Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Review: Freemasons: Tales From The Craft

Some years ago, I was surfing the internet and I found this great blog called The One Minute Mason.  The author posted frequently, and most often, the posts were just two or three sentences long--it was rare to get what would be considered a paragraph.  He featured brief little factoids from American history or culture that in one way or another involved Freemasonry.  I enjoyed that blog a great deal, and checked it almost every day.  I love trivia, and that's exactly what he was writing--trivia geared for Freemasons!

I finally contacted the author of that blog--Steven Harrison.  Very often the One Minute Mason's two or three sentences resulted in me spending an evening researching the subject in more detail--more than once, with Steve's permission, I'd post an expanded version of his original piece with links to the One Minute Mason. 

Left to right: Midnight Freemasons Greg Knott, Steve Harrison, and Todd E. Creason in Urbana, Illinois
Steve and I later became friends, and when I decided to turn my blog, The Midnight Freemason into the contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural), Steve was one of the first guys I called, and his contributions to that blog have always been amongst the most popular posts. 

Steve wrote a book a couple years ago Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi.  It was a collection of much longer stories Steve had compiled.  It quickly became one of my favorite books--one of the better thumbed books in my collection of Masonic books.  But I was thrilled when Steve told me he was working on a collection of his blog posts--those short little blurbs that I had enjoyed so much on his One Minute Mason blog.

I have really enjoyed Freemasons: Tales From The Craft--I sat down and read it from cover to cover the day I received it from Steve in the mail.  I don't know how many of those little blurbs I read to my wife as I was reading it.  This book is great fun, and you'll learn a lot in the process.  And if you're like me, you'll get interested in one of Steve's short subjects and wind up spending a few hours learning a lot more about a famous Freemason, or a moment in history, or some odd little Masonic connection to something unexpected.  Get it and enjoy it.  And buy one for your Lodge's library, too!  These are great little pieces for discussion during the education portion of your meetings.  In fact, my next education topic is coming from this book--"here's a dozen things you probably don't know about famous Freemasons."  Both of Steve's books are available at follow the links above.

However, as good as they are, when you get this book don't be too anxious to get into the meat of the book.  Steve's a great writer, but you wouldn't want to skip over the finely crafted introduction written by another very distinguished writer.  Me!   


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Masonic Week 2015 Road Trip Begins!

Well I should have all kinds of interesting things to write about coming up.  Greg Knott and I are getting ready to leave for Masonic Week 2015 in Reston, Virginia.  The Midnight Freemasons will be well represented at that conference.  I'm looking forward to a lot of interesting meetings, great speakers, and good fellowship.  I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to join a few interesting Masonic orders while I'm there.  And I'm finally going to meet a number of Masons I've communicated with for many years, but have never met face to face. I'd planned on taking this trip last year, but due to a winter storm on the East coast, I never got off the ground in the Midwest--so it's a year overdue, but it looks like it's finally going to happen.
Greg and I plan on visiting a number of Masonic locations in the D.C. area while we're there.  Greg has visited all these places before.  He's been planning a book for some time now--a collection of his photography of many of these historic Masonic locations in the Washington D.C. area.  The plan is to feature his photography, and my captions and accompanying text.  I'd tell you more about the specific locations Greg will be featuring in his book, but you'll just have to wait for it.

But I'm sure I'll have a thing or two to share with you when I get back.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Imitation Is The Highest Form Of Flattery

My dad is an antique collector and dealer, and whenever he finds something "Masonic" it usually winds up in my collection.  A few years ago he found several "Masonic" lapel pins and dropped them by the house.  I glance at them when he gave them to me, and thought they were kind of different, but they sat on my counter for a week before I really looked at them and realized they weren't Masonic at all.  They were anniversary pins for membership in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.  If you can't see the similarities between the Freemasons square and compass and the crest of the Carpenter's Union, you better get to the eye doctor.

As a matter of fact, I've had a little fun with these pins.  I've worn one on my lapel a couple dozen times to Masonic events.  You know, not one single Mason noticed it wasn't a Masonic pin, and believe me, they would have pointed it out in a heartbeat.  Not long after I became a Mason, I wore one of those antique lapel pins my dad had found--as it turns out it was a lady's pin.  I got noticed for sure.  Does your husband know you're here, Mrs. Creason.  Bwahahahahaha!  Sometimes brotherhood can be brutal.

As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Freemasonry gets flattered a lot.  Our square and compass logo is respected and well-known, and it gets borrowed frequently.  Our symbols are ancient and mysterious to the uninitiated, and I see "Masonic looking" apparel all the time--in fact, I just picked up this sweatshirt off the clearance rack at Kohl's last weekend.  A tattoo artist from Las Vegas contacted me a couple months ago.  He wanted to know if there was a reference book or something of Masonic symbols, artwork, and woodcuts I could direct him to.  He told me that in the last five years, his most popular designs are all based on Masonic and Knights Templar symbolism.

I wasn't able to help the tattoo artist, but I was honest with him, and told him why.  I don't like to see our symbols worn like this by people who don't have an appreciation for what they mean.  But I also understand it is because so many people are fascinated and intrigued by our Fraternity and its mysterious secret knowledge that these symbols are so often mimicked.  And we can't get too upset about our symbols being borrowed by others--many of the symbols used in Freemasonry are not original to our Fraternity.  We did some borrowing along the way as well.  Even the symbol most often associated with us isn't our own--the All Seeing Eye!  We adopted it, but it had been around for millenia and used by many cultures around the world before we began using it.

So don't get mad.  Enjoy the priviledge of membership in the "real genuine deal."  Be content knowing that you actually know what those symbols mean--that you've received light.  And do like I do--when you see a cool t-shirt, hat, or sweatshirt with a "Masonic looking" design buy it and enjoy it!  I must admit, some of my favorite Masonic apparel isn't Masonic at all.  It's those designs that the graphic artists at Aeropostle, Old Navy, and American Eagle are tinkering with that I enjoy wearing.  We have a few, but I wish we had a few more Brothers out there designing graphics like these for our younger Fraternity members--and a few older guys like me that just like anything and everything to do with the Craft.   

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Master's Lectures: Happiness

Excerpted from a series of lectures delivered in 1923 by
Worshipful Brother Norman B. Hickcox
Evans Lodge No. 524 A.F.& A.M. (IL)

The habit of contentment is formed, not from without, but from within; and it is a wonderfully satisfying habit to own.

We must learn to be content with what we have.  A quiet home; vines of our own planting; a few books full of the inspiration of genius; a few friends worthy of being loved, and able to love us in return; a hundred innocent pleasures that bring no pain or remorse; a simple religion, full of trust and hope and love--to such a philosphy this world will yield all the joy it has.

There is no duty we so much underestimate as the duty of being happy.  By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world which remain unknown even to ourselves; or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor.  A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a fifty-dollar bill.  He or she is a radiating focus of good will, and their entrance into a room is as though another lamp had been lighted.

Nothing on earth can smile but man!  Gems may flash reflected light, but what is a diamond-flash compared to an eye-flash and a mirth-flash?  Flowers cannot smile; this is a charm that even they cannot claim.  It is the prerogative of man; it is the color which love wears and cheerfulness and joy--these three.  It is a light in the windows of the ace, by which the heart signifies it is at home and waiting.  A face that cannot smile is like a bud that cannot blossom, and dries up on the stalk.  Laughter is day and sobriety is night, and a smile is the twilight that hovers gently between both--more bewitching than either.  


To that I would only add that twelve lectures were prepared by WB Norman B. Hickox, and he gave one each month he was Master of Evans Lodge.  The lecture he prepared on the topic of happiness was the 11th one he gave on November 13th, 1923, and it was one of the longest.  From that you can surmise that WB Hickox thought happiness was indeed one of the most important subjects he wanted to cover.  I couldn't agree more--as those of you who follow this blog know, I write on that subject a great deal.  The subject of human happiness is a very misunderstood concept.  As with many things in our modern society, we tend to make it way harder than it actually is.  

~Todd E. Creason
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