Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Reasons Why I Joined the Freemasons

I asked Brother Matthew to write something on the subject of anything that came to his mind. He has written a very well-thought out piece. Thank you Brother Matthew.

I couldn’t tell you what specifically prompted my interest in Freemasonry two years ago, or what spurred me to actually join early this spring. I think I just knew I needed an overhaul, and Freemasonry’s business was “making men better!” But I can give you the five reasons I ultimately joined, and made one of the very few totally good decisions of my life.

1. Friendships

I’m 32 years old, and part of a generation that was tagged pretty early on (probably deservedly so) for being slackers and man-boys, but even we have to grow up sometime. I was the second of my good friends to get hitched, and within three years all of us had wives. Some of us even have kids. What none of us had anymore, it seemed, was time for each other.
It’s no one’s fault. Even man-boys grow up, get careers, move away, have families, etc. but what can be so unexpected is when you finally carve out a free evening in your schedule and suddenly realize you don’t have anyone left to spend it with. And frankly, making friends at 32 is hard. Joining a lodge almost instantly gave me about a dozen fun, interesting friends, and about six million more whom I haven’t yet met.

2. Charity

I am not a charitable man by nature. If I’ve got money in my pocket, I’ll hand it out freely, but that’s because I don’t really value money. Giving anything of me has been almost an anathema. But though my sense of charity is underdeveloped, my sense of guilt does double-overtime.
I may be selfish, but I’m not dumb; I realize that living in service to others is how one truly learns to live in service to oneself. Freemasons don’t just write checks; they serve.

3. Ritual

I was raised in a mostly secular home; we never went to church. But more than that, we never really did anything religiously. Our holidays were inconsistent; we had no traditions to speak of, no yearly vacations or barbeques; we never said Grace, or had favorite bedtime lullabies. It was life devoid of ritual. Ritual is important, though; it’s how we remember. I don’t mean the memorization, I mean ritual is what keeps us, and what keeps our history, personal or cultural. It’s daily exercise for your soul.

4. The Bling

I have to admit to a certain retro-raconteur streak in my personality. I’ve always loved classic Mad Men-esque manliness culture. Couple that with my love of badges and accessories, and I was pretty much meant to be a Mason. No, it’s not the noblest reason to become a Freemason, but it is an aspect and connection to our history.

5. Good Things Deserve to Survive

There are some institutions in this country and this world that are…well…institutions. They’re good things. They do good things for their members and their communities. Damn the society that lets them die thinking they’re too out of touch, or too old, or too rigid. They’re not. They’re the sum of their members. My lodge is filled with young, fun, wise men and recovering man-boys. Freemasonry is helping them do that. Freemasonry is not going to die on my watch.

Those are five pretty great reasons, but the best part is that when I got in, there were dozens more: leadership training, exposure to diversity of race, religion, and politicals, education… Really, it can all be summed up in one word: light.

We’re a much younger generation than who is usually perceived to be a Mason, but that’s our strength. Yes, there is an age gap in a lot of lodges. There weren’t too many Baby Boomers who took up the apron, but that is indicative of our strength. Many of us are drawn to fraternity and Masonry without simply following in our fathers footsteps, but because of the reasons above. But how many young men and new dads have these thoughts and don’t know anything about Freemasonry? Sadly, it’s almost all of them.

We can’t ask them to join us, but we have to remember that we are truly not a secret society. Wear your lapel pins. Get one of those tacky car magnets your grandpa had. Go bowling with your Shrine or Grotto brothers and wear your fez, damn it! Talk about us to anyone who will listen. Let people know that we’re out there and that we are anything but irrelevant. We’re brothers.

Matthew Gallagher is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities, the head writer of Transylvania Television, and a proud Master Mason of Braden Lodge No. 168

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Passing of a Brother

It is my sad and solemn duty to report that my grandpa, Dick Johnson, has passed away. My grandpa was a member of Fidelity Lodge No. 39 for 60 years and is the man who got me into Masonry. More than that though, he was a great man and highly respected in the Austin community. I know that I will miss him and everyone who knew him feels the same way.

Richard Donald Johnson, age 82 of Austin, MN died at his home Tuesday evening, May 25, 2010. He was born November 11, 1927 to Alfred and Almeda (McDonald) Johnson in Madison, South Dakota where he grew and graduated from high school. He attended Dunwoody Institute for one year and received his boiler's license. Moving to Austin in 1946, he went to work for Milwaukee Railroad. He entered the US Army in 1950 stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He married Betty Lien on November 28, 1951 in Mason City, Iowa. They made their home in Austin. After Richard's honorable discharge in 1953, he returned to work on the Milwaukee Road where he retired in 1988. A member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 50 years with the Masons, Knights Templar and Royal Arch Masons, American Legion and the Eagle's Club, Richard also enjoyed bowling, crossword puzzles and fishing. He was an avid do it yourselfer.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Johnson of Austin; one son, Rick (Chris) Johnson of Eagan; two daughters, Jill (Michael) Novak of Las Vegas, Nevada and Sue (Reggie) Smart of Ham Lake; two grandchildren, Nick and Kerry; many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Bill and Ed; and two sisters, Ruth Marie and Marilyn.

Memorial services will be held at 2:00 p.m., Friday, May 28, 2010 at Our Savior's Lutheran Lutheran, Austin, MN with Pastor Glenn Monson officiating and military rites by American Legion Post 91. Friends may greet the family for one hour prior to the service.