We'll be washed and buried one day, my girl,
And the time we were given will be left for the world. . .
So let the memories be good for those who stay.
Mumford and Sons, “Winter Winds”
In today’s electronically connected world where even instant gratification can seem to take forever, it is sometimes difficult to think of one’s legacy as more than his Facebook wall or Twitter feed. If I am honest with myself, I want to believe that I am far more than the photo of the shrimp and grits I posted from my trip to Myrtle Beach (they were spectacular), or a clever hashtag (#cleverhashtag).
This month’s issue of The Rite News features an article on the Gettysburg Address written by Brother Todd Ballenger (“272,” p. 11). To be clear, the Gettysburg Address was written by Abraham Lincoln, while the article “272” was written by Brother Ballenger. It is excellent (I’m speaking of the article this time). In fact, if you haven’t already done so, read it now. I will wait . . .I told you it was excellent.
Brother Ballenger tells us that Lincoln’s words reinterpreted the Constitution and made freedom everyone’s responsibility. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The brave men who fought at Gettysburg were not doing it for glory – both sides were fighting for a cause they deeply believed in – but our liberty is their legacy. One need only drive through the shadows of the stone monuments in the park, or the cemetery where the address was delivered, to be reminded of how much we owe to those who have served our country.Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest structure in the world, took ten years to complete. Contrast that with the Gothic cathedrals that our operative counterparts built. Notre Dame took nearly 90 years from start to finish! Think about that for a moment. The men who worked on the foundation probably never saw the structure rise more than a few feet off the ground. It was common to have several generations of a family work on the same project, each seeing it in a drastically different form than the others.
Gutzon Borglum dedicated the last 14 years of his life to the shaping the rough granite of Mount Rushmore into the faces of four of our greatest Presidents. (Look at that, Lincoln, statues and stonemasons all coming together in one story. Oh, Borglum was a Freemason as well! You’re welcome.) He lived long enough to see the faces completed, and on his death his son, Lincoln, continued to work on the project. Originally, the presidents were to be carved to the waist, but funding was shut off and the project finalized with just the busts. Borglum, too, left good memories for those who stayed behind.So, you say your cathedral building skills are a bit rusty and you can’t find a large piece of exposed granite you can (legally) carve a likeness into? Fear not, modern Vitruvian - there are plenty of ways for you to leave a deep and lasting impression.
Start by being a good man, one that others would be proud to call friend. Let the working tools help you. Be a man of character (plumb), treat everyone justly (square), and control your own behavior (compasses).
Next, get involved, either with your Blue Lodge or your Scottish Rite Valley. I assure you that there is a place for you here whatever your talent or interest might be. (If you don’t believe me, write me at and I will help you find it.) We are all keepers of Freemasonry’s sacred fire and as such, we have a duty to help her thrive for those yet to come.
You don’t need to be a soldier, sculptor, or stonemason to leave your own deep and lasting impression. Be a man, a Mason, and a mentor and you will have done your part. The time we were given will be left for the world. . . Let the memories be good for those who stay.