Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rough Ashlar No. 5

I opened the first of the Rough Ashlar posts by noting that doubtlessly those of our brethren resistant to the idea that working on the rough ashlar means changing that with which one is comfortable, will accuse me of being unjustly critical of the status quo. I thank them for the complement. I am simply noting the truth. If someone doesn't find the truth comfortable, change it.

My topic today is on grumpy old men. I am looking in the mirror as I write this hoping that I will not, as Jackson Browne wryly noted in one of his songs, hear my own words offered back to me.

I am well aware that it is a common if not inevitable human response to resist change. We become comfortable and perhaps, at a certain point in our lives, simply do not wish to deal with further change, especially when we have lapsed into romantic nostalgia concerning our own fictive past. However, there is I believe, a special sort of grumpy old man endemic in mainstream masonry today. I know a few of them. Apart from their extreme orneriness when it comes to facing uncomfortable realities, they are mostly decent folk.

They are none the less, impediments to the survival of Freemasonry, and their behaviors are decidedly un-masonic. Perhaps, they may be forgiven. I have been reminded from time to time by my loved ones that I can be a pain in the ass. Guilty as charged.

Maybe they are right and there is no such thing as masonic education, and that each individual has to do that themselves. I was laboring under the delusion that I was given one. Indeed, part of my masonic education included the idea that one needed to apply critical thinking to all subjects, even when it leads us to unpleasant realizations.

Freemasonry is in need of change. If it is to survive as a significant institution, it must embrace the 21st century in ways that mainstream masonry at least, has been loath to do thus far. Grumpy old men who call anyone who upsets them, un-masonic, are part of the problem, not the solution.

The focus of this Rough Ashlar isn't really grumpy old men. They are only the delivery system of the message that sometimes human institutions get so stuck in the past that they are willing, like the proverbial lemmings, to run en masse over the cliff into oblivion rather than accept that change is not only inevitable, but necessary.  Calling the messengers of this truth "un-masonic" is itself un-masonic. It denies the good intentions of the messenger, it casts them in the role of the bad guy, and it denies reality.

I may be a grumpy old man myself. At least though, I am one who is open to change and cares more about seeing an institution which he values survive than seeing it become no more than a fond memory of the past.

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