Sunday, May 6, 2012

Growing Down

This address was delivered at Infinity Lodge No. 546 on March 14, 2012.  Infinity Lodge is in the process of merging Penn Brotherhood Lodge No. 635 into theirs.  The new Lodge will be a combination of ten previous Lodges.  While this is in many ways a sad commentary on the realities of modern life and the competition for a man's time, Infinity Lodge is one of the most charitable and caring Lodges around.  My Vist there, as it always does, energized and uplifted my soul.

Growing Down 

I find you there in all these things
I care for like a brother.
A seed, you nestle in the smallest of them,
and in the huge ones spread yourself hugely.

Such is the amazing play of the powers:
they give themselves so willingly,
swelling in the roots, thinning as the trunks rise,
and in the high leaves, resurrection.
Rilke, The Book of Hours I, 2

I chose that poem as the epigraph for this talk with the intention of using the growth of a tree as a metaphor for a Masonic Lodge.  I read it, reread it, leaned back at my desk and searched the sky for inspiration, or at least a starting point. 
I started searching for new poems and new stories to inspire me.
Then finally it hit me.  The tree would really be quite a good symbol for a Masonic Lodge if. . .  
If it grew backward.
If each individual Mason was a leaf that stood on its own and the gentle wind of commonality blew us all together, would not that Mystic Tie of our Brotherhood begin to connect us twig by twig?  Small groups of men would join for the common purpose of self-improvement.  As those men met others nearby, they might realize that connecting their branches into a common trunk would give them strength and stability – support for the work that Masons do.  That trunk would put down roots, weaving itself into the ground of the community in which it wants to grow and to which it wants to give protection, shade and comfort.
That’s what I see happening here.  Over the last 100 years or so the branches called Braddock’s Field, Fort Pitt, Homewood, Delta, Justice, Penn, Fox Chapel, Duquesne, Beta and Swissvale Lodges are now poised to be one great tree right here in Penn Hills.  That tree – this Lodge – brings shelter to the school that it neighbors, shade and comfort to those in need and support to the Charities of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
To continue the metaphor, once our tree has established roots, it must feed to grow.  That food can come in the form of new members.  Each Lodge this year will be required to hold an open house.  Opening our doors to those who know nothing about Freemasonry, what we stand for or the good works we do, is one simple way to attract men of good character who want to make themselves better.  At the Pennsylvania Masonic Congress held in March, a survey was taken and the number one reason those men listed for joining a Lodge was that men they admired were already Masons.  We need to open our doors so that we may inspire others to join our ranks.
Once they have entered, we must teach them.  We need to begin to see the Master/Apprentice relationship as more than allegorical.  We must use the Mentor Program developed by Grand Lodge to impress upon the newest Brother our history, our ideals and our mission.
The Online Education program of the Grand Lodge allows all Pennsylvania Masons to take classes on Masonic Law, History of the Craft and the Mentor program with new classes to be added soon.  Each of you should sign up that you might be better equipped to tell a non Mason friend why you’re proud to be a Freemason.
The Grand Master’s theme for his term is “Freemasons: Master Builders. Building for our Future.”   He has given us many ways to nourish our trees.  The Grand Master’s Award for the Lodges who earnestly attempt to make themselves better, the Master Builder’s Award for new Masons who complete a list of items designed to make them active, educated and useful members of the Lodge as well as the other tools I mention above are all food to help our hungry plant thrive.  In return we are asked to do some hard work.  We have been asked to donate funds to the Library and Museum this year and the Masonic Children’s Home next year.  We are expected to open our doors and become beacons in our community where good men gather to do great things.  In short we are tasked with being good Masons.
I would like to close with a poem by Rumi.  To me, it illustrates the connectedness that we all must have to those around us and how that connectedness – like our tree - can lift us all into greatness.
How does part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?
Don't try to put out a fire by throwing on
more fire. Don't wash a wound with blood.

No matter how fast you run, your shadow
more than keeps up. Sometimes it's in front.
Only full, overhead sun diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break the glass cover
on your heart, and there is no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings
sprout on your soul, be quieter than a dove.
Don't open your mouth for even a cooooo.
~ Tr. Coleman Barks

No comments:

Post a Comment