The definition of change is to “make or become different.” I like that – simple, clear, clean. We know what change is when we see it – it’s different than it was. Change is inevitable, constant, and unrelenting. We think we are static, that the world, processes, and life is static day to day. A building there today will be there tomorrow. We barely notice the change that goes on around us. This is why when big change comes, we balk. We fail to recognise that we are changing all the time. Our world round us is changing all the time; plants are growing and dying, people are growing and dying. Human-made artifacts change when we will them to change – streets, buildings, water ways, processes, web sites, banking practices, laws, consumer products. Change occurs because of need. There is the creative need of humans and the biological needs of living beings. The universe itself is in a constant state of change – building up, decay, breaking down. Time moves because we perceive change; change occurs in response to time. Time, space, and change. It’s all connected in our minds.
This begs the question, why are we humans so resistant to change? We throw tantrums, ignore emails, fight for the “old way” of doing things in response to the changes that occur on or near us. I think that it’s self-change, or change that imposes itself upon our own lives/egos that is the challenge. Self-change seems to be so difficult that we have whole books, classes, and therapy sessions dedicated to it. We feel the need to change, to grow, to be better than we were – we just lack “something” to get us there.
Change is, I think, why we want to become Freemasons. I think that somewhere, deep
inside or maybe not so deep, we want to be better than we are – different in the ways that are truly, authentically “us.” Maybe we joined to “change the world.” Or, maybe we joined for camaraderie; but, that is change, too. Who we place in our environment, where we place ourselves – all of that affects us and is, in and of itself, change. We cannot expect to become Freemasons and not change, nor not be able to learn how to embrace change. Indeed, even as we pass many degrees and think “I’ve been a Freemason for a long time now… there’s nothing new,” we find ourselves to be wrong. Our Orders, our Lodges, who passes to the Grand Lodge above and who remains – everything constantly changes. We have to learn to adapt and thrive else we die. Drastic? Sure. True, nonetheless.
In the past year, I’ve seen plenty of Masonic change. I’ve seen opportunities for growth presented, and I’ve seen them seized and brought to life, left to wither and atrophy, disregarded, overwhelmed, or frightened off. I take this time of year to reflect on what I’ve seen and what my own challenges have been. I think that the Temple of Apollo inscription of “Know Thyself” is the first step in overcoming the challenges of change. Interestingly enough, Apollo was god of the Sun and Light. To find the Light, and enter into its presence, metaphorically in the Temple, we need to know thyself. What I found in all the situations where change presented has been change retarded, all of the people involved may not have known themselves, including me. If we had, we might have spoke up and regulated the change, or made compromises, or adjusted our lives to fit the change. I’ve seen people who realize that change is coming, or arrived, and when they know they cannot meet it, stay silent. I, too, have stayed silent. We believe our silence will keep the rest of the world from knowing we cannot meet the change as we supposed. The real lesson is not that the individual failed to change and grow; the real lesson is that they didn’t know themselves enough to speak up, speak out, ask for help, or negotiate the change better. It seems to me, in Freemasonry, no one will judge harshly the ones who speak up and know their own limitations, who are honest with themselves and others; at least, it is so in my Order. It is far better to speak up and ask for assistance than to bury our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening. Burying our metaphorical heads not only hurts us but it hurts our fellow Freemasons, our families, our promises and obligations, and maybe even our Orders. Silence, incorrectly embraced, kills.
Freemasonry has, this past year, presented me with challenges to change and become better. I have not met those changes well and challenges still abound. I’m learning when it’s okay to become angry and vocal, and when I should just observe things unfolding and wait. I’m learning to let go of the need to be “right” and to let the mistakes and errors take place, and then see how the changes occur. If they do not, then I assist. I’m learning what is ego, and what is not, and what the truth of a situation might be – then take the next step to participate in the change. The U.S. election process this year taught me to speak out more. My Masonic participation has taught me to speak out more. My brothers and family have taught me to speak out more. I always thought that I was able to speak up; what I found is that on paper, I can. Verbally, I struggle with communicating clearly and understandably to larger groups of people. As we move into the new year, I see more challenges for this activity coming as my duties continue to change. I need to improve here, or else things will become more difficult for me and everyone else. Hopefully, knowing why I struggle and where I struggle, I will be able to set myself up for success and achieve some measure of it. It is the journey, and not the destination. That is, perhaps, what I’ve learned from the 32nd Degree most of all – it IS a lifelong journey, fraught with all kinds of challenges and change. I need to remember to dedicate myself to that fight – to have my heart set for whatever comes and to prepare my mind and body for it as well. It is the balance between spirit and matter, eternal and corporeal, and the fact that the journey is completed with the help of my fellow Freemasons.
Change is necessary. I’ve heard people say “we shouldn’t change for change’s sake.” I think random chaotic change is not helpful, true. I agree with that. Yet, if change is happening all around us, it cannot help but affect us. Those effects will be felt, whether we want to feel them or not. Change not embraced does not mean change is absent. Oh no. Change continues without you; it simply happens TO you and ON you rather than WITH you. Why would we want to give up that control, to flow with and embrace the change in our own way, rather than fight it? Or worse yet, why would we fight it only to know we will be worse off in the end? We cannot stop change…but we can affect it.
Change is coming. It’s a new year, with new Lodge formations, new officers, new challenges, new members, new ritual changes, new laws, new process, and new procedure. If we Freemasons do not learn to deal with change, we cannot be of service to ourselves nor to the world around us. Many, many things will change and we Freemasons need to be ready for the change – whether they are Masonic, political, legal, physical, or emotional. We need to continue the process of understanding and knowing ourselves. We should recognize that the most interesting of human studies is contained with us – the knowledge of ourselves. If we do not know ourselves, we know nothing at all. This is the perfect time of year for turning inward and and examining, critically but without malice, those things inside of us that should remain to die on the vine, what we want to keep to encourage for the New Year. It’s this time of year I finalize what I want to achieve in the coming year; I’ve done this for 30 years and I’ll continue to do it. I seem to change my format every year, even though I do the act every year. Change within a constant. A constant that continually changes. “We can never step into the same river twice.”
That river isn’t the same, moment to moment. Water is experience and memory, the flow is time. It is filled with life of all sorts – that which goes with it and that which sits firmly in its embrace, unmoving. Grasses, fish, or rock. I think it’s good to remember that the river also changes the rock sunk into its bed. The river smooths, polishes, and yes, changes the stone. The stone wears down and adds itself to the river. Over time, change happens, whether we will it to or not. We can be the stone, or we can be the river grasses, or we can be the water. We know what fits us best. What we need to keep in mind is that we are all, cognizant or not, changing to flow with that river.
Blessed Solstice, everyone! And a very Happy New Year!