Sunday, November 18, 2007

The To-Do List Craze

Sometimes the best way to find ideas for Masonic lodge productivity and organization is from non-Masons. If we constantly look inwards, without looking to the outside world, we will grow stale. Keeping with this idealogy, I'm always looking to expand my herizons and find new and interesting things. When I find something of note, I try to apply it to my "Masonic Life."

Today, I came across the To-Do List Blog by Sasha Cagen. I'm no stranger to To-Do lists. I have them everwhere (including in my now deceased Mac laptop :( ). I have shopping lists, christmas lists, long term goal lists, home renovation lists, all sorts of lists. I like them. I forget things. The lists keep me from forgetting things. Pretty simple system.

Sasha Cagen's blog and book, brings together people's love for To-Do lists. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked. Her blog was funny and cute, yet practical and thoughtful. As I was reading her blog, I was going back and forth between the recent developments in the Halcyon Lodge situation. This jumping between the "real" world and the "masonic" world got me thinking. What would my Masonic To-Do list be? What are the things I want to get done to help my lodge?

So, I decided to take a moment and write down what I want to do for my lodge to make it better. It will immediately follow this post. I invite all my faithful readers (this number may be up to 4 by now) to create their own list. Focus on the practical and keep it focused towards your lodge. This isn't supposed to be a spiritual or philosophical list, although I encourage these as well. Simply and quickly, write out what you would do to make your lodge a better lodge. Limit it to a small number and try to act on it. Remember, a building is made brick by brick. Find your bricks and build your lodge. Here I go:

  1. Scan in all the Past Masters and Officer photos into the lodge computer and post it on the internet.

  2. Complete the report of the Strategic Planning Committtee.

  3. Create my presentation for "Freemasonry and the Nazis", including Powerpoint.

  4. Organize the Lodge Library and finish the checkout system for book borrowing.

  5. Create the DVD for the Installation of Officers 2007 and distribute it to the brothers.

  6. Gather the names of all brothers who would like to receive electronic copies of the Treastleboard instead of snail mail versions.

  7. Ask for a vote on the lodge paying for the Masonic Education Course for all brothers who would like to take it, then sign brothers up for the course. (Updated - 2008-01-17)

  8. Convert lodge website into the new template supplied by the Grand Lodge.
    (Updated - 2007-12-30)

  9. Create the outline for next year's Candidate Education Program.

  10. Update the lodge history for the past ten years.

Many Masons want change. Change only occurs through action. Action begins in thought. A To-Do list is a vital bridge between thought and action.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Certain Point within a Circle

"Obligation", "Freedom", "Loyalty", "Blind Obedience", "severed ties", "broken oaths", etc! These are the buzz words being thrown around in several Masonic blogs and forums this week. For those of you who are unaware, Halcyon Lodge of Cleveland, Ohio turned in their charter to the Grand Lodge of Ohio and are now operating under an unnamed jurisdiction. In the past, Halcyon lodge was known to be a very progressive lodge with positive results. I would be remiss to say that many ideas that I stated on this blog were gained from the brothers of this lodge. More information regarding their activities can be found on their web site.

This blog, Masonic Renaissance, is fairly unique in the world of Masonic blogs. I do not focus on my personal opinions regarding current Masonic events, although my readers could gain a general understanding of my leanings. I also rarely talk about my personal experiences in my lodge. I tend not to focus on the philosophical aspects of Freemasonry. My posts usually focus on organizational structures or leadership principles. I also discuss new technologies being applied to Masonry.

With that being said, this post will be slightly different than my typical writings. I believe that the current events regarding Halcyon lodge reflect a general trend in Masonry, which I feel my blog attempts to dissect and analyze. I call this trend the "saddle" effect. Masonry lost the generations of the 70's, 80's and 90's. Freemasonry gained few members who were part of the Vietnam Generation, the Me Generation or Generation X. However, the beginning of the 21st century has been more positive in terms of Masonic membership. There has been an upswing in members that are currently in their 20's. Many lodge's membership distributions look like saddles with many brothers in age range of 20-35 and 60-80, and few brothers between 35-60. Many of these young brothers did not discover Masonry through their fathers or by its general effects. They discovered Masonry through the Davinci Code, the History channel and the Internet. They expected to find Warrior Monks, Enlightened Souls, World Rulers, Secret Knowledge and much, much more. However, they didn't find these things. They found an organization filled with normal people and normal problems. They found an organization filled with older members, who felt like they were the last captains of a sinking ship and were not open to change. The older brothers didn't have what the younger brothers were looking for. So many younger brothers turned to other sources. They read Pike and Mackey. They looked to the old landmarks and Anderson's Constitutions. They looked across the seas to European Masonry and their traditions. They looked to the Internet and the new ideas being generated by brothers across the globe.

In summary, the perception these brothers had of Masonry did not match reality, so they focused on changing reality. These new brothers wanted a different kind of Masonry, a more idealistic type of Masonry. In many lodges, this conflict between perception and reality created an "us vs them" mentality. I have seen lodges where the young guys sit on one side and the old guys sit on another side. One side votes one way and the other side votes the opposite. This is a typical expression of the age old conflict between innovation and tradition. This is not an isolated problem in an isolated lodge. It is occurring across the country. One side purports to be defending the principles of Masonry and so does the other side. Both sides believe that they are in the right, because they have different opinions of what are the true principles of Freemasonry. Is Freemasonry a philosophy? a social club? a service organization? Does the authority of masonry reside in the individual lodge or in the Grand Lodge? Is it important that Masonry has a board membership that has had a topical interaction with the lessons of the degrees or a selective membership of well educated brothers who are experienced with archaic Masonic writers?

Unfortunately, Masonry is reflecting the general trend of our nation. We're living in an increasingly polarized nation filled with radicals. We have Republicans vs Democrats, liberals vs conservatives, young vs old, rich vs poor, one religion vs another religion, homosexuals vs those who believe homosexuality is immoral, technologists vs traditionalists. For me, a radical is a person who is so set in their ideas and opinions that they are unwilling to listen to the ideas and opinions of others and will not accept that the ideas and opinions of others are valid. Using this definition, I believe that Freemasonry at its core is anti-radical. Masonry is built on the belief that people are different and believe different things, but they can come together to form a better world. Members have different religions and different political beliefs, yet they are all brothers. However, we now have more and more Masonic radicals, brothers who are unwilling to listen to the ideas and the opinions of their brothers. These brothers sit on both sides of the lodge room. We have young radical masons and old radical masons. This radicalism will destroy us. If we can not be brothers in the lodgeroom, how can we be brothers in the outside world and how can we spread the principles of the brotherly love, relief and truth?

People are inherently different. The principles of Masonry accept this fact. We are not meant to be homogeneous. We are meant to be brothers in spite of our differences. We don't have to agree, but we should accept our disagreements as disagreements and move on. Some of our brothers during the Revolutionary, Civil and World Wars were able to push aside their political differences and embrace each other as brothers. Why should the relatively minor disagreements of today divide us? To be cliched, can't we all just get along?

Our degrees teach us to be a certain point within a circle. This shows us the due bounds drawn by the compasses. On one side of the circle is St. John the Baptist and on the other is St. John the Evangelist. These two saints represent two radical sides of Christianity (innovation and tradition). We, as masons, are taught to stand in the center as the point. Masonry is about balance, not radicalism. Balance breeds understanding and tolerance. Radicalism breeds hate and division.

I hope that the brothers on both sides of this argument can see the positive benefits of balance. May brotherly love prevail and ever moral and social virtue cement us.