Saturday, June 23, 2012

Masonic Brothers: An Unlikely New Partnership

Me and Grand Master Swaney 10/28/09, Mattoon, IL
Back in October 2009, I was invited to speak at an annual Past Master's dinner at Mattoon Lodge No. 260 (second time I'd been invited to speak at that event), and to my surprise, the other speaker was our newly installed Grand Master of Illinois, Richard Swaney.  It was a little intimidating.  And he's way better at speaking than I am, and he massacred me that night.  You can read all about that here.  But one thing that happened that night, was Grand Master Swaney told me there was somebody I "absolutely had to meet."  It was the Illinois Grand Lodge's Leadership Development Chairman, Michael Shirley.  Those are the kinds of introductions you tend to pay attention to.  We met, we talked, and I think it's safe to say were were equally unimpressed with each other.  But we met again--at the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) where we're both member.  That's when things changed.  It was during our interactions there that our friendship really began.

Over the last three years, Michael and I have become very good friends.  We have a few things in common--Freemasonry, we're writers, and we both share a great love of history.  In fact, Michael teaches history at Eastern Illinois University.  But there are a few things we don't agree on--we're both political junkies on opposite sides of just about every issue.  But fortunately, we also both enjoy a spirited argument (outside of lodge of course), and have enjoyed quite a few "discussions" over the last few years that fell just short of insults . . . okay, maybe there was a little name-calling a time or two.  But it was sure fun for both of us--it's hard to find somebody that knows how to debate, and can make points on which both parties can agree.  We could use a little more of that in Washington, D.C., huh?

W. B. Michael Shirley
But on the subject of Freemasonry, you'd never find two men more in agreement.  Michael and I been having this ongoing conversation since we met on a topic we both thought was interesting.  We realized we had an idea that was the makings of a great article that would be of interest to Freemasons--and it was an idea that isn't discussed much but is very important none-the-less. So over a fine Chinese lunch, both of us decided to try something neither of us ever had before--we decided to write something together. *gasp* When it comes to writing, Michael and I see eye-to-eye.  Writing is personal, and the idea of writing together was a foreign concept to us both.  We weren't even sure how to go about it.

I don't think after that lunch discussion either one of us thought a writing partnership would ever work.  But we were determined to try it.  I think Michael wrote the first paragraph for the article, and sent it to me in an email.  Then over two or three months, we passed it back and forth like a football, adding ideas, and crafting what turned out to be a great piece.  I think at some point we both came to realize what we were doing was better than either of us could have done alone. Also at some point in this process, the writing itself merged into a single voice.  For me, that partnership experience is what gave me the idea to turn my blog The Midnight Freemason into the collaborative effort Midnight Freemasons.  We now have six Midnight Freemasons who are regular contributor to the blog, and Michael Shirley is one of them.  

I guess the point of this article is that it never ceases to amaze me how men from so many walks of life can come together, and do such remarkable things, based on one common experience--Freemasonry.  The Creason-Shirley partnership (or Shirley-Creason partnership depending on which one of us you ask) is a perfect example of one of these unlikely pairings.  We're certainly not the first of these.  There's Lewis & Clark (or Clark & Lewis depending on which one you asked)--read your history and you'll discover these were two very different men.  There's Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (this one started well and ended badly).  There's Mark Twain and Joseph "Uncle Joe" Cannon (this one led to the establishment of United States copyright law).

I'm looking forward to seeing what evolves.  Our first piece (a rather edited-down version) will be published in a couple of months.  I'll tell you where and when after it's released.  Then a longer version (what Michael and I are calling the director's cut) will be published in another magazine.  And then, of course, it will wind up on the Midnight Freemasons blog.  I think it's safe to say there will be a few more articles from our  new writing partnership, too.  There might even be a book one day (we both tend to think big).  I only hope hope our Brotherly partnership is more like the one between Mark Twain and Uncle Joe Cannon than say . . . Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur?


UPDATE: Less than an hour after I posted this, my writing partner, Bro. Shirley, sent me five grammar and punctuation corrections.  I'm really thinking Truman/MacArthur now...  but I made them.  :-)

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