My Brother


My Brother

Article  2003 by R. W. Brother Len Wyllie Summerland No. 56, Summerland, B.C.
Originally presented March 22nd 2003 at Oliver B.C.
For District 10's Masonic Day

Good Morning Brethren!

The topic I wish to discuss today I have labeled "My Brother".

I wish to convey various thoughts I have regarding some strengths that we have
and must use to nurture, and propagate our gentle Craft in order to not only
survive -but to flourish in this 21st century.

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that like most of us, my thoughts and
ideas are derived to a large extent from what filters out as a building block
base supported by what I read and what I learn first hand from acquaintances.
The G A O T U has given us the capability to reassemble and regurgitate, (if you
will), this building block base so that it appears as new information but mostly
it is, as I have said, a collection of information from others.

The words "my brother" can conjure in the mind a wide variety of subjects and
connotations, but today I wish to restrict my remarks to what we as Freemasons
call "disinterested friendship".

Don't let those words fool you ---there is not any real disinterest, it is just
a clarification or distinction of our brotherly love for one another. We
restrict ourselves to assuming the same interests as one biological brother to
another.

In my humble opinion there are two levels of our interaction with each other as
Brethren of the craft.

Firstly, we know that there are many hundreds of thousands of Masons that we
don't even remotely know as acquaintances. As well, there are several hundred
within a closer sphere that we have met once or twice but are really not part of
our immediate Masonic friends. We know that to all these Brethren we have met or
not met we have a common bond as Brothers by our acceptance of the same Masonic
principles and ideals. That without the need to become personally familiar we
can carry on with whatever human interactions are at hand, and that the
foundations are laid for us to become friends without fear of underlying
motives.

Secondly, we have the more immediate realm of friendships -that is; the Masons
we know very well in our District and Grand Jurisdiction and more especially
those with whom we share the same Lodge. It is on this closer circle of Masonic
friendship that I would like to focus this talk because that is where we must
concentrate our efforts to become closer to one another as Freemasons. I believe
that becoming closer to one another within our Lodges and District will not only
result in further strengthening of our fraternity but our feelings towards one
another will also exude a more favourable impression on the public at large
because like it or not, our organization is transparent in this regard.

Through this presentation I wish to discuss a few of the important aspects of
our Masonic relationships that I think we take for granted and that I see we
occasionally stumble on. I believe that if we recognize what are generally
deemed to be interpersonal skills as strengths that we can build on, the results
can only benefit our beloved fraternity.

The following are excerpts from a paper I presented many years ago:

Brethren, I ask you to reflect back, when you first became a Freemason -did the
significance of a simple handshake change dramatically for you? It certainly did
for me!

What to me was a time-honoured ritual of greeting or meeting someone for the
first time and where the act of shaking hands was just a relatively meaningless
formality, after my initiation it immediately took on new significance. A
handshake acquires new meaning with much more intensity and substance because
now the person I greet for the first time could be a Brother Freemason; and the
Brother I do know of course, I get great pleasure in greeting him.

What is it that allows us to feel more comfortable when greeting one another as
Brethren? It is that as brothers within our gentle craft we are all partakers of
the same basic principles and have shared similar experiences --all of which has
created incredibly strong inherent bonds throughout which are woven with
informal and unspoken ties.

All that we accept and practice we do voluntarily --of our own free will and
accord which, of course, has tremendous significance in that what we stand for
and practice, is without external motives, pressure, or coercion, and comes from
within the heart of every Brother. We feel secure in that as Brothers we are
admonished not to cheat, wrong, or defraud, but on the contrary to support every
Brother in all his lawful undertakings ---that those basic tenets of our
institution instill in us a sense of honesty, integrity, and moral fibre that
will withstand the tests of human corruption.

I expect that my Brother in applying his Masonic skills to life's situations
will practice the correct way to treat people, with polite manners and social
customs, and that he will be ever mindful of the dignity of others which
includes my dignity and he has the propensity and inclination to follow
society's rules.

When I greet him without knowing or caring about his station in life we will
meet on the level and treat each other as equals. I anticipate that he stands
for the dissipation of discord and dissention and that our meeting will not
become confrontational but through prudent discourse will end in harmony.

Again these are the basic principles by which we anticipate that we can build
relationships on. These basic principles however need to be further refined and
defined in the process of building and maintaining the all-important
relationships within our close circle of Brethren.

I think we can all agree that our world has changed and continues to change
dramatically. Our current way of thinking has more scientific emphasis and I
would suggest less import on authority, traditions and things held sacred.

Have you not noticed that we tend to jump or act more quickly to resolve a
situation than our forefathers did? The other day I heard an interesting story
that illustrates this point.

It's about a man who was working in his shop out back when he noticed his
eight-year-old daughter standing beside him. When he stopped working his
daughter asked "Daddy what are sex?" The man thought quickly that even though
she was very young she deserved a straight answer; so he painstakingly described
human reproduction in great detail along with the joys and responsibilities of
intercourse. When he finished explaining the little girl was looking at him with
her mouth hanging open and her eyes as big as saucers and seeing the look on her
face her father asked her "why did you ask this question honey?"

Because Mommy sent me out to tell you that lunch would be ready in a couple of
secs.

We pride ourselves on the antiquity and history of Freemasonry but will our
ceremonies and ritual satisfy future generations? Along with others I feel that
the future will demand a better understanding of what Freemasonry really is. I
am convinced that a silent example of men with personal integrity, who display
the moral and social virtues of good men who do the right thing for
righteousness sake will prevail and fill the social gaps left by the new age.
Our task in this regard is to promote an awareness that connects these visibly
good men to Freemasonry and its ideals.

We must make the welcoming of new members a very important part of what we do in
Lodge. It is the experiences of their first few months and years that will
determine how they view Freemasonry for the rest of their life. That is why I am
personally fully committed to our mentor program. It gives the new Mason the
foundation and some tools he will need in the "pursuit of happiness" over his
Masonic career. The Mentor program fills some of our future needs by helping new
members understand the value of Freemasonry in a more timely fashion.

I believe our Lodges should strive for better Masons rather than more Masons.
There is a story about a man who was considering offering himself as a candidate
to Freemasonry. He gave himself the initial task of selecting one of two Lodges
in his area. After he was made a Freemason a friend asked why he had selected
his particular Lodge. His reply was that after interviews, to him the selection
was easy in that one Lodge was very interested in him as a candidate the other
was interested in him as a man. Which do you think he chose?

It is my firm belief that; although we can make our meetings more interesting by
social events and Masonic education, the driving force that brings Masons
together is our fellowship when we meet; whether at Lodge meetings or by chance
encounters on the street. It does not take very long for a new Mason to realize
that he can expect to form new friendships and continue to form new friendships
for the rest of his life. He realizes that some new friends will be closer than
others and that in itself is okay. However, one of the major dangers we have in
our Masonic organization is when that realization of making and keeping friends
fails him. This can lead to a change in his priorities and to move Freemasonry
way down or even off his list of personal involvement. When a man's attendance
becomes irregular or he stops coming to Lodge it suggests that his priorities
have changed. It is our duty to find out why his priorities have changed so that
we may make remedial changes. To do that we must be able to talk to that man as
knowing him well -as Brothers.

Some of the other potential reasons for changing a man's priorities are (and
these are what spurned me to prepare this talk) :

We don't make it easy for someone to say no when asked to do a job.

We don't make it easy for someone to get out of a commitment.

We don't say enough "how are you doing with your task / your life?"

We sometimes don't mentor the Worshipful Master who is occupied with day-to-day
and current issues and not necessarily long-term activities or decisions. We
sometimes don't help him find someone to do a job.

We don't have a "board of Elders", for lack of a better term, that can shape the
destiny of a Lodge.

Nor do we have anyone overseeing how things are going with individuals who have
jobs within the Lodge or with committees who are tasked to do something. We must
be concerned about the emotional impact on a person performing a task -not
purely looking at it from a functional point of view (i.e. how the project is
coming along).

The ideal is that Lodge meetings should produce the effect of senior members
giving direction but reality is that often doesn't happen. Perhaps that is why
you see some Lodges being run by an individual such as a secretary who by
default makes all the decisions (because somebody has to do it) and then he is
chastised for making all the decisions.

We can't expect a WM who is in the job for one year to make all the decisions.

Brethren, quite often on this day we stand here and say "I know I'm preaching to
the converted because you are here, however, this is one time when I won't say
that, because what I am discussing starts here - today within ourselves.

I believe we can fill some of the gaps as I have described by sincere open
discussion and a sincere desire to be honest with ourselves. To get to that
point of good frank discussion we must be close to our Masonic Brethren. We must
make a concerted effort to elicit the views and feelings of all members not just
a few. If the formality of our lodge meetings impedes input from some members we
must recognize that and solicit their opinions at B o G P meetings or by
face-to-face discussion. It is important that every Brother feel that he is not
left out, that the Lodge welcomes his views and as we say "He has had his just
due" It is important for us to recognize that it won't just happen -we have to
work at it.

We must make our Masonic activities and social fellowship attractive to existing
members and prospective members alike.

We must be careful not to just associate with our perceived like-minded masons;
for this creates what appears to be "cliques". I say perceived because sometimes
we don't spend enough time to fully understand others. They may be like-minded
more than we realize.

We must be open and ask others am I doing a good Job? We don't always make good
decisions even though they appear fine on the surface. Occasionally it is only
after the test of time and trial that errors are detected. We must be open
minded in our approach to fix what needs fixing.

Take for instance when the smoking in restaurants issue was in its heyday and
the Government decreed that there be specific smoking sections in eating
establishments .and we were so happy. I ask you - is there any difference in
creating a peeing section in a swimming pool? It took us a long time to figure
that out.

We must be especially sensitive and caring to the requirements of those who are
ill, in addition to those Brethren whose age is changing their needs, or where
circumstances have dramatically altered the life of a brother such as the loss
of a loved one.

Finally and most importantly we must practice openness and tolerance: Openness:
- to feel free to discuss delicate issues, human issues that are important to
making and keeping good relationships. Because we are all different, think and
act differently, we must get to know one another sufficiently so that we can
converse on a level that will promote friendship and at the same time avoid
discord. We need to be able to recognize conversations or deeds that could
offend some but not others and exercise that knowledge in our day-to-day
dealings with fellow Lodge members. We must learn to communicate with all within
our close circle and communicate we must.

Tolerance: - We have to assume an attitude that is completely tolerant of the
views and ideas of our fellow Brethren. We may feel that their idea or point of
view is wrong but we must recognize that they have their own reasons for their
expressions and it is not our lot to judge them for that. We all say or do
things that later we wish we could take back. Well, we can openly try to take
them back by being honest with ourselves and try to right those wrongs and to
quickly and easily forgive those transgressions by others. I know from personal
experience that I have offended others -albeit not consciously -and I am always
extremely grateful to the person who points this out so that I can try to make
amends. That is important to me! I think all of us here know members of the
craft who for one reason or another are in some level of emotional dispute with
other Masons. Are these disputes really important in the Grand scheme of things
? I sincerely believe that good honest discussion would make these disputes
non-existent. We each must learn to seek out and accept admonitions from others
as support and try to correct situations, if possible, and at the very least
have some concord by "agreeing to disagree"

Brethren -You can make a difference!

I ask you to consider and to practice that openness, tolerance and to express a
genuine interest in your fellow Freemason, the man you call My Brother.

Be a true Brother to him.