Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

27 August 2007

Quantity v. Quality in Freemasonry

In the discourse at Grand Lodge there are always those set of Brethren who use the words from the past to establish their points. Any historian, even a rank amateur like myself, knows that armed with enough time you can find a quote or precedent to support any position. While reading the Proceedings of 1861 I ran across a gem of rare brilliance. No doubt one of Maine's Past Grand Masters will take this to heart, particularly considering its source!

But the chief source of danger to us, is a too rapid increase in our numbers. We fear nothing from without. All our danger is from within. Masonry has stood the test of ages, and the waves of persecution which have beat against her have only established her on a surer foundation. Her strength and support depend on the character of those who uphold her. How closely then should we scrutinize the character of those who seek admission among us. Our strength depends not on the quantity but the quality of our members. One unworthy member casts a blot on the whole fraternity. One mis-shaped stone mars the symmetry of the whole temple. One defective pillar may cause the ruin of the whole edifice. None of us have forgotten the wait of anguish, which went up from ever New England town, a little more than a year ago, when that terrible calamity occurred in that young but busy City in our mother commonwealth. A single pillar, fair without, but unsound and defective within, gave way, and in a moment that vast structure was a mass of ruin, burying beneath it the mangled forms of those whom it should have supported and protected. Let this be a lesson to us, that every new member should be a pillar of adamant to our institution, giving way to no pressure from within or without: that we should not content ourselves with a fair outside, but examine his internal qualifications and suffer no flaw or defect to escape us, else he may prove unable to support the character of our order, and involve himself and us in one common ruin. The fathers understood this and governed themselves accordingly.

Address of the Grand Master of 1861
M.W. Bro. Josiah Hayden Drummond
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine, Vol. 4, pg. 156

This is sound advice echoing from the ages: Guard the West Gate! What fine quote that might make for a newsletter: "Remember my Brothers the concern for membership is not to gain many, but to find one worthy and well qualified man though it take a lifetime. As one Past Grand Master said 'Our strength depends not on the quantity but the quality of our members.'"

Let no man tell you Masonry needs many more "members," what Masonry really needs is a few more Brothers!

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22 August 2007

Reconstruction Hornet Battle

No home project is complete without a war against nature and new tools. I love carpet. I love living room carpet most of all. Tandy...not so much with the living room carpet. She is from the hardwood with a throw rug culture. Ultimately, she had the more formidable arsenal: the girls. They ground things into that poor carpet until even I could bear it no longer. Finally, we agreed to rip it out and remodel the living room. Unlike the previously projects this was not scheduled as a "gut and rebuild" operation. There were only three items on the agenda:
  1. Continue the hardwood flooring into the 1960s extension to the living room (only sub-floor back there).
  2. Remove the drop ceiling and either repair or sheetrock over the damaged ceiling.
  3. Replace the lighting over the fireplace and in the ceiling.

The day we removed the drop ceiling we found about a half-dozen "bees" flying around the room. After no small amount of exploration those "bees" were found to be yellow jackets and the half-dozen turned into two nests. We searched for days for the nest finally exposing it, including a creepy "listen to the wall buzz" moment. I am not a huge fan of bees or "bees," but this was just too much. Fortunately, I have braver friends including Adrian the Amateur General Contractor and Steve the English Hornet Handler. They scared me, they amazed me, they made me slightly ill. At one point Steve was pulling out handfuls of the nest with little more than his gloves on. Yikes!

An individual, who shall remain nameless, did me the favor of cutting through a wire in the first floor knob and tube circuit. I have a very, very healthy fear of knob and tube. Left alone it will continue safely for generations, but once you touch it by splicing into it or cutting away sections, all bets are off. My avowed strategy is to gradually remove items from the circuit, capping off that end point in the box until the whole circuit is empty. Then the dead circuit is removed from the panel, ending it for all times. Fortunately, I always take the precaution of shutting off "at risk" circuits in the panel when doing a project. The nameless individual was not showered with sparks as he cut through the wire.

Faced with the need to replace a whole mess of wiring, now that the knob and tube was tampered with, a new tool was clearly required. To fill the need I purchased a 72" drill bit with a 3/4" bit head. This bit is specially designed for running wire and is used by sliding the bit up (to reach the ceiling) or down (to reach the basement) in an outlet box hole in the wall, then drilling through to reach the desired location. There is a tiny hole bored through the bit face, allowing you to slide a piece of the wire through to pull it down to the outlet box hole. We used this tool more often than you can imagine, particularly when we had to run a new line into the hallway for the stairwell light fixture (rendered inoperative by the loss of the knob and tube circuit). In total we used the bit about nine times to help run wire where there we no existing holes. At almost $40, it hurt light mad to pay for it, but the bit came in incredibly handy.

All in all, the project is going very well. We still have sheetrock to hang, walls to scrape and paint and floors to install and refinish. We are, however, making good time with the help of good friends and the promise of good beer after each day's work!

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09 August 2007

Back to the Geospatial World

Following the release of XMap 5.0 in November I transitioned to a team responsible for selecting and deploying a new suite of development tools.

05 August 2007

Living Practical Masonry

As I continue my research into the development of Masonic ritual in Maine, I came across this beautiful description of how hard it is to move from the theory of Masonry to its practice:
Almost fifty-three years of my life I have been connected with the Masonic institution; I have spent many pleasant hours with brethren, some of whom are gone, while others live; I have received many tokens of their kind regard. During that period, I have paid some attention, as my brethren all know, to the theory of Masonry; but have always found the practical part of Masonry, the hardest and most difficult to learn; and should I be inquired of, how that can be overcome and made less difficult, I know of no better answer or advice to give, than to set your standard of morals high. All aim for it, all strive to win the prize; and if any should seem to come short of it, as you probably will, it may afford you some satisfaction to reflect that God looks at the motive; and that, although David was not permitted to build the temple, yet he was blessed because he had it in his heart so to do.

M.W. Bro. John Miller of Warren, Maine
Grand Lecturer 1822-1854*
Grand Master 1855
As a ritualist and passable Masonic scholar I understand the theory Masonry very well, but as a man my practical Masonry requires a lot of work. All around me I see other brilliant ritualists and scholars in the midst of the same struggle. I hope, one day, to be able to reflect on my life and believe with sincerity that I was as good a practicing Mason as a student of it, but I suspect I will have little more luck than King David.

* The position of Grand Lecturer came and went often during the period 1822 to 1854, but whenever there was such a post Bro. Miller was among them. When the Grand Lodge of Maine saw fit to standardize the Master Mason Degree it was Bro. Miller seated in the East for the exemplification.

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03 August 2007

The Development of Masonic Ritual, 2007 Edition

Unlike many other facets of Freemasonry, covered in the Maine Masonic College, the history of Masonic ritual is fairly straightforward. The questions of symbolism and philosophy are covered in depth by better, smarter men like Bros. Kuntz and Plummer. The class this year will be divided into two sections:

Section One:
We will cover early Masonic ritual as it developed in Europe from a simple obligation to a memorized system of questions and answers to the lectures we know so well today. So often as we experience the ritual in our lodges, we are left wondering where a line comes from or who wrote a lecture. This class answers these essential and engaging questions without dwelling on topics without end. During the lunch break we will have an open discussion period for detailed question and answer as well as sharing our own materials and experiences.

Section Two:
The class picks up as the Masonic ritual reaches America by discussing the primary authors of American Masonic ritual: Thomas Smith Webb and Jeremy Ladd Cross. The previous class closed out with a discussion of these authors and the Baltimore Convention of 1843. Since September of 2006, however, I have been engaged in personal research about the history of Masonic ritual here in Maine, allowing us to discuss in detail the development of Masonic ritual in our own State. This is a very special opportunity which you will not find in a book or lodge program. The class wraps up as we discuss the detailed differences between the 1874 edition of Masonic Ritual in Maine and the 1984 edition, under which we are governed today. Please consider joining me for this fun and practical class, remember the good fishing isn't for another two weeks anyhow!

Attendees will receive a copy of my "Events in Maine Ritual History" research index and a copy of the three degrees as they were worked in 1874. This class is dedicated to the memory of R.W. Bro. Ralph Johnson, Past D.D.G.M. of the 13th Masonic District.

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Crazy License Plate

Been busy...excuses, excuses.

On the way home from dinner with the ladies tonight we saw a vehicle with the license plate: PH2ODOG. There was much discussion over its meaning during the ride. I leaned toward "pee water dog," but I guess that is just me. No one else had a better suggestion. What do you think?