Don, one of my Masonic brothers, discovered after lodge tonight that his new Toyota station wagon had been broken into and a leather briefcase stolen. I listened in astonishment as he went through his car and listed the items that were not stolen—his cell phone, his .45, his other leather briefcase, his set of electrical tools, and his billfold with cash and credit cards. “That thief was really dumb to leave all this!” he exclaimed. I bit my lip.
No, Don is not dumb. Don is an optimist. As he put it, “I knew something like this could happen, but I never thought it would.” By comparison, I assume that “something like this” is practically guaranteed to happen, but that I can minimize the damage by preparing for it. I had not even left my bicycle outside during lodge, but had taken it indoors and locked it, and before lodge, I had been searching the Internet for ways to beef up my window security despite the two keyed locks and protective film that I already have on every window.
During lodge, I had listened in awe as Don spoke untold—and unwritten—pages of Masonic ritual flawlessly. Dumb he isn’t, except in a selective sort of way.
Lodge ritual is both sacred and something that is not to be taken too seriously. As with church liturgy, it is more beautiful when performed well, but it must also have heart. Otherwise, computers could be programmed to speak the words, and the people could sit back and listen. There are two parts to an ordinary meeting. There is the ritual part, and there is the business part, and the former is as beautiful as the latter is mundane. I thrive on the former. It lifts me out of myself. I speak and perform in an altered state. I simultaneously experience reverence and laughter. I feel connected with something that stretches around the world and through the centuries.
Don told us tonight that he recently met the Masonic Grand Master of Iran. If the man lived in Iran, he would be killed, so the temporary headquarters of the Iranian Grand Lodge is in Los Angeles. In this day of diminishing freedoms and privacies in my own country, I can at least be grateful that my situation is not so bad as what people in most times and places have suffered.
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