The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

Ritual is not a Competition

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I am in a tough spot. As the district instructor of work, I am supposed to teach the ritual, help lodges become self-sufficient, encourage brothers to learn the catechisms and the regular work, and more. I like doing all this. It gives me a sense of generativity, that I am passing something on to others who perhaps would not have had it otherwise, and hopefully making a positive difference in the fraternity.

The downside to all this is the ritual schools I have to attend, which I do not particularly enjoy. Continue reading

Managing a Resurgance in Masonic Ritual

sheep-350A resurgence in brothers wanting to learn the Masonic ritual, whether to sit in a chair, return a catechism, deliver a lecture, or simply just for their personal edification, is a good thing. That is where we, as an organization, want to head. However, it is not always easy to manage. It can be a bit like herding sheep, trying to keep them going in the same direction and making sure they do not stray too far off course but also making sure none of them gets left behind. Overall, though, this is a great problem to have.

I can only speak from my own observations and experiences on this topic. When I joined my lodge, we seemed to be at a low point in terms of ritual proficiency among the line officers. What I observed was that the officer positions changed frequently and that those who sat in for the officers seemed to struggle quite a bit with what to say and do. Our senior wardens for two years in a row did not advance to the East and did not receive their certificate of competency that would allow them to preside as masters of the lodge.
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Zen and Freemasonry: Expertise and the Beginner’s Mind

darumaPart of Zen practice is developing the beginner’s mind, that sweet spot from which everything looks new. It is a conscious process of releasing the fetters that bind us to rules and often unconsciously guide our actions and beliefs. All things become possible and we delight in the moment. We sit back and reflect on the path toward expertise that has led us back to a point of newness.

Some experts in expertise (yes, they really exist) believe that in order to do something with any sense of proficiency you have to do it about 10,000 times. That is quite a tall order. I don’t think I have done anything 10,000 times. Who counted repetitions to that high number and then made the determination that someone was an expert? To put it in perspective, if you do something once per day, it would take more than 27 years to have done that thing 10,000 times. The numbers are less important than the concept that doing something three times does not make a person an expert or even proficient. You have to do it a lot.
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New Masonic Apron, All Fancy Like

Masonic ApronI got a new Masonic apron recently. The Grand Lodge of Virginia made me the District Instructor of Work here in District 54 in Northern Virginia. Not all grand lodges have this position. What it means is that I am responsible for teaching the Masonic ritual and helping the lodges in my district become ritually self-sufficient. I will be running a monthly ritual school, which I have been assisting with anyway, and will be in charge of examining members in my district as they prepare for their certificates of qualification to become masters of their lodges.

Believe it or not, becoming master of a lodge, at least in Virginia, is not a matter of simple succession, or should not be, anyway. Here you have to demonstrate competency in the ritual of opening and closing the lodge and conferring the three degrees. There are some other things to learn as well, but this is the bulk of it. If you can get that far, the rest of the stuff will not bother you too much.

As my first invited visit to a lodge in my new capacity, I will be presenting a program on the importance of the ritual in our Masonic activities. If it is well received and somewhat coherent I will post it here. If not, I will probably ask that people forget it. In all seriousness, I feel honored to have been selected for this role and will discharge my duties as best I can.

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