Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Application Process:

Unfortunately a couple of weeks after the installation ceremony, I ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis. Worst pain I've ever been dealt with. I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. After 10 days, they finally released me from the hospital, and it took me a few weeks to get back on my feet again.

After forgetting to get my application at the installation, I contacted R., the lodge secretary. I got an application from him and he volunteered to be one of my recommenders. He also said that I should come to the lodge that next week, as they were having a 1st degree initiation & I could join them for dinner and meet some of the other members; hopefully one of them could be my second recommender.

I showed up at the lodge & had a great time with the guys, talking to quite a few gentlemen and by the end of the night I had my second recommendation.

The weird thing, was that the person who was to go through that night's initiation never showed! Well, that left the ritual team with plenty of time to practice whatever they were doing behind closed doors, which left me plenty of time talking to the non-ritual team Masons in the banquet room. We must've talked for about an hour and a half, about everything from the decline and subsequent rise in current Masonic membership, to their thoughts on Albert Pike, and what it meant for them to be Masons. Eventually, the ritual team came out and everyone said their goodbyes.

I officially turned in my completed application, and R. told me what came next: The application would be read at the next stated meeting in a month's time, and at the meeting an investigation committee would be appointed. These investigating people would contact me, we would have a meeting (I assumed something like a job interview), and this committee would report their findings at the next stated meeting. So, from this point in time right now, I wouldn't know if I got in or not for about 2 months, at least.

Aargh... Well, I guess there's nothing really left to do but wait for the investigation committee.

In the meantime, I racked my brain trying to see if there's anything that could bite me in the butt. Was there anyone in my past that I may have ticked off bad enough to get me blackballed? Could I get a bad recommendation because I got a lot of speeding tickets when I was 18? What if they contacted any of my ex-girlfriends? What if they got one of the bad breakups? Sheesh, I could go crazy worrying about this. I'm not perfect, and no one else in the world is either. The best thing to do is to not fret, be myself and let the chips fall where they may. Even though my future Masonic life lay in the balance, in my heart of hearts I know I'm a good person, and that should speak for itself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Started:

Here we are in the 21st century. Where does anyone find out information nowadays? The Internet. If I was going to finally do this, I'd find as much info as I could online & go from there. I found the Grand Lodge's website, and whadda ya know, they're located in the city I live in.

I looked up the 8 lodges in 4 locations across the city, and decided to check out a couple of them. I took the municipal transit out to both locations and found the buildings. Of course, no one was there; I didn't really expect it, as it was on a Saturday afternoon. But I wrote down the contact information listed on the front of the door & left a voice mail. No response. No big deal, as another lodge was closer to my home & much more accessible via transit. I went to this second lodge's website, e-mailed & called them, and talked to a very nice and genuine guy (I found out later that he was the outgoing Worshipful Master). He told me that they were about to do their yearly officer installation, and I was more than welcome to come by for the ceremony & dinner.

I didn't really know what to expect. What was this going to be like? Was this lodge going to be filled with people whom I couldn't relate to? Did the people in the lodge think of Freemasonry like a typical service club, not taking the philosophical aspects as seriously as I did? I wondered...

I went to the lodge, which was very nondescript from the outside. If you didn't know it was there, you would've probably missed it. There was a locked metal grate across the door with a doorbell buzzer in between two 'dollar stores.' Had I come to the right place? Did I come on the wrong day? I was right on time, what am I missing? I was about to give up when another gentleman walked up just as confused as I was. We both knew we were there for the meeting, as we were the best dressed guys on the block... We kept pressing the doorbell buzzer, hoping that someone would come by & let us in.

Eventually someone did. Wow, someone about my age! We were taken upstairs to the Friendship Room, where the was a veritable party going on with about 100 people. Apparently, no one uses the actual 'front entrance,' everyone enters through the back door adjacent to the large parking lot. Whoops. I told them that I was interested in joining & had been invited to show up. Any hesitation or nervousness I felt when I arrived immediately evaporated. I was ushered around and introduced to so many cool and genuine people that I was put at ease in a heartbeat. I met another applicant, D., and he & I hit it off right off the bat. D. had been a DeMolay member in his youth, but hadn't done that much study of Freemasonry in itself, whereas I had done a lot of study, but had no face-to-face contact before that evening.

The whole crowd filed into the lodge room & they did the installation ceremony. All I can say, was that it was very cool. There was even one officer who was younger than me! I liked the pomp & circumstance; it's as if I could feel a connection with all those great Masons who have come before.

Yes, I want this even more.

After the ceremony, we all went into the banquet room where we were all served a great meal. D. & I sat down with a bunch of people we didn't know, but these people were not only friendly and answered any of our Masonic questions, but they had us rolling in stitches the rest of the evening. I walked away that night amazed that these people welcomed us as friends, and they just met us.

Ah crap. I forgot to get an application.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Introduction to the Craft:

This posting is intended to talk about my background and how I became interested in Freemasonry. Hopefully I can be an online resource, as other Masonic bloggers who have helped me. I have no delusions that I know all (or anything) about Freemasonry, nor do I speak for Freemasonry itself. These are my own musings, and mine alone. I imagine that I will look back at these postings in the future & cringe due to my naïveté.

I am 35 years old, and studied vocal performance in university, training to be a professional opera singer. I won't bore you with the details on why & how I fell in love with opera, but suffice it to say that Mozart's music was my one true love.

In 1991 I found a PBS telecast of Mozart's “Die Zauberflöte” (The Magic Flute) and immediately was transfixed with the music, story, and voices. Upon later study, I found out that Mozart was a Freemason, as well as Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto. Of course, I delved into the history of Freemasonry, and Masonic symbolism in Die Zauberflöte. I was shocked to find out that a number of notable Freemasons were a venerable “who's who” of the past 300 years.

Being from a family of teachers, I have always been interested in history. Imagine my good fortune in 1994, getting to study in London, singing in various UK cathedrals. One of the most fascinating churches was this little round church right next to the Inns of Court. It wasn't until a year later did I find out the importance of London's Temple Church.

In 1996 I moved to the 'big city', and began auditioning for different opera companies. At 25 it seemed that I was beginning to come around full circle, as I was cast as Sarastro (Zoroaster) in a production of Die Zauberflöte. I read every book I could find about Freemasonry, exposés on ritual, anti-masonic diatribes, quasi-masonic histories, pretty much everything that I ran into. Over the past 10 years, I have since amassed over 30 performances of 5 different productions of Die Zauberflöte.

In 2000, I e-mailed my local lodge & asked for an application. It then sat on my dresser for the next year. Looking back, I wasn't ready, but the interest has always been there.

In 2002, I lost my day-job in the Internet industry & spent the next 3 years in Orlando, Florida. I pretty much hated the entire experience, but the one saving grace was the fact that I lived very close to a Shriners' Temple. During my lunch break from work, I found myself at a Wendy's fast food joint, when I noticed the gentleman sitting right next to me was wearing a Masonic ring. I told him my story, that I'd wanted to petition for years, but never did anything about it. He was extremely gracious, he answered any and all of my questions, and we parted ways. I never did see him again, but I would like to thank him for spending that time with me.

2005 came around, and I had finally saved enough money to move back to California. In 2006, I turned 35, and I began to take stock of my life so far...

Alexander the Great was 33 when he died.
Jesus Christ was 33 when he died.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was 39 when he died.
Wolfgang Mozart was 35 when he died.

Look at what these men did during their lifetimes... What the hell have I done?

So far, nothing that really matters.

I thought, “What is it that I really want? When I leave this earth, how do I want to be remembered?”

I want to be a catalyst for change. I want to make the world a better place. I want to be a uniting influence across the world. In this world of hate and intolerance we live in today, I want to give people hope.


There isn't much of that nowadays.

But think of our Founding Fathers; they started a country based on Masonic principles. Men from all backgrounds, races, creeds, colors, and economic classes, all believed that they could make the world a better place. They didn't all have the same religion, nor agreed politically, but they left that outside the lodge and met as brothers.

That's the biggest thing that I feel that we're missing nowadays. People so embroiled in the belief that they're right, and if you don't believe the same way that they do, then you're evil & must be destroyed. It hasn't entered people's consciousness that there are good people out there, regardless of religion and political beliefs.

There is only one group I know of that brings men from all backgrounds, and does good works in the name of charity, brotherhood and truth.

One of their mottoes is to “Make good men better...”

That's what I want.

That is why I chose to join Freemasonry.