Hello from the North. It is starting to get chilly here, in more ways than one, but I expect that as wise Masons, you have already began to ‘winterize’ ourselves. I had hoped to go south for the winter, but that was not meant to be.
Legend has it that our great fraternity developed from stone masons and the guilds of the Middle Ages. Today we would call then ‘unions,’ at least if we were not fearful of being labelled socialist pinkos! They provided us with the opportunity to travel to distant lands and receive fair wages … you know the rest. Our masonic forbearers built things, mainly things with walls. Castles have walls. Cathedrals have walls. Even cities had walls. And all built, and lavishly decorated, by our ancestors. Huzzah!
Back then walls were usually a good thing, unless you were confined in the dungeon (yes we built those as well). They kept the bad fellows out. Kept out the weather. And kept the congregation in! Hadrian built a partition across Britain that seemed to present enough of a challenge to keep the wily Scots out, for a while. Even the Chinese had a go despite not being able to pronounce “blue lodge! “ (just joking)
Ok, ramparts were good to a point, they enable us to keep our stuff! But as time went by they became restrictive and impractical. And they changed materially, now they are built of many materials but seldom stone or brick. No matter. Weaponry, commerce, suburbia and societal changes eliminated the need for castles and city walls in particular. Even the Berlin Wall has fallen, Mr. Gorbachev! But, why am I prattling on about walls?
Being fatally addicted to the news, I have noticed of late a propensity to reverse this trend, in short we seem to be building more walls for the old reasons, to keep other out! Now in the age of worldwide jet travel, not to mention the value of the ‘tourist dollar’, this would at first appearances seem a tad ludicrous. And it is. Walls, stone, steel or barbed wire, certainly slow things down a bit, but they are easy enough to fly or jump over or go around. And as the Central American drug lords have proven, tunnel under. Fences built the entire length of the Mexican-American border! Now even the Hungarians and Turks are jumping on the “wall wagon”. I hope there are no more Archdukes to be assassinated.
It is not physical presence of barricades that causes me concern. They go up relatively easily, if exceedingly expensively, and they can be taken down the same way, probably equally expensively! No, what troubles me is the mind-set that says we should return to the Middle Ages and start building barriers between people, between societies, between ideas. This is the very antithesis of university. And if we return to the medieval concept of segregation, what other notions may follow? The wrack! Serfdom!
I had expected, and hoped, that by now, with the bitter lessons of the past century in particular, we would have learned that if we want to survive as a species on this ever-shrinking planet, we had better learn to live together, not apart. I realize that that idea will raise the hackles on more than a few red-white-and blue necks! But the heads attached to those necks are long past their ‘shelf-life’ dates.
Masonry is an international fraternity. It always has been and hopefully always will be. It brings brothers together from all over the globe. It does not separate or rank them. We meet on the level as we so rightly say. This is one of, if not the greatest, value of modern Masonry. Let me say that again, bringing people together is vitally important to humankind! Being receptive to the cultures and lifestyles of others does not mean we have to be like them. We don’t have to adopt their values. But if we can understand them, we can move toward a more peaceful and symbiotic existence. Maybe even influence others to accept a few of our masonic principles, which I for one, particularly like!
May your God go with you.
Brother Roland Lakey,
Chaplain, Washington No. 46