By James C. “Chris” Williams IV, Staff Writer

The noise was so loud that it felt like my head was going to explode.  I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Suddenly something hit me in the back…..hard…….that’s when I woke up from a sound sleep.  It was the phone ringing and the blow to the middle of my back came from Pam followed by an order to “ANSWER THE PHONE”!!!

There wasn’t time enough to focus and read the caller ID so I when my hand finally found the handset I just pressed the button.  That was my first mistake of the day. The second was that I didn’t just hang it up right then. I still wasn’t awake all the way, and the voice sounded familiar.

He was talking way too loud and way too fast…

“Halloos Brother Chris, I thought I would catch you on your way to work and see if we could have breakfast.”  By the time he finished the first sentence my mind had cleared, I had glanced at the clock and had realized it was John Deacon.

“What the heck are you calling me at…….I looked again at the clock……oh my God John it’s 4:30 in the morning,” I yelled into the phone causing another blow to my back and a different order.  “Are you crazy? It’s too early to even have breakfast.”

“Awwww quit whining, my Brother,” he said.  “I need some direction. I am hungry and I need to know where to go.”

By this time having been rudely awakened, sarcasm and anger were starting to kick in and I flatly said, “I’ll tell you where you can go.” And before I could relay that special destination to him, one more blow landed to my back with an admonition, “be nice”. Grrrr, in my then condition being nice was not my first choice. I realized that I was not going to win this with the enemy on both sides, so I took a deep breath and told him to meet me at Bill Millers in 30 minutes. I heard him whining about not wanting BBQ for breakfast as I hung up. He would find out in a few minutes that Bill Millers has pretty darn good breakfast tacos. I know because I have one almost every morning of the year.

 I hurried through my shower and when I got to the restaurant, John was already inside. They had just opened up and were heating the food up as he stood there looking at the menu smacking his lips. As I walked up next to him, I smiled at Sarah who knows me as “potato, egg, and cheese taco, with an unsweetened iced tea refill” cause that’s what I get every day.

She already had my taco and drink ready and nodded to John and got a questioning expression on her face. I told her that he was becoming “one” with the menu and he would speak at some point. “He has been staring at the menu for several minutes,” she said. “I thought he had fallen asleep.” “Nope, he’s not asleep,” I answered. He is just coming up with a plan.”

Without taking his eyes off the menu he growled, “You know, I can hear you both. And neither of you are funny.” And then looking down at Sarah he began to order. “Since my Brother Chris is buying breakfast, I think I will have three of those potato, egg, and cheese tacos.  I also want three carne guisada with cheese.  I just have to try a couple of sausage and egg and a couple of bacon and egg, and add about four bean and cheese for later and I will be in good shape…..and I will have some tea also.”

“I don’t think that good shape is something you ought to worry about Brother John unless you consider watermelon a good shape.” As he glared at me, I silently calculated in my mind and as best as I could figure, he was getting ready to consume along with generous portions of sausage, bacon, potatoes, beans, and carne guisada, at least a dozen eggs and a dozen tortillas.  Heck, that wasn’t breakfast, it was a whole week’s worth of groceries.

Sarah handed us our drinks and called out the cavalry to get busy on making tacos. When they were done it took two trays to haul it all out to our table and one for the tacos and one for all the hot sauce and pico de gallo to put on everything. For those of you dear readers who are out of the country, Texas, that is; “pico de gallo or peck of the rooster” is fresh jalapenos, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, all mixed together.  I looked across the table at the mountain of breakfast tacos and heard John ooohing and aaahing over how good it all tasted, and realized he was going to be a while and called Leonard to tell him I was going to be a little late.  

I was not going to be dragged out of bed this early by John and not get something to put in the newsletter, even if I had to force it out of him. The morning crowd was filing in to get their tacos and John’s pile attracted a lot of attention. I just kept my head down and avoided eye contact and waited. Soon he was done, and I informed him that it was rude to wake someone up as early as he did me without a day’s prior warning.  He told me he had a big meeting early that morning and had gotten to town the night before and spent the night and woke up hungry.  I listened closely, but never got anything that remotely resembled an apology so I just shook my head and moved on.  “I hope you have something really good for me this month,” I said evenly. “And you need to start talking because I have to get to work.” “Well,” he said. I don’t have much but one thing has been making me think since it happened.” I groaned …the day looked like it was going to get worse. I leaned back and motioned for him to bring it on.

He took a deep breath and began, “On our way out of Lodge after our last Stated Meeting several Brothers had congregated just inside the front door.  Among them were a newly passed Fellowcraft and his instructor. The instructor was sharing with the group that the new Fellowcraft had been trying to assign a meaning or symbolism to every word and phrase in the degrees and laughingly made everyone think that the Brother was wearing him out with all the questions.  The new Brother was enjoying the joke and as I walked up, he turned to me and asked what could possibly be the meaning behind one of the questions asked in the esoteric work of his first degree.  The question concerned how he knew there was a door blocking his path.  And the answer verifies the fact by reminding that at first, he could not proceed and later on he could.  In true amateur shrink form I asked him what he thought it meant. Due to his short time as a Mason, he could come up with nothing that told him why this particular part of his degree and the question and answer pertaining to it was important.

After a few moments of the group waiting for my answer, and none of the others offering an opinion, I told him, “I believe that, because you were in the dark at the time, that it was to impress upon you that entrance into a Lodge was not something automatic or easy. That there were tests to pass, promises to be made, and passwords to be given before you would be trusted with the knowledge and beauty to be found on the other side of that door.”

I waited a couple of seconds for a response but nothing was offered, just a few nods and a far off look in the eyes of the student.  I left them contemplating my answer, and as I drove home, I got to thinking about the Brother attempting to make sense out of all that had happened to him.  I acknowledged sadly that way too many Brothers new and old not only have no desire to, but have never even made the attempt to understand or make sense out of the lessons they are given.  Many others take a literal view of all that was taught them, and with only a basic understanding of their working tools are perfectly content with working at just a basic level of Masonry and many times reject the deeper philosophical study and discovery.

This rejection is not necessarily because they are not interested in the deeper meanings; rather it is often times because of something that I read a few years ago.  In a book that was explaining some of the deeper meanings, there was a phrase that stuck in my mind and it is the reason, I think, that many Masons don’t dig into the deeper meanings and mysteries of the Craft. The phrase was…… “Always in new knowledge we meet new intellectual frustrations because, every answer searched for and found, creates new questions”. “Oh wow, “I blurted out without realizing it.  “That’s absolutely true ….and it IS frustrating sometimes. But still, it’s all good.”

“Like I said, he snarled at me, obviously irritated that I threw my own opinion in there, “it’s not that they aren’t interested in the deeper meanings and philosophy…. in many cases they don’t have the time to continue searching for more and more answers.”  I nodded vigorously but didn’t interrupt as he rolled on, “This old world has changed so much in just one generation from a time when people actually had time for reflection, and time to read and study, to a world that is moving so fast, it is all but impossible to keep up. The men of this generation, and women, are growing their families in a time where their children are involved in sometimes two and three or more activities outside the school and church. Both husband and wife are being pulled in many, many different directions every minute of every day.  We are asking men, good men, our Brothers, to spend time…time that most of them don’t have, in thoughtful reflection, in study of their lessons, and in search of new meanings and truths within themselves.  And we are disappointed in them because they don’t seem to be spending enough of that time. Well, I assure you that they are more disappointed than we are, because they can’t. If there ever was a case for a strong Masonic Education program in our Lodges, this is it.

I am not sure that this will explain it properly so it can be clearly understood, but Masonry is like an engine in a car.  It has many different parts and systems and if the engine is to run the way it is supposed to, all the parts have to do what they are supposed to, when they are supposed to.”  I must have looked like I was not getting what he was saying because he frowned and said with an exasperated voice, “Brother Chris, I used the engine analogy to make sure you understood it.  You run an Auto shop, for God’s sake. It ought to be easy for you.” 

“You need to climb about two steps down off my rear end, there Brother,” I shot back at him. “I was getting it just fine, just waiting for you to make your point.”

He shook his head slightly as if I was full of it, and continued, “Like I was saying, I see Masonry as an intricate combination of words, symbols, emotions, AND timing.  All the different parts are equal in importance to the “engine” running properly, including the timing.  When a man petitions a Lodge for the degrees the engine starts.  As the process works its way through the reading, investigation, and then the ballot, the engine gains RPMs.  You understand RPMs, don’t you?” He said with a sarcastic grin.

As I fought the urge to reach across the table and beat him vigorously about his head and shoulders, he continued, “Then he is initiated into the Lodge, and with the engine Proms getting higher he learns his work and becomes a Fellowcraft, learns that work, and finally is raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, and then learns his Masters work.  Our new Brother has now learned all the fundamentals and is now ready to begin his personal journey of self- improvement and self -discovery. Now that engine is really cruising and running perfectly, just the way it was meant to run.  But, right about now is when things start breaking down.  That valuable part of that engine called time, malfunctions.  More often than not, the new Master Mason comes to the distressing realization that he is on his own from this point forward. He probably was never given a learned Brother to be his mentor. His instructor who may have mentored him to a certain extent, has other students to teach or may only have the questions and answers to give and not the meanings and now seems to not have any time for him. He attends meetings in hopes of finding that light he was told would be available to him. Instead, he has to listen to the usual motions and reports and a word by word reading of minutes of the last meeting which he sees as redundant since he was at that previous meeting and heard all of it then. He understands that business is part of the meeting but continues to hope for more knowledge of the Craft. He sits through other degrees hoping for things to become clearer all the while wishing he had the time to read and study, knowing that with his obligations to his job and his family that attending Lodge meetings is all his schedule will allow. While he enjoys the fellowship of his Brethren, the reasons why he became a Mason, the promise of deeper moral and spiritual truths and finding an understanding of his inner self does not seem to be a possibility.  The rpm’s of his engine have dropped significantly, and soon, feeling unfulfilled and maybe a bit taken advantage of, he allows himself to be drawn into other things and stops coming to Lodge.  He may continue to pay his dues out of a feeling of duty or obligation to something once believed in, but his growth as a Mason ultimately stopped as soon as he was raised. What I am trying to make you understand, Brother Chris, and what all of our Brethren need to understand, is that timing is very, very important and that a Brother’s journey must proceed immediately after his being made a Master Mason, and that the lack of Masonic education being given in the Lodges and especially at stated meetings effectively stops Brothers from growing within our Craft system and renders all of Masonry ignorant of its true mission and purpose.  Men do not become better men just because of the three degrees. Those teach the fundamentals, introduce them to the tools of their new trade, and provide a few basic examples of how to use them. They provide a basic education for a lifetime course of study and discovery, and to deny all Brothers the higher education we promised them is to make Masonry nothing more than a social supper club with a rather dramatic and interesting entrance requirement, instead of a rite of passage and transformation leading to a lifelong journey of building his inner being for the service of God, Family, Self, and all of Mankind.  This is why so many believe that Masonry has become irrelevant in this day and age, because we say that we do all these great things for men ………but we don’t. Maybe that is one of the reasons why many of our brethren are afraid to talk about the Fraternity, maybe deep down they see the contradiction between what we are supposed to be doing and what we really do.  I see more and more Brothers whose engines have broken down from lack of maintenance and neglect, disillusioned by finding out that what they were promised in Masonry and what they hoped for by being made a Mason, was instead a fraternity that had forgotten its purpose, had forsaken it’s duty……and had lost its way, and was now wandering in the wilderness possibly towards that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.”

He stopped and I was still writing on my napkin. I had forgotten my recorder and figured if I got the high points, I could fill in the middle later. My hand was shaking as I wrote. Dang, they were all high points and this was really good stuff. I looked up at John and I said, “I know you don’t use bad language Brother John, but I have to say, DANG, that was good. I didn’t know you had that in you.”

He had been looking off in the distance and that word brought him back. He smiled and said, “I will allow you that one, my Brother because I know how you are.”  I wondered what the heck he meant by that as he slid out of his chair and announced that he had to get on down the road to his appointment. I was ready to go too.  I waved at Sarah and the crew who were still in shock from all John had eaten. I followed him out to his truck and realized that the extra tacos he had ordered for the road he had already eaten. He shrugged and said that he would just have to get a snack later. I just laughed and shook my head and told him thanks for the material for the newsletter, shook his giant hand, and watched him roar out of the parking lot in a cloud of dust. On my way to work I got to thinking about that new Fellowcraft who was trying to figure it all out and I hoped that he continued to search for meaning in all that he experienced, but also that he wouldn’t stop at just the most obvious meanings. To do that would be to miss the real reward and beauties waiting for only those who are determined to find the most profound truths and the answers to life’s most hidden mysteries. Until we next meet….I wish you all well.