Vol. XLIII No. 10 — October 1965

More Short “Short Talks” for Occasional Speakers

Conrad Hahn, Alexander Coon, Allen L. Truax, Harry B. Savage

These short talks are designed for use by the brother who is called upon “for a few remarks appropriate to the occasion,” either in the lodge room or at refreshment. They are particularly useful to the brother who doesn’t want to take up too much of his audience’s time. To the authors of the talks acknowledged herein, we express our sincere appreciation for permission to share their thoughts with the readers of The Short Talk Bulletin.

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“Be Ye Doers of the Word”

Hebrew mystics of the Middle Ages spread the legend of the Golem, an artificial man, a kind of Frankenstein monster, created by the magical invocation of a name.

Rabbi Elijah of Chelm is supposed to have created such a Golem from clay, inscribing on its forehead the secret name of God. He thus gave it the power of life, but withheld from it the power of speech. When the homunculus attained gigantic size and strength, the Rabbi became frightened by its terrible potentialities, so he tore the life-giving name from its forehead, whereupon it crumbled into dust.

In another version of the legend the word cut into the forehead of the Golem was not the name of God but the word emet or “truth.” The destruction of the monster was accomplished by erasing the first letter of emet, leaving met, which means “dead.”

These fanciful tales bear witness to the awe and respect that men had for words and language in a bygone era. It was this powerful belief in the magical potency of words that made a curse so terrifying.

We moderns consider ourselves too well-informed, too sophisticated to “believe in such nonsense.” We smile at the credulity of our ancient brethren who could “swallow such a story.”

But are we really quite as free as we believe from a naïve reliance on the power of a word or phrase? Brotherhood is on our tongues at every meeting. Brotherhood is the subject of countless Masonic compositions. Brotherhood, we seem to feel, is created by our talking about it.

But is it really? The life-giving quality of that word is not the result of an incantation or a verbal repetition. Often we erase the first two letters of that word and kill the benevolent giant of brotherhood by emphasizing the otherhood of men. Its deeds and acts of kindness, of love and appreciation, that bring to life the Golem of our fraternity. We build the temple of brotherhood, but building is a laborious activity, not a speech or magic slogan.

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A Salute to the Flag

Alexander Coon, P.M.

Wadsworth Lodge No. 25, Sparks, Nevada

Permit me to speak in the first person singular, for want of a better way to express Freemasonry’s love of country. In God’s pure white light, where no living person is justified, I am an ignorant man, but with humility, and, in my own way, perhaps a bit of a philosopher. The one thing I do know, however, is that symbols mean more than words. To say, “I am an American and a Freemason,” hardly begins to convey what this beloved flag’s shafts of white denote emblematically, because the meaning includes all and infinitely more than what I have uttered and continue to say. That same purity is represented in my lambskin apron.

Long before and since 1776 I died in various battles to make the symbol of those blood red stripes. Speaking from wreathed monuments, unmarked graves and ashes, I declare that I fought against nothing; my contest was and always is for something: for freedom of religion and speech; for brotherhood and representation; for free and fair enterprise: and for exemplary education. I will shed my blood again and again to speak once more for the red bars, while the mystic rose blooms.

After the birth of this flag, I lived in that field of blue even as I now live to maintain nobility with kindness, greatness, and goodness, yet in so charitable a spirit that my enemies also perished for failure to substitute a better way of fife. This ancient beneficent influence has spread over a wider and wider territory. The good life attracted brothers to adopt my country and join native sons to add strength. Behold the still visible circle of yesterday’s thirteen stars. Today fifty have been fitted into that field. Tomorrow a newer strength with still more stars may be gathered under that canopy of blue.

For all Freemasons, and with deep humility and boundless gratitude, I stand and speak to the flag as if it were animated. Flag of hope! I love you as only a Freemason can love so mighty an emblem, mightier than the surmounting eagle. In honor I offer you the sacrifice of my mortal life. As I live, in whatever station I may by the grace of God find myself, I give you my all, humbly and sincerely, for my protection now and for that of generations of yet unborn Freemasons.

Brethren, please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag of our country.

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Response to Welcome of Fifty-Year Masons

Allen L. Truax, PM

Crosby Lodge No. 108, Crosby, North Dakota. Brother Truax was in his late eighties when he made these remarks in the Grand Lodge of North Dakota in June 1959.

I trust you will pardon a bit of personal Masonic history. I was passed and raised in Hiram Lodge at Page, North Dakota, in 1894. I have forgotten the name of the worshipful master, but the late Hon. L. B. Hanna was the senior deacon and gave me the lectures, which I have never forgotten. Shortly after this I was appointed to the United States Railway Mail Service and was never in any one place long enough to properly prepare myself for advancement to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason until 1898, when Liberty Lodge at Enderlin, North Dakota, conferred that degree for Hiram Lodge as a courtesy. However, I have always considered that my Masonic life began in Hiram lodge in 1894, and accordingly in 1944 I began to pose as a fifty-year Mason. My excuse is as follows.

I have always considered the First Degree to be the most beautiful of the three, although undoubtedly the Second is more instructive and the Third more sublime. Let us consider for a moment what it means to the candidate. He is brought into the lodge room linked by the cabletow to outer darkness, signifying the chains of heredity and the burden of the sins of his forefathers. He is placed at the altar and obligated; then the burden of the cabletow slips from him and he is flooded with light. He is presented with the lambskin, the emblem of innocence, together with one of the beautiful accompanying lectures. After being instructed by the worshipful master, he is placed at his right hand and informed that he there stands as a just and upright Mason and is admonished ever to walk and act as such! God forbid that those words from the worshipful master should be idle or meaningless ones! I therefore hope that the grand lodge will pardon me for proclaiming myself a “Fifty-Year Mason” in 1944.

I pass now to the Sublime Third Degree, which teaches the lesson of immortality. It is related of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, that when he was eighty years of age, he was walking down the streets of Boston one day, when he met an old friend who shook his trembling hand and said, “Good Morning, and how is John Quincy Adams today?” "Thank you,” replied the former President,

John Quincy Adams himself is well, quite well, I thank you; but the house in which he is living at present is becoming dilapidated — it is tottering upon its foundation. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out. Its walls are much shattered and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think that John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is well, quite well.

My brethren and fifty-year Master Masons, if John Quincy Adams, who was not a Mason, could have such an invincible faith in immortality, how much more should we, who as Master Masons have been taught the lesson of immortality, be able to say that it is well, quite well with us, when we are forced to leave these earthly tenements and go to meet our Supreme Grand Master face to face? Thank you, worshipful brethren, for your kindly greetings here today.

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Throwing Rocks

Harry B. Savage, P.G.M. District of Columbia

I like the story of a volunteer preacher down in the hill country. He hadn’t studied much theology. He hadn’t studied much of anything. All week he labored at the sawmill. Sundays he wrestled mightily with his sermon at the little mountain church. His pulpit work was a little on the rough side, but his congregation didn’t complain. They knew he was sincere — they didn’t pay him anything — and they were a little rough themselves.

One Sunday he got onto one of his favorite texts, the story of David and Goliath. Very dramatically he showed how David whirled the sling around his head and sent the stone unerringly into Goliath’s forehead. Reaching the climax, his voice rose high with excitement: "You see, folks, the point is like this. It warn’t jis’ that little rock thet kilt him. It was the way that darned kid throwed it!”

Far more important than some of the things we do is the way we do them. That wasn’t the first rock that David ever put into the sling. He’d had years of practice. He had worked at taking care of sheep in a rugged country and he had to protect them from wild animals. He learned to perform well, long before his great opportunity came to serve his people.

Before that another sheepherder had been called by God to perform a miraculous task. Moses was attending his sheep on the back side of a desert when God called to him from a burning bush and told him to go down into Egypt and set the children of Israel free. Moses’ reaction was as natural as it was human. In effect he said, "Who, me?”

Then he began to be more human; he began to make excuses. “I am slow of tongue. I’m not eloquent.” To which God replied, “Who hath made man’s mouth? Have not I, the Lord? Now, therefore, go — and I will be thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (Exodus 4:11)

He also told Moses he could take his brother Aaron with him because Aaron could speak well. So Moses told Aaron what had happened — about the burning bush, which even after the flames had ceased to burn was still intact, about God’s voice, about the change of his staff into a serpent and back to a staff again, about the attack of leprosy that seized him and that God miraculously healed, and about the command to go to Egypt and free the people from Pharaoh’s bondage.

The fantastic thing about this fantastic story is that Aaron believed it. There’s nothing in the record to suggest that he doubted the truth in any way. Moses must have told it pretty well for one who was “slow of tongue.” Moses must have earned a reputation for sticking to the facts.

Moses then told his father-in-law, Jethro, that he and Aaron couldn’t herd sheep anymore, that they had been commissioned by the Almighty to go down into Egypt and to rescue their people. And Jethro believed Moses also [Jethro didn’t get scornful and say, “Dig those crazy kids. Now get back to the desert with my sheep.”

On the contrary, Jethro believed. He blessed them and said, “Go in peace.” He knew that God had given Moses some work to do — a service to perform. It took him forty years to finish the job, but he never wavered.

The point is simple and clear. There is work for you and me. What stones we choose to throw are not all-important. What counts is the way we throw the rock.

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Remarks by a “Distinguished Guest”

Who has been called on for a few remarks after five or six other guests have responded to the same invitation!

Worshipful master, my brethren all: I hope I’m not one of those gifted orators who tell you that they’re not very good at making speeches and then take forty or fifty minutes to prove it.

I just want to tell you folks that I’m glad to be here. I’ve enjoyed the proceedings very much; I’m going home with new Masonic light and inspiration. I have been warmed by the friendly and fraternal spirit that you brethren share with us and with each other. I congratulate you on the achievements of this evening.

To you, worshipful master, a special word of thanks for your gracious invitation to sit here in the East and for the very courteous greetings and reception that you have extended to all of us who are visiting here tonight. We appreciate it; you’ve made us feel welcome. We want to come again. Thank you so much.

The Masonic Service Association of North America