Sunday, December 12, 2021

‘Expect the unexpected (and the expected)’

I have to learn to expect the unexpected and remember to expect the expected.

Yesterday was one of my busy quarterly Saturdays, with the research lodge in the morning and AMD at night.

At New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786, we took it easy. Expecting many of the brethren needing to depart early for lodge installations, Christmas parties, and other idiomatic demands of the season, Worshipful Master Marty planned accordingly. One change that proved popular was substituting our usual luncheon for breakfast. It might sound like an obvious tweak for a lodge that meets in the morning, but this was a first for us after nearly twenty years at labor. The Master and Wardens prepared scrambled eggs and omelettes, pancakes and French toast, bacon and sausage, plus something called “pork roll” (Taylor Ham in the civilized part of the state), and more.

The brethren had one of those trade show table covers made for the lodge to use at large Masonic events here and there. (Marty photo)

It was very greatly appreciated, and could have been improved only with fine cigars, but we had the next best thing: Bro. Byron took to the lectern to discuss various commonalities he discerns in Masonic lodges and cigar shops. Or at least the type of tobacconist that offers a smoking lounge.

Both the lodge and the lounge are spaces where certain rituals, both individual and group, are followed to uphold harmony in human interactions. Not mere politeness, but an inspiring energy (“egregore” was a term used) that unites all present in a shared purpose. Byron spoke of the universality of smoke rituals, which reminded me of my long ago lecture on incense in Freemasonry. It was asked from the sidelines if maybe a good coffee place or bagel joint would function similarly, but the tobacco shop has the requisite peculiarity that beckons a specialized clientele sharing their unwonted pursuit.

Next up was the Brother Senior Warden, who was excited to tell us about Bro. John Bizzack’s book For the Good of the Order: Examining the Shifting Paradigm within Freemasonry. Bro. Don admitted how although this book spans about a hundred pages, he nevertheless feels compelled to read it a second and third time to harvest every informative notion from its pages. Bizzack, who ought to be a Blue Friar, explains the key to securing a future for the Craft is in embracing smallness for the fraternity and reverting to its neglected traditions and many standards of excellence. (A familiar message to regular readers of this blog.)

Bizzack is a longtime Board member of the Masonic Society. He is a principal of Lexington Lodge 1, the Rubicon Masonic Society, and other great elements in Kentucky Freemasonry. I am eager to hear back from him in the wake of the tornado there. He’s okay, and Lexington didn’t suffer badly.

Between this and the upcoming AMD meeting, I had to make up my rassoodock what to do with the day. The nearby movie theater made the choice easy: House of GucciI had a basic familiarity with the brand name, but I never knew they were killing each other! Elements of early Roman Empire and Shakespearean tragedy, but wrought in recent years. A great cast (Jared Leto as patetico Paolo!) led by that psychiatrist of film directing Ridley Scott.

And then it was time for J. William Gronning Council 83 of Allied Masonic Degrees. Fortunately both the council and the research lodge meet in the same space and on the same days because these meetings are far from Magpie Headquarters. If it’s December, this must be the annual meeting: elections, installation, housekeeping, and even some time for a short presentation from the lectern.

Bro. Tom was elected to the Sovereign Master’s chair, was qualified, and then installed. The rest of the officer corps was figured out after some confusion (several members have left for a newly chartered council, but haven’t withdrawn from Gronning) and there was much rejoicing.

Tom is well known for having attractive and unique pins made, and for generously sharing them. He presented each of us with one of these tokens of AMD membership.

Tom’s son, Steven, now Senior Deacon, spoke on the subject of money. The crypto part went over my head, but I think the gist of it was money, in whatever form, is symbolic. It can represent anything from the time of your working life to the freedom you might think you possess. Disquieting ideas for these worrisome times.

Like his father, Bro. Steven also is a gift-giver, handing each of us the pin he had commissioned for his tenure next year as Worshipful Master of Amwell Lodge 12. A pretty hefty one—about the diameter of a half-dollar.

One surprising detail I didn’t expect was the arrival of Tom’s dog, Mason, in the meeting. I’m told it’s something of a tradition.

And, what I completely did not expect was the near total indifference toward—and even lack of awareness of—the most recent scandal in the grand lodge. I’m pretty indifferent myself, but I’ll try to recap: the grand master removed the elected and installed senior grand warden from his station recently, alleging dereliction of duty. A few of the past senior grand warden’s friends vocally protested this. One, a prominent past grand orator, had his membership suspended last Thursday in the usual jerseyprudence: no charges, no trial, no due process. A past grand master was advised to cool it. A past district deputy grand master had his name put on a list.

Oh, man! There’s a good Gucci joke I could make here.

Anyway, at the research lodge, the brethren were aware of the problems, but were not interested. It’s just the “same old, same old” in the eyes of the wise. At AMD, hardly anyone seemed to know about it. Most of the brethren are a little older, and practically everyone, I think, is focused on the York Rite, with little, if any, concern for the grand lodge. I’ve been in both groups for two decades, so I should have known that, as focus groups, they would be unresponsive to this stuff. Sometimes you have to expect the expected.

UPDATE: A week later, it has become known that three of the past senior grand warden’s allies have been suspended per edicts from the grand master, pending the “preferment and disposition of Masonic charges,” for allegedly disrupting the peace and harmony of the fraternity with their protests on social media of the defrocking of their friend. Will they receive speedy, fair, etc. trials? I don’t know. I do know the lawyer who represents the grand lodge will enjoy many billable hours of income at the brethren’s expense.

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