The weather is cooling, days are getting shorter, leaves are changing, and oh my goodness Autumn crashed into my family like a rhino whose credit card is unexpired. My apologies for this September's Master's letter being so belated as to come to you in October.
Repentant of my tardiness, I've looked at our ritual for what lessons I can learn regarding my lapse in punctuality or the lack of timeliness in delivering this letter to you.
The scythe, the hour glass, time undoing the ringlets in the virgin's hair: Masonic symbolism is rich in references to the fleeting nature of our time on Earth, themes I've touched on before. We're taught to consider the working tool of the 24 inch gauge as way to allocate our time, and we hear a lot of references to Freemasonry as it relates to time immemorial. But I haven't seen anything on the value of being on time. Curious.
My thoughts on why this is falls under two categories: Practical (Operative) and Spiritual (Speculative).
In operative Masonry, as especially from its beginnings in time immemorial, there is no working tool for the measure of time, as seen by the 24 inch gauge being used as an emblem for time. Punctuality and timeliness require a precision in the measurement of time, which didn't exist up until the 17th century, a little before the advent of speculative masonry. Prior there were sun dials which are reasonably accurate but subject to weather and seasonal changes. There were water alarm clocks to wake monks in the middle of the night so they didn't miss their prayers. But until the advent of the pendulum clock it wasn't really possible to accurately (and reliably) measure minutes, and even then it had no practical use for measuring punctuality. It was a great boon to navigators and astronomers to accurately track and chart the stars, but it wasn't until the advent of the railroad and the hairspring that allowed for reasonably accurate pocket watches, that it meant something to be punctual.
So operative Masonry, predating all this, apparently had no need for it. I imagine you showed up to work a certain rough time relative to day break and left a rough amount of time relative to sun set. Strange to the modern sensibilities that you didn't begin work at something o clock sharp. But seems reasonable to think that being "on time" was lumped into "showing up" when time is more relative than we're used to. So it seems to me that while we explore Freemasonry to make ourselves better men, it wasn't until recently that "punctual" was part of being "better".
In discussing this curious lack of symbols with Brother Paul Uslan, our Lodge Education Officer, he pointed out what the absence of a symbol might mean in speculative Masonry. "As time and space cease to exist on the spiritual plane, I doubt there are symbols to explain it on the physical," Paul pointed out. This gave me a lot to ponder. The lessons of the hour glass and the scythe certainly tell us that life is fleeting and we should make the use of every moment we have, but time stretching forth before and after your time on Earth is so vast, what is a minute relative to eternity? Is the spiritual lesson on timeliness actually a lesson on timelessness? Not to sweat the little stuff in the big picture? Or is the spiritual lesson that it's not the time or the space that matters, but being at the time and space that you'd said you'd be? Being true to yourself and your word? Brothers it feels like the spiritual lesson is both.
So maybe I shouldn't sweat the fact that it took me so long to find the time to write to you, but maybe I should sweat the fact that I didn't properly execute one of my duties as master of this lodge. I'll endeavor to do better for October! The clock's ticking!
What do you think brothers? Have I missed some symbols or lessons Freemasonry might offer on punctuality and timeliness?
Sincerely And Fraternally,
UPCOMING EVENTS - See our Calendar for details
Oct 17 - Special Communication [MM] | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Oct 24 - Dinner&Movie/Master’s Table | Zal Gaz Grotto Club, RSVP NOW
Nov 7 - Regular Communication | Pittsfield Union Grange Hall
Nov 8 - Discussion Group:Brotherhood of Literature | Bro. Paul’s House
Nov 10 Charity Fundraiser | Zal Gaz Grotto Club
Nov 28 - Special Communication [MM] | Saline Lodge