Monday, October 10, 2011

Broaden Your Horizons

I wrote this article for the E-Mason Newsletter that goes out once a month from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. If you want to subscribe,  fill in your e-mail address in the lower right corner of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota website. I subscribe to all six Area e-newsletters because I like to stay informed of what's going on throughout the state.

Masonic Education is such a broad topic for lodges to deal with when planning a stated communication that I think that lodges avoid educational presentations because they are unable to fully grasp what is expected. As LEO of my lodge, I have been thinking more and more what the brothers want. I think Lodges, and LEO’s in particular, are hit with two major assumptions, 1) that education should only come from the LEO and 2) only Masonic subjects should be discussed in lodge.

The creation of the Lodge Education Officer has been either a boon or a bust for lodges. I have heard from some brothers that the LEO is expected to come to lodge with education every meeting. This is patently wrong. It is the duty of every Mason to continue learning. So how can a LEO get other brothers involved in the education process? As I was thinking about this question, I remembered something that does for individuals and corporations. Amazon runs a website called the Mechanical Turk which enables companies to finish tasks that computers are incapable of doing by using human energy. In the age of the Internet, this is called crowdsourcing. People can look at photos and tag who’s in them or read an article and find word choice problems which computers are incapable of seeing and understanding. LEOs, use crowdsourcing to your advantage. You’re not alone. You don’t need be the only person to present education. Instead, get brothers to write papers or make presentations about subjects that interest them. This brings me to my next point: you needn’t be obsessed with dogfooding.

Dogfooding is a term used by software and Internet companies to describe using only those products that were created in-house. It’s the idea that if you only use what you make, you will make sure that it is the best. Many in Masonry think that the only truth we need to be in search of comes from inside our ritual. I disagree. Many times, ideas of a non-Masonic nature should be discussed in lodge. I find many interesting articles about new discoveries in space and physics, in philosophy, or art and music that are relevant to or pique the interest of another brother. Many times, any of the aforementioned subjects can relate back to the seven liberal arts and sciences.  We are restricted only from discussing politics and religion in lodge. Again, don’t get bogged down by content. We don’t need to regurgitate everything that Mackey has said, or look at every infinitesimal nuance that may be drawn out from the ritual. Learning what an actual stonemason does or discussing the advances in quantum computing is just as relevant to the modern Mason as the symbolism of the all-seeing eye.

LEO’s, just remember that you’re not along and that you’re not beholden to Masonic subjects. And as always, if you ever do hit a snare, make sure to contact the Grand Lodge’s Education Committee. They are an incredible resource. The Education Committee also publishes an assortment of papers and presentations that can be used in lodge. Education in lodge is not unattainable, it just requires a little planning.

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