Sunday, February 22, 2009

3rd Prize for 3 Ruffians


Congratulations to my fellow Ruffians of the Gate of the Temple Lodge #422 for taking 3rd Prize for Best Chili in the Annual Sertoma Chili Cookoff in Springfield, Missouri. It was our first time to enter the competition and I think we did pretty well against 78 other entries involved!

Masters Monta, and Jeremy did a wonderful job building a Masonic facade for our booth and, quite obviously, Monta and Bob managed to mix together some rather good Masonic chili. The recipe is a secret however...as are most things in Masonry.

It occurs to me that we took 3rd Place. After all, we are Ruffians!


With the help of David Caldwell, we put together this shindig in an effort to further expose our community to the values and the members of our Masonic lodge. We had the full support of the Missouri Grand Lodge and we're glad we could thank them with a trophy finish!

We Ruffians urge all Masonic Lodges to get involved in their community events. After all, you can't be in a position to aid your fellow brothers unless you walk side by side with them.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Which Way is Up?

We live in confusing times. Things used to make perfect sense. The earth was flat. The sun revolved around the earth. God spoke from the top of a mountain and death alone was certain.

Then in the last couple of thousand years, we changed our tack. Suddenly, we were all sinful, flawed and fallen beings. A single male sacrifice on a cross solved that problem for a while, but then came Galileo, Copernicus and ... Darwin.

What were we left with then? It seemed that the more we peered into our universe, and the more that we learned about ourselves as humans, we just got smaller, more lost, vulnerable and more meaningless than ever.

All of this has fallen under the all too clinical description of 'existential angst.' We dont really know what that is either, because like everything else in the universe...we don't know much more than enough to slap on a description or a label.

There used to be tribes in Africa that simply didnt have a word for 'war' or 'murder.' They didnt know anything about the concept. Some of them still exist. There are those tribesmen who simply cannot think outside the idea of 'the people.' A man like that will sit in a doctor's office and tell the doctor that "We are sick. Can you help us?" A man like that cannot individuate himself from his tribe. It's pretty common in some parts, so much so that psychologists and doctors have to take it into consideration as they treat multicultural patients.

So here we are...the products of our environment. And we don't really understand a damn thing about it. So it's easier to minimize and individualize everything so that our paths from home to work to friends to lovers to community are well worn. We tap into all of our available Freudian ego defense mechanisms and make lives for ourselves. Cozy. Safe.

Each and every day I am in awe of the universe. It's big. I've seen the hubble pictures. I watched 'Cosmos' with Carl Sagan as a kid and I watch more than my share of the Discovery Channel. The rest I learned in school or I just picked up on the hood of my car with my highschool girlfriend as we gazed romantically into the stars.

But I'm not sure I buy it. Because the Universe is impossible.

You see, things dont just pop out of nothing. Unless its a Hollywood special effect, you cant just make something out of nothing at all. Try making a radio with nothing...a plasma screen...or an iPod. Hell...try making a sound. You still need a lot of something.

The more science goes crawling into its theories or the more religion goes plugging up the gaps, the less we really know about the Universe and the more we have simply 'decided' to know about it. Why? Because we're building something out of nothing.Sure I have my own theories on the Big Nothing. But thats not really what matters is it? That's a peculiar choice of words if you really think about it. What matters? Matter? Ahhh...Nothing.

Its clear that we're all a part of it. It's a big connected nothing that happens to be something if you look at it. And when you think of it that way then you have begun to think like a physicist working on M theory, non locality, or quantum entanglement. Or you just found yourself thinking like Alice...in Wonderland.

What do we do in the middle of this? Or the side? Or the bottom? Where are we!? By scientific reckoning, the Universe is Trillions of light years across...virtually infinite in every direction. You could start walking at the speed of light right now and live trillions of human lifetimes before you made it halfway to nowhere. That's impressive.

I've been living a human life myself thank you, and I have experienced an amazing array of things, everything from happiness to sadness, pain, death, love...

I'd like to think that it matters; that I matter. I guess we all want to shine in the sky and say 'here I am!' before that great night closes in and leaves, once more, only darkness.

In the midst of this labyrinthe of nothingness, people like to make themselves roadmaps. Some people call them egos. People want to know where the ground is. They want a center to their lives. We all avoid the desperate feeling that scuba divers get when you get all turned around deep down and don't know which direction the surface is anymore. Scuba divers have faith that their bouyancy will bring them up. People have faith that there indeed is a center.

Through the centuries, people have made idols to worship. The Sun. Various gods and goddesses. Nature. That's the Center we all yearn for. Yet human 'gravity' moves us to do very few things and it's very linear. We survive and we reproduce. We seek pleasure and we flee from pain. It's a rather binary existence in a world of dualities in the midst of an awesome singularity that we cannot possibly understand in terms of our humanity. And that singularity is the Center that we are trying to find.

In these modern times, both science and religion are tearing humanity apart. Spirituality has become a meaningless, almost taboo, word for the ignorant or the saps and the suckers. And science has glamourized the machine culture as it labels Mother Nature and strips the brain into gears. If you want to find Spirituality then you just have to read about it in a sacred book or, if you're a neurologist, then you just have to look at your grid and give a nice little pulse to the right spot. Voila!

The philosopher Kant supposed that humans could not know reality beyond their perception of reality. Hmmm. That's something to think about. How much can we perceive? And if we are each perceiving reality through our own personal 'lens' then what? Now...put that in perspective with the 'cultural' lens and you might see what Pepsi, Coke and Geiko are upto in their advertising.

Everywhere today I watch as people wear the 'right' clothes, drive the 'right' cars and work themselves to an early grave as they conform to the cultural standards as set by the media and their local peer groups. People look down on each other if they dont dress like they do or if they dont have as much money or drive what they drive. With religion falling apart and the mindless mechanizations of science, the Lost are simple minimizing their world in order to maximize their feeling of safety.

How far can this go? We have now begun to worship ourselves. We wear Prada. We drive BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. And we drink the ambrosia of Cristal. Look at how beautiful we are.

And yet...we are all just wandering around in a jungle seeking out, with the same natural gravity, the required survival and reproduction. We are still spinning around on a speck in space in the middle, or the side, or the bottom...of nowhere. What happens when 'You' die? Do you 'Go' to heaven? And if the universe simply takes you back by gobbling your atoms back in...then who were 'You' to begin with? You had better think about that if you're just the garden variety ego serving atheist with a Mercedes, a trophy wife and all of the other trapping you have surrounded yourself with to mask that horrible odor of 'Fear' that your gut is giving off.

The more we worship ourselves, our own egos, then the more afraid we obviously are.

Spirituality, to me at least, is about perspective. I think we are all the expression of something underlying...call it DNA, God, the Force....I dont care. But, whatever the archetypes, we are the result. We are the Myth made flesh. And perhaps, for our level at least, that is entirely enough.

Still, we must ponder morality and ethics...good and evil, in this topsy turvy house of mirrors. It used to make sense. When we thought that the earth was flat it was easy to say that heaven was 'Up' and that Hell, or the underworld, was 'Down.' This was a part of seeing, Kant might say 'perceiving,' the world from a Dualist perspective. And that's the problem I guess with Good and Evil...

When you really pay attention to the world, the Universe as it is-infinite in all directions, you cannot help but question. Heaven...Hell? Which Way is Up?

Within various psychological models, it is stressed that the so-called "hero's journey" leads us to a kind of communion with the Self...the greater Ego. It is the Center that is everywhere and we are tasked, like Hercules before us, to finally confront our fears and so divest ourselves of the pointless, soulless, trappings that divide us from our shared being.

It is a point of survival to drive the 'right' car or have the 'right' look to succeed, survive and so reproduce. But simply surviving in this way is pointless if we live without perspective. Is it a social perspective, a cultural perspective, a global perspective or just an individual perspective that matters? In other words...what is the 'right' lens of perception? Where is the meaning?

I know this much. People who savage themselves with being 'better' than the other guy are just working very hard to prove themselves to someone who they fear in some way...who they have empowered to be a judge.

Why don't we just let go? Why dont we let go of the fear and just go on with our surviving and reproducing without it? It seems that we can't of course. We moderns are not conditioned to accept ... we are conditioned to excel...to compete... to overcome our judges - those real or simply imagined.

I like what the Bhagavad Gita has to say about sacred actions and the 'right' way to be. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna the archer that actions must be taken without attachment to personal ego. He also urges that Arjuna should always offer his works and rewards to God...to the Center. In that way Arjuna, or any man for that matter, may live from a more 'authentic' perspective. For it is certain that man was not the first something in the great big nothing. He is a form. He is a passing cloud driven by the winds.

Have we sold our souls to the lesser gods of Gucci, New Religion, and Affliction? Why isnt 'Your Name' on your shirt or handbag? Don't you know who You are in this big nothing?

Indeed...if you don't know 'Which Way is Up?' then Take a Look Around.

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