Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Redwoods and Blue Lodge

Ninety-four. Ninety-four men packed Tyrian Lodge - a room with only 68 chairs - for my Official Visit. I will honestly never get used to the feeling I get walking into a room filled beyond capacity - there is none like it. Thank you all for supporting your Lodges, Officers and me during this Visitation season. It has been a delight for me. I hope it has been enjoyable for each of you as well.

We had much on the Trestleboard this evening. I was privileged to present three Brothers with their Fifty Year Emblems and also to give a 60 year wreath to another Brother. We also awarded the final Trowel this evening. I will post more on that later.

When called upon, I gave the following remarks:
Redwoods and Blue Lodge
Okay, so what’s the difference between a Freemason and a Giant Sequoia? That is not actually the beginning of a riddle, but it turns out that the answer may actually be “a lot less than you might think.”

In coastal California where the conditions are right, the Giant Sequoia tree can typically grow to be over 200 feet tall with several having been documented at well over three hundred feet. Amazingly, a tree of this height typically would have root system that does not go much deeper than eight feet. So how does a tree that is more than a football field high manage to survive the strong coastal winds with such a shallow root system? They do something very interesting. Instead of a deep taproot anchoring them to the ground, they send shallow roots more than a hundred feet outward. In a redwood forest, the trees are closer together than that, so when examined closely, one would find the roots of several trees interlocked with one another. You see, they do not rely on their individuality, but their interconnectedness to give them strength.

While Masonry is in many ways a truly individual journey, a Mason, just like the Sequoia, needs to rely on his Brothers for strength. That strength can come in many forms. Depending on where each man finds himself in his Masonic pilgrimage, it can be defined as the patience of a mentor with a frustrated student, the encouragement of a Master to his Officers, the Charity of the Lodge to a Brother in need or the strong grip of a friend each of us has felt within these walls.

You see, for Masonry to thrive, there must exist a willingness to receive support as well as the ability to give it. That may mean asking for help with your ritual, but then remembering that you do not have the right to grumble when the Master calls an extra practice. It means giving freely of your strengths to your Brothers and supplementing your weaknesses with the their assistance thereby growing as a group.

Another interesting thing about the Sequoia is that they are often found growing in distinctly shaped groups; either in a line or a circular pattern called a cathedral. The trees growing in a line come from a parent tree that has fallen down. Those branches that are pointing upward after the parent has fallen will actually begin to root and become trees in their own right, each one separate and distinct from the original tree that fell. In the same way, we introduce good and upright men to Freemasonry with the hope that when we leave this earthly home, they will stay behind. And if their thoughts are focused heavenward (meaning we have taught them well), they too will grow to become the leaders of our Lodges and keep this great Fraternity alive.

The trees growing in a circular pattern, or cathedral, are trees that have sprung up from the roots of a fallen tree. Though the body of the parent tree is gone, the roots see to it that the community carries on by sending up saplings. As these saplings begin to root, they are able to weave themselves quickly into the already intricate root system of the parent plant, giving themselves immediate support to grow straight and true. In the same way, Masons, as we labor, provide support for future generations. If each of us is true to our calling, we will leave behind a strong foundation upon which each successive generation can build.

Another interesting adaptation of the Sequoia is its ability to take in water through its leaves. You see, these trees can grow nearly anywhere, but the area of coastal California where they thrive has a peculiar type of climate. In areas without regularly occurring fog, the tree’s height is limited to the distance it can push water vertically from the root system toward the upper leaves, but the near constant morning fogs of the region allow the upper leaves to supply their own water by pulling it from the heavy air, thereby allowing the trees there to grow to heights unattainable in any other place.

So it is with Masonry. It is possible to go through life without thinking about whence we came or whither we travel, and often, outside of this sanctuary, that is exactly what we see. However, the man who stops and ponders those questions, the man who realizes he comes from something greater than himself and has a duty to his Creator to be the best man he can be – that man begins to use the upper leaves of his intellect to not just survive but to thrive. Just like the roots supplying water, we bring some light and knowledge to our new members, but it is not until those men begin to use their own intellect, discerning life’s important truths for themselves, that they truly grow to their fullest potential as men worthy of the name Freemason.

When you leave here tonight, ask yourself if your root system is spread out far enough. If not, strive to give more support to your Lodge. Ask yourself if you have introduced worthy men to this Fraternity. If not, resolve to for we are never more than a generation from extinction. Make sure you are helping to build the strong foundation for the future – leaving behind a cathedral in which other worthy men can dwell. Lastly, remember always that we are here by the grace of the Great Architect of the Universe and to Him we will each someday return; that our time here is to be used shaping the ashlar of our lives. Each action we take either helps or hurts that process. Promise yourself that if you are the only Mason someone knows, that person will look up to you as he would a Sequoia; as a giant among men towering over a forest of mediocrity below.

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