Thursday, September 20, 2018

800 Posts!

I’m celebrating a landmark today—this is my 800th piece on the From Labor To Refreshment blog!  I’ve also just passed 550K readers on this blog.  I started this about 12 years ago, and I posted primarily leftovers from my book research in the beginning.  Later I wrote original pieces about Freemasonry, Masonic events, different appendant bodies, history, travel, book reviews, humor, updates about books projects… you name it and I’ve written about it.  I’ve written quite a few series on here as well, the Benjamin Franklin series I’ve been re-running lately was one of those.  Also my “Freemason Or Not?” series has been a perennial favorite—I’ve continued that one on The Midnight Freemasons.

About six years ago, this blog, which was then The Midnight Freemason became plural and moved to a new URL The Midnight Freemasons as a contributor blog.  We’ve had many contributing “Midnight Freemasons” that have come and gone over the years, but the blog has become wildly popular.  We have over 3 million readers of The Midnight Freemasons blog! 

But I still like to write on this blog, because this is my sandbox.  It’s a smaller audience, and very often I try themes and ideas out here before further refining those ideas into a Midnight Freemasons piece.  And it’s a little more casual and less Freemasonry themed here… so I often write on topics that have captured my interest that may or may not have anything to do with the Craft.  However, one of the plans I have going forward on this blog is to chronicle some of my road trip adventures as the new Eastern Area Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M.  I’ve already visited a few very impressive buildings, and seen some remarkable things readers may well enjoy.  I’ll hope to be doing some of this travel going forward with a couple Midnight Freemasons you may know i.e. Greg Knott and Darin Lahners—the thing about Eastern Illinois is that it is spread out, so that means there’s a lot of distance between the one hundred Lodges in my area.  I’m smack in the middle of it, and It’s about an hour and a half to the furthers North, South and West boundaries—so some company in the car is a nice thing to have. 

So here we go on our way to 800 pieces more (I’m not even counting the 100+ I’ve posted on The Midnight Freemasons or the articles I’ve written over the years).  Thank you all for your attention over the years.  I truly appreciate it.  My journey in Freemasonry has been rich indeed, and I owe much of that experience to the support I’ve received from Brothers I’ve never met who like some of the things I have to say.

Thank you so much!

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Todd E. Creason, 33°

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's Virtues Week 7: Industry

This is the seventh in a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's Virtues:

Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

One thing has not changed since Benjamin Franklin’s day. People are easily distracted, and predisposed to waste time if given the opportunity. We’ve never in our history had more ways to waste time than today. We have more free time than ever. We have television, movies, handheld devices, computer games, Facebook, Twitter, vacations, concerts . . . there is no shortage of things we can do to entertain ourselves. And we do.

But it doesn’t stop people from complaining about the fact they never have enough time to do the things they want to accomplish in life. Benjamin Franklin’s answer to that? Don’t waste time. Focus on the things you want in life, and pay attention to how your spending your time.

Ben Franklin had a little schedule he carried around with him. It reminded him how he should be focusing his time. He set time aside for work. Time for meals. Time for recreational pursuits. And time for rest. He worked hard to make sure the time he wasted he kept at a minimum—and look at the things he accomplished in his life.

Another of America’s Founding Fathers well-known for his industriousness had this to say about it.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

~Thomas Jefferson

Spend some time this week thinking about where you waste your time—is it television? Facebook? Computer games? Give it up for a week and spend that time in pursuit of those goals you want to accomplish. See what can do in just a week, if you eliminate those frivolous distractions that occupy so much of your time.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

This is one of a series of Wednesday postings that examine the 13 Virtues Benjamin Franklin believed necessary to achieve moral perfection.  You can find all the related articles by searching the blog under the “Franklin’s Virtues” label.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Blessings In Disguise

Last week, our satellite dish went on the fritz--we've never had a significant problem with it before, but without question, our receiver died.  Dead.  And the satellite folks couldn't come out for a week.  I was a little ticked off about that considering what we pay for that service, but it was clear that my being annoyed didn't change the facts.  It was going to be a week.  Valerie bought an antennae so we could at least get the local stations during that long dry week--in fact we get more stations than I thought.

By the third day, I noticed something--I didn't miss all those channels.  In fact, there were three or four channels in particular that I spend too much time flipping between that I realized I didn't need at all.  In fact, I've enjoyed few things more recently than not having that dish.  Sometimes the things we think are necessities are actually hindrances to us. When that dish went down, it was actually a blessing--we didn't have a choice but to live without it for awhile.  And what we found is that maybe we don't need it at all. 

Every evening, I invite people into our home that don't have our best interests at heart.  They try to tell us how to think, how we should feel about things, and what our opinions should be based on political ideology of their network or cable news outlet.  Those networks work hard to make people afraid, or make people angry, or entrench people in one way or the other on specific issues.  There's a motive, but it's not to educate and inform, or report facts.  Their motive is simply to get one group of people on one side of the middle to stay home and the group on the other side of the middle to go out and vote.

I'm going to tell you, a week without CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and the networks has been a real blessing without a doubt.

They'll fix our dish in a day or two.  I think it's likely we're going to drop our dish.  I think in my household, we've learned a valuable lesson about what we need and what we don't need in our home.  We think we need to watch the news to be informed, but they are actually robbing us of our ability to think for ourselves.  Sadly, I've always been able to see the bias, even on my own side of the political spectrum, but too many people are not able to see it, and they don't bother to check what they're being fed. 

I study issues before I adopt an opinion about them--I study both sides of a debate, I read the facts relating to the issue, and form an opinion on the issue based on that research.  Most Americans rely on what they're told.  They parrot what the "news" tells them.  I see it on Facebook all the time--smart people that have no idea that what they are saying is a talking point and not an actual fact.  For instance, all this talk about the Supreme Court lately, and I hear news people talking that don't seem to know the difference between a Supreme Court precedent and a Constitutional Right.  I heard one talking head say just last week on CNN that there was fear that the Supreme Court might rule differently on the Constitutional separation of church and state--of course anybody that has read the Constitution knows there is no separation of church and state in the Constitution--nothing.  That's not a Constitutional issue--that's a precedent of the court.  I could have probably told you that in the 8th grade, because that's when we first looked at the Constitution and studied what it said.

Here we are in the information age, with 24-hour news coverage, the internet, and an ability to read actual source documents right from our phones, and Americans today are overwhelmingly less informed about just about every issue today than we were just a few decades ago. 

Thirty years ago, Americans would watch a little news in the morning, maybe pick up the newspaper and peruse it over coffee, and then watch an hour in the evening (30 minutes national and 30 minutes local news).  I think we were far better informed of the facts then, because those news broadcasts and newspapers were focused to deliver very specific information in a very tight space, so we got just what we needed to know.  And Americans had very little patience for inaccuracies in news reporting--a retraction or a piece that was later found to be inaccurate actually made the news and damaged the reputation of the newspaper or network news provider (remember Dan Rather's fast fall from grace as the CBS news anchor).  Even the editorial pages were more responsible in their opinions, and more thoughtful in their arguments--of course I think the writers were better then, and tended to base their opinions on facts instead of ideologies no matter what side of the political fence the writer was--and even strong editorials were more civil in their discourse than they are today.  There was little time or space for conjecture, talking head opinion panels, and all the rest.  News was news and entertainment was something totally different--and Americans knew the difference!

That form of journalism doesn't exist in America anymore.  And at least in my household, we're opting out of it all together.  I'll get my news through a couple news collection sites I trust in the mornings over coffee like I used to over the newspapers in decades past--a little news from the left and a little from the right, and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.  But I'll make my own decisions about what is accurate, what is factual, and how I think and feel about things.  I just don't believe our news media anymore--they've lost their credibility.  When they get their acts together (and their facts) and I feel I can trust their reporting again, maybe I'll tune back in again.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's Virtues Week 6: Silence

This is the sixth in a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's Virtues:

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself;
avoid trifling conversation.

Sadly, polite manners and common sense have not kept pace with the modern technological developments of our rapidly changing society. In the world of Facebook, Twitter, cellphones and text messaging, many Americans spend so much time focused on themselves, and talking about themselves, and how wonderful they are, they seem to forget that other people exist at all.

We don’t listen to each other anymore. We’re so busy talking that we’ve forgotten than God gave us one mouth, but two ears. We’ve become a very selfish society, where it is perfectly acceptable to answer a phone call and have a loud discussion in a movie theater. Where it’s perfectly fine to block traffic in a busy intersection while you answer a text message. Where it is not considered rude by many to play ‘Angry Birds’ on your iPhone instead of listening to a presentation a co-worker spent weeks putting together.

Give yourself a break. Go off-line one day this week. Leave your cellphone at home. Stay off Facebook and Twitter. Give the ‘Angry Birds’ a rest. Notice the things going on around you for a change, and live in the real world for just one day. Listen to what other people say. Read what other people have written. Think about what you’re saying before you say it.

You might just realize after re-introducing yourself to the real world again, that it’s not all about you. You learn much more by listening than speaking.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°
This is one of a series of Wednesday postings that examine the 13 Virtues Benjamin Franklin believed necessary to achieve moral perfection.  You can find all the related articles by searching the blog under the “Franklin’s Virtues” label.
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