Several times I have discussed ways in which to revitalize our order with different members who seem to hold totally divergent points of view. There have always been members who believe a traditional bent is the way forward, dressing in our traditional robes and regalia, holding lodge and official events pretty much identical to the way they were held 100 years ago, and upholding all customs. Others express the need to modernize, not only in dress but in our rituals and codes, a melding of today’s world with our order’s ideology. Still others see the way forward as a method to illustrate progression through evolving change. This may seem irrelevant to some but it is the purpose to many members’ disagreements with other members.
My own idea is a little more open than these debates which really don’t do much more than illustrate each person’s view. For example, there is nothing wrong in perpetuating old events and wearing older styles of clothing, if we acknowledge the world today within that event or piece of clothing. Of course, I’ve bored many with my views about formal dress, but formal dress in today’s fashion has changed, gotten less tired. My son, for example, in attending his prom, several years ago, wore a blue tuxedo, rented to him by the local clothier. We no longer sport top hats, but there are now fancy hats that are de rigueur. Times have changed, no matter how much we tend to want to avoid this fact. Some of our events may be enlivened in a similar fashion. Many lodges do dinners, pot lucks, or other social gatherings that they have done for many years, consider ways in which they may be made to appear new. The Davis Lodge, for example, might offer a contribution to a local charity or event for a modern cause. My own Fremont Lodge is planning a scenic train ride through the Mission Peak area, replete with touring antique stores, my own favorite book stores, and other local attractions. In other words, there is nothing wrong with longstanding members trying something new that may seem more attractive to a curious newcomer.
Our current Grand Master, Peter Sellars, wrote an excellent letter about the dress code for Grand Lodge sessions. In the letter, he pointed out that he does not care what the members wear, but only what he himself wears. An excellent point. To be frank, our order only seems tired if we continue to do things in the same tired manner. Peter has done many things to help invigorate our order. His popular event, A Day at the Races, now attracts 500 people annually, twice the number of members that attend Grand Lodge. Now, that is success. And yet, Peter works to improve this event yearly. So, in other words, while in a way, it is now a traditional event, he has done an excellent job making it seem fresh every time. So, traditionalism and modernism, may co-exist after all. Similarly, the San Francisco Lodges tend to participate in many social events, parades, and charitable gatherings. Perhaps not coincidentally, their group of lodges are the most populous in the state.
In summation, it is not a political or historical point of view that will invigorate our order, but rather a melding of tradition with modernism that moves us into a future less unknown than we have previously seen it. We can do our best to honor tradition by emulating it and embellishing it. Ritual work itself may appear new if we not only read the passages, but understand them, and even live by their ideals. Modernizing the ritual is not necessary en masse if we sculpt it to our own messages within our hearts. So, we win if we not only revisit our past, but make it better and more alive.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles