Sunday, August 31, 2008

No Apologies Necessary

Greetings Brothers. As a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason I am proud to have experienced the instruction and the pageantry of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. I did my degrees in the Valley of Joplin, Mo. The temple there is simply outstanding. And the set pieces and backdrops are nothing short of breathtaking.

Many of you are Scottish Rite Masons I know. I encourage those of you who are not yet Scottish Rite Masons to seek further Light and join this Illustrious appendant body of the Craft. In the degrees of the Scottish Rite you will witness the marvelous works of Brother Albert Pike and others who contributed so much after its founding. There is simply a wealth of material to be explored. So get to it!


That being said, I was reading over my latest mailing of the Scottish Rite Journal when I came across an article by Brother Cliff Porter 32nd Degree. The article, entitled "A Scottish Rite Mason Without Apology" deals with a lot of the issues that are haunting and holding back the genius and grandeur of the intended Rite.

In my opinion, and speaking as a Member of both the Scottish and York Rites, I believe some of the Scottish Rite degrees to be the very most personally profound in all of Freemasonry. There is some excellent subject matter for those who pay attention, faithfully participate and who strive to study on their own paths. Still, the times are challenging for modern Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite has not escaped the difficulties they present.

I applaud Brother Porter's article and hope you all will read it as I have. He expresses many frustrations that I witnessed firsthand in the Rite. I hope that we may address them respectfully and see the Scottish Rite restored to its finest array and spectacle.

Here is the full article... "A SCOTTISH RITE MASON WITHOUT APOLOGY"

(This article appears in the September/October 2008 Issue of the Scottish Rite Journal)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Changing the Guard

I was goofing around with my new gadget today, the new iPhone, and it made me think about just how much our world is changing. Cell phones were the stuff of Science Fiction a generation ago. You might have seen one in Captain Kirk's hand when he was asking Scotty to beam him back to the Enterprise. But no one imagined that not so far into the future...everyone would have one.

Technology is changing our world. We can now access vast reservoirs of information and stream everything from movies, tv, games, books and much more straight through a personal computer that is about the size of a pack of playing cards. The world is getting smaller and more accessable.

It's changing our culture. With all of this information at our fingertips, we're practically spoiled by it. It's educating us, brainwashing us, entertaining us and its doing it because we want it to.

Our grandfathers can barely recognize the world that we, as grandsons, now live in. In the span of just one hundred years, we have advanced from horseback to jet plane. Imagine how much the automobile changed the world. And now just think about what the cell phone is doing.

Like all things, Freemasonry too must accept change. It must embrace the world as it is now...and not as it once was.

This is not to say that the ideals or the spirit or the traditions of Freemasonry must change. Certainly not. Such things are immortal and ageless in their way and will abide the sands of time.However, it is important that Masonry today keeps up with the changing times and modernizes.

The trestle board was once just a circle in the sand and now, in most lodges, it is displayed on a slide projector.

The point is, we don't have to accept that what we experience at lodge is all there has to be to Freemasonry. Why not vote a dues increase and offer something tangible in return...like the kind of lodge a Brother would look forward to going to as often as he could...filled with activities and relevant services to his Brothers and his family?

We need a vision of the future of the Order. Interest in membership is declining and attendance is woeful indeed at many lodges. I know of countless Greek college fraternities that offer more relevant activities than many well worn Blue Lodges. What is going to interest the younger Mason to join...let alone stick around when the excitement after initiation settles?

Face it. The generation gap is huge. There are teenagers that know a lot more about computers than I do. Of course both the older and the younger Masons have much to offer. Experience that comes with time must never be discounted. And the drive of the youth is the very future of the Craft. Both have their part in the Lodge. But they must work together and, above all, recognize the necessities of the times at hand.

How do we organize the potent energy of the new Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts and Master Masons? We need better avenues of communication. Websites for lodges, blogs and the like are a definite step in the right direction. But most of these are run by individuals with a purpose or small groups trying to make a difference. There is often too much red tape in getting any actual work done. And that is just one more thing putting the kabosh on real growth.

Going to church today is like going to the mall in some cases or going to a local YMCA. You'll find a Starbucks, flat screen plasma tvs, retail sales kiosks, a gym, a bookstore, basketball courts, pools...you name it! What would make the local Blue Lodge 'sticky?' You tell me!

I think that being a Mason you should be a 'part' of something...not just 'associated' with something. But that means that lodges need to keep up with the needs and the interests of the generations that are going to fill up the seats.

Is meeting now and again to initiate new members enough? The lodge has become a kind of office. It needs to be a meeting place. And, in this day and age, that meeting place does not have to even be in a building. After all, the members themselves are the 'lodge.' Local lodges must reach out to their members. And members should do what they can to support their lodges, their Brothers and their communities.

The Working Tools of the Order will never change for they embody certain and various virtues. But there are new tools the Order can put to good use. Email, Websites, and Blogs count among them. Also among them are more and varied activities, member services and real commitments to taking part in the future of the Order together.

What is required of every Mason is fearlessness and personal responsibility as an active member of the Craft. Vote in your lodge. Make a difference. Make it better. Build it or fix it or modernize it. Remember that Freemasonry is a part of your life and a part of your experience among Brothers and friends. Make it your own.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who's Minding the Store?

Well Brothers...I'm angry.

I'm angry because too many people, Brothers included, rationalize their actions. Everyone is 'doing the right thing' if you listen to them. We all have our justifications it seems. We all have our golf 'mulligan' our love 'mulligan' and our life handicap.

BS. You heard me. Hogwash. Whatever happened to 'personal responsibility?'

I'm really actually angry about it. I met a guy recently who told me that he earned $300,000 as a bookie. Apparently, he got his start kicking people's teeth in and beating people senseless with baseball bats. Now he's bragging about his earnings (he's probably about 25 years old) and he considers his previous actions 'justified.'

What an ass.

Wait. Let me say that again. 'What an ass.' 'What an ass.' 'What an ass.'

I guess I'm just tired of weakness. Because, in my opinion, people don't really have an excuse to 'do the wrong thing.' It's weakness...pure and simple. And if you're a Brother and you think it's okay to wrong people, or screw people over or steal from people then you need to really rethink being a Mason.

The Masonic Oath certainly bonds Brothers. We agree to look out for each other etc. Still, the Masonic Idealogy Bonds our faith in a higher regard. How can we strive for the Light if we revel in the Darkness? Truly, I ask you?

I know that people make mistakes. I have an inglorious past myself up until the age of 27. Still, I am in no way proud of those actions against the Light. Rather, I live every day making up for them in some fashion. I could have been a better person. I can be a better person!

We have too many damned excuses today Brothers! 'No one will care. It's not a big deal. He or she deserved it. They owe me.' What the hell!?

If any of us really intend to approach the Light then we need to get our crap together. And if someone we know is doing the wrong thing then the right thing is to let them know! Cowardice or inaction is a kind of action and acceptance all by itself.

Yes, I'm angry Brothers. We can all do better. And, as Masons, we must reach to the Light and do our best to be beacons of Light for all onlookers.

The world is ours to change...for the better.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NY Grand Lodge

Our Illustrious Ruffian Brother Matthew thought that we might enjoy a tour of the New York Grand Lodge facilities that are posted on their website. The State of New York boasts a Masonic membership of 54,000 members! That is indeed impressive.

Take a look now, Ruffians, inside New York's Masonic Hall located on West 23rd St. in New York City. http://www.nymasons.org/cms/virtualtour

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Network

The World is a Business...

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
- Professor Keating (Robin Williams) in 'Dead Poet's Society'

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.
- Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in 'Network'

There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!
- Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) in 'Network'

There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business.
-Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) in 'Network'

Human life is what matters; the living of it, the sanctity of it, the continuing of it, the beauty of it, the sorrow of it, the joy of it. More and more today, perhaps the world is becoming a business. The quotes from the movie 'Network', a movie released in 1976 that was ahead of its time and eerily prophetic of our own, offer us a kind of perspective on the pattern of control in our world today. Indeed, if we forget the value of human life in favor of the 'illusion' then we are as lifeless as the institutions.

We cannot surrender to mindless despotism in any form. We must transcend this kind of thinking. We must think for ourselves.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Towers

The stage is set. And the heads of the corpulent aristocracy are soon to roll. Somewhere down below the palace walls, below the guilded parapets and the pampered, preening monarchs gather the throng of the furious peasant mob.

High in their towers, the monarchs cower. Where once they laughed at these impotent serfs, they now hide in terror from them. The army of the oppressed stand together at the outer gates led by a peculiar spirit of destiny and a righteous sense of freedom. Their time has come.

The wait has been a long one. Each and every day, the sun has risen and set on the peasant's labors and miseries. Months and years of enslavement to the elite has sapped their will and strength. But all souls regard their own lives. Anger replaces the empty pains of hunger.

Too long have the downtrodden borne the loads of their masters. The yolk has grown weighty with their children's cries, heavy with desires to share the comforts of the rich and burdensome with an endless repetition of hard work without due reward.

Where indeed is this place of such a melancholy scene? Is this Paris before the French Revolution? It is. Is this the Bolshevik tide at the Czar's palace? It is.

And is this the future of the free world as corporations, so like the elite in their towers, gather to exploit the sleeping consumer culture? It could be.

Today, the kings and monarchs reign as CEOs, lobbiests, special interests, financial syndicates and political oligarchies. For decades, Wal-Mart, the giant of retail commerce, has driven small, local business to extinction. This trend of supercorporations has smashed the 'little guy' and swept him up to labor under the standard of the corporation. The entrepreneur struggles to compete and finds himself wearing a nametag and working for his competitor.

Oil companies drown themselves in wealth year after year taking in vast billions in earnings. They excuse themselves in the tides of war and rely on the apathy of the masses to do nothing other than to obey and consume. Huge oil reserves sit untapped. And advancements and energy alternatives are sidelined in favor of the bottom dollar.

Banks foreclose on houses that they risked their greed upon as low income families clamored to them in need daring to roll the dice on high interest in order to find shelter in the storm. Businesses close. Icons like Anheiser Busch are gobbled up by even bigger corporate fish.

What are the promises of politicians worth if people don't know their own minds? The people are complacent. And, in many cases, the few who act otherwise prove to be as soulless and greed driven as the mindless corporate devourers.

The masses swallow their cultural opiates, fed to them nightly on the television, in movies, and through the corporate media. Britney Spears sees more airtime than the War on Terror. If Paris were burning...people would look at once to Hollywood.

Who is manning the drive-thru? Pray they aren't working for NORAD next week. Their hands are at their work but their minds are miles away. Religion has failed to stand up to its own ideals. Science has confused as much as it has enlightened. And people have lost their innate divine perspective. They are left with only empty ego...and a quiet desperation for more.

Make no mistake my Brothers. All states of being are brought about through specific conditions. When the undergrowth of the forest is dry...even the treetops will burn.

I fear that our innate humanity is all too easily forgotten. Cell phones and computers have become our idols. Machanical things and empty contrivances have replaced the forest gods, Divine Light, and the spirit of nature in man. Mothers feed their babies from a plastic bottle. Young women starve themselves to match an unattainable ideal. And fathers fight to find their place and their role as a modern provider.

We humans are indeed weak and the steels of industry are certainly stronger. Are we the masters now or are we but the servants of our governments, our institutions, our developed belief systems and our inventiveness?

Thoreau and Emerson. Their noble and enlightened visions fade amidst the consumer tide.

Awaken young man! Do you see the beauty of the world...the real world? Do you not see the beauty of life, living things and being itself? Stop chasing your vanities. Slip the bars of enculturation and release the awesome power of your own individual life.

I am Da Vinci! I am Mozart. I am Armstrong stepping onto the shores of eternity. I am!

You cannot brainwash me! You cannot box me in or make me forget that I am a natural thing. I am not a sound bite. I can live without your latest trends. And I don't need 15 minutes of Warholian fame because I will matter; I will make a difference; I will pursue a noble and relevant life ... for a lifetime.

The palace walls are made of stone. But I bear nature's beating heart. I am watching you in the towers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

...While Away On My Journey...

Woe is me, Woe is me, Woe is me.

Woe is me my brothers. Oh how it has been a long time since I last took up the keyboard to make a post. Woe is me my brothers, since I last took up my phone and made a call. Woe is me my brothers since the last time I looked at the website.

My brothers ( especially Brother Free ) it has been too long since I last showed my face. Little do many of you know, I have been on a trying journey, a quest if you will, to locate answers, to find results, to find the light.

While I have not been lost, I was still not found.

Nearly 3 months ago, Brother Free and myself were on the verge of something big. It was a project of sorts. And while that something big has not lost any of its momentum, it seems that it has been moved to the side...for the time being.

This project was an outreach program, and community based group, that would be dedicated to giving back.

In preperation of this project I felt myself thinking about what the goal would be for something like this. What would be our reason, what would be our angle, why were WE doing it. What was so special about 3 guys, 3 brothers, 3 RUFFIANS, that we thought we could have made a difference in a world where a person can have 5 kids and not give damn about a single one; in a world where we have men and women DYING to be able to share the same freedoms we have with the rest of the world, AND EVERYONE IS AGAINST THEM. What did i think i could do to be able to make a difference?

Today is August 9th, 2008, and just 3 hours ago the 2008 Summer Olympics kicked off with, what I would say, would have to be the best opening ceremony I have ever seen. There were people there that would rather shoot the person next to them let alone run or swim next to them. But for some reason, they were able to bring it all together, to be able to demonstrate the pride of their country and uphold a century old tradition.

Just two weeks ago the movie 'The Dark Knight' came out ( 614 mil so far, by the way ). For those who havent seen it, I wont spoil it. But while watching this movie I thought to myself, "what this world needs is a BATMAN," "what this world needs is a super hero," someone who isnt scared to strap it on night after night; to protect and uphold all that is good in this world.

And it was while I was reading a post from brother Lightheaded1 that the picture started to become a little clearer for me. I started to see the path back to where I had come. I started to see WHY. It is guys like Brother Free, like myself, like you, who have to step up and make a change.

Lets face it people, there's no Batman, there are no superheroes. There is only you. There is only me. There is only us.
Why does it have to take a worldwide organized event like the Olympics just for people to get along for 2 weeks? Why do we only take the time to be in the presence of those we cannot tolerate... just so we can compete with them?

Why cant we be that drop of water that causes a tidal wave; not just as freemasons, but as brothers of the human race? Why do we look to fictional characters to do the job that we should have never stopped doing to begin with?

People lets face it. Lets stop making excuses. Lets put on the big boy pants and make a stand. Yes I know that I have kind of fell off the planet for the last 3 months. I needed that time to get my mind in order. But I can clearly see now what the job is that needs to be done.

We need to make a change. We need to get involved. And it needs to start now. It needs to start at home. There are too many of us who chose to take care of ourselves first... and our families second. There are too many of us who chose to go out at night and then sleep all day the next day.

From there we take it outward. We start in our neighborhoods. We start with local churches and schools. We just START. I can't begin to count how many times I have talked to brothers, and friends alike, who all say they want to be doing something to make a difference. Do we even know what a difference is?

I recently adopted a cousin of mine whos father is being sent to prison. I didnt know it but this kid had never been told a bedtime story. And when I came in to tell my boys their bedtime story he was stunned as to what I was doing. Thats the kind of difference I am talking about. It's something that will cause a chain reaction for the better.

Let's face it. Our future is looking us in the face. All the boys and girls that we see walking to school in the morning and home again in the afternoon...they are our future. They are the ones who will be making the decisions on whether or not we use foreign oil or if we trade with Cuba. They are the ones who will keep us moving forward or the ones who will bring us down.

Guys. I can't go on anymore. I actually want this to fit on the page. All I'm getting at is that I'm sorry I was gone. But I'm back, and I'm ready to go forward. And I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. ITS TIME TO MAKE A STAND, ITS TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE. SO I'LL BE WAITING. I'LL BE READY. WHEN YOU ARE READY YOU HAD BETTER START RUNNING... CAUSE HERE I GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



"The Purpose of Freemasonry"

In his just published book, "The Purpose of Freemasonry," noted Masonic scholar Stevan V. Nikolic of New York addresses the very questions we have been discussing here. While I have not yet read the book and can not review it there is a good article regarding it on PressRelease365. I'd be interested in the opinions of anyone who has read it.

Fraternally yours,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Does Anybody Think Anymore?

A friend of mine works for one of the presidential candidates as a pollster. Basically, he makes phonecalls to random people throughout our great state and asks people details about their political affiliations.

Disturbingly, this friend relates that the vast majority of people dont give a damn about issues or details or anything of that nature. Most of them simply ask if a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat. They KISS (keep it short and simple) the political machine. A good political ad can work wonders on this sheep mentality. Buy the car because of the girl on the hood. Drink Lite beer because of the girl in the bikini and vote whatever...because.

Additionally, none of the voters are given an alternative to the two parties. There's not much middle ground when there is no money behind it.

I'd like to hear 'the people' debating the current political issues rather than the pundits over endless hours of talk show rhetoric. Could they do it? 'We the People' are supposed to run the country (assuming you are an American or living in a Democracy) but do 'We' know what we are doing at the wheel? Are 'We' paying attention?

Hey. On the off chance it might work...

Send me a thousand dollars because I said so. Bah! Bah!
If you think that's a stupid idea. Then good for you for thinking. But send me the money anyway! Please this time!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What To Do...What To Do......

I just read Brother Lightheaded1's astute observation of Masonry's role in society (Posted on Sunday, August 3rd) and Two Bowl Cain's comment on the post. They both bring up very relevant and fascinating points about modern Freemasonry. These points are timely indeed and I don't think they should be overlooked by any active Mason. Thus I encourage you all to read the post and give it some real thought.

Where exactly does Freemasonry fit into the modern world? I of course would argue, as many Masons would, that it contributes to character and morality. I have argued as much right here. More specifically, as Brother Lightheaded1 brings up, what makes Masonry any more useful than other institutions for private welfare and charity?

I think at that point of thought, Two Bowl Cain's comment certainly comes into play. He argues that Masonry was created to sidestep the hypocrisy of the Church and State, two institutions that - at the time - were more eager to beat the people down than to raise them up. It's definitely questionable as to how much, if at all, these institutions have changed over time for the good. Perhaps then, the relevance of Masonry remains in providing avenues of Free thinking to people outside of the socially accepted norm. But is this the only difference?

I recently heard a story about a very nice Mason I know telling another Mason that you cannot be a Pagan and a Mason. He insisted that Masonry was founded upon the Jewish and Christian God alone. This is interesting to me. Certainly the Templar influences on Masonry were Christian. Still, the Templar were in the midst of heinous persecutions brought about by the Church and the State. As they were all excommunicated they no doubt had their own questions about the idea of God that their torturers maintained.

I personally think that Freemasonry is outstanding because of its tolerance. God is Light, not a name, not a region, not a holy book and certainly not a particular dogma. I like to think that God is God. There are lots of foreign words for tables after all...and they are all still tables.

Freemasonry is being diluted perhaps as government institutions take the lead on charitable works and in providing aid to those in need and even simple services. So too is it being molded into personal images of particular Masons and within particular regions. There you are...the State and the Church.

In my opinion Masonry must stand apart from both Church and State as Two Bowl says. This is not to say that either institution is inherently evil. Both, however, are human institutions relegating the behavior of men through the rule of law. Freemasonry relegates the behavior of men through the rule of ethics. The Church was intended once to do as much but without the true seperation of Church and State such a thing becomes impossible. Freedom is the ultimate ethic so long as it is recognized for all. And that takes tolerance.

Maybe we Masons should bring less into the Order from the outside and,instead, bring more from the Order to the outside. From what I see culturally and politically, I think that our great institutions are in need of an overhaul.

Should we really leave the work upto the cowans and eavesdroppers? Let's get out there again and show others what the Light is like. Whatever your religion or affiliation there is so much you can do remembering the tenents of Freemasonry.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Greetings Brother,

This is my debut post here in the 3Ruffians multi-verse so I will do my best to not ruffle too many feathers, this time. I do have an observation, though, and I'll follow it up with a question. My observation is this:
Freemasonry through the ages has prospered and thrived best when it fulfilled a necessary function in the society of the time. Prior to the industrial revolution and the New Deal era fraternal organizations, and especially Freemasonry, served a very defined purpose in society. We helped men find jobs; we provided for those less fortunate; we educated the orphaned; we assisted the widowed; and we bettered ourselves. Laudable goals all.

But, most if not all of these societal benefits can be and are provided nowadays either by our government or by professional non-profit organizations. They can and do perform these functions better than we can. We can not and should not be in competition to help those in need. Certainly, if someone needs help and we are in the best position to provide it we can not turn them away, but perhaps our time, money and talents can be better utilized fulfilling an unfilled need in society. Which brings me to my question.

When you look around in the town in which you live; when you interact with your co-workers, family members, friends and associates; when you listen to the nightly news or read the daily paper what is not being provided? What do people need or want that they can not get from the government, from Salvation Army, or at the mall?

Freemasonry has redefined itself many times over the centuries, and it's time we did it again. Our society is suffering and the solutions are not going to come from Capitol Hill, or from the State Capitol Buildings, or from City Hall. They will come from "We the people."

As Freemasons we obligate ourselves to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Relief can come in many forms. It's time we consider the form of relief that our people need.

Fraternally yours,

Lightheaded1

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