The 24-Inch Gauge

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

“The Twenty-four Inch Gauge is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to measure and lay out their work; but we, as free and accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. Being divided into 24 equal parts, it is emblematic of the 24 hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy brother, eight for our usual vocations and eight for refreshment and sleep.”

His name was… well, let’s call him Buddy. I had completed my petition for the mysteries of Freemasonry and the lodge had instructed me to give it to him. Buddy stopped by my house to pick it up. Under Missouri rules my father, from another jurisdiction, could not sponsor me, so Buddy, whom I had never met, was to be my first-line signer. I handed him the petition, we had a brief conversation, and Buddy left. As he was walking toward his car, I said, “I guess I’ll see you in lodge.”

Buddy turned and shook his head. “No,” he said, “I don’t attend. I’m burned out on Freemasonry.” That was the first and last time I ever saw my first-line signer.

What a thing to say to a candidate replete with the anticipation of his upcoming adventure with the Craft! I wondered how that had happened to Buddy. Too many boring meetings? Or had he taken an office in every body he belonged to leaving himself too time-stressed for his other responsibilities? Or both?

The admonition of the Twenty-Four Inch Gauge is not that we should walk around with a stopwatch ticking off each day in eight hour segments labeled service, work, and refreshment. Its symbolism teaches us to divide our time among those activities. Moderation in all things.

Most of us admire the guy who sets the world on fire with 70 hours a week at work in order to provide for his family and become successful. Likewise, for the Brother who is an active member of many Masonic bodies, holding offices, attending every meeting, and spending his valuable time to help the fraternity prosper; but the message of the Twenty-four Inch Gauge says that will catch up with us. All work and no play makes Hiram a dull boy; and it burns him out.

Occasionally, being a workaholic or a Masonaholic os commendable, but even race drivers have to make a pit stop once in awhile, or they’ll find themselves sitting on the backstretch out of fuel. So it is with us. Slow and steady might win the race, but a lot of us don’t know anything about those two concepts.

The minister at my church is currently on a three-month sabbatical. She’s a hard worker, dedicated, effective, and successful; but in her final message before leaving, she reminded us, “we are human beings, not human doings.” For some in our congregation (not unlike many of our Brothers) who are stuck in the work-a-day world a sabbatical is a foreign concept. One member griped, “She should try running her own business. I don’t even get a vacation.” Yet, even with his blessing we sent her off knowing she will come back refreshed and renewed, both physically and, more important, spiritually.

And so will I. I’m taking some time off.

Unlike Brother Buddy, I am not burned out on Freemasonry. I am, however, overextended in many of my life’s pursuits, and it’s time for a break. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just taking my own personal sabbatical. It’s time to, as advised in the text of the twenty-four inch gauge, divide my time into three equal parts instead of one bloated, stressful, unmanageable lump. I can’t thank Robert Johnson enough for allowing me to do these segments on his show, or Darin Lahners for publishing my articles on the Midnight Freemasons blog – and there will be more – for now I won’t be with you on the podcast or the blog anytime soon, but I will see you in lodge.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

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