From the West – April 2018

Greetings Brethren from the Station of Strength,

While brushing up on my financial literacy, I recently found equilibrium in Howard Marks’ The Most Important Thing Illuminated (Columbia University Press, 2013). In it, Marks expands upon an epiphany concerning contrarianism, “skepticism and pessimism aren’t synonymous. Skepticism calls for pessimism when optimism is excessive. But it also calls for optimism when pessimism is excessive.” How often in Masonic teaching are we reminded of the balance of competing forces and the importance of centrality? I believe this essential at maintaining a truly open mind at finding areas of opportunity within and without ourselves and in our own natural available universe. Marks applies his insights to the financial market and reminds the reader to remain steadfast and focused during extremes but the moral is far-flung.

Through Masonic teaching we realize that the deepest truths can be revealed through the study of nature and the symbolism therein contained but equally important is the mention of balancing forces; attraction and repulsion which are antagonistic but not hostile to each other and which results harmonious balance. Going even further, these perpetual forces of nature host the divine exercise to develop talent, upon which arouses the utmost exertion of human genius.

“The less prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we should conduct our own affairs.” ~Warren Buffett

Or in other words, be contrarian.

Brandon Cook

Senior Warden

From the West – March 2018

Greetings Brethren from the Station of Strength,

Have you read Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal (Touchstone, 1993) which outlines the description, origin, journey and location of the lost Ark of the Covenant as well as the many mysteries and legends surrounding its historical significance? The story centers around the author’s journey to Ethiopia in 1983 while working for the government on marketing a coffee book (Ethiopia is known for its quality in coffee beans) as well as promoting Ethiopia’s unique cultural and religious importance. During his travels and having been granted special access to several sacred sites, he was able to avoid the typical hazards of an ongoing tribal war. The author describes his first-hand account of the symbolism, legend and truth to the idea that the authentic Ark of the Covenant rests in a modest church in the holy city of Axum and vigilantly watched over by a Guardian Monk whom he is able to converse.

The reader comes to understand that King Solomon built his temple to house the sacred artifact. Solomon’s son, Menelik I, having been birthed a bastard of Queen Sheba, brought the Ark of the Covenant via a circuitous route and accompanied by an escort of Jewish elders eventually to Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a rich tradition of Judaic, Christian and Moslem influences, which vie in their ultimate attempt at securing the most powerful object in religious lore (a struggle that has outlasted several centuries).
This story also incorporates the role the Knights Templars played during the 12th – 14th centuries in their excavation of the original temple, their knowledge of the Holy Grail and their monastic quest at securing truth (the great subject of Masonic study).

Those seeking instant gratification will google (images): Chartres+Ark+Prester+Parzival

Brandon Cook

From the West – February

Greetings Brethren from the Station of Strength

Now that January is over and our new year’s resolutions are in jeopardy, I reflect on a semi-phase used by one of the Masonic bodies during their installation, “Tyranny of the non-essential.” The application of this phase I find truly universal but I’ll attempt to focus an idea around our respective lodge experience. What exactly is essential to Masonry in general or your fulfillment as a member in particular? In our daily lives, we are inundated with information and material things that the tyrannical nature of these non-essentials can easily over-whelm the simplicity of peace and harmony, essentials of equilibrium. Behavior economists perhaps call these the wants vs the needs.

My wife and I started to declutter our home regularly after it became obvious that having a two year old has the tendency to attract and retain non-essential items (expired clothes, toys, games, books, you name it) that we mistakenly believe are our souvenirs of the past. But in truth, they really aren’t and we realized that we can either attempt to constantly fill a never ending void with material non-essentials or we can find solace and comfort within it (the great expanse). It is a never-ending game that consumerism also promotes, buying this and buying that, “Keeping up with Jones’.”

I believe this tyrannical threat to be ever more prevalent to the peace and harmony of our institutions and especially to Masonry. I’m reminded of the fellow who waits until the meeting is over to swiftly rush up to remind the officer of his failures without so much as a follow-up to their ongoing relationship. I’m reminded of the member who dislikes the volume of the music at dinner, the choice of entre’, the lack of unity in officer’s uniform, the monthly schedule of events, a late trestle board (oops) and laughingly, the mispronunciation of a particular word during ritual. It goes on and on through the several bodies of masonry and I’m constantly juggling the choice between nodding in agreement by thanking the brethren of my errors or sharing with them my thoughts of categorizing those observations as non-essential. But enough of the without…what are we with?

Brethren, take a moment and reflect with me upon essentialism, that essence is prior to existence. I promise to bite my tongue the next time I see a brother show up to a meeting in jeans or is on his mobile phone during a tiled meeting. I’m not condoning these choices but at the end of the day, it is essential that our brethren chose to be here with us.

Brandon Cook
Senior Warden