Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Which Secret Society Do You Belong In

I saw this Playbuzz quiz on Facebook today. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When the Honeymoon is Over

As I get farther and farther away from my date of initiation, I'm starting to see the Fraternity differently. I can get a little sad and nostalgic over my past steps in Freemasonry, especially those initial steps. All of us, at some point, get past the Masonic honeymoon.

I think most of you will get where I'm coming from. You start off, not knowing anything about Masonry. The excitement of the Craft is overwhelming. Since, Masonry requires the petitioner to come forward, he is the initial spark. I remember my first step came when I chatted with my grandpa about Masonry. He was never a garrulous man so, for me to learn this fact was eye-opening. (there are still things I'm learning about him.)

Then the whirlwind romance with Masonry began. I got my petition and started the process. I visited the lodge my grandpa's friend recommended. I loved it. The early 20th c. layout of the building was incredible. Then I visited a number of the brothers and found a home. I fit right in. The degree work started and I was totally impressed.

I met my mentor, Don, and found someone I could respect as well as learn from. I kicked butt in my memory work and discovered that I was a ritualist. Masonry was this thing that filled a gap in my mind and heart that I never knew existed. I was in heaven. I'd learn another piece of ritual and get super excited. This would lead me to read books, a little Pike, a little Mackey, a lot of Pound. My wife can attest to my library growing to several volumes of Masonic material. I just couldn't stop.

I went through the chairs. I bounced up chairs, learning and loving every minute. Even my time as Master was fun. Then I entered the downward phase from the high as Master. My lodge has the bylaws set to have the outgoing Master serve as the Lodge Education Officer and the outgoing Lodge Education Officer serve as Marshal to ensure some level of continuity in the line.

And then, my year as Marshal was done. My career in my lodge was now Past Master. That was it. Cue whatever the opposite of swelling music is. I sat in my chair at home and thought about everything that had happened in my near decade in Masonry. The honeymoon was over.

Although I was active in Chapter at that time, it still felt like the air had left the balloon. I felt like a left-handed monkey wrench. Was I even necessary to my lodge? I know that's a little self-serving but I do think like that sometimes.

I think we all get wrapped up in these things that affect our identity and take a lot of our time. I couldn't stop thinking about Masonry, even keeping me up at night. I spent hours in my car learning ritual. But, sometimes, I will sit back and think, "were those hours wasted? Did I really spend my time well?" I think those questions are important to ask, especially to keep your sanity.

Once you get past that honeymoon phase, you have to focus on maintaining the relationship, similar to a long time friendship or a marriage. Not everything is love and affirmation. Sometimes it's work, sometimes there's stress. Sometimes you get excited again for something you're doing together. But a lot of it is maintenance.

That's why I think we see a lot of guys fade out in five to ten years. It's not just that we need mentoring; it's not just focusing down at the newish Mason past his honeymoon with the Craft from the organization, it's also counseling the newish Mason that his attraction to the Craft will wax and wane. Sometimes Masonry is just going through the motions. Sometimes it's as exciting as hell as you discover something new. But it's not a climb up, it's just a rolling wave through your life. And that's actually Masonry's greatest power.

We can walk away from it for a time. We can put it on hold. We can come back to it. We can keep it on a low boil. But no matter what, Masonry's always there.

So, my advice as a guy who has passed that honeymoon phase. Just roll with it. If you need to take a breather, take a breather. If you want to chat with your brothers, go ahead and find out what they do to just keep going. Masonry is like a friendship or a marriage, you have to work at it to keep it strong and healthy.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Defending Shrine

So, this is going to get a little weird but that's cool. I'm going to defend Shrine. I know, I know, Hipster Mason Nick should be all, "nah, man, Shrine is like so not cool. Yeah." I am not a member of Shrine but I may join them one day. In fact, I donate to the hospitals every year. Why is there so much animosity towards Shrine? Here is my theory: they are the single biggest men's only organization within our Craft. They are the behemoth, the leviathan.

The Shrine does serve a purpose, not only through its charitable endeavors but also, and this is my frank opinion, they serve as the fraternal aspect that so many Lodges seem unable or worse yet, unwilling to take part. Freemasonry is, first and foremost, a fraternity. Yes, it's true that we teach our brothers lessons that are good to improve their moral character but without the brethren, a Mason can never truly be made.

Freemasonry can, at times, be quite dour with many brothers having a rather navel gazing view of our Craft, seeking to make Freemasonry only about its spiritual lessons. Could you imagine how boring that would be, how skull-crushingly dull that is (maybe some of you could after reading the minutes for the second time in two hours). We have to remember that our Craft was developed and formalized in taverns and pubs. Let's have some fun once in a while.

Sadly, our Lodge rooms filled with the stodginess and boredom, looking to drive any sense of fun from the practice of speculative Masonry. Even today, we see the effects of community pressure and internal "dullification" from more than a century still within our Fraternity, such as our outdated policies on alcohol and doing business only on the third degree (thankfully, not a Minnesota thing anymore). We needed an organization that sought to bring back some of that fraternal spirit that had been wrung dry from Freemasonry.

Frankly, Shrine has done more things to move forward into the new century than any of the other organizations, save the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. The Shrine is on Twitter, it's on Facebook. It is highly engaged with its community.

So, what lessons can we pull from this? The most important one to me is that we, Freemasonry, need to allow for more festiveness within our Craft. Table lodges aren't enough. Some lodges get this. BBQs and the like. But so many lodges just come together, call the meeting open, blah, blah, blah for a couple of minutes, and then close and jump into cars to drive home. How about, instead, we actually enjoy each other's company?

We also need to be more engaging on social media. It's not that difficult. Start a Facebook page, start a Twitter. Become engaging.

I know that some of you will see this as a cop out. I see it as finding ways to improve our Craft using other examples within it. Get engaged and have some fun. I can't see anything wrong with that.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Article: Homosexuality & Freemasonry by Ye Grander Hugnot (pen name)

I've published this paper written by a brother; he has asked to remain anonymous. This paper is an excellent discussion and I'm glad to be publishing it.

I honestly cannot believe that I have to write about this. However, this topic came up on a Facebook group that I am a member of. Though the topic has since been deleted, I feel it is extremely important that we discuss the situation at hand. The question asked on the group page the thoughts and opinions of brethren regarding the petitioning of a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). Being a group of brethren I would assume the answer was an easy one, but I stand corrected. Evidently, there are some individuals who feel that having a Homosexual amongst our ranks is… wrong. So, let’s discuss this. I know I may make a few readers upset and that is fine. I am welcome to your constructive criticism. I will advise any negativity will be ignored. You and I have better things to do with our lives than to argue over the internet, friendly debates are always welcome.

So, lets set something straight. What the ‘L’ represents in LGBT is not welcome in our fraternity, with the exception of Mason lodges that recognize women. However, as a Free & Accepted, we do not recognize women in our lodges, nor shall we. Therefore, for the sake of mainstream American Masonry as lesbians are women they cannot petition. Same goes for Transgender individuals, lets be real here. If a man is petitioning but he wants to become a woman or is in the process of becoming a woman, he is not a man. Soon after petitioning, Joe Snuffy is now calling himself/herself Josephine Snuffy. Not to mention the idea of changing your gender means changing the plans on the Great Trestle Board of the Universe. Our job as Master Masons is to follow the trestle board according to plan not to revise it. We do that enough as it is with our mistakes in life, we aren't perfect.

That leaves us with the ‘G’ and ‘B’. This is where a lot of issues seem be rising. There is a lot of discussion about how we took an oath on the Bible and it is against God to be homosexual or bisexual. It is a question of morality to some brethren, saying these young men petitioning who are gay are immoral.

First thing is first, Since when does religion matter in the Blue Lodge? Have we forgotten the requirements of being a Master Mason? To be freeborn, of lawful age, to be of good report, highly recommended, and the belief of A Creator. It does not state anywhere in our requirements that you must believe in the God of Abraham. So, for anyone to bring Christianity into the debate, let me be frank. It is not homosexuality that is causing the division in our brotherhood, but it is you who argue for religion. We are a secular organization that requires the belief in a Creator. Leave your religion at home and accept a brother for being a brother; not because he believes in the same God as you. If you want to argue calling for the sinful nature of homosexuality, I will ask you if you have ever shaved, or worn mixed material clothing.

Next, if the man standing outside that door is of lawful age we have no reason to not accept him into our Craft. If he is of good report and recommended where is the problem? I know many men who claim to be God fearing and practice their unsaid faith who do not deserve to be Masons. On that token, I know many straight, gay and bisexual men who would be great contributors to our Craft. They are just, moral and align. Some of them actually live more upon the level than those we have already accepted into the Craft. So, morality is not an issue. There are good and bad men in this world regardless of their sexual orientation.

This next argument actually made me laugh hysterically. The man, who shall remain nameless, actually believes it is a scientific proven fact that homosexuality is a mental disorder. Wait. Hold on… I need to sip a little a coffee so I can spit it out and ask… WHAT?! This is by far the most ridiculous argument that I have ever seen in my life. I actually found links for this individual and posted them on the group so he could see how he was wrong. Let’s be clear, Homosexuality is not a disorder or disease. If that were the case, then being attracted to women who are blonde with blue eyes is a disorder. That’s only because the love of my life is brunette with hazel eyes. I’m thoroughly sorry but if you believe this to be a disorder, then you need to go back to the civil rights movement when it was considered a disorder to be in love with a man/woman of color. This is by far the most ignorant statement one man could make. Mental disorders are more something like: PTSD, ADHD, Autism, the list goes on and on. Sexual orientation is not on that list.

If we simply look beyond our own closed minds and see that a man deserves to be a Freemason based on the required criteria we cannot deny anyone regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation. If you still feel that a homosexual should not be allowed to petition to a lodge or become a Mason based on your own thoughts of morality please let me show you that our Craft uses different tools outside of the VSL to measure morality. One of those tools is the level. It is not our place to judge a man who wants to become better, the man’s sexual preference is none of our business. That is between him and his God. Not yours, not mine, but his and how he relates to the Creator. The man’s politic’s, religion and sexuality is none of our business. Let us choose to elect a man or not for the good of the order.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.