APR 2017

My Brother,

We now live in a world of blogs, sound bites and 140 character tweets. Even words as short as “be” or “you” are too long to write in full and need to be “abbreviated” as ‘b’ and ‘u’ respectively. I don’t like it. Sound bites are largely politically slanted misrepresentations, blogs are treated as real news and I won’t even start my thoughts on twitter which I feel has become defined more by its abuse as opposed to its use. Much of our world is becoming a bumper sticker. Freemasonry is no exception. I would just like to see Freemasons adopt their own personal bumper sticker which is a bit more meaningful.

I guess I am not alone in this thinking. Brother Matt Gallagher of Braden Lodge No. 168 expressed his thoughts very eloquently. Hence, with some minor edits on my part to make his comments more trestleboard suitable, read about the new bumper sticker, tweet, blog, or whatever you choose to use which we should all adopt…2B1B1. 2B1ASK1…If you’re a Mason, you’ve seen this terrible, bumper sticker slogan that is fixing all our membership problems. Yeah, I’m a bit bitter about it, because this gem from the reject-pile of Tuesday edition cryptoquips is, purely in an artistic sense, the literary equivalent of husky size jeans at a JC Penny’s. In a more poetic sense, it’s just a damn train wreck.

2B1ASK1. First, is there a single visual that better sums up our abbreviated McMasonry that we’re peddling in some jurisdictions? No, we can’t bother to spell it all out. And we can’t bother to do full openings and closings, or require anyone to learn all the memorization we used to have to learn. We don’t have time to guide an initiate from zero to 3 degrees in over an afternoon.

I hope if one thing is clear from my writing, it’s that I’m not really a black tie-wearing, traditional observance Freemason that some are. Honestly, I think there’s a right place and right time for a one-day-to-Masonry class. I think we need to be flexible, as a group. But how does this abridged license plate really express that Masonry is a lifetime pursuit? Is a 2nd grade rebus the show-opener to the esoteric mysteries of the Craft and the self that we really want to lead with?

I suppose that’s all marketing, though. People come to me and ask, “Don’t you think you’re reading too much into this? It’s just for buttons and t-shirts. It’s so people know how to become a Freemason.” My problem is that I  also think it’s wrong. Horribly wrong. It says that Freemasonry is a club. You want in? Ask. We’ll run it by the boys. You’ll pay a small fee for parts and labor, and you get the secret passwords, and you’re in. You’re a Mason, and just because you asked!

My Brother, there are plenty of card-carrying Freemasons who don’t deserve that title. I don’t even deserve it all the time. There are men who have reached the highest echelons of authority who are just flat out terrible at being a decent guy. And there are people who have never even heard of the word “Freemason,” people who probably couldn’t be voted into a lodge of Master Masons if there were only four people left on earth and three of them were already Master Masons…and they’re just beautiful people. Just beautiful, honest, honorable people.

Don’t misunderstand me. Being “in the club” is important. It’s part of what makes us a brotherhood. It gives engine to our steam, so we can focus that into drive. But a Freemason is something different. It’s someone who has come to find that honorable action, self-control, and the sacred law of the GAOTU are the great lights of Creation. Someone who has taken up their own tools to rebuild themselves. My Brother, this is a journey of a lifetime that need not, and should not, be walked alone, but it can be.

Much like the gravediggers sing in the rather poignantly titled Oh Brother, Where Art Thou: You gotta walk that lonesome valley, You gotta walk it by yourself, Nobody here can walk it for you.

The truth is something a Mason told me when I entered the Craft—To be one…be one.

Nothing has rung more true in my mind. Freemasonry isn’t a bestowal. It is an act. It’s an action verb. You are only a Freemason when you are actually trying. Even when trying and failing. But when you’re just doing nothing, when you’re not showing up, physically or spiritually, when you go through the motions and go home, when you practice the antithesis of brotherly love, well…I guess you’ve still got your bumper sticker.

Fraternally,

Brian K. Mandel, WM