Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Are The Degree Rituals Too Long?

Ever since my last lodge meeting, where we raised 5 worthy brothers to the sublime degree of Master Mason, I have been pondering how to improve the camaraderie of the degree nights. Not to say that fellowship does not happen, it does, but we build so much brotherhood during the degree and due to the length of the ritual and the late hour we finish everyone is usually in a hurry to get home afterwards. I have lamented this in the past and now seek a solution and I believe I have one.

Remove the first section, or Stewards lectures, from the degree night and do them instead on the next meeting immediately following the degree. They may be called something else in your jurisdiction but these lectures are a question and answer session between two brothers that rehash the entire degree that just happened and are required to be memorized to be passed on to the next degree. By moving this lecture to the next meeting night it does a few things.

1. From my own experience, after going through the degree it seemed so repetitive to sit and watch an entire play by play of the thing I just went through immediately after I went through it. When I study the candidates/Brothers faces when they watch it, no matter how well it is done, they too seemed confused or bored during the lecture.

2. By moving it to the next meeting it gets the new brothers immediately involved. Usually the meeting after a degree is held on a higher degree and the newly initiated Brothers feel a bit left out when they are told they cannot attend the next meeting of the Brotherhood they just joined because they are only E.A's or F.C.'s. This gets them right back in.

3. It gives the new Brothers time to mull over the Degree they went through without the pressure of memorization. If we tell them after the degree to just take some time to really think about what happened during the degree they can take their first step into really delving into the meaning of the ritual without having to recite it from rote.

4. It slows down the "Get them to the next degree as fast as possible" mentality that hurts the overall meaning of our craft. If we slow down the railroading of candidates quickly through the degrees we build better Brothers and consequently a better fraternity.

And last of all it removes a tangible amount of time from a degree night that can be better spent building upon the actual degree and the ties it forms between the Brethren. Maybe if it wasn't creeping on midnight after a degree more brothers would hang out and spend a little informal quality time with their new Brothers in a way that cant happen during a dinner before hand.

What do you think?

Do you do it differently?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where Has Civility Gone?

Let me preface this post by admitting that 85% or so of the country is not like this from what I have experienced so if you are from one of those places do not get offended.
It was Sunday morning and my wife and I decided to go to our favorite bakery for breakfast so we loaded up the kids and headed down town. On the way I called my sister up to join us even though I knew this bakery is on the small side with limited seating but it was early enough that I figured we could grab one of the few larger tables that are available. My sister was waiting for us at the parking lot and helped unload my four and a half year old and six month old daughters and walk across the street to the bakery.
The bakery itself is in an old industrial building converted to multipurpose commercial use. If you didn't know it was there you would never find it, but I discovered it a while ago and have been a slave to its fresh baked delights ever since and hooked my family on it also. It is, first and foremost, a bakery and caterer and only half heartedly serves breakfast and lunch to customers who have about 10 two seat tables in a six foot wide hallway and three four seat tables on front of the counter to enjoy their scrumptious vittles.
We have been there many times and are usually fortunate enough to grab one of the big tables or take one just after someone finishes because it is first come first serve. Sometimes we have to wait a little for someone to finish which is alright with us because the food is soooo good but then you have a situation like one I experienced on Sunday that sets us off. So here is what happened.
We walked into the busy as always place and there were two of the big tables available as we walked down the narrow hallway towards the counter juggling a four year old, and baby in a carrier, past the two seat tables and people walking out. To our dismay a group of young women walked into the other door by the counter and grabbed one of the big tables. Which is fine with me because it is first come first serve and their party was as big as ours and I don't need special privileges just because I travel with two cute as a button little princesses. Just before we got to the other table a big guy with a turquoise bandanna covering his bald head sat down and got it before us. Which again was fine with me, he got there before me so it was his, but as we walked past him, ordered our food and discussed where we would be able to fit our little group, still swinging around a baby in a carrier and a four year old pointing out all of the yummy things she wanted to her aunt, the bug guy was joined at his table for four by his little female companion and that's it, no one else. There were eight empty tables for two behind him but I guess he needed the extra room for his elbows and such. He sat there waiting for his food and stared at us trying to figure how we were going to sit at the small tables with a dumb look and never thought about giving the table up to us. There is the problem.
We have been there many a time while some person sat at a table for four sipping coffee by themselves while we scrambled around sitting at two table for twos feeding two kids and ourselves on tiny two foot by two foot tables(thats a lot of 2's). I know it is our problem for going to this place, but I was raised to be polite. I was taught to give up my seat to an older person or woman with children. I was taught to hold a door for someone behind me. I was taught to let someone with one thing go in front of me at the grocery store when I have a full cart. I was taught to say please and thank you to everyone and I endeavor to teach civil behavior to my children. I just cant understand people who don't do these things and although I usually shrug it off, sometimes it gets to me. This guy saw us struggling to seat ourselves and (probably)never thought about how rude it is to sit at a table for four when you only have two. That is one of the bad things about living in the North East in America, most everybody is out for themselves. My wife, who is from the South where people are more kind and considerate in general, said to me as we left the bakery we should get out of this part of the country. I sometimes think she is right.
What does this have to do with Masonry?
Nothing really, I just wanted to rant.
I wish more people read the book by our illustrious brother above and took it to heart.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are You A Traveling Man?

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I am a traveling man.

My journey is never ending.

I travel towards the East,

The source of all light.

The source of all knowledge.

I am a traveling man.

I wander a winding road.

With many twists and turns.

I know not what lies ahead.

I find new truth with every step.

I am a traveling man.

On a path from whose bourn no traveler returns.

The final destination is not the goal.

The goal is the odyssey itself,

and what I learn with every new vista.

I am a traveling man.

It is the only thing I know for sure.

My insatiable curiosity,

and desire for knowledge

are my ever present companions on this trek.




Never weary

Never ending.