On his third anniversary of being a Freemason, brother Christopher Hebert presented an essay in Lodge on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.
Three years goes by in the blink of an eye. But when you stop to think about everything that has happened within that time, it feels like a lifetime. I still consider myself a “new” Freemason – very early in the learning curve. But I do have enough experiences over the past 1,095 days to talk about what Freemasonry means to me. And let me emphasize that these are my own thoughts and opinions.
As well as being my third anniversary, Freemasonry has a special affinity for the number three – three degrees, three primary officers, three pillars – to name just a few. So I’ll discuss my points in groups of three.
1) LOCAL – All three degrees, for different reasons.
The First Degree …is an eye-opening experience that really generates more questions than it answers. It’s exciting and new just because you’re going in without a lot of knowledge. Taking the obligation can feel like a heavy commitment – in your time, life and psychology. Some leave shortly after, but most stick with it.
The Second Degree …feels like progress. You’ve done it once before. Because you’re required to memorize some work it seems like you’re a “part of the process” more so than the first.
The Third Degree …feels like a graduation. It truly is an accomplishment to have steadfastly made it through all three degrees. But similar to how a university degree is just an opening to a long career of skill development, or how getting a black belt in martial arts is the just beginning of advanced training, becoming a Master Mason is just the first step in a lifetime of learning how to become a better man.
2) PROVINCIAL – Grand Lodge at the Royal York in July. The first year (pre-joining) it all seemed so foreign and strange. But after becoming a Mason, it feels nice to have a common connection with people from across Ontario. Plus the actual lodge is a big occasion with lots of people, and interesting to watch.
3) GLOBAL – Traveling to Hong Kong and visiting a Scottish Naval Lodge there. It was amazing to find the people so welcoming (after proving myself). They didn’t know me at all, and yet were inviting me (and my family) in, having lunch, showing us around. It’s a good feeling to have instant friends in a distant land.
THREE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT FREEMASONRY
1) FELLOWSHIP. There’s a proverb that says “Life without friendship is like the sky without the sun.” In this supercharged world that seems to be whizzing by faster than ever, Freemasonry is solid and heavy and moves at its own pace (sometimes to its own detriment, but that’s another story!). It’s about sitting and talking with friends. Dressing up. Giving toasts. Sitting quietly in a room while our brethren perform rituals. A blanket of global friendship. Manhood and morality. Hanging out and helping.
2) OPENMINDEDNESS. Mahatma Gandhi said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” More than any other spiritual organization, Freemasonry charges you with learning about nature and science on your own. Open to new ideas. Examining the architecture of the universe, and the mystical elements of the cosmos.
3) SELF-IMPROVEMENT. “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” Elbert Hubbard. Working on yourself and attempting to obtain personal perfection is at the core of Freemasonry. From the very beginning you learn about the rough and perfect ashlar. Some of the ways that we work on improving ourselves include: charity, public speaking, memory work, leadership, contributing to civil harmony – the list goes on.
THREE THINGS I’D LIKE TO HELP FREEMASONRY WORK ON
1) ACTIVITY-BASED EXPERIENCE. We’re men. So we socialize best around action. This action can be in various directions: social events, fun activities, charity work, etc. We’re working on this area for 2010 – stay tuned for details early in the year.
2) COMMUNICATING BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP. People are busier than they’ve been in the history of mankind. Much of this is pseudo-busy-work, but people do have the perception that they don’t have enough time to be involved in orgs like Masonry. Communicating the benefits without actively recruiting (then following up on those benefits). The benefits are NOT material gain, they are the points I noted above – fellowship, studying science and the arts, and self-improvement. These benefits are FAR more important than simple material gain, but this fact needs to be communicated clearly to potential and newly minted Freemasons.
3) MORE ACTIVELY MAKING BETTER MEN. We talk about it a lot and, assuming a lifetime of being committed to the ideals, it does happen over time. But I believe there are ways to more actively, and therefore more effectively, achieve the mission. Expert speakers on leadership, morality, public speaking, etc. Action-oriented work and training. And then bringing lessons of the lodge into our lives. It’s certainly easier said than done, but as long as we are reaching toward that goal it will improve over time.
The past three years have been some of the best in my lifetime. Seeing my daughter grow up, being the captain of my dragonboat team, starting a company (or two). I truly believe that Freemasonry has significantly contributed to my life already and, like I said previously, I’m just getting started. Looking forward to the next thirty.