Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Challenges Of Masonic Ritual

One of the most beautiful traditions in Freemasonry are the rituals.  There are traditions for everything from opening and closing a lodge, to conferring a degree.  Those rituals have been around a long time so are often written in an old English style which can be challenging to get used to, and Masons who do ritual work memorize them word-for-word as they've always been done.  And every appendant body has ritual, too--the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shrine, etc.  And when it's done well, it's something that you don't soon forget.  Even if you're not a Mason, if you've ever had a chance to attend a public installation of officers, a re-dedication, a cornerstone ceremony, or a Masonic Funeral Rite, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Memorizing has never been one of my strengths, and as I got involved in Masonry and started learning some ritual, I found early on it didn't come naturally--it was something I've had to work very hard at.  The trick with me is getting it in my head--once it's in there, it's in there for a good long time.  But very often as I'm learning a new part, it feels like I'm trying to cram a twelve-pack into a six-pack cooler.  I've learned a lot of parts, and every time I take on a new one, I'm afraid I'm going to use up what little space I have left up there, and start forgetting more important things--like how to get to work, or my computer passwords.  As a matter of fact, because of the last long part I learned, I totally forgot the date of my wedding anniversary.  She didn't believe me, but I'm convinced that's what it was.

I have to go over parts again and again and again.  I do some of my best learning on my mower (I've got a big yard).  My neighbors over the years have gotten used to the crazy guy who talks to himself on his mower.  I also do the same thing each day in my car.  I spend about an hour in my car driving back and forth to work, and more often than not, I'm working on something.  Every once in awhile, while I'm reciting some new bit of ritual I'm learning, I'll notice somebody giving me a strange look as they pass me on the interstate.  They probably think I'm nuts sitting in the car driving down the road talking to myself.  Sometimes if there's a lot of cars on the road, I'll actually tap on the steering wheel and bob my head a little as I'm doing it, so they think I'm singing along to the radio.  Probably makes me look even more like a raving lunatic.

I was driving home this afternoon, and I've been working on this long lecture.  I pulled up to a traffic light and was sitting there when a car pulled up next to me.  The car honks, and I look over at this old guy looking at me.  He rolled his window down, and I rolled down the passenger window.  "You talk to yourself like that all the time?" he asked me.  I didn't say anything.  I was kind of embarrassed.  I was trying to think of something clever to say, but there wasn't anything there.  He laughed.  "Don't worry about it, I've been talking to myself in my car for years."  The light changes, and he zooms off ahead of me in his Lincoln Town Car.  And then I laughed.  He had a Past Master emblem on his bumper, and he'd obviously seen mine--he knew exactly what I was doing.  It's good to know I'm not alone.

I've gotten better at learning ritual.  I've seldom ever needed a prompt, but I'd have to admit, the first time I opened my lodge as the Master . . . well, it looked kind of like this.



Like Barney said, "I got it . . .  You learn something, you learn it."

~TEC

7 comments:

  1. I used to learn parts by reciting them to my dog. He heard so much of the ritual we should have made him an honorary Mason.

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  2. On the other hand, he wasn't very good at it. I've lost count of the number of times I asked him, "Whence came you?" I never once got an answer.

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    1. Mine never has never answered either--slow learner. I've spent a good deal of time over the years in my garage walking around with a broom handle, too. :-)

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  3. I know oh so well about learning degree work. Here in Pa. the Master does the majority of the talking. It takes about 3 to 4 months to learn the 1st & 2nd Degree lectures & at least 6 months to learn the 3rd. So I've a lot time talking to myself !!!! LOL!!!
    My favorite story to tell is when I was learning the degree work I would take our Golden Retriever out for a long walk. He heard it so many times that when I'd make a mistake, he'd look at me like he knew I made a mistake !!!!

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    1. I know a guy that can look at a paragraph of ritual once, and fifteen minutes later do it flawlessly. Obviously, you and I have to work a little harder at it.

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  4. I'm currently taking my first step in the memory work journey as I now will be installed as a SD and working on the carpet lecture. I feel like I'm back in the police academy having to memorize penal codes etc.

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    1. Best of luck. Don't give up. It really does get easier over time.

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