Don’t Look Behind the Curtain and The Generational Divide
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor at http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2015/02/dont-look-behind-curtain-and.html
Bro. Robert Patrick Lewis 32°
*Note* The parts of a speech by the Grand Master of California are paraphrased and are not exact.
Waking up this morning I was pleasantly amused to read an article by Brothers Robert Johnson and Brian Schimian that I’ve been hearing about and eagerly waiting for.
I’ve been lucky enough to share some fellowship with Brother Brian during his “California dreaming” time here with us in La La Land, and over a few conversations I’ve had with him leading up to that article and reading it myself this morning, I felt inspired to pen this article based on some feelings and events in my own Masonic career of late.
Brothers Robert and Brian didn’t go so far as to name the specific event that lead to the creation of that great article, and it seems as if it wasn’t necessary. From conversations and communications I’ve had with other Brethren around the country of my generation, and from events that I’ve personally witnessed it seems as if the onus for their article isn’t needed, because the same story is being repeated in Lodges, Valleys and Bodies around the country.
The problem became apparent to me at a reception dinner my Valley hosted for the Grand Master of California last month (January). It was a pleasant event and dinner, my first function as the general secretary of my Valley (we’ll get to that later). After dinner and some entertainment the Grand Master and several other members of my Valley took the time to speak a few words.
What resonated most in my mind was one very small part of the Grand Masters speech that left me, well, speechless. About halfway into his speech about the various charities he’s associated with and things he’s seen in his career, he took a moment to mention the generational divide occurring in Masonry, citing a statistic that the largest numbers of new Masons by far are coming from my generation (I believe the age range he gave was something like 20-35 year olds).
As my education is primarily in marketing I love statistics and metrics, as they can tell us so much about trends and what we are doing right or wrong, so when he followed it with something like “we don’t know why they’ve come, what they’re looking for, or how to keep them” I was floored.
It’s not so much that technology and popular culture have allowed Masonic discussion to be found anywhere that an iPod, phone or laptop can reach, with such outlets as The Midnight Freemasons Blog, From Whence Came You podcast, The Masonic Roundtable, etc, which are primarily hosted by Masons of the very generation he seems to have no understanding of.
It’s not even so much that those of my generation have started countless discussions in our Lodges about why we came to Masonry and what we were searching for.
Moreover, it amazes me that with all of the minutiae Grand Lodges around the country have the time and resources to dedicate to things which seem utterly pointless to men of my generation, it doesn’t seem they’ve taken the time to do the most elementary function an organization can undertake when trying to discern information from a particular demographic: to ask us.
I spent the first month of this year in the general secretary seat for my Valley, and after my time in that seat I can safely say that I’ve seen more than I ever wanted to concerning one of the largest generational disconnects I’ve ever encountered; specifically for me in the Scottish Rite, but after talking with Brothers who’ve held positions in Grand Lodges before, it’s one that seems to be a common theme: politics.
There are several recurring themes I’ve encountered in conversations with other Masons of my generation and during my short stint in the secretary’s seat for my Valley that I’d like to address here, concerning and attempting to explain this generational gap and what it is that my generation came to Masonry in search of.
I know that a large part of the very generations who don’t understand younger Mason’s don’t really understand this media and means of communication, so hopefully someone reading this can use it as a way to begin the conversation within their Lodge, if you are in agreement with the points I’d like to address.
We don’t care about the politics. This “look behind the curtain” dealt a nearly deadly blow to my view of the Scottish Rite, in seeing Brethren treating each other extremely un-Masonically, concerning themselves more with alliances and future positions than what was going on in their Lodge/Valley. The men of my generation are absolutely sick of politicians that have done their best to ruin our country, and fully appreciate why Brother Pike spent so much of his writings in Morals and Dogma talking of the repugnancy and pestilence that are self-serving politicians. Politics should have no place in Masonry, and when a Brother of my generation sees someone playing politics in the Lodge, all respect is immediately lost.
We don’t care about titles. That’s great that you have an “Illustrious” or “Honorable” or “Sir” in front of your name. While it does show that you’ve logged some serious hours in a Lodge room or Valley Temple, that’s not what we came here searching for. Many of my generation have spent time across the ocean on battlefields, and much like those who returned from WWII or Vietnam to find solace in the Lodge, we believe that respect is something earned, not given as easily as a large donation or time spent in a certain chair. For those of us who truly came seeking “further Light in Masonry,” no matter what title comes before your name, you are still a man. Just as the skull is used to remind us of our own mortality, it should also remind you that no matter what your title, we are all meant to meet on the Level when in Lodge.
We don’t care about the minutes. Seriously. Both my Blue Lodge and Valley have the same group of people who regularly attend stated and special meetings. We were present when it opened last month and heard what happened. No need to repeat it. That valuable oxygen and energy could be used doing what the men of my generation came to Masonry for: spreading further Light through Masonic education.
We value our time. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not sure why or how this occurred, but I’ve noticed (even within my own family, friends and friends families) that the men of my generation just seem to value time at home with the family differently than those who came before us. Maybe it’s because we were raised by fathers who spent long hours toiling away at work or taking part in other social activities, but my close friends and I value our time with family above all else. Please go back and read #3 again.
We work smarter, not harder. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to explain just how efficient, easy and profitable the use of technology can be these days to our Personal Representative (I created a Facebook, Twitter and Google Drive for our Valley to try and get us into the technology age). I get it, we’ve sent out brochures, flyers and put trestle boards out in the Lodge for time immemorial, and that’s what you’re comfortable with. The men of my generation fully embrace technology, and have an understanding that there are a finite amount of trees on our planet, and not everyone can be at every stated meeting (please re-read 3&4). Websites, Email, Facebook and Twitter are just plain smarter, faster, easier and more widespread than their paper predecessors, and give us access from wherever we are, whenever we want to figure out what’s going on in our Lodges/Valleys. Please put some effort into understanding this, as it is at the core of my generation’s culture.
We don’t care about the pomp and circumstance. At the beginning of this article I spoke of a reception for the Grand Master that my Valley hosted. This was another “look behind the curtain” for me, and watching the dizzy fervor that this event whipped our PR into made me take a step back and wonder why in the world we were even doing it. Yes, it’s fun to dress up in tuxedos and wear our regalia every once in awhile. But please go back and read 1,2,3&4 before you schedule one of these events for your Lodge or Valley. From the conversations I’ve had with Brethren of my generation, all would be much better served to bring a Masonic scholar like Arturo de Hoyos or Rex Hutchens to shed some further Light to your younger Brethren.
We want to learn from you. We didn’t come to Masonry for the institution; we came for the education, the Light, and the community. For us a meeting could be in a Lodge room just as well as a chat room or a dimly lit tavern, as were our forefathers. We know that there are numerous lessons and experiences to be taught, but the resounding narrative I hear echoed from the Brethren of my generation is that those experiences just aren’t being passed on from “mouth to ear” between generations. Sure, we have degrees a few times a month. How about taking some time to impart your thoughts on those degrees. Yes, we can read any number of works to explain the esoteric to us in black and white text. But as we’ve been taught through our developing careers, the best lessons in Masonry aren’t written down. We yearn for our elders to show us the Light, teach us the ways and impart us with knowledge, not just have dinner, read the minutes and go home.
If any of the above has been taken as argumentative, disrespectful or out of place, I truly apologize. It is not meant to be so, but I have to admit I feel flabbergasted to hear an officer of my Grand Lodge state that he doesn’t know what the men of my generation are looking for, when we’ve tried so hard to express that very knowledge.
We feel that society has done us wrong and taught us lessons that were untrue; we can’t believe our media, our politicians, most of our textbooks from school, or most of what we hear or read in the news.
We came to the Order seeking others who, like us, know that there is more to life than what we’ve been told and taught, and were directed that the path to the answers we sought began by walking up the steps into our local Lodge.
We love you, we respect you, and we need you, as Brethren, elders, and educators. When we came seeking knowledge and further Light in Masonry, we came to Masonry seeking you.
Please don’t let another new Master Mason’s first experience after his raising be a reading of the minutes, because if that is all we have to offer, there won’t be too many more raisings to be had.
Bro. Robert Patrick Lewis is a member of Los Angeles Lodge #42, and the Los Angeles Valley of the Scottish Rite, SJ. He is an author of two books; "Love Me When I'm Gone" a memoir about his time serving our country as a member of Special Forces and his newest "The Pact", a fictional tale of what happens when the US is taken over.
The Midnight Freemasons is a great blog with many contributors. Check it out here