Archive for the 'New Masons' Category

Lead, Follow or get out of the way!

Sounds very straight forward in ideology or motto, but what does it mean. Well when applied to Freemasonry, for me it means several things. Before I go into what I think it means let’s talk a bit about Freemasonry, leadership
and volunteerism.

Time is something we learn about as Freemasons right from the beginning of our Masonic life. The lesson of the 24 inch gage should still reverberate for every Mason no matter how many years since he was raised.
Particularly in our present world, submerged as we are in a maelstrom of stimuli and distractions that pull us apart from the essential, where, as noted by Umberto Eco, mass media not only transmit an ideology, but have become an
ideology themselves.  The spirit of serene and academic examination is the last refuge of the thinking man. So
where is this serene and academic examination to happen? Where are these thinking men to be found? Right there in the Lodge room my Brothers.

So where is everyone? I don’t have that answer. What I can say is that the malaise affecting us has deep roots, and perhaps less conscious as well. The angst of our time is comparable to the sensation of someone who is sliding down a hill without being able to slow down, or even being able to see what lies just over the rise. Worse still, he doesn’t know why he is there in the first place.

The ‘future shock’ brilliantly predicted by writer Alvin Toffler more than a decade ago is no longer in the future but a daily reality. Knowledge acquired with great effort in the course of years becomes outdated
and irrelevant in a matter of weeks. No sooner have we learned to use a new computer program, when another one appears, better than the previous one (at least so claimed), certainly different.

The problems at work, in the family, in society have become more severe, the demands more stringent. It can be summed up best by someone who recently remarked, “God is dead, communism has failed, and I myself don’t feel so good!”

So what’s the point? Well here are some of my thoughts.

Let’s go back to that 24 inch gage again. To me another way to break it down is as follows:

What is needed is your Time, your Talents and your Treasure. Your time in just participating, no matter how trivial it may seem to you, even the most minute effort is felt and appreciated by all. Your Talents, in how you can be most useful to the members and society as a whole. We all have jobs or careers and other obligations.  Some manage, some teach, some organize, some build, some fix. To each his talents and in the estimation of things these are some of the greatest gifts a Lodge can receive. Treasure, well that’s an easy one. As we all know nothing is ‘free’ in this world. It takes funds to make the Lodge and the world go round. So what ideas can we glean from all this and what about volunteerism. Well I can summarize it best by going back those old time worn ideas. What are those ideas, transmitted by our Craft, that we believe capable of improving men and the world at large?

To summarize Masonic teachings into two fundamental principles, like the two columns at the entrance to King Solomon’s temple. The first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important than charity, mutual assistance, tolerance and all other virtues we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. To Cain’s anguished question, resounding from century to century even to our day, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ we give a ringing and unequivocal reply: ‘Yes, I am!’

The second fundamental, no less important to the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, or working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political factions. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning toward that far
distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road of truth.

Freemasonry is not just a philosophy it is a way of life. Brother Fernando Riffo sums it up like this: “Freemasonry teaches us that the philosophical knowledge achieved must not remain, cannot remain simply theoretical knowledge. Masonry demands action in social life, it is all together a system of tasks.” A related thought was briefly noted by Marcus
Aurelius in one of his meditations: “it’s not a matter of discoursing about what a good man must be, but of being one.”

What about leadership?

Leadership is not someone barking orders but all working to benefit the group as a whole.

The best way to express this sentiment is with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery “If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In a sense that is the object of this paper.  To motivate and enlighten, to learn from others and become better individuals, husbands, fathers, neighbors and citizens. In furtherance of Freemasonry’s stated and singular goal: to make good men better men.

Brother Harry Truman once said, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

What is meant by the term leadership? If you look at the literature on the topic of leadership you will find many definitions. I’ve come up with two more common ones, the long and the short of it. Leadership is the exploitation of every opportunity to take people forward towards the common goal, although known by all, often grows dim or gets lost in the challenges and the problems of our day to day operations. Taking people forward!! The short of it; Leadership is the art of causing others to want to do what the leader thinks needs to be done; causing others to want. Causing and want; terms that go together.

Leadership and management, is there a difference? Yes Brethren, I think that there is a significant difference; they are not synonymous terms; they are not interchangeable. The leader inspires, the manager maintains. The leader is the
original, the manager is the copy. The leader does right things, the manager does things right. The leader looks at the horizon, the manager looks at the bottom line. The leader is concerned with people, the manager with form and
structure. The leader paints creatively, the manager paints by numbers.

So what are you? Are you a leader or are you a manager? Do you paint by numbers or do you paint creatively. Do you inspire or do you maintain? Do you challenge the status quo or do you accept it. As a Lodge Officer, have you caused others to want to do what you think is necessary for Freemasonry. Are you causing others to want to do what you believe is necessary for the survival of Freemasonry. How do you cause others to want to do; to take people forward toward that common goal which often grows dim or even lost in our day to day lives?

This brings me back to the title of this paper; Lead Follow or get out of the way!

We often discuss the participation (or lack thereof) in Lodge events. Bringing together the two main points of volunteerism and leadership at this point seems logical. As important as it is that everyone do his part and live up to the obligations of their office or even the obligation of a Master Mason then when the call goes out for assistance with this project or event, there should theoretically be too many people showing up for the work to be done.  Sadly this has not been the case of late.

So you should be asking yourself, how I can make a difference. I am, at heart, very simple, basic person. Well I have always believed that a problem is only an opportunity in disguise and the best way to begin changing a problem into an
opportunity is at the grass roots. At the basics, if you will.

In small businesses across America, they don’t talk about the philosophies of business, or the magic answer, they talk about the basics – sweeping the sidewalk, greeting customers, dressing up the presentation. They step back and take a new
look at their business – to look at it as if you have never seen it before – get a new perspective – a new outlook.

I believe we should do that with Masonry – and our Lodge. Look at ourselves with a new look – perhaps through the eyes of prospective members or a new candidate. What do they see?

I ask myself this question – where can we begin? The answer to me seems to lie with the bi-monthly Lodge meeting and in fact with all Masonic meetings.

Wouldn’t our problems be solved if we could fill all our meetings with old and new Brethren every month? I think so!!

Now I am going to tell you that it is possible!

If I went out and asked every successful organization the secret of their success, everyone would give me good reasons. Also if I asked every successful business for the reasons for their success they would all have good reasons. But every
one of them, organizations or business uses this secret to guarantee success…. and I am going to give you the secret…. But I can’t just give it to you in so many words. It is too simple. It is, in fact, so simple you might not totally grasp its importance and significance.

So I am going to use humor to etch it in your memory so that every time you wonder
what you can do to increase attendance or membership, you will remember this story and the important message it denotes.

There was this young man who became tired of city life and so he purchased a small farm. A hobby farm if you like. With the farm he acquired three small creatures called piglets. Now in the course of time they grew up into rather large animals. One morning our new and inexperienced farmer found his animals to be acting in a strange and agitated manner. In consultation with a real farmer, he was informed they were experiencing the pangs of anticipated and desired
motherhood. He was informed the solution was to transport his charges to a neighboring farm and acquire the service of a boar.

This, with some great difficulty, he did. The owner of the boar advised, he was to note the reactions of his pigs the next morning. If they roll in the mud, the trip was successful, however, if they were lying on the grass, the visit had not been a success, and would have to be repeated.

It turned out; he had to repeat this laborious process for two more mornings. The third morning when he
went to the barnyard for his morning observation, he found two of the pigs in the back of his truck, and the third in the cab honking the horn!

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me explain. You see my Brothers; our behavior depends on the amount of reward. If a situation is rewarding, we repeat it, and the more rewarding, the more enthusiasm, and if it continues to be rewarding, we continue to repeat it. Take a moment and think about the real reason why you attend meetings, entertainment events, why you like to shop at particular places of business in favor of others.

I believe you will agree it is because of the reason I just stated. In each case you returned and participated because the experience was rewarding, generated a feeling of enthusiasm and invited a repeat. Now here’s the secret. . . .

The Rewarded Mason Enjoys,

Multiplies and comes back! !

How does this relate to our Masonic gatherings? If each occasion is rewarding, interesting and challenging, we will repeat it. If not, we find something else to do.

Times have changed and we have to change our methods. Let’s consider again how times have changed – there’s television – We are bombarded with images of the things that are fun to do – we see all sorts of people enjoying themselves in a
variety of ways – is it any wonder that our young people have strong ideas about what is fun and what isn’t? Look how the work situation has changed. Twenty or more years ago we had the idea that we would get a job, and work
there for life – or if you were born on the farm, you’d stay on the farm – I remember how shocked Mom and Dad were when I came home one day and announced that I was leaving my job. Dad had the same job for almost 30 years. Now our
young people see reorganization, take-overs, mergers, downsizing, right sizing, cut backs, so their outlook has changed.

Our meetings are considered to be retreats of friendship and brotherly love. We must not let them deteriorate into a session to discuss the same type of problems that we meet in daily living. If the atmosphere does not constitute a retreat from the cares of the day, we have missed the purpose. Our purpose is to provide a change from the daily atmosphere, a safe and scared retreat for Brethren tired of the hustle and bustle of modern living spending a quiet evening devoted mainly to the needs of their fellow men. We have to be better prepared. We have to learn how to meet change head on and turn it into an opportunity.

To be successful in this world of ours, we need people – we need each other. And yet, we are living in an increasingly unfriendly society. We are losing personal interaction. As with any organization, we used to have many excuses to
meet. Today we’re turning inward. A word has been coined. We’re cocooning, with cell Phones, iPads, ATMs; movies on demand and online shopping have all contributed to a loss of interaction. We are becoming a nation of people who
would rather stay at home, disconnected physically only to be virtually connected electronically.

Yet I believe men want what Masonry offers. People today appear to be searching for direction, peace of mind. As evidence, consider some of the bestselling books of the last 10 years or so – “Chicken Soup For The Soul” – “The
Celestine Prophecy”, “The Secret” and the Robert Fulgham and John Bradshaw books. These, for some, have become the new Bible.

Masonry can play an important and necessary role for men. Masonry offers true friendship, brotherly love, and solace in time of sorrow or need, a solid rock of morality, relief and truth. We have the responsibility of continuing to offer this to good men. Offering it in a way that will attract, enthuse, stimulate, challenge and encourage participation.

Our notices must be rejuvenated to offer news, to attract and to invite. Questions must be asked of our other assemblies. Do they measure up in the areas of timing, interest, attraction, challenge, variety and reward?

There’s the good news I want to leave with you – we can change – we can build on what we have.

What could be the bad news? – I promised I would tell you who is going to do it – well Brethren the answer is in this room and in rooms around our country – interested, loyal, faithful, enthusiastic Brethren who care ! ! I know it’s much like preaching to the choir so to speak. What is hoped is that those here will interact with those that are not and cause them to become interested, enthusiastic Brethren who care.

Can you and I make a difference – Sure we can.

With commitment and action; it will take commitment. We have to focus on our objective – take action – follow through – try another approach if necessary. Whatever it takes – that’s commitment.

There’s always a way if you are committed. And it will take action. Action creates emotion.

Emotion is created by motion – action makes the difference.

We have to be enthusiastic about Masonry. It has been said that, “Nothing of consequence ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.

Finally I’d like to leave you with the top 15 phrases that kill creativity and enthusiasm (and I hope I never hear them).

  1. “No!”
  2. “We’ve tried that before.”
  3. “We haven’t got the manpower.”
  4. “Don’t rock the boat!”
  5. “Great idea, but not for us.”
  6.  “It’ll never fly.”
  7.  “People don’t want change.”
  8. “It’s not in the budget.”
  9.  “It will be more trouble than it’s worth.”
  10. “It isn’t your responsibility.”
  11. “That’s not in your job description.”
  12. “Let’s stick with what works.”
  13. “Get a committee to look into that.”
  14. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  15. “We’ve always done it this way.”

The value Meal of Masonry

By Bro Cliff Porter

Almost eerie shadows bounced and danced their solemn dance to the candlelight casting its shadows and souls upon the walls of the lodge, the temple. The men moved in silence in a circumambulation around their altar. Dress in tailcoats, their hands gloved the aprons of the finest lambskin.

The Brothers took their seats and the lodge was called to order, the ritual perfect and well practiced. The booming voice of the Worshipful Master and wraps of the gavel calling something forward from deep within everyone that the work at hand was important.

Classical music wafted through the air and hung heavy on the deeper notes, the vibration touching the very souls of the men who sat through it. The business of the night was a discussion of philosophy and it went well.

At the conclusion of lodge, the men retired to the dining room for a tradition Agape celebration with toast, fine food, and fine wine.

The taste of the foods blossomed well with the wine selected for that dinner and it was with bitter sweetness that the Brethren pulled their chairs from the table for the final toast of the evening.

Cigars and Scotch followed as the men discussed their views on religion, politics, and the fraternity well into the night.

The next morning the men headed off to work. Tradesmen of all types, policemen, military, Brothers from all walks of life headed out from their suburban homes to their cubicles, cop cars, and offices to earn a living.

I have the great fortune to belong the lodge described above and so does my Brother, friend, and neighbor.

We often sit together on my porch solving the world’s problems both with a glass of bourbon and I with a cigar. It was during one of these sessions my friend, who is a Fellow Craft, spoke his prophetic words of wisdom about lodge, specifically his lodge experience and one of the reasons Masonry is important to him and should be treated as such.

“You know,” he began with a tone in his voice echoing his contemplation, “my whole life is average, I live in an average home, I have an average job, and I shop at superstores for my average food, my average clothes, and my average television. I love that Masonry is not average. I love that once a month I get treat something special and that I feel special because of it. I’m glad we don’t experience Wal-Mart Masonry. I don’t want quicker, easier, or cheaper. I don’t need my Masonry in bulk with low quality materials.

I don’t want Wal-Mart Masonry that one day of my month.”

He is new to Masonry and his lodge is “special” because we make it so. He does not come from the Masonic experiences most of had when we formed our lodge. He was initiated into our lodge and has “grown up” there. Nonetheless, he hit on something quite profound. How much of Masonry has suffered as we moved to Wal-Mart Masonry.

As tracing boards that were profoundly beautiful and steeped in artistic imagery moved to PowerPoint presentations, as quality wrought ritual moved to stuttered lines from a man moved into the progressive line to quickly, as Festive Boards moved to paper plates and plastic forks, as dressing for lodge meant no holes in your jeans—what disservice have we done to ourselves and to our Craft as we turned to the convenience and cost of Wal-Mart Masonry.

When there is little value placed in the trappings of the lodge, when there is little value placed on the experience itself, when there is more emphasis placed on completing things quickly and with little cost, how can we believe that men will find value in the thing itself, in the finished product?

We are often men of average means, of average lives. I am content to buy my food at the largest store for the cheapest price. I am content to buy my clothes from the sales rack, but should I be content with generic low-cost Masonry?

If we are to believe our own brochures and websites we make good men better. How do we do this by treating everything like it should be quicker, cheaper, and in bulk? Do I really want my Masonry from the superstore with little thought given to its intrinsic and philosophical values? Do I want my morality in a low cost buy six and the seventh one is free?

If we practice our own philosophies then kneeling at the altar of Masonry should be more than a slight distraction before we head downstairs for a ham sandwich with generic mayonnaise and fruit punch because soda is cost prohibitive.

If we practice our own philosophies then changing a man’s life and actually improving him should be thought of as an experience worthy wearing socks that match and having on something more profound than a pair of blue jeans.

We are supposed to invoke the blessing of Deity before our undertakings and yet we approach our Creator with hurried expressions and a distain as we bicker about bills and provide little or no education.

The Craft turned into a superstore of membership at one time. We worshipped at the altar of large numbers so that we could keep our dues artificially low and provide some bang for the buck. Then, as the membership dwindled, the dollars stayed low, and the experience was hacked to bare minimum so that we didn’t “waste” our member’s time. Waste their time—with Masonry…..

The Fraternity can no longer afford Wal-Mart Masonry. To save Masonry we must change our thinking from quantity to quality. It is not about how many men are Masons, but how many men should be Masons. Masonry can no longer afford the quick sale, the PDF petition available for all who might want one.

The Fraternity must learn to value itself, so that others might see value within it. The tough thing about making Masonry valuable is that it takes effort. Meetings can’t be thrown to together, meals can’t be nuked, and Brothers can’t be raised in an afternoon with no memory work.

We love to hail Freemasonry as the home of our Founding Fathers….well, then work to make it the Masonry they would have revered and let’s leave our value meal days behind us.


June 2017
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