 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. 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" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.