A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. ~ Hugh Downs
Dylan was excited to have finally joined Lodge.
His fascination with the Masons began when he was in junior high school and saw the movie, National Treasure. Dylan never believed that he would someday guard an enormous stash of gold, but still there was something about the square and compasses, the feeling of belonging to a true family, and the antiquity of the order that beckoned him. He wasn’t put off by the myriad of websites that said Masons controlled the media, faked the moon landing, knew the secrets of Area 51, or unknowingly worshipped the Devil. In fact, the idea that you could unknowingly worship the Devil made him laugh every time. He pictured unsuspecting men in their homes praying before they went to bed, while outside on the roof, evil Masons in their aprons hijacked the prayers as they rose to God and carted them off to the Devil.
Dylan was raised six months ago, and with few exceptions, Masonry was what he expected. He learned his work and attended the practices and meetings. Every chance he got, he told the guys about his ideas for making the meetings cool. He suggested having a really nice meal – surf and turf – before the meeting in June, since they were inviting the ladies.
Henry, one of the old Past Masters just laughed. It’s strawberry night, he thought to himself. One other time, Dylan asked if they could act out one of the Masonic plays he came across in an old book in their Lodge library. “That’s not a library kid, that’s a bookshelf, and this isn’t a theater, it’s a Lodge,” Henry said. And with that the debate was closed.
Dylan had no idea why Henry was like that. Henry reminded him of an old school teacher who kept punishing kids for even the smallest violation of the rules. Here it seemed, though, that those rules were a secret known only to Henry. Dylan was frustrated. Would it kill us to have dinner and strawberries? Why do I even bother with this bunch of old guys if they’re happy just doing the same old tired things year after year? I can just as easily stay at home if I want to feel ignored.
Henry was a Warrant Member of the Lodge. He was the second man to serve as its Worshipful Master. He remembered the years in the 60s and 70s when so many men joined that the Lodge could barely keep up with the work. Back then, they had so many active members that it took twelve years to become Worshipful Master.
When Henry’s son turned twenty one, he handed Henry a petition. Henry signed it eagerly, his eyes pooling with the proud tears of a father. The most fulfilling moment of his life by far, though, was when he made his son a Master Mason. That excitement was short-lived, however, as his son didn’t make the Lodge a priority. Henry joined after the war to keep sharing in the kind of Brotherhood he felt while he fought in Europe. Junior didn’t care about that, and he preferred spending the little free time he had with his bowling league.
Henry was bitter, and that bitterness only deepened over the years. Sure, he had good friends who were Masons, but a lot of them were dead now. Lodge wasn’t as well attended and membership was way down. Now this new kid wanted to get rid of strawberry night and replace it with a dinner that was going to bankrupt the Lodge. Plays? he thought. What is that about? What’s wrong with having the game commissioner come in and talk about deer hunting? That always brought the guys out in the good old days.
The irony of the story is that Dylan and Henry, with their almost diametrically opposite views, are more similar than they appear. Their attitudes are shaped by their experiences. Dylan is the youngest of five. His brothers and sisters excel at everything they put their minds to. To the disappointment of his father, Dylan is more of a dreamer, and spends most of his time dreaming in the shade of his siblings’ achievements. Lodge is supposed to be a place where he is an equal, and Henry’s snide comments make him feel anything but. And though Henry will not admit it, he is heartbroken that his only son does not see in the Fraternity what he sees. His son’s departure coincided with the beginning of the Lodge’s long and slow decline. Henry, though only subconsciously, marries the two into one problem.
Dylan sees Henry as a disappointed father. Henry sees Dylan as an ungrateful son.
Too often, our attitudes get in the way of good friendships.
If you have been in Lodge more than a couple of years, you know that guy. He may be a Henry that is so set in his ways that nothing new is worth considering, or he’s a Dylan, and wants to turn everything on its ear. More likely than not, he is some shade of grey between those two extremes, but our own predispositions force him into one of those two categories.
As Modern Vitruvians, what are we to do when faced with those behaviors?
First, we should strive to come to a better understanding of the men we call our Brothers. Meeting on the level is more than forgetting class, rank or station when we are in Lodge. It requires us to try to see the world through the eyes of those with whom we interact. We need to walk a mile in their shoes, not as an offensive tactic where we put on their shoes, run over rocky terrain, and then mock them for not keeping up, but rather as a sympathetic act where we seek to walk the peaks and valleys just as they have. Acting on the square means that we should extend grace in abundance, knowing that we, too, may be in need of it at some point. I’ve recently realized that trying to see things from another’s perspective has often helped me to change my own attitudes. More and more I’ve been trying to see (or seek) the good in everyone. It is true that each of us in our turn requires varying amounts of seeking before the seeing can take place, but it’s always there.
Secondly, we need to become more aware of our own attitudes. The words we speak (or fail to speak) and our tone of voice are obvious indicators of how we feel about someone. Posture, facial expressions, body language and general demeanor are more subtle, but easily discernible indicators of our feelings too. Sometimes changing someone’s attitude toward you is as easy as changing your own. If you had a lousy day, remind yourself of how fortunate you are to be spending time with your Brothers. If you drive to Lodge exhausted and world-weary, make an effort to feel the energy of the group and let it heal your soul. You will be surprised at how much a positive mind-set can change you. Attitude is everything. Attitude is the difference between cleaning the litter box and raking the Zen garden.
So you’re probably wondering about Dylan and Henry. They’re going to be okay. They are reading this column right now – just like you. The next time they come together it will be with a new understanding – both of themselves and of each other. Dylan will ask Henry to help him plan some of his programs which he will gladly do. Henry will begin to see Dylan as the son that loves Lodge as much as he does. And Henry is going to bring his wife to Lodge for surf and turf (and strawberries, of course). They will have one of the most enjoyable night’s that either can remember, and will be sure to tell Dylan just that. Dylan will be grateful for the affirmation.
As Modern Vitruvians, you will meet a Dylan or a Henry at some point. When you do, try to see the world as they do, rather than through the narrow keyhole of your own experiences. And remember to be positive. I promise you that next time I see you in Lodge I will smile, even if I had a lousy day. I will smile because, in spite of whatever life was giving me earlier, I am about to be blessed with the good fortune of spending time in a place of peace with you, my Brothers.
I shall close now, for I have other duties which call. I have to get the scoop, er, I mean rake. The cat is subtly reminding me that my Zen garden needs attention.