Greetings, brethren, and welcome to 2022 (hopefully not pronounced “Twenty-Twenty, II”). We at last find ourselves in the New Year – a time of beginnings and endings, comings and goings, meetings and partings. Indeed, the very month we find ourselves in was originally named for Janus (or Ianus, pronounced ee-yan-oos,) the two-faced god who viewed both the past and the future. In such a time as this, I ask that we all take a moment to reflect on our own greetings and farewells with the individuals around us, and all ask ourselves a very important question – how does one know a Mason?
For many of you, I am sure the answer to this question springs to mind immediately, a matter of catechism. But I think such a question deserves more consideration than a mere call-and-response. We are far removed from the lives of our speculative brethren of three centuries past, let alone our operative brethren of previous millennia. We live such busy lives in this second decade of the 21st century (especially those of us here in North Hollywood,) that we may very well encounter more people in the course of our daily routine than our foundational brethren may have known in their entire lives. So I will ask, more specifically, how do we know if any of these countless individuals we come across in the course of our daily routine is or is not a Mason?
Yes, it is no great secret that Masons have certain modes of recognition, ranging from the subtle to the practically flagrant, but I should hope no one reading this goes around trying everyone from their barista to their rideshare driver in the course of a day. We have “unofficial” modes of recognition as well – most of us will have had a stranger comment on a ring, or commented on that of a stranger, noticed a car decal in traffic, etc. – but these are far from being the true sign of a Mason. Indeed, it is neither difficult nor costly to go on the internet and acquire these accoutrements, along with a square-and-compass-branded tee shirt, belt buckle, hat, sneakers, switchblade, wine decanter, and light-up, spinning medallion. Naturally, as they say, clothes do not make the man. In an ideal world, perhaps, we might know all Masons by their exemplary character. But then, perhaps, in such a world, all would act in the manner in which we as Masons are taught to. And all this does not begin to touch on our wider Masonic family – the children, parents, spouses, widows, orphans, etc. of our brethren.
So how then, in our countless brief interactions with our fellow children of Providence, might we know them to be a member of our Masonic family? The answer, to me, at least, is that we do not. Perhaps, then, a better question, is how can we be certain that anyone we might meet in passing is not a Mason, or a Mason’s daughter, or father, or widow, or some such, and thus fully entitled to our respect, protection, and regard as a member of our Masonic family?
I ask, therefore, that going into this new year, we all at least attempt a small experiment: that we take some time to try making the positive assumption that everyone we encounter is to be regarded as a member of our Masonic family, and to behave toward them as such, rather than making the negative assumption that they are not until proven otherwise. Not for the purpose of Masonic communication or the like, naturally, but simply for the purpose of extending our kindness, care, and protection. Perhaps see, even for a day, how this alters your own behavior, and perhaps if it brings us all closer in line with that manner in which we are taught to circumscribe our desires, and to extend our good grace to all the members of this great human family to which we belong.
My kindest regards for the New Year, Brethren, and as for good days, I am hereby requestion 365 of them for you (I find it best to ask for these things in advance.)
Yours in Light,
Dillon T. Ingram,
North Hollywood Lodge 542, Free and Accepted Masons of California.