Perfection Is No Substitute For Excellence
Bro. George Steberl III
J.W. Alpha Lodge #729 F & AM, Kettering, OH
I once overheard a Brother making a comment to another Brother about the work that had been done that evening by the Worshipful Master in the conferring of the Entered Apprentice Degree. Referring to the presentation of the working tools, he pointed out that what had been said was "whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and distressed worthy Brethren, eight hours for our usual vocations and eight hours for refreshment and sleep." He then pointed out that you only say "eight hours" the first time and only "eight" the last two times. While I'm sure that the motivation was more to demonstrate his familiarity with the Ritual than a petty criticism of the Master, in my mind it didn't come out that way.
In the past 21 years that I've been a member of the Craft I have often heard such comments. I've seen Past Masters mumble under their breaths the words of the lectures as they are being presented, only to feign shock and disgust when they "thought" they had caught the lecturer in a forgotten, mispronounced or misspoken word or phrase.
The result is to communicate to those who are entering the Officers Line or wanting to participate in Ritualistic work that you will be judged by a standard that is impossible to obtain. It also deters many a good and talented man from doing so. Why would anyone risk exposing himself to such an unrealistic and, in my opinion, un-Masonic situation?
On the other hand, I have also witnessed Brothers taking a flippant attitude about the work in progress. Loud "whispers" about "goats" and "water" as a Candidate for his E.A. begins his journey. Sight gags and extraneous comments in the Second Section that elicit chuckles from the sidelines that detract from the solemnity of the Degree. Certainly no one would want the Work to degrade into a farce.
What then should be our goal? How should we judge the work to know if it be true and square? By simply asking the question "Is the work excellent?" Excellent is defined as "being of the best quality; exceptionally good." The implication is to go beyond good, which could be argued, is "good enough". It suggests the realization of those lofty ideals and values we are to apply to our work.
When an E.A. candidate enters our circle we have only one opportunity to bring him to light for the first time. When he is finally given the honor of assuming the character of our ancient operative he will never again have the experience of being raised to a higher level of being and consciousness in that manner.
We all have had our experience, we all have taken that journey and it is our charge to afford that opportunity to the candidate.
We are all players in a great drama on a consecrated stage and we have the sublime privilege to perform for an audience of one. The realization by the candidate of that subtle yet significant truth underscores the value we place on the brotherly love and confidence we repose in him.
It is of little value if the work is letter perfect yet without emotion and soul. Nothing is gained if the candidate barely hears a mistake free phrase mumbled or slurred. But if every part is learned not only for the words but also for the meaning and that meaning is accurately and effectively communicated, despite a few mistakes, the goal will have been reached.
In discussing this subject with a fellow officer I made the comment, "what if every time we did the work each of us asked ourselves the question 'if the candidate were my son, a close friend or even a colleague, how would I want this Degree portrayed?'" I think the question itself provides the answer and I hope it serves as a reminder to all of us directly or indirectly involved with Ritual work and our candidates what in part has been drawn upon our trestle boards.