Sunday, December 2, 2018

Expecting a Different Outcome or Looking For One?

There's an old adage that the only stupid decision is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different outcome. I think that applies pretty succinctly to the periodic efforts at rousing concern over and responding to the decline of the Craft in modern times.

I'm not going to opine that Freemasonry is dying; nor will I suggest that revival is only a few smart insights away. The majority of articles and posts on this subject take one of those two tacks. They usually throw a lot of numbers into the mill, no doubt having learnt that financial reports and business meetings are the only real Royal Secret we have, or at least the only secret the majority of us remember.

I would like to share some thoughts, or perhaps more accurately, the seed of a thought that may give birth to some useful ideas. Perhaps we have been looking at this all wrong.

One school of thought says we are on our way out and there's nothing we can do about it. Freemasonry will take its place alongside the Elks and a dozen other lesser fraternal orders. Another thinks there's nothing at all wrong and we just have to do what we have always done, just a little harder. The third school thinks pretty much the same thing except that there is some new technique we simply haven't figured out, and when we do, all will be well. Minor variations include meditations on the merits of scaled-down efficiency. What both these last two perspectives share in common is magical thinking. Magical thinking will not bring us a solution that will please us. Neither will any pedestrian, conservative ideas.

The notion that something has to radically change tends to get shot down by most schools of thought the moment it is brought up. Of course, we all know that in Freemasonry the swiftest way to be branded a heretic is to use the c-word. Change.

But it needn't be the heart of what is Freemasonry that needs change. Well, ok, Freemasonry needs to lose the business meetings, for sure, and most of the masons who manage the kitchens need to be retired, too.

However, maybe it isn't the content, but the structure that has failed us. Maybe, just maybe, we really have come to a point where the idea of independent lodges which may or may not join loose affiliational organizations makes more sense than the Grand Lodge model. Maybe, if that is too much for some to cope with, we should experiment with inverting that relationship.

In Scotland, as Bob Cooper has pointed out, the independent attitudes of individual lodges is so strong that the Grand Lodge of Scotland, on occasion gets up enough courage to offer a tentative suggestion. What it doesn't have however, is any kind of real control. That state of affairs might be exactly what North American Free

Without a doubt, most, if they think about any of these vague ruminations for more than a minute, will quickly table them. But I will say one thing which nobody will be able to contradict:

If we do not find creative ways to adapt to the challenges we are facing, change will be forced upon us. It will not be at anyone else's hands. Change will come to Freemasonry, either because we mold that change with intention, or because we have allowed it to happen through our own inaction.

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