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.