The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Noach: Horror or Cute Animals?

My synagogue celebrates the week that we read the part of the Torah, Parashat Noach, where the story of Noah and the Ark is told, by having a special Children's Sabbath. There are always adorable pictures of the elephant trunks and giraffe necks sticking out of the Ark. Kids are encouraged to name all the animals collected on the Ark. I find myself suffering a cognitive disconnect when I see the sense of celebration, because Noah was one of a handful of survivors of the worst genocide in the Bible.

Parashat Noach gives us the story of Noah, the righteous man who was blameless in his age, who walked with God. Contrasting Noah was the wickedness of the rest of humankind. The daughters of men bred with divine beings (literally, b'nei Ha-Elohim, or the Children of God) and created a race of Nephilim. Nephilim are fairly mysterious. The word is translated variously as giants, as heroes, and as fallen angels. Some rabbis interpret the Nephilim as the descendants of Cain.

God gives up on humankind, due to the wickedness of man, and regrets that He ever created them. Think about that. How awful must they have been for God to give up on them completely, and to blot them out from all existence, along with all beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky? Almost as an afterthought, Noah finds favor with the Lord.

The rabbis of the Talmud are fairly critical of Noah. They worry that he did not do enough to save people from the Flood. He saved himself, his sons and their wives. The rabbis contrast this with Abraham, who begs for the lives of righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah whom he does not even know, or Moses, who begs for the lives of the entire Children of Israel when God wants to destroy them. They seize upon the phrase "blameless in his age" and argues that in another, more contemporary age, Noah might not be considered particularly blameless, but compared to how evil the antediluvians were, he was comparatively blameless.

God destroys humanity, with the exception of Noah and his family. God destroys all the animals, with the exception of the samples saved on the Ark. I have a tendency to dwell upon the awfulness of this event, because it weirdly seems trivialized in most depictions of the story. God drowns almost all living things that breathe air. The ancient Hebrews believed that land masses sat on top of a primordial ocean that could sweep across all land and drown the world. An experimenter can pour bleach on a Petri dish and kill the bacteria growing on it. A laboratory can inject all the rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees and dogs and rabbits and rats and mice with poison and kill the entire population (thwarting an epidemic, for example). But God killed everyone and everything, with the exception of a tiny sample. How can this not be regarded with horror?

The Flood eventually recedes, and Noah came out of the Ark onto dry land, and sacrificed one of each kosher animal and bird in burnt offerings. God smelled the "pleasing odor" and it moved Him to resolve never again to doom the earth because of man. Why? "The devisings of man's mind are evil from his youth." He learns something about humanity: that as we become autonomous entities, we are going to do wrong as well as right. That with free will comes bad decisions. A baby is an unformed entity unshaped into a personality. But you can watch kindergarteners play in the playground and see that some of them are already mean people. Some have all the personality flaws that adults do. They are evil from their youth.

God gives Noah seven laws to live by, which are called the Noachide Laws. Jews believe they are the only laws in the Torah applicable to all people regardless of their association with the Jewish people.

  1. Remember Who God is, and do not worship something lesser that God Himself.
  2. Men are created in the image of God. Do not murder human beings. Masons use this in the ritual of the Third Degree.
  3. Do not steal the property of other people. Do not deprive others of subsistence.
  4. Be ethical and consensual in your sexual relationships. Some people interpret this to be a ban on homosexuality or sex outside of marriage, but I do not.
  5. Do not defile the sacred, or blaspheme the name of the Lord.
  6. Do not eat the flesh of another human being, nor eat the flesh of an animal taken while the animal is still alive. Some people interpret this to mean that the ingestion of blood is forbidden, but I do not.
  7. Courts of law should be established, and people should abide by the rule of law. I interpret this similarly to the theme of Aeschylus's Oresteia, where Athena demands that the Greek people mete out justice not by vendetta, but by impartial courts of law, unbiased on either side.
To enshrine these laws, God sets a rainbow in the clouds, as a sign of this covenant with humankind. The rainbow is not for us, but for God: "When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh." (Genesis 9: 14-15). I find that very interesting. Why does God need a reminder not to kill all of us? Without the reminder, how often does God want to slaughter us? Chris Rock joked that if you haven't thought about murdering your partner; if you haven't planned out the murder and planned where you would dispose the body and what you would say to the investigating detectives, then you haven't really been in love. To what extent is that the nature of God's love for us? We must frustrate God beyond imagining.

There are Jews and non-Jews who hold the seven Noachide Laws as being the basis of all ethical behavior. Chabad sponsors a group that seeks to encourage all non-Jews of their own free will to pledge to live by these laws.

The parashah also covers the Tower of Babel, which should be of interest to Freemasons, especially contrasted with the Temple at Jerusalem. I don't have much to say about the Tower of Babel right now. Maybe some other time. The parashah ends by introducing Terah of Ur (one of the largest cities of the ancient world), who with his son Abram and his grandson Lot (son of Haran), moved away from Ur on a journey to Canaan. Along the journey, they settled in Ḥaran (not to be confused with Terah's son).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Freemasonry is not a team

I'm fairly active on Facebook, and at last count, over 300 of my Facebook friends are active Freemasons, from all over the USA and all over the world. For a while, my operating procedure was to accept the friend invitation of anyone with the square and compasses on their identifying picture, or who had 50+ shared friends with me, all of whom were Masons. No longer.

The truth is that when men surround themselves with the visual emblems of Freemasonry the same way another person might surround themselves with the visual emblems of their favorite professional or college sports team, it is reasonable to wonder if their commitment to practicing the Royal Craft might be the same as their commitment to practicing the skills necessary to perform a professional sport. How many people wearing a Red Sox hat, scarf, jacket, keychain, wristbands, shoelaces, lanyard, and who have Red Sox bumper stickers on their car are capable of hitting a ball from home plate at the Fenway over the Green Monster? How many can collect a bunted ball and get it to first base before the batter reaches the base? How many know which pitcher to play and which to let rest for another game?

It takes no character whatsoever to cheer on Freemasonry as a fan. The Royal Craft and Sublime Art takes daily improvement. It is difficult; so difficult that most men are unsuitable for the task, and we never ask a man to engage in such a strenuous path, and if a man petitions us for the privilege, we investigate his character thoroughly, read his name aloud in lodge; and only after every lodge member knows the name of the petitioner do we have a ballot that must be unanimous to accept him. All lodges that actually practice the Craft educate their candidates in the workings of the Craft, that moral and intellectual discipline that makes us better men and Masons. Such Masons know their obligations and live by them.

Our history shows us that in a Masonic lodge, Protestants and Catholics who outside the lodge room were engaged in bloody, acrimonious, sectarian warfare, sat together as Brothers. Tories and Patriots, Federals and Confederates, slave-owners and abolitionists, cavalrymen and Native Americans, all sat together as Brothers. They understood that within the tyled lodge, different rules applied to them than in the profane world. They understood the Mystic Tie that binds us all together as Brothers, that they were Living Stones for that spiritual building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

But is a friend list of 100+ Masons, and a profile decked with squares and compasses, sufficient to vouch for a man's progress in this Craft, enough to forego due trial, strict examination, or lawful information? Does it demonstrate the smoothness of his Ashlar?

Two recent incidents come to mind:
  1. I saw the status message of a Mason who had recently friended me (whom I did not otherwise know), and I was troubled by the sentiment. I don't remember the quote exactly, but it was something like "I wish that all men were Master Masons, under a common Father." I commented that black cubes exist for a reason; that there are men unsuited to our Craft, and they are met at the door by a man with a sword. His surprise and outrage astonished me. Had he been raised a Master Mason without anyone teaching him how our Craft works? We are an elitist organization, however meritocratic. We cannot accept the morally inferior, or Freemasonry is ruined. Anyone on earth can become a fan of the Boston Red Sox, but not every man can be a Mason, even if he earnestly desires to be. That should be obvious.
  2. On a thread I started, there was a political discussion involving several Masons I only know from Facebook. I noticed that the discussion was getting heated, and even though I thought I was right, I realized that I was offending other Masons, so I wrote the following: "My blood is up and I've gotten very passionate on this thread. I'm going to use the compasses to keep my passions within due bounds, especially with you gentlemen." After which, I no longer participated in the discussion. Instead of backing down, one of the other Masons responded with "you just don't get it," and after continuing to argue his point with several comments over the next few hours, defriended me. Charitably, I can imagine that, chagrined by his excessive passion, he defriended me so that he would defend a fellow Brother from his possibly intemperate tongue knowing that we had many points of disagreement, but I'm not sure my theory is correct. I was taught that, no matter what our political and religious differences are, we are still bound by the Mystic Tie, and that bond is stronger than our passions. That is basic to any practitioner of our Craft, and if not, no amount of gold and purple can make it so.
Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason? If you know the answer to that question, you know the unfortunate truth that men can be balloted upon, entered, passed and raised without ever being prepared to be made a Mason. A Freemason has been taught a secret set of techniques for moral, intellectual and spiritual improvement, for which he should have been carefully screened for his suitability towards their use, and he should be admonished to make daily progress in this skill set required to master them. Reading our great authors, like Preston, Oliver, Mackey, Pike, Wilmshurst, Pound, MacNulty and others, we learn that while many of us truly earn the privilege of the EA degree, very few of us ever really become Fellows of the Craft, and a true Master Mason comes along very, very rarely.

UPDATE: I received the following warning on Facebook about a scammer friending Masons and inviting them to join the Royal Owl Society:

To anyone who was added to the Royal Owl Society, please note, they are a money making operation. This is from one of their posts in the group: "We buy into $5000 Internet Marketing Training courses, and train members, but we never promote a specific business opportunity. Its strictly for educational purposes."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From William Preston's lectures for the Entered Apprentice Degree (Section III, Clause 7), 1772.

The injunctions that are laid upon every Mason after his initiation are three in number.
    First, that he shall regularly attend the duties of the order.
    Second, that he shall pay homage and respect to the rulers of the Lodge.
    Third, that he shall diligently apply to his work in Masonry.
What these injunctions exemplify is this, three important points of distinguished excellence.
    The first, zeal and attachment, in obedience to signs and summonses.
    The second, humility and submission in propriety of conduct.
    The third, a wish to improve, by industry and application.
These injunctions are mitigated by three kind admonititions.
    1. That we do not neglect useful employments in life.
    2. That we never suffer zeal to exceed the bounds of discretion.
    3. That we must never enter into disputes with those who may be inclined to ridicule our system.
This will produce three pleasing effects.
    1. We shall live creditably in the world.
    2. We shall live comfortably in ourselves.
    3. We shall live peaceably with all men.
To supply the loss that may be sustained by the non-observance of these injunctions and admonitions, a succedaneum is provided, which enforces adherence to three important points.
    1. That we shall study the liberal arts at leisure.
    2. That we shall trace sciences in the works of eminent masters.
    3. That we shall apply to the well-informed for instruction, who will always be as ready to give it, as we can be to receive it.
The result will be three beneficial consequences.
    1. That we shall gain knowledge by our diligence.
    2. That we shall improve that knowledge by our experience.
    3. That we shall extend that knowledge by our excellence.

The Grand Ultimatum is, that having gained true wisdom, we shall be found useful in every station, and aim to acquire real happiness.

Monday, October 24, 2011

10 Things Done in 18th Century I Wish Were Done in 21st Century Freemasonry

Speaking as an individual mason, subject to the usual caveats that this does not represent the official stance of any lodge, Grand Lodge, Concordant nor Appendant body of Freemasonry, I'd like to see these ten things return. I understand that some of the things on this list are simply not done in regular Freemasonry today in the United States, and I would not enact any of the unconstitutional items on the list before they became constitutional.
  1. Met in taverns.
  2. Put membership ceilings of 35, or 50, or 60 members of any particular lodge, with the understanding that if the lodge got too big, it would generate new lodges to accomodate new brethren.
  3. Fined brethren for not attending a stated communication of their lodge (except in cases of sickness, absence from town, or urgent business), and fined officers more harshly than the brethren (with the Master and Wardens being fined about 150% more than the regular members). Prolonged absences without excuse, or refusal to pay fines would result in reprimand, suspension or expulsion.
  4. Made degree candidates exemplify the degree catechisms after a thorough education in the meanings of the three degrees (I know some lodges still do this).
  5. Gave Stewards liberty of the floor in order to refill the glasses, tankards, and pipes of the brethren.
  6. Allowed for the tyler to be a profane, and paid the man for his service to the lodge.
  7. Performed the Royal Arch degree in blue lodge, under the authority of the Grand Chapter of their particular jurisdiction.
  8. Were well-represented in the local media, announcing individual stated communications in the newspaper, as well as processionals, church visits, banquets and lodges of table instruction, and Grand communications.
  9. Voted after each degree to decide if the candidate was worthy of the next degree.
  10. Had an officer, called an Almoner, to collect sufficient funds from the brethren of the lodge to liberally come to the relief of distressed brethren of the lodge, their widows and orphans. They would not consider giving any funds to any charities for profanes while their own brethren were in want. No mason could leave a stated communication without giving the Almoner money (this is still the case in Norway).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bereisheet: Cain and Abel

Last Thursday was Simchat Torah, the day that Jews celebrate having finished the yearly cycle of Torah readings. We read the final lines of Deuteronomy, and the first lines of Genesis, thus starting the cycle over again. The first Sabbath after Simchat Torah, we study the first Torah portion, which is called Bereisheet (Hebrew for "in the beginning), covers the first six chapters of Genesis, up until the introduction of Noah, but before mention of the Flood.

There's a lot there; far too much to go over in a week, and far too much to discuss in one blog post. My rabbi likes to say that every time you reread a Torah portion after Simchat Torah, especially having gone through dozens of such cycles, it's always a pleasant surprise to find something new. And yet we do every time. We walk around thinking we know what's in the Bible, but often the Bible surprises us. We think we know the stories in Genesis by heart, but they are more subtle than we think.

What is the story of Cain and Abel? Pause for a moment and tell the story to yourself.

The story you told yourself probably goes something like this:

After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve has a son named Cain, and then has another son named Abel. Cain grows up to be a farmer, and Abel grows up to be a herdsman. Both brothers offer their produce to the Lord. The Lord accepts Abel's sacrifice and disregards Cain's sacrifice. Cain in a jealous rage murders his brother. The Lord asks Cain where his brother is, and Cain replies, "I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?"

The Lord replies that He can hear the voice of Abel's blood crying up from the ground. The Lord interprets the voice of the blood as cursing Cain. Cain can no longer farm, and is to be a wanderer and a fugitive for the rest of his life. Cain complains that his punishment is too harsh for him to bear, and the Lord provides him with a mark that will protect him from being murdered, warning Cain's potential future assailants that they will be avenged sevenfold for slaying Cain. Cain leaves the presence of the Lord (literally, he departs from the face of YHVH), and moves to the Land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain finds a wife (how?) and builds a city and had sons and many generations of men, including Tubal-cain six generations later. There's a strange story about Tubal-cain's father, Lamech, who kills two people (in what might be self-defense in each instance, although the second person only bruised him).

The story thread ends there and the Bible returns to the story of Adam and Eve with the birth of Seth, and the Genesis narrative continues from there.

Have I left anything out? Yes, I have left two lines: Genesis 4: 6-7. In the original Hebrew, the narrative goes from prose to poetry for these two lines, which is always a sign that the verses are of importance. Between the Lord rejecting Cain's sacrifice, and Cain's murder of Abel, there are the following two verses, in poetic form (linebreaks from the JPS version of the Masoretic text):
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-קָיִן 

:לָמָּה חָרָה לָךְ וְלָמָּה נָפְלוּ פָנֶיךָ

הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת 

וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב 

לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ 

וְאֵלֶיךָ תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ 

:וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ 

The King James Bible translates these verses the following way:
And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
It is worth pointing out how unique this case of Divine intervention is. The Lord speaks to Adam and Eve, then Cain, then Noah, then the Patriarchs. The Lord speaks to Cain twice, before and after the murder of Abel. When the Lord disregards Cain's sacrifice, Cain becomes very angry, and his face falls (that's the literal: his face falls). Then the Lord speaks to Cain. He checks Cain's anger.

The previous verses have been used to argue that the Lord intends for people to eat meat, because He disregards a grain sacrifice and accepts a meat sacrifice. But I think Cain's sacrifice is disregarded because of his attitude rather than the substance of the sacrifice. Cain's reaction reveals his poor attitude. The Lord notices this and warns him that he has the power to try again with a better attitude, and that he has the power to effect a pleasing result. He warns Cain that if he fails to check his poor attitude, he has provided an opening for offensive behavior ("sin lieth at the door") to overwhelm his self-control. For sinfulness longs to master him, the Lord warns, but Cain with self-control can master his sinful urges.

This is beautiful and so delicate. The Lord lovingly steps in to remind Cain that his anger has put him in profound spiritual peril, and He pleads for Cain to master himself and his rage. That Cain does not heed the Lord's advice does not make that Divine intervention less precious.

I think Cain surprised the Lord when he murdered his brother, just as his father and mother surprised the Lord when they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of the difference between good and bad. The Lord pleads for Cain to regain his own personal dignity. The Lord cannot regard a sacrifice provided with the wrong spirit. Even though the Lord disregards Cain's sacrifice, the Lord has not disregarded Cain himself. The Lord wants Cain not only to try again to do the sacrifice right, He wants Cain to learn to subdue his passions and improve himself.

The sages of the Talmud tell us that the world stands on three things: Torah, worship of the One, and acts of lovingkindness. The Torah had not yet been revealed to the world in Cain's day, but the Lord is trying to teach Cain about the other two pillars of human existence. And teach us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Great William Preston Quote from 1772

"If the privileges of masonry are so valuable, as to intitle their possessors to respect and esteem, by promoting virtue and rewarding merit; why are not their good effects more conspicuous, and why are they not publicly exposed for the general advantage of mankind?—If our privileges were common, and indiscriminately bestowed, the design of the institution would not only be subverted, but being familiar, like some other important matters, it would lose its value, and sink into disregard.—It is a weakness in human nature, that men are generally more charmed with novelty, than the real worth or intrinsic value of things. This is not confined to masonry; even the operations of nature, though beautiful, magnificent and useful, are overlooked because common and familiar. The sun rises and sets, the sea flows and reflows, rivers glide along their channels, trees and plants vegetate, men and beasts act, and all these, ever present to our eyes, yet remain unnoticed, and excite not one single emotion, either in admiration of the great cause, or of gratitude for the blessings conferred. Even virtue itself is not exempted from this unhappy bias in the constitution of mankind. Novelty influences all our actions, all our determinations. Every thing that is new or difficult in the acquisition, however trifling or insignificant, readily captivates the imagination and ensures a temporary admiration; while what is familiar, or easily attained, however noble, or eminent for utility, is sure to be disregarded by the giddy and the unthinking.

"It is a truth too obvious to be concealed, that the privileges of masonry have been too common. Hence we may assign a reason why their good effects are not more conspicuous.—Several persons enrol their names in our records merely to oblige their friends; and reflect not on the consequences of such a measure, nor enquire into the nature of their particular engagements. Not a few are prompted by motives of interest; and many are introduced with no better view than to please as good companions. A general odium, or at least a careless indifference, is the result of such conduct.—But here the evil stops not.—These persons, ignorant of our noble principles, probably without any real defect in their own morals, are led to recommend others of the same cast with themselves for the same purpose. Thus, behold the end! The most sacred part of masonry is turned into scoff and ridicule, and the superficial practices of a luxurious age bury in oblivion principles which have dignified princes and the most exalted characters.

"Many have been deluded by the vague supposition that the mysteries of masonry were merely nominal, that the practices established among us were slight and superficial, and that our ceremonies were of such trifling import, as to be adopted or waved at pleasure. Having passed through the useful formalities, they have accepted offices, and assumed the government of Lodges, equally unacquainted with the duties of the trusts reposed in them, and the design of the society they pretended to govern. The consequence is obvious; anarchy and confusion ensue, and the substance is lost in the shadow.—Thus men eminent for ability, for rank and fortune, view with indifference the distinguished honours of masonry, and either accept offices with reluctance, or reject them with disdain.

"Such are the disadvantages under which masonry has long laboured. Every zealous friend to the society must earnestly wish for a reformation of these abuses."

From an oration given by William Preston on 21 May 1772, at the occasion of the first demonstration before the Grand Master (Moderns) of Preston's degree system.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Preparing for the East

This is my first post in four months. A lot has happened. I'm working at a software-as-a-service medical IT company that makes a diagnostic tool for clinical oncologists. The job involves computer programming, data integration, and project management. It's been fascinating thus far.

I stepped out of the officer's line at my mother lodge in order to finish my term as Senior Warden in another lodge and prepare to be installed as Worshipful Master in December. Assuming I am elected, of course, but I am the only brother eligible who is not an installed Master, and none of the installed Masters are running.

This lodge is a fascinating experiment. In the town of Medford, Massachusetts, in the 1980s, there were four Masonic lodges, a Royal Arch chapter, a Council of Royal and Select Masters, and a Commandery of Knights Templar. They met at the Armory, a large building in the center of town. Medford was originally settled in 1630, as part of Charlestown. When the British burned Charlestown down in 1775, much of what had been Charlestown was unincorporated and sparsely inhabited afterwards. Medford was not incorporated as a town until 1892. Union General Samuel Crocker Lawrence was the first mayor, in 1895. General Lawrence was later Grand Master of Masons of Massachusetts, and afterwards Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. General Lawrence was a formidable scholar. When the Grand Lodge building in Boston burned to the ground, General Lawrence donated his Masonic book collection to the Grand Lodge as the seed for the new library, which today is called the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, and has 70,000 volumes.

When General Lawrence was mayor, the Armory was used as an armory. General Lawrence arranged that, if the Armory stopped being an armory, it would be given to use by the Masons of Medford, and after World War I, after General Lawrence died, it was given to the Masons of Medford, and outfitted with lodge rooms. The Masons of Medford met there until the late 1980s.

The story is not altogether clear, but someone sold the building to the town of Medford at that time, for far less than its property value, and all of the Masonic groups that met there were evicted. Not long after, every group had either merged with other groups, or went dark. The oldest lodge in Medford was named Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge. General Lawrence's widow donated his Bible for the altar. When the building was sold, it merged with Russell Lodge, which later merged with Mystic Valley Lodge in Arlington.

A few years ago, a bunch of Medford Masons noticed that there were no lodges in Medford, and petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to start one. The Grand Master at the time recommended that the charter of Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge be revived, and with his assistance, it was. The original charter was lost. It had been kept in a safe deposit box in a bank in Medford, and the Winter Hill Gang (Whitey Bulger's mob) robbed the bank and took the charter. It was never recovered. The Grand Master helped write another charter, and a team formed to create the newly revived lodge.

I got involved very late in the game, even though I live in Somerville within sight of the Medford border. A line of officers had been formed, missing a Senior Warden and a Junior Steward. I was persuaded to take the Senior Warden position of the newly revived lodge, with the understanding that I would be willing to take the Oriental Chair the following year, should I be found worthy of the honor. I stepped out of line at my mother lodge to devote all my attention to this newly revived lodge.

In most Masonic lodges, most Masons are members of that lodge and that lodge alone. At Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge, most of the officers is an officer at at least one other lodge or chapter or council or commandery or Scottish Rite body or Shrine divan. That makes things challenging, as our officers often have multiple commitments to juggle. We have raised one brother since we opened, and he is the only member who is a member of this lodge and this lodge alone.

It is a fascinating challenge to keep a new lodge alive, and it is taking a lot of my energies to maintain what the first new Master has generated. It's very much a reality check. I am a member of two other blue lodges, a research lodge, two bodies in one Scottish Rite Valley, a member of another Scottish Rite Valley in the Southern Jurisdiction, and I'm a candidate for degrees in a Royal Arch chapter. I'm involved with three different Masonic publications on top of it, and I'm a student in Master Craftsman II and the College of the Consistory. I've left every other office except the one at Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge, but I still have fingers in a lot of pies. And my other officers all have fingers in other pies.

So there's some chance this will be a rocky year (or however long it takes to hand the Oriental chair to another brother). And yet, I'm thrilled. As tough as it might become, I see so much potential coming from this enterprise. I have the power to sustain Masonic light in a town that has not had it for years. Tufts University is in Medford. Charles Tufts was the secretary of Amicable Lodge, of which I am a member. Its first president was Hosea Ballou II, a member of Amicable Lodge, and a formidable Masonic author like his namesake uncle, Hosea Ballou. There is Freemasonry in the soil in Medford, from its Masonic sons who lifted rifles in 1775 in the Battle of Menotomy, to the university builders of Tufts University, to the great General who incorporated the town of Medford, to the present day. The soil calls out for a continued Masonic presence, for further light. It is my honor and privilege, should I be voted into the chair, to exert myself to the utmost to that end.