The cost of harmony

I am in wonder that there is so much violence in the world, as it has been my experience that people will tolerate a great deal before they strenuously object to it—much less kill over it.

Two members of one of my lodges have clearly shown the desire to take control of the lodge. I began to suspect this months ago, but said nothing because tolerance of bad behavior is the norm, which is to say that we get along by overlooking one another’s sins, both venial and cardinal. However, their particular behavior became so egregious that I tried to address it in lodge. They misused their power to silence me, so I wrote a letter to everyone who regularly attends lodge. I mailed that letter Saturday, and spent the weekend contemplating the effect of the bomb that I had sent on its way.

I go to lodge tomorrow and also to the trustee’s meeting that precedes lodge. I dread both so much that I can hardly get them off my mind. I have already received an angry phone call from the one lodge member who does more than anyone else to set the tone for avoiding disharmony at all costs. Our exchange put me in mind of children who were molested by relatives and later bring verifiable accusations against their molesters. Oftentimes, it is not the molester who is ostracized, but the victim who “made trouble” by bringing the molestation into the open.

This is an example of why I have trouble explaining the level of violence in the world. One key to the dilemma might be that proportionately more governments commit violence against other governments than do individuals against other individuals; and I should think that everyone has witnessed instances of smaller groups treating a person worse than the individuals within those groups would have done. Such could be my lodge’s response toward me. If so, I won’t be surprised.

Even my caller agreed with the facts I related, my letter being largely a listing of egregious actions followed by an appeal for the lodge to retake control. Yet retaking control will require aggressive action, and it might be easier to simply blame me for creating disharmony.

Such considerations are among those that prevent me from trusting any group. People like to think that groups are definable, but the larger the group, the less it can be contained within a definition. The Freemasons, the Catholic Church, and the U.S. government, for example, have all done so much good and so much evil that it is difficult to tell which is weightier. Whether a given person sees these institutions as a curse or a salvation depends upon who he is and where and when he is alive. The important points are that groups are not human beings; they have more power than human beings; and they exceed our individual capability to rationalize.

But how am I to behave tomorrow? First, I will not defend my letter. I started it a month ago, gave it serious deliberation, made it as fair and accurate as possible, and won’t, therefore, back down from any of it. Second, I will enter the lodge more as an observer than a participant, i.e. from a standpoint of emotional neutrality rather than reactivity. Furthermore, I will re-read parts of Marcus Aurelius.

“When you feel that you simply cannot live if a person or a group of people disapproves of you, remind yourself of what kind of people they are. Ponder their limited intelligence, their fickle sentiments, their often base motives, and reflect upon how little their opinion is worth” (my paraphrase).