Some Real Masonic Reflection
You know, I can’t say that I would do anything for a free meal but when John called me and told me he was going to buy me lunch I just couldn’t say no. Even when he told me I had to meet him a ways south of town. The thought that he was scamming me crossed my mind but he usually finds some way to stick me with the tab anyway. He said he had a taste for some Italian food and there was a place he had eaten before called Gabriella’s that he really liked and if I wanted a free lunch I had better get on my horse and meet him. Well I haven’t ever named my truck or any of my vehicles like he named his (except for a couple of names I called it when it wouldn’t start) so I will just say I jumped in my truck and headed south hoping to get there before all the food was gone.
I arrived just after he did and found him sitting against one wall of the dining room with a gloomy look on his face just staring off into space. I slid into the chair across from him and asked how he was doing. He looked over at me and shook his head slowly and said in a kinda sad voice, “I’m ok Brother…… just a little melancholy. I just got back from the Valley and the wind was blowing like the dickens. The dust was terrible and I have been coughing and hacking for three days. I don’t feel good and I am in a bad mood.” “I am sorry John,” I replied. “You do look bad and sound terrible. So why did you want to meet for lunch? When I feel bad I don’t want to be around anyone.”
“I don’t really know,” he said slowly with a little smile. “Except that I didn’t want to eat alone, and I know that the newsletter is getting close to needing to get done.” He went silent all of a sudden looking at the menu. I saw him look up across the room a couple of times and figured he was looking for a waiter so I flagged one down and he quickly got our drink orders and went to get that for us. Soon he was back with two iced teas and said he was ready to take our order. I went first and ordered Lasagna because I like Lasagna and because John had told me it was the best. I was informed that it came with unlimited salad and bread which was good enough for me. He then turned to John who said, “Bring me two of them there Lasagna Plates with all the fixins. I also want a bowl of that spinach/artichoke dip as an appetizer (which I knew he wasn’t going to share) and throw a medium sausage and mushroom pizza in there too.” It was obvious that they had served John before because the size of his order didn’t cause a stir at all.
When the waiter asked if there was anything else he wanted, John looked up and said, “Yes there is. Every time I look across the room there is a feller over there staring at me. I don’t even know him. Can you ask him not to stare at me?” The waiter and I looked at the same time towards the other side of the room and the only thing in John’s line of sight was the opposite wall about 40 feet away. And the wall was actually a mirror which made the whole room look much bigger. I look at the waiter and he looked at me and the pained look on his face at the
realization that John was probably looking at himself was almost too much to bear and I tried hard not to laugh out loud. In John’s defense, the lighting in the room was low but the waiter and I both could see well enough. I could see the waiter struggling to keep a straight face too. I just couldn’t let it go and I asked John which guy he was talking about and he looked over and sure enough he was looking at himself in the mirror. Before I could say anything, John muttered under his breath, “That’s him right there.” Then he gave a kind of wave which of course was simultaneously returned. He then shrugged and looked up at the waiter and said, “Oh heck, he seems like a friendly enough sort. Don’t worry about telling him anything, and looked back down.” I was holding on by a thread and I looked at the waiter whose mouth was hanging open and was looking at John with total disbelief. That’s when I lost it. I laughed out loud for several minutes with John looking at me like I was crazy. The waiter had walked away shaking his head.
I didn’t have the heart to tell John so to change the subject I asked him if he had anything for the newsletter. To my shock and surprise he said, “No I don’t.” I must have looked like I had been slapped because he quickly continued, “I am still aggravated about a lot of the same old things and I am sure your readers don’t want to hear the same things over and over.” “I agree John,” I replied. “But I count on you having something profound to say. Heck the title of the column is about you” “Hey now, Brother Chris,” he shot back a little defensively. “Don’t get yourself too excited. We’ll figure something out. Surely there is something that YOU have going on that we can talk about.”
Yes, I was getting over excited, but the column wasn’t the Profound Pontifications of Brother Chris Williams for crying out loud. Brothers didn’t read the article to hear what I had to say. It was all about John. I opened my mouth to complain but before I could say anything our food showed up. I knew there was no talking to John now because he had a pile of food in front of him. He totally ignored me and set about consuming with serious concentration every single scrap of food within arm’s reach. Watching him, it was not hard to imagine that leftovers in the Deacon house were pretty much non-existent. As I sat there enjoying my Lasagna which was just as John had said, the best, I had time to think about John’s words. Was there anything going on with me that we could talk about? I thought and thought about it and the harder I tried, the less I came up with. Most everything at my Lodge and the Fraternity in general was good and I really had nothing much to complain about. This was not good. I didn’t know what we were going to do but I did know it was John’s fault.
Then as I sat there enjoying my lunch something did pop into my mind. I remembered that Jerod, one of my Lodge Brothers, had texted me a couple of weeks before with a picture of a bumper sticker he had seen on a car that he was sitting behind in traffic. When I saw it, I was a little shocked because it was not only blatantly false in its claim, but a serious accusation printed on a bumper sticker. I figured that John would surely have an opinion about that.
I finished as usual before him as he had about four times more to eat than I did and pulled the picture of the bumper sticker up on my phone to show him. There on the back bumper of the car was a sticker that said…..”Freemasonry, the seed of evil”…..and it had John Quincy Adam’s signature below it. John took my phone and squinted his eyes to see the picture….(I guess I should have told him that he could blow it up so he could see it better but….) He smiled and said, “ Ahhhh, yes I remember reading about John Quincy. He was our 6th President and he got beat out of a second term by Andrew Jackson who was a Mason. He really never got over the bad feelings of that defeat. He was also active and outspoken concerning the events surrounding the Morgan affair. And I remember seeing a quote of his that said that no true Christian could ever be a Mason. Heck he wrote a whole book on the evils of Masonry.
“But that’s pretty bad John,” I said. “First of all, it’s not true and secondly something like that shouldn’t be on a bumper sticker. I haven’t ever seen a bumper sticker or a sign that says something as bad as that about any organization.” “Actually,” he said slowly. “It might be more good than bad.” “Whaaaaat?!!” I snapped back at him probably a little louder than I meant to. How can you say that? Has that Lasagna overload killed off most of your brain function and the remaining cells are running for their lives?” I don’t have a clue what set him off but he was just silent for a few seconds and then I saw a little smile start to form and that smile became and grin and the grin a chuckle and then he leaned back and let loose with a long rolling laugh that had everyone in the room looking our way and most of them laughing too even though they didn’t know why.
I knew then he had lost his mind and I had sent him over the edge. Just as I was about to dial 911 he grabbed his napkin and wiped the tears out of his eyes and said, “I was just imagining those brain cells running for their lives from a piece of lasagna. Seriously, Brother Chris, you have to understand that there have always been, there are now, and there will always be those who dislike and even hate us and our Fraternity. But you have to try to understand why they hate us. To us it seems ridiculous because we ARE Masons and we KNOW what we are. Those that hate us don’t KNOW who we are. You and I have already beaten to death all the reasons why our Fraternity in particular is hated so much by certain people. I don’t think I have ever seen a company or organization of any kind that has all the negative things written about it that Masonry does. And we already know that we bring some of it on ourselves because too many of our Brethren simply do not know how to verbalize what Masonry is or what Masons are. But I think we haven’t talked much about what the effect, if any, are the negative articles on the internet, or the books written denouncing the Craft as evil or the cause of all things anti religious.”
Now I don’t claim to be the smartest Brother around and I could be totally off base about this but I think that the all the negative things actually may help us. I think it’s safe to say that all the negativity doesn’t hurt us all that much. The Morgan affair did hurt the Fraternity with respect to membership and you can say that it was devastating to a certain extent but I might argue that most of those Brothers who gave up their Masonic membership over the Morgan affair might not have had the character to be true Masons in the first place. There is no doubt that those who turned their backs on the Fraternity permanently and never returned, probably never had Masonry in their hearts. Who knows, possibly that purge might have done more good for the Fraternity than bad in the long run.
Masonry has stood the test of time. If there really existed within the Craft the evil that extremists contend, it would have been exposed to the world long ago. It is true that men of low character have infiltrated our Lodges from time to time whose only purpose is to satisfy their misguided and uninformed belief that Masonry has some deep dark ulterior motive than to simply make good men better. And when they find out that there is no conspiracy…..no evil, of course they remove themselves from the organization. But that doesn’t satisfy their need to disrupt and destroy. Just like we take the symbols of Masonry to help teach our moral lessons, they take some of those same symbols and attempt to convince others that their meanings are evil. These sad people have hate in their hearts and are going spread that hate in any way they can. Fortunately for us, we are not the only thing they hate. Unfortunately for them, their accusations cannot be sustained because they are easily proved false. And so Masonry survives and will continue to survive.”
“Ok John,” I interrupted, even though I know that irritates him. “I understand all of that. But how does the negative stuff help us. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He gave me a withering stare, which I expected, before giving me his testy reply, “My Brother, Masonry first and foremost is about quality…..not quantity. However, the more Masons we make, the more influence for good we can have on our world. The answer to every problem our Fraternity has, whether real or imagined, is in our failure to practice true Masonry. True Masonry is light….and light is knowledge. Therefore Masonry is knowledge… purely and simply, knowledge. Masonry must be LEARNED……PRACTICED……and PASSED. It really is that simple. Everything else we do from our dinners and fellowship, to our family programs, to our charitable activities, and everything else, is just icing on the cake. But too much of the time we consume only the icing and leave the cake.”
Then he stopped and looked around and waved our waiter over and asked, “What kinds of cake do ya’ll have?” Well, I thought my mind was going to explode. I almost reached across the table and grabbed him, “Wait, wait, wait, you can’t just stop in the middle of that talk and ask for cake.” He ignored me, as usual, and asked for a double slice of double chocolate….or in his
words “choke-let” cake. The waiter left to get John’s cake and he turned back to me and said, “Ok now where was I?” “You were about to get happily beaten by your Brother,” I said through clenched teeth. “I understand the cake and icing analogy completely. And I know that our membership issues have everything to do with most Lodges failure to give our Brothers, both new and old, what they thought they were going to get when they submitted their petition. And I know that it stems from the fact that Masons can’t just practice Masonry, and teach this system of moral development as it was meant to be taught, without injecting their own ideas of what men want and what they don’t. What I want to know is how anti-Mason statements and writings help rather than hurt us and no cake until you finish.”
I knew I had about as much chance of enforcing that last statement as I have of winning the Lotto, but I was hoping to get him to concentrate. “OK, Brother Chris,” he said with a half smile. “I believe, and this is my opinion only, that most men who see something like that bumper sticker don’t even care about it and will never give it a second thought. There will be some who will cluelessly agree. But there will also be some who will see that and wonder what it all means. Those will be men and maybe some women who are inquisitive, intelligent and thinking people who will want to know what the heck it all means and will take a moment to find out. And when they do, and they see that Masonry is a good and worthwhile organization, I believe that the seed of them becoming Masons is planted. As for a woman seeing it, I believe that any woman would be happy to have her husband be part of an honorable an organization such as Masonry and her learning the truth about our Fraternity can only be a good thing.
These are the kind of men that we need in Masonry and as for the bad bumper sticker, because of the pure and honorable principles of our order, there is nothing to fear from anti-Masons. They have tried to destroy Masonry many times and have always failed because Masonry is good. And you cannot destroy good.” Just then John’s cake arrived and I was left alone with my thoughts. It takes him a while to get to the point sometimes, as it is with a lot of Masons I know, but when he does I usually like it and agree with it. I hoped I could write it all down without losing the importance of some of his words. I sure do wish that all Lodges and Masons would get back to being students and teachers. I liked Learn, Practice, and Pass…….Learn well how to be a Mason, Practice the teachings and lessons in all your daily life, and Pass them on you your Brethren and all of mankind.
My daydreaming was interrupted by John’s agitated voice. He had finished his cake and was looking across the room again. “Dang if that old boy ain’t still a looking at me,” he said. “I am just going to have to go over there and see what it is he is staring at.” “Whoa up there John, I said quickly. Maybe you ought to just forget about it. He hasn’t caused you any trouble. “You are right Brother Chris but he just won’t stop. I ain’t caught him looking anyplace else and it’s starting to bother me.” “But John, going over there is not going to make you feel any better,” I
said softly. “Trust me on this. Consider this one Brother whispering good council in another Brother’s ear.”
He was just staring at the wall and then without another word he abruptly stood up and made a beeline for the wall. Well of course what he saw was the “other guy” quickly getting up and walking towards him and that startled him a bit cause he suddenly stopped, a little unsure all of a sudden. It was kinda comical…John and the “other guy” standing there staring at each other. It looked like the beginning of an old episode of Gunsmoke and the gunfight they all started with.
All of a sudden John took one step as did his reflection and then another and then one more and he stopped. By this time, his weird behavior had gotten the attention of all the diners and employees in that part of the room and they were sitting there enthralled by John having a showdown with his reflection in the mirror on the wall. I was like everyone else, frozen in place, waiting to see what was going to happen.
Suddenly I saw his body language change as he realized his mistake…….and like a slap in the face it hit me that he was going to be embarrassed in front of everyone. And really I don’t care if he gets embarrassed in front of me ……but I didn’t want him to be embarrassed in front of the whole room full of people. I don’t even remember getting up but I quickly walked past him pointing at the floor next to the mirror wall motioning him to follow….which he did with a confused look on his face. We got to the wall and I bent down and placed my ring that I had taken off on the floor so that no one could see. Then I picked it up and handed it to John. He looked at it for a second and then the realization hit him and he smiled, grabbed my hand, palmed my ring back to me, gave me a big John Deacon hug, and whispered in my ear, “I should have listened to good council.” Then he turned and walked out the door. I walked back to the table to get my coat and all I could do was laugh. There on the table was our bill. Some things never change. Y’all get back to being students and teachers, ok? There’s a lot of happiness in it. See you next month.