My nephew Ryan and the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma HS for the first time decided to compete in the indoor percussion national competition in Dayton, OH. Many indoor percussion groups go, few get past the first round, much less past the semi-finals. The Pride of Broken Arrow High School is the current national champion marching band, and their indoor percussion team is now ranked number 8 in the nation. Having never taken their percussion team to the national indoor competition, there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of questions, and a lot of faith in the directors to help guide them along the way. Their first time competing, they made it through prelims, and semi-finals, and continued to improve their score each time through finals. To color the story a bit, because Broken Arrow won marching band nationals and other competitions, they were immediately placed in “open” which is the toughest competition class. They didn’t receive any advantage of starting in a lower competitive class and working up, rather the percussion team entered the head-to-head competition with the best of the best. Pretty cool, and congratulations Ryan.
If this connects with you on a different level, it is meant to do so. Let me change the story a bit. A good person, a champion of character who has proven himself year after year with good, hard work, makes a decision to push himself. He decides to stretch himself into an unknown journey, or adventure. He makes a decision to petition a lodge of Master Masons.
Comparatively to trying out for the marching or sports competition, this person is investigated, or tested, against the principles and foundation of the Lodge by an investigating committee. The problem of not investigating thoroughly, or testing thoroughly, is a discussion for a different time. Back to the comparison: This person may well have been through other initiatic experiences in a college fraternity, maybe the Boy Scouts’ Order of the Arrow, or possibly a different initiatic experience. Maybe this person has never experienced anything of the kind. He soon learns the Masonic degrees are different, more expansive, cover a lot more ground with symbolism and depth, and they deeply connect you with the lodge brethren.
The competitions become personal. The new Brother learns that practice, and very hard practice at that, is the only way to accomplish the goals of the material world by circumscribing passions and connecting with moral living. As the Brother progresses, the competitions become more intense as that morality is tested and judged. Often the Brother misses his own judgment until interactions with family, friends, and coworkers make the results obvious through hindsight and contemplation. Like the band directors and athletic coaches, the Masonic mentors help shape and guide a new Brother into the fraternity by explaining the ritual, explaining customs, and helping focus the new Brother toward his best personal growth by showing him how to practice morality and circumscription.
Each of us already became champions simply by following the path, striving to be better every day, practicing, to put in the time to make ourselves better in every respect. It takes practice time, just like a marching band or sporting team, to improve as a Lodge and as an individual. Sometimes the team effort requires assisting with the Lodge activities, and we find support within our Lodge or with other Brothers. Much of our work remains internal, contemplative, and solo practice prevails. Yet, practice always remains the key. Consistent practice raises the level of performance, and we obtain the keys to contemplate, to practice, to work in the virtual quarries as Masons to find ourselves and strengthen the internal competition. Keep on marching, and keep practicing that music!
Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.