Greetings from the East,
One of the greatest challenges in life is self-improvement. Why should we endeavor to improve at all? Isn’t good enough acceptable? If you agree that “good enough” is acceptable you are not alone. There seems to be an epidemic of the mediocre mindset. I am not sure how we got here or maybe it’s inevitable due to the last ten years of societal rancor and pandemic.
To you I say freemasonry is more relevant and vital than ever. There is certainly no shortage of self-help/improvement books and podcasts to choose from. A Google search will return hundreds if not thousands of entries on the subject. All of which brings me back to our fraternity. The oldest fraternity of men on earth. Look no further than the pages of your ritual cipher. Contained in our cipher are the foundational lessons from which all these modern books and articles are sourced.
You took the most important step toward self-improvement when you decided to seek out Masonic light and fellowship. Deep down instinctually you knew that there is something more to life than the acquisition of material wealth. As Freemasons we see the long road and timeline of life. We understand that we must improve ourselves in order to have a positive impact on the world around us. Our families will benefit from the small incremental changes we make to be more empathetic, listen more and give positive reinforcement.
Self-improvement is a long and challenging road and starts with the decision to change.
Early in life I paid heed to my elders, who said in so many words, surround yourself with good roles models. Role models are the people you aspire to act, speak and learn from to understand how to achieve similar goals. These “life guides” can be found in all races and creeds. In our society we are blessed to have a diverse population of people to provide the guidance and knowledge we seek. Humble yourself and let a potential role model know that you would like their help to attain a goal. One of the greatest joys of being a Freemason is the enormous pool of Brothers to enact with and the variety of their backgrounds and experiences. Take advantage of the opportunity to join and participate in Masonic events and soak up the positive energy of fellowship.
If memory serves me, I recall it was Gandhi who said, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” Whether he really said this or not, the words could not be more profound. In other words, negative people will drain your energy and kill your dreams. This is not the same as receiving wise counsel or receiving information regarding the risk of a decision that you have made. One allows you to take a step back, mediate and re-examine a decision before commitment. The other is throwing vinegar in your garden. The moral of the story is not to surround yourself with sycophants but knowledgeable guides who have your best interest at heart. There are no better guides than the brethren who have sworn an oath to support you and you to them on this journey.
How do we implement self-improvement without changing or modifying our lifestyle? What is a lifestyle? It may be beyond my understanding at this point. We labor daily out to keep food on the table (less and less), the utilities on and rest every now and then! I hear so often from people, in and out of the Lodge, how exhausted everyone is living this modern lifestyle. I for one can’t recall feeling “rested”. Recently I purchased and completed an audiobook called “Why We Sleep” by Mathew Walker. Needless to say, I was terrified by the impact of not getting enough rest! From the author’s perspective (and research) many of the ailments and diseases we suffer from are directly attributable to not obtaining enough quality sleep. If you are like me, a member of the working class, it seems impossible to get enough sleep to recover and feel “rested”. I have spent four decades in various fields in the Technology sector; designing and implementing solutions with the goal of making lives better. In retrospect, I am not positive our technological inventions have improved our lives and/or lifestyles. We seem to being working more hours than our elders and gaining less life improving value for the effort.
My brothers, please look after your health, get up off the couch and be active. My goal is to reclaim and sustain a style-of-life that allocates more time to family and the fraternity. To improve yourself, we need to be good to ourselves. The fraternity needs you to be healthy, spiritually wealthy and wise.
Psalm 23 is my favorite solemn because its reflective of the faith we have in the Great Architect and ourselves. The words are therapeutic before starting the day and resting at night. For your pleasure inserted below is the passage. It provides the mindset for self-improvement.
A Psalm of David
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Lastly brethren, I leave you with a quote from a Famous Mason.
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. – Mark Twain
Be steadfast in your journey to self-improvement. All the brethren wish you well and are ready to lend a hand.
Kent C. James, Worshipful Master