Vol. XXXVIII No. 1 — January 1960

The Importance of an Individual

Clyde E. Hegman, GM

This Short Talk Bulletin is a challenging address given by Most Worshipful Brother Clyde E. Hegman, grand master of Masons in Minnesota, at a luncheon for delegates and guests of the Grand Lodge, AF & AM of Manitoba, at Winnipeg, June 4,1959.

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The world in which we live is highly organized. Here in North America we have such a multiplicity of organizations that it defies our mental power to begin to enumerate them. We belong to breakfast clubs, luncheon clubs, dinner clubs, church organizations, fraternal organizations, civic organizations — clubs and organizations for every activity of the day and night, including business, culture, play and fun. Brother Will Rogers, the great Oklahoma humorist, once said, “America is the place where, when three men meet on a street corner, two begin to look for a gavel to call the meeting to order.”

I am not minimizing the need for organization. But sometimes it seems that we work so hard, and so long, we become so involved in the organization itself, whatever its nature may be, that we forget its purposes and objectives. In short, we forget our responsibilities as individuals.

In Freemasonry we need organization. We need sound planning, and willing workmen in the quarries, to accomplish results effectively, efficiently, harmoniously, all in support of what Freemasonry stands for in promoting that great aim, that goal of all goals — the Brotherhood of Man.

Each one of us is an integral part of the Fraternity; each one of us is obligated to share in the work to attain its objectives. What you and I are today, and what we are willing to do today, will in a large measure determine the future and the destiny of Freemasonry.

John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island.” The Apostle Paul has said, “No man liveth to himself alone” (Romans 14:7). It is likewise true that “No Mason is an island,” “No Mason lives to himself alone.” In the light of this concept it is important to explore three basic proposals, three basic challenges, upon which is built the major premise that “Each individual is important.” Every Mason is a V.I.P. — that very important person — who makes his Blue Lodge a vital force for the good of all mankind.

The first of these challenges is this: A MASON IS A MAN OF IDEALS. Every craftsman, when he first entered the lodge in search of its truths and its way of life, and before he had taken a half dozen steps, uttered the words that expressed his faith in Deity. In those words he professed a faith in the Supreme Creator of all mankind; he professed a covenant with Almighty God. As surely as day follows night, and as surely as summer follows winter, so it follows that, to meet his challenge, a Mason must be a man of ideals, high ideals.

One of these is integrity, the unimpeachable practice of honesty. To a Mason there is no such thing as part-time integrity. It is a matter of full-time responsibility, every minute of his waking hours. A man of integrity is a man of one loyalty, a loyalty to God, to his fellow man, and to himself. These three loyalties are one and the same; they are inseparable. A man cannot be honest with God unless he is honest with his neighbor and honest with himself. Integrity must be an ideal for him who would be a Master Mason.

Rectitude of conduct is another ideal, which concerns itself with undeviating adherence to moral standards and unimpeachable behavior. Masonry teaches us to develop and practice the highest degree of self- discipline, both mental and physical. Irreproachable behavior and demeanor are important not only among ourselves but, even more so, when we are in the world at large. Rectitude of conduct is most assuredly an ideal of every Master Mason.

Temperance is another ideal. Defined Masonically it means the practice of moderation, of balance in our daily living habits, and in our thinking as well. Have you ever heard a man say about another, “He has a one-track mind,” or, “He’s all warped in doing this or that,” or, “All he can think of is such and such”? Is it not more commendable to regulate oneself and act with a sense of discretion and balance? The ideal of temperance challenges us to avoid being extremists, to the detriment of ourselves as well as the other fellow with whom we come in contact.

Another ideal is the one we call tolerance, that quality of respect for another man’s point of view, opinions, beliefs, practices or habits. In short, a sympathetic understanding for the other man’s mode of living, his creed, and his philosophy, is most becoming to a man of good judgment, we Masons believe. Sometimes we hear the criticism made of an otherwise intelligent person that he is opinionated. This is a serious indictment, for it suggests a lack of vision, a blindness in the heart as well as in the mind.

An American and a Chinese gentleman were visiting the cemetery one afternoon, each to pay respect to a departed friend. The American placed a bouquet of flowers on the grave of his friend; but upon observing the Chinese gentleman, he noticed that he had placed a bowl of rice on the grave of the departed Chinese. This seemed a strange performance, so the American said to the Chinese, “And when do you expect your departed friend to come to eat the rice?”

To which the Chinese replied, “Same time your friend come up to smell the flowers."

Both men had the same objective, a tribute to a departed loved one. Only the points of view differed. Tolerance grows where sympathetic understanding is extended to the other man’s differing point of view.

Thee last ideal I have chosen to describe is that relating to freedom. Men have shed blood that they might experience for themselves, and for generations yet unborn, freedom and liberty. You and I should forever thank God for the privilege that is ours to five in these two great countries of freedom, Canada and the United States. Ours is the freedom of choice as to whether or not we shall go to school, and to which school. Ours is the choice as to which skill or profession we shall train ourselves to work in for our daily livelihood. Ours is the freedom to decide whether to go into business for ourselves, or to enter the employ of another. We may choose to live in the city or in the country, in the east or in the west. Ours is the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience in the church of our own choice. But Master Masons know that the ideal of freedom is earned by each of us only as our responsibility deserves it.

Every Master Mason must be challenged to reach as high as his ideals. “But,” you may say, “you are speaking about intangibles, objectives beyond our reach. You expect us to reach for the stars!” Brethren, that is exactly what I have in mind, and firmly believe. The poet Browning phrased it in these words, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” We Masons must live on tiptoe; we must reach for the stars of ideals, if we would set a pattern for living a life of genuine usefulness.

Life is made up of dreams, aspirations, yearnings, hopes, call them what you will. They are a vital part of our daily life, as our days are filled with decisions. As a man thinks, so will he act in making decisions. That’s why it is so important to believe this challenge: a man can reach as high as his ideals. Yes, he can reach higher than the stratosphere, higher than man-made satellites in their orbits in outer space, higher than the planets beyond.

Yes, we can reach up, up, up until we feel His hand in ours with strength and power “from that inexhaustible supply above yielded to us through the power of prayer.” As Masons we should determine and know what we stand for. Masons are men of ideals.

The second challenge we Masons should explore is the challenge that A MASON IS A MAN OF CONVICTION. He is a man of courage in its noblest sense. If we have decided that as Master Masons we know what we stand for, we must have the courage of our convictions. We must stand up to be counted, in the fullest meaning of those words.

Jesus of Nazareth said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). There is no more pointed and direct exhortation to live a life of truthfulness. A Master Mason is a man who is not ashamed of the truth, a divine attribute.

Our fraternal brother, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, has made a tremendous contribution toward our mentally ailing humanity through his gospel of “Positive Thinking.” Says Brother Peale:

Many people are tired simply because they are not interested in anything. Nothing ever moves them deeply. They become tired. They even become sick. The surest way not to become tired is to lose yourself in something in which you have a profound conviction. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.

Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician and inventor, also challenged the world with a great conviction. In explaining the force that could be developed by the proper use of a simple tool, the lever, he said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Two thousand years later, one of our fraternal brothers, Johann Goethe, the greatest of German poets, repeated this challenge in the following words: “Make sure thy standing place and move the world.”

Have we made sure our standing place as Builders? If so, Freemasonry can indeed move the world. But it needs the courage of each individual who has lost himself in something bigger than himself. A Master Mason must be a man of conviction.

The third and final challenge to our thinking is that A MASON IS A MAN OF SERVICE. He must be of service to mankind. If we are men of ideals, and if we are men of conviction, we must ask ourselves this question, “To what extent do we use our potentials, our possibilities to be of service to others?”

About three years ago The Christian Science Monitor carried a feature article under the headline, “Masonry builds good works through good deeds, good habits, good will.” If there were no other challenges presented to Masonry today, the desire to live up to the tremendous compliment in this article could be an objective in itself. But it is not enough to live up to achievements or successes of the past. As individual members of a dynamic fraternity, we must be continuously alert to opportunities for service in a changing society. Only as we adapt and prepare ourselves to meet its needs, can we grow to the stature required of us to merit our standing place in the modern world.

Opportunities for individual service are limitless; new ones appear every day of our lives. Some are charitable and humanitarian in the pure sense of sharing our worldly goods to meet the needs of those less fortunate than we. In this category of giving is the local lodge fund for relief and assistance to the widow, the orphan, and the needy. Another is the Masonic home where we care for our aged brother or his widow during the sunset years of life. In Minnesota the Masons have been contributing voluntarily to a Masonic Memorial Hospital Fund to carry on their continuing interest in a great humanitarian project, a hospital to treat the victims of cancer. This hospital, now operating on the campus of the University of Minnesota, was erected at a cost of one million dollars, all raised in a voluntary campaign conducted by Blue Lodges among their members under the slogan, “Give until you feel good.” Masons everywhere are responding to such challenges. As men of service we Masons should cheerfully support the work of The Masonic Service Association as it carries out a program of personal visitation and assistance in the Veterans Hospitals where lie our soldiers, for whom the war will never end.

Other opportunities for individual service, Masonic in an even deeper sense, are those wherein we give of ourselves, our time, and our talents. Such opportunities are impossible to exhaust. Blood donor programs, which are so much a part of our modern methods of surgery and healing, are a specific example of the giving of ourselves. Community and civic projects offer a challenge unparalleled in the history of man. Have you served on a Boy Scout or Girl Scout committee, or on the school board in your community? Those who have will know the keen sense of satisfaction in working with youth — the young people who follow in our footsteps, charged to make these lands of freedom an even greater force for peace than we have been able to do. The many and varied fund-raising campaigns for Community Chests, Red Cross, March of Dimes for polio, Multiple Sclerosis drives, and others, all need organizers, workers and doers. As men of service, we Masons should seek out these opportunities, and accept them gladly when offered. There is work to do that does not carry a Masonic label, but it challenges us to act like Masons, as men of service to our communities.

Your church needs you. It needs your time and your talents to carry on the work of the kingdom of God here on earth. When you are asked, or better yet, when you volunteer your services on committees, on boards, or anywhere in the program of church activities, assume those responsibilities as a man of service. Act like a Mason. The craftsman who would “practice out of the lodge those great moral and social virtues inculcated in it” will be an active church member because he is a Mason. The church offers one of the greatest challenges to service, the challenge to make things of the spirit real.

A Mason must be a man of service.

As Masons we must always recognize the importance of the individual in carrying out our responsibilities to God, to neighbor, and to self. And only as we do this will we become men of ideals, men of conviction, and men of service, yes, men of God!

My grandmother used to tell me a pointed little story when I was a boy. The street lamps where she lived in St. Paul were illuminated by gas. Grandmother said: “Each day about twilight a lamplighter would come down the street carrying a lighted taper in a stick. I watched him as he climbed the lamp post, lit the light, climbed down again, and walked along the street to the next one. There he again climbed the post, lit the light, and climbing down, proceeded down the street. Soon darkness began to fall and I could see only the shadow of the lamplighter as he climbed the posts and lit the lights. Then,” said Grandma, "it would become so dark, so very dark, that I couldn’t see the lamplighter any more, but I could tell where he’d been.”

My brothers, we must keep lighting our Masonic lamps with our ideals and service, so that when we, like the lamplighter, are no longer here, others can tell where we’ve been.

The Masonic Service Association of North America