Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rightous Indignation

"It belongs to small-mindedness to be unable to bear either honor or dishonor, either good fortune or bad, but to be filled with conceit when honored and puffed up by trifling good fortune, and to be unable to bear even the smallest dishonor and to deem any chance failure a great misfortune, and to be distressed and annonyed at everything. Moreover the small-minded man is the sort of person to call all slights an insult and dishonor, even those that are due to ignorance or forgetfulness. Small-mindedness is accompanied by pettiness, querulousness, pessimism and self-abasement."--Aristotle, Virtues and Vices
"We may be angry and sin not; but this disposition may become sinful, and this in the highest degree. It is so when it is excessive, when it is rage, and makes us lose control of ourselves. It is so, and may become a vice, when it leads us to wish evil to those who have offended us. It is resentment when it prompts us to meet and repay evil by evil. It is vengeance when it impels us to crush those who have injured us. It is vindictiveness when it is seeking out ingeniously and laboriously means and instruments to give pain to those who have thwarted us. Already sin has entered."  James McCosh

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."  Buddha

and the most important ones for those of us with a blog.

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.  Ambrose Bierce

Always write angry letters to your enemies. Never mail them." James Fallows

So the dust has cleared, the fires are out and a survey of the battlefield is complete. I am human and as a human being I am capable of great things and small. As a Freemason I will continually struggle with subduing my passion, a recurring theme here at the North Eastern Corner, but as a human the fire of my passion can burn bright, it just needs to be kept under control. The best thing about a blog is it can be a great funnel to collect and channel my creative tendencies but that can also be a bad thing.
For two years I have put myself out to lead my lodge and for two years I have been on the short end of things. It hurts. The first time,I did not stick my neck out but resolved myself that the Brothers would make the best decision. The second time I really put myself out there and they decided again. Both times I was not chosen by the people that were there on the night of the election. Duplicity and deceit abounded the second time around and I let the bad intentions of others blind me of the good intentions of the rest. In my humiliated rage I vented here on the corner and my angry words and thoughts, although quite profound and timely, polluted the light that I am capable of and for that I am sorry. I could not see the forest for the trees.
In both elections and in the wee hour times after lodge I have spoken with men who want and believe in the same things as me. Twice now a large group of Brothers voted for something and were beaten by those who were voting against something. It has just been a numbers thing. Collectively there are more Brothers in my lodge that want to grow something than there are ones who want to watch. I let my small minded anger loose sight of this fact and asked for a demit in order to show those guys just how wrong they are and to separate myself from those that wronged me.
This was completely justified in my small minded state because I was defaced and those that voted against me were evil and I wanted nothing to do with them. How could I sit in lodge with men who attacked me so?
The funny thing about time is that we all have loads of it and our perception of that time greatly affects how we act. In my righteous indignation I surmised that my valuable time was not worth giving to those men who voted out of fear or ignorance against something, completely forgetting about the ones that voted for something. I acted upon this egregious assault and wanted to stomp off somewhere to sulk and regroup.
I talked to many of my Bothers and up until last night was completely resolved to martyring myself for the cause of perfect Freemasonry.
Had time been against me my demit would have been accepted and I would have left something and many men who I have come to love and trust, but time was with me. As the blazing fire of my rage dissapated I looked out and saw a band of brothers circled around me waitng for the steady light to return and I realized that abandoning the things that had hurt me so would also leave behind those who had not.
I will not go through with my demit.
I will take some time off from my lodge because I need some.
Another lesson learned Jack.
Time heals all wounds and I really need to subdue my passions....someday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Struggles of an Esoterically Inclined Freemason part 2

The struggles of an esoterically inclined Freemason continue…

After another humiliating defeat at the hands of those who think that younger Masons only goal is to change things for changes sake, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the definition of a lodge and what the term has come to mean.

The lodge in its classical definition is a group of Freemasons from a particular town or neighborhood assembled and chartered by a Grand jurisdiction to perform the degrees of the craft. One of the most confusing things about the term lodge is that it becomes synonymous with the building or place the lodge meets. When masons were actual builders of structures they would often meet at their place of employment to instruct each other, to gain skill and help and support each other. I have always imagined a tent hastily thrown up on the side of a cathedral with masons doing business by candle light. When the first non-builders began entering into the craft there was no central meeting place as we have now and meetings would be held in any place that could properly be guarded from people who were not part of the group. Back then there was no confusion as to the meaning of the term lodge; it simply was the term to call the group, like a congregation or flock.

As more and more non-building masons entered into the fraternity speculative masonry was born. A lodge was no longer a place that men of a particular skill set met and discussed work, it became a place where philosophical and moral allegories replaced the simple building principals and instructions. The main reason this happened, in my opinion, is because that at the time many of these men lived in oppressive and authoritarian societies and the secret modes of recognition of masonry allowed them to be very selective in the company they kept in order to discuss enlightenment ideals that could have easily led them to incarceration and or death at the hands of their oppressors. New members were carefully investigated because if they let in someone of lesser ideals or morals it could literally endanger their lives. It mattered not where you came from or what your place in society was, all that mattered was that you could meet with men of a like mind on the level to expand your understanding of bigger things and help each other out as Brothers. This selective association aspect of a lodge is very important but I will address that later. As the ‘speculative’ masons replaced the ‘operative’ masons they needed a place to meet and since it was not near the place that employed them anymore it became a place that was convenient to the members of the lodge.

Freemasons began to meet in taverns, public houses and coffee rooms and the modern lodge was born. The place where you met almost became as important as the people you met there and the confusion began. A lodge of masons meeting at the Goose and the Gridiron Ale House would be loosely known by the place where they met. As speculative Freemasonry exploded and the separate lodge’s treasuries grew the Masonic temple was born. The men who met regularly as Freemasons wanted a permanent place to carry on their traditions and with a lot of money from its membership they began to build like their predecessors but this time for themselves.

Temples and Halls sprang up around the globe and since the Freemasons who met there were as a group termed a lodge, a Masonic ‘lodge’ took on a whole new definition and existence. The men who met in the lodge became less important and the ‘lodge’ became the focus of attention. The ‘lodge’ was the recipient of grandiose gifts and decorations of its dedicated members and the men of that lodge belonged to the ‘lodge’ and not the group of men who met there. The name and number of the ‘lodge’ you belonged became a badge of honor that you wore on a sleeve and its history and traditions were carried out with sacramental reverence and esteem. It was something a man could attach himself to, if he so wished, to add legacy to his own existence.

Herein lies the problem, when the lodge of Freemasons took on the existence of the ‘lodge’ it became less stringent upon the members and more focused on membership. The temples and halls needed vast amounts of money to operate and in order to accommodate this need a ‘lodge’ brought in as many men as it could and this only exacerbated the problem. A lodge of Freemasons no longer was a group of men who wished to discuss philosophy and morality in a selective and secret environment to help and support each other as brothers, it became a place where a man went to see the rituals of Freemasonry on a grand stage. Lodges with 100’s of men in membership became common and the institutionalization of Freemasonry occurred.

Unfortunately the spirit of the craft was lost in this institutionalization. The ‘lodge’ did things for the ‘lodge’s’ sake and the traditions of each lodge trumped the fraternal communion between Brothers. It was impossible to know and care for such a large group of men which was one of the principal reasons for a lodge of masons to form and the care of the ‘lodge’ became the focus.

When I joined this fraternity I was drawn into it not because of any ties or bonds to a ‘lodge’ but out of a search for the answers to the bigger questions in life. When I knocked on the door of a ‘lodge’ I was quickly lulled into the belief that the ‘lodge’ was the most important thing and that only by building or rebuilding that ‘lodge’ I could then start the quest that I originally began. There was only a small number of men in my ‘lodge’ that even dared to delve into the deeper aspects of the human condition and the majority were very happy to watch or participate in the dramatic aspects of the ritual and never take it to the next level. I existed in this environment with the belief that if only my brothers could save our ‘lodge’ and take part in the rebuilding could they discover the deeper aspects of our craft. This belief led me to experience many different lodges and ‘lodges’ in order to find something that would unite my ‘lodge’ into a lodge. (I am sorry for the confusion.)

This zeal for building led to me making excuses all of the time for some of the men I called brother that I would never associate with outside of Freemasonry. It was an easy exemption to make because I wanted my ‘lodge’ to be the best and in order to be the best we needed as many dues paying members as possible. In six years the amount like minded brothers I gained within my ‘lodge’ was very small and we would talk all of the time of how our common needs and desires not being met by our ‘lodge’. Time is a very precious thing and the only time many of us would finally have these philosophical discussions was after ‘lodge’ and since the more theatrical aspects of Freemasonry take a very long time, sometimes we found ourselves squeezing these conversations into a tiny scrap of time or way too long into the night, neither of which is very efficient or fair to men with families. Our solution to this problem was to try and turn our ‘lodge’ into what we came into Freemasonry for. We convinced ourselves that deep down in every Freemasons heart was this same desire and we believed if they only experienced this esoteric side of the craft the other brothers would join us in our quest.

It took two very humiliating defeats at the hands of the men who did not want to change their ‘lodge’ for me to finally realize that my ‘lodge’ can never become the lodge I wanted to be in. The lodge I was a part of had to meet at a different time than my ‘lodge’ and the dear brothers to whom I wanted to associate with and have the discussions of the deeper things in life were slowly being disillusioned with the fraternity and our ‘lodge’. I mean in no way to put down the men of my ‘lodge’ who do not think my way. They are happy with the Freemasonry that is delivered to them and it was very wrong of me to think that I could change things that they believe are sacred and unchangeable. They love the ‘lodge’ for the ‘lodges’ sake and it was a small group of newcomers with vision and initiative that tried to upset that belief. I have requested a demit from the ‘lodge’ I spent six long years trying to change because of this realization.

My vision of a Masonic lodge is a small group of like minded individuals who wish to explore the deeper meaning of life and to help each other become better men in every way. I believe that the rituals of Freemasonry are a tool to be used to enlighten a new comer or Brother and to test the dedication of the man to the lodge, but they are not the end all be all of the craft. Brotherly love is not something to be handed out flippantly. A man must prove himself worthy of the greater trust that comes with the ever expanding understanding and obligations of the order of Freemasons. Once earned that trust can be used to sit in a selective meeting where men can discuss things that they would not dare to in mixed company and to use the tools of the Freemason to help each other and the world they live in. This will naturally lead to the Brothers in being very selective of who they let into this mystic tie or band of Brothers. When men of a like mind come together in order to do things that improve themselves it will naturally lead them to try and improve the world around them as a unit. Charity should not be something that is forced upon a brother but something that wells up naturally. These are some of the things I believe in and want to dedicate my very valuable free to to.

I am not going to join another ‘lodge’ but I am desperately searching for a lodge. The quest begins anew.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Young Man and an Old Gentleman

There was once a young man in the prime of his life who underwent an event that no man should ever have to experience. The sheer joy of the upcoming birth of his first son was shaken to the ground when he discovered that there were serious complications that would affect his soon to be newborn son. During many long nights of researching the problems that his unborn son had, he also underwent a spiritual and mental change that caused him to reflect for the first time in his life on what his own life had been about to that point. This realization of the preciousness of the gift of life sent him on a quest for answers to the bigger questions. He left his house and began searching with a heart full of trust and wonder.
The road the young man traveled on was winding and confusing but he soon found himself on a small side road where he met and old gentleman sitting on a bench. The old gentleman was dapperly dressed as if he was going to be attending a function but his clothing was worn and dirty. The young man approached him and asked about his attire. The old gentleman started off by telling the young man a tale of mystery and history. He said that he had been where he was for a long time and that he had a glorious past. The young man was full of love and hope because that was all he could muster in his trying time, listened carefully to the tales the old gentleman told him and because of his mysterious demeanor found himself entranced with what he heard. He left the old gentleman and went back home filled with questions.
In between doctor visits with his wife and ordealing consultations with specialists about his unborn son, the young man spent all of the rest of his free time digging deeper into the story the old man had told him. He went back time and time again to that side street and talked more with the old gentleman and eventually made up his mind that he would help the old gentleman regain that told of glory even though the old gentleman never asked. He spent countless time at the old gentleman's side learning the stories and making them his own and tried to clean up the old gentleman's appearance so that he could find others that would help him on his new found quest and not be put off by the worn and dirty attire. His dedication to save the old gentleman was a reflection of the young mans need to gain control of something in a world that seemed to be going out of his control. The complications his unborn son had seemed to increase with every doctor visit and the young man yearned for something to anchor him.
The day of his sons birth came all too soon and the young man was not able to go and be with the old gentleman for a while. He spent days and months in the hospital tending to his sick son. The young man never stopped thinking about the old gentleman and he wondered why the old gentleman, who had said they were friends, never reached out to him in his time of need but he made an excuse up in his mind that the old gentleman was just set in his ways and couldn't leave the place where he always was. His son lost the battle with the problems he was born with and the young man had to do something no man should ever have to, bury his own child. At the funeral the young man saw the old gentleman in the crowd and the old gentleman expressed his sympathy as he had found out about the death in the newspaper. The sight of the old gentleman warmed the young mans heart and reaffirmed his dedication to saving him.
Soon after the death the young man feverishly set about mending the old clothing and polishing the worn shoes so that the old gentleman would shine again. At times the dedication to the old gentleman took much of his time but the young man desperately needed something old and grand to tie himself to because he had lost something beautiful and young. Visitors began stopping by on the side road because of the refreshed appearance of the old gentleman to sit and hear his stories and the young man who took them for his own told them with pleasure. The old gentleman never said anything and was pleased to be looking good again and allowed the young man to do everything he wanted and tell his stories. He was getting attention again and the glory seemed to be returning.
One day the young man was on his way to the side street where the old gentleman was always, began to think that if he could only get the old man on the main road and off the beaten path they could have that grand event that the old gentleman was dressed for and bring the new visitors along. He began to plan and seek out a better place for him on his own and traveled around to do so. The young man found out that the old gentleman had actually been in different places in the past and he talked to him to try to convince him of the benefits of a move. The old gentleman in his ever mysterious ways never struck down the ideas but just sat back and let the young man run with his plans.
There were not many places where the young man could find residence for the old gentleman because of his finances. Every option the young man presented was either not suitable or too expensive for the old mans means. This went on for years. The young man seeking something bigger in his life to hold onto to fill the void left in his heart with the death of his son made it his mission to find a place for the old gentleman he loved, to be seen for his glory by everyone. The young man knew a story of a well where the old man used to refresh himself and went there to find out more. When he got to the well he came across another old man and introduced himself. This old man was not as old as the old gentleman he knew and he was dressed like the old gentleman but in a suit of a different era. His suit was not worn out and old and the young man soon found himself meeting and talking to this new old man often. He was not quite as graceful as the old gentleman but he had the same mysterious way. The young man came to find out that the two men were brothers and had a falling out long ago but were still on talking terms. The well where the other old man was, was pretty and seemed like the perfect place to move the old gentleman to and although he had some trepidation the young man agreed to talk to the old gentleman about reuniting with his long lost brother. In consequent meetings with the old man at the well, the young man was promised that if he was able to bring the old gentleman to the well they could enjoy the refreshment of its sweet water.
He went back to the old gentleman, who was leery at first of his long lost brothers intentions, but since he had been cleaned up and seemed to be back on the path to glory with many visitors he reluctantly agreed to go and meet with him because he wanted to entertain. The young man took the old gentleman to this meeting and was thrilled to have finally made some ground on what he thought was necessary to restore glory to the old gentleman. The old brothers embraced each other and agreed that their falling out was long behind them and that they could reunite and the old gentleman could remain at the well with his brother.
The young man drank the sweet water from the well with the brothers but as he was sipping the refreshment he noticed something about the old man from the well that he hadn't before. Although his clothes were newer and looked great from the front he could see that they were not of the same quality of the old gentleman's and were haphazardly stitched together in the rear. This stopped him from drinking and the young man was terrified that he had done something wrong but the two brothers continued to drink deeply from the well. The old gentleman after some time at the well felt his confidence return and the young man was believing that although the old gentleman's brother had a false facade his heart was in the right place. Reunited with his brother and feeling good again the old man began to distance himself from the young man and soon made the decision that he no longer needed his help. He never told the young man this because he was afraid that if he offended him that the young man would flee altogether but slowly and surely it became evident to the young man that he was the third wheel at the well. The visitors continued to come and be entertained but the old gentleman began to tell his own stories again and pushed the young man away.
The young man was heartbroken with what had happened. He loved the old gentleman and had dedicated many years to learning his stories. After such a long time the young man had filled the void of his loss, with the glory of the old man and when the glory seemed to return he began to feel healed but the ostracism opened the wound. Looking back, the young man realized that he had invested so much in the old gentleman he had actually missed many things with his own family. His mind was constantly thinking of how to improve the old gentleman's situation even more so than the old gentleman and when he was pushed aside he was able to see the situation for what it was worth and he was resolved to the fact that he would let the welfare of the old gentleman return to his own hands.
He was approached by some of the visitors that he had brought to the old gentleman who asked the young man to return to his side and tell his story again because they liked the way he told it. Although the wound in his heart was still fresh he was lifted by the pleas of the visitors and he approached the old man at the well and asked him what he should do for his brother. The old man at the well lavished him with praise and thanked him for reuniting him with his brother and told him to bring the visitors by for the big event that the old gentleman deserved. With the good will he received from the brother the young man approached the old gentleman with new found hope and told him that he wanted to have the big event that they had always talked of. The old gentleman did not say a word. He sat there drinking the water from the well and just stared at the young man. His brother had told the old gentleman that the young man meant to harm him and the big event was a trap to ensnare the old gentleman and that he needed to just trust his brother so that they would be okay. The old gentleman, in his shined shoes and washed outfit, believed the brother and made a plan with him to embarrass the young man in front of the visitors to put him in his place.
The young man had come to visit his old friend and saw the brothers talking at the well and although he didn't hear everything they said he believed something was afoot but since the long about event was about to occur he carried on.
The night came and the visitors were gathered in great numbers but the young man was late because of family obligations. When he arrived the old gentleman was with his brother at the pretty well drinking deeply of its water. The visitors met the young man with a great welcome and applauded his effort at returning to tell the story of the old gentleman at his side but the young man noticed that the old man from the well had brought some of the visitors to drink from its waters. When the time came to begin the event and the gathered waited for the stories to begin the old man pushed the young man away and told them on his own and his brother began to chime in. Some of the visitors were astonished at what had happened but the young man who had spent so much time with the old gentleman did not leave but sat there and listened to the stories he loved. When the event was finished he hugged the old gentleman who glared at him with distrust, thanked him for his stories and walked to the pretty well to rest. From the lip of the well the young man watched the brother pat the old gentleman on the back for what he had done and then he looked down into the well and saw something he had believed was true but was not sure of.
At the bottom of the well in the moonlight he could see a venomous snake. It looked up at him and smiled an evil grin as it spit its venom into the water. The young man realized that in his rush to fill the emptiness of his lost son he had led the old gentleman, who was content to live in his worn out clothes on his side street content to exist as he was, to a poisoned well. He had suspicions before but now he knew. As he walked away saddened by all that had occurred he watched the old man from the well empty his cup behind his back before toasting the old gentleman who drank deeply of the water that will eventually kill him.