On Being a Masonic Officer

Tonight, I was installed as the Junior Master of Ceremonies in my Masonic Lodge.  My wife was there with me, which is a rarity in any Masonic Lodge, as they are usually closed to non-masons.  Once a year, at the discretion of our Master, we hold our annual installation of officers in a “public” fashion, thereby allowing our friends and loved ones to share in our pride and honor of being a part of this fraternal organization.

It’s not a secret to my friends or family that I’m a mason.  And, I will freely talk about it when I’m asked.  I can answer most questions, and when a specific question arises that I cannot directly answer, it’s regretful that it piques curiosity because it is usually such a mundane little idiosyncrasy that it hardly deserves inquiry.

The most often pondered question that arises with my wife, my best friend, and my family, is “why do you do it?”  I’ll admit, sometimes I bitch about having to attend a masonic obligation.  Sometimes I legitimately cannot attend.  Sometimes, I don’t attend because I don’t feel like the fun I will have with my brethren will outweigh the fun I will have with my wife and friends.  Sometimes I’d rather sleep, or do a shot, or watch a movie, or clean my house and fold laundry.

But, this year, I could have easily walked away from my responsibilities with my Lodge.  I’m newly married.  I’m working hard to advance in my career.  I’m in a working cover band that is learning new songs all the time, and playing several shows a week at this point (and hopefully continuing in the new year).  Another responsibility, one that requires at least one night a week, could easily have been denied with no shame.  I did not turn away from the challenge, but instead, chose to take on a higher responsibility in my Lodge than was required of me.

My best friend has asked, as have I, “what do I get out of the effort and time I put in?”  What he wants to hear is that I can speed and never get a ticket, or break the law and never worry, or get discounts where others cannot, or have access that others do not.  Well, it’s not exactly that way at all.  Is it possible?  Well, I can’t deny that it is.  It’s no different than any other “perks” someone might receive from knowing a police officer, or a restaurant owner, or a lawyer.

The perks are never what you expect.  I have taken on a responsibility of helping new masons learn.  That, to me, is extremely satisfying.  I have always enjoyed teaching in general;  in all its forms, it is a great satisfaction to help another individual in need to finally learn, to understand and to grasp knowledge that you have imparted to them.  My bonus is this:  I’ve got a unique, often unusual, skeptical and alternative view of what so-called “normal” people believe is universal.  This, to my delight, is a viewpoint that I take a particular pleasure in sharing with my brethren.

I think they appreciate it, as well.  That is the perk for me.  In masonry, you cannot challenge someone politically or religiously, and you always respect your brother, no matter the differences.  The opportunities in the loopholes for me to inject some of my own weird impression of our world gets me off…it really does, especially when I see someone walk away nodding their head like “shit, that makes a whole lot more sense than what I believed was reality.”

That perk alone doesn’t keep me going to meetings, or rituals or communications, though.  So, what is it?  Well, I’m still in my infancy of masonry, but I have my theories.  It’s the ritual.  The masonic degrees, for those of you unschooled, are basically plays, performed live in front of an audience.   I love to do that already.  It involves memorization to a great degree.  That is what I have to do every time I learn a new song for my cover band.  It involves acting out, and I have no problem being a showman when it’s appropriate.  It involves impressing great gravity, and I think my seriousness lends itself to that task.

Most of all, it involves brotherhood.  I may not be the best of friends with my Lodge brothers.  I may not attend Lodge functions as often as they do.  I may not agree with them on any number of subjects.  But one thing remains that masonry undeniably can teach us.   That the one thing we all share undeniably is our bare humanness.  We all make mistakes, none of us can be perfect to all people all of the time, and that, in the end, we will all ultimately answer to our fate, whatever that may be.

What keeps me going is that undeniable awareness that we are all nothing, and that sharing in that nothingness turns it into, at the very least, something we can share with awe and reverence.



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