Monday, August 6, 2012

Those Old School Antiquated Anti-Technology Freemasons . . . Really?

It wasn't long ago I asked a friend of mine if he'd be interested in joining my lodge--we're allowed to do that in Illinois now.  We've been friends for years, and I thought it would be nice if we had something we could do together again.  Life has taken us on very different paths, and we don't spend much time together anymore. And he'd enjoy it, he just doesn't know it yet.  But he has a misconception about Freemasonry--one many people have.  He said to me, "Now why would I want to spend my time with a bunch of old men?"

I think he might be a little surprised about what he found, however.  We've got some old-timers without question, but we've got our share of young guys, too--in fact, I think in a few circles within the Craft, my friend (we're both 45) would feel like the "Old Man."  I do.  In fact, one my mentors in Freemasonry is a young man at least 15 years my junior.  And a few of those "old-timers" often send me emails and text messages. 

Many see Freemasonry as an organization from the past, but it would surprise them to know that we've always embraced new technology.  I'm the secretary of my lodge--entering my second year in what we jokingly refer to as a "lifetime" appointment.  Last year, most of my work involved filling out little cards and mailing them to the Grand Secretary, and waiting to get his response in snail-mail.  That didn't last long.  The Grand Lodge of Illinois went to a new web-based system.  I get home from my monthly meeting, and I get on-line, and do what used to take me a couple hours filling out forms, in a few minutes on the internet.  And instead of an old-school call list, like we used to have to report a special meeting, or a funeral, I can now make one phone call and send a recorded message to every member of my lodge's phone number--one call to deliver a message to 100.  We had a discussion in my lodge last month about adding Wi-Fi.  Something we've never needed in the past, but something we may need in the future. 

One thing that wasn't that common when I joined that is now prolific is the existence of cell phones.  There is rarely a meeting or a degree these days when you aren't reminded to turn off your phone (or as my friend and Brother Denver often says "put them on feel-good")--in fact, for Grand Lodge meetings, if your phone rings during a meeting, you just gave $20 to the Masonic Charitable Fund.  And I believe every Grand Lodge in the USA has a website now.  Many local lodges do, too.  And you'll find Freemason Grand Lodges and local lodges, and appendant bodies of Freemasonry on Facebook, on blogs (I currently maintain about five), and on Twitter as well. 

Freemasonry changes with time, as all things do.  It's unlikely we'll ever leave our traditions or values, but we'll always be anxious to embrace any new way to communicate.  And that is usually driven by our new young Brothers.  And there is even a Freemason app for iPhone--Masonic Traveler USA.  Every lodge in the United States is listed in that app, and you can navigate right to the front door of that lodge from wherever you may be--and it includes lodges, Grand Lodges, Shrines, Scottish Rite Temples, York Rite, etc.  It even tells you the stated meeting nights.  So much for the idea the Freemasonry is a secret society, huh?   

Technology has even had an impact on me as an author.  When I published my first book in 2007, most of my books were published in print form.  I'm a traditionalist--I like real books.  I like the feel of a real book.  I like to place a real book on my bookshelves after I've read it.  I was a little biased I'll admit.  I'd never read an e-book, but a wise advisor suggested I also publish in e-book formats, which was a format that wasn't that popular yet.  So I did.  In 2007, about 90% of my books were sold and shipped as "real books" and 10% as E-books.  But in 2009, that started to swing the other way.  Now, in 2012, about 95% of my books are downloaded to a Nook or a Kindle from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.  And my wife, Valerie, bought me a Nook, and while I was hestitant at first, I quickly changed my mind.  I read at least two books a week on average, and haven't held a real book in my hand in two years. 

Things change. Technology changes.  Opinons change.  And those old school antiquated Freemasons have managed to stay on the cutting edge.


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