Our Best Un-Tapped Asset

It was some time in November of 2009 when I got an email while at work in reply to a message I’d frankly forgotten I’d sent a few months before. The email was from Eric Vogt, who was the secretary at Queen Anne Lodge.

A few months before, I decided to reach out Grand Lodge to see if there were any lodges in my area. At the time, I had no idea that there was a lodge building just 3 blocks away from my house.

For a lot of younger members, showing up to a stated meeting is very intimidating… So, getting an invite to meet a few members for just a casual dinner felt far more comfortable for my 22-year-old self.

When I first showed up, I met three brothers who were all cooking and having a glass of wine. They were just there for dinner with each other, as if it were all of their home. Eric often stayed late in the city for work, Zane and “Mighty” both had recently gone through divorces… It was as if this was their second home.

At that time in my masonic journey, the Lodge building itself wasn’t used much for rentals, but when it was, they were much smaller private events brokered by the brothers who were within driving distance of the lodge in order to keep the lights on.

We talked for years about making the place nicer. At the time I didn’t have all that much work in the summer, and being who I am, wanted to see how I could contribute. So, I spent a few weeks building a proposal for the Temple Board to redesign our entry way in a more planned out classical style.

If your Temple Board is anything like ours was, all of the focus is generally on SAVING money, so the idea of spending any money at all, let alone taking on a risky project at the hands of the newest, youngest member was a bit of a risk. Let’s just say there were parts of that meeting that were not peaceful or harmonious. That being said, those virtues did prevail and we approved a few thousand dollars for the project.

Granted, I did a lot of the work myself… But from beginning to end of the renovation, which was extended to makeover the whole main dining room, we had over 500 volunteer hours of work on the building together. Members of every age, about a dozen young brothers interested in joining, and even their friends and family all helped out. Neighbors would stop in to see the progress and explore “that old creepy building across from the library”.

All throughout this work in progress, the community around the lodge begin to grow as more brothers began treating the building like it was their communal home. We even went so far as to try to build a wine cellar and humidor, which we could NEVER keep stocked.

I know every lodge doesn’t have a lodge building… And for the most part, the focus of the Temple Board is to protect the lodge brothers from liability. However, I think we should return to a foundation of our fraternity by understanding that temple boards are actually entrusted with one of our most useful tools for building community, our buildings.

Whether we like it or not, the most ignored asset that we have have as Freemasons are the buildings we own. However there is a common downfall I’ve observed in many lodge buildings that they get focused on sanctioned events, insurance and liabilities, and forget the fact that our lodge buildings are venues for community to happen organically. In order for this organic community to happen and thrive, we need to give the members of the lodge a sense of ownership. We need to allow for easy, regulated use, make the space available and known in the community for rentals, and build up resources needed by brothers who otherwise lack resources. The result is that people end up actually coming together to work and bond. This is something that happens far too rarely in this digital age.

So, the following are my tips to the temple boards and lodges in order to encourage the growth of the lodge’s non-stated activity, based on what happened in our lodge.

 

  • Give your members a sense of ownership by letting them earn sweat equity in the building.

Our current worshipful master started his involvement in the lodge mowing the lawn and doing general maintenance.

One petitioner gave us the bar that’s the central piece of our dining room.

One of our older brothers found a beautiful piano to add ambiance, and fixtures for our bathrooms.

Time and time again, when people get the chance to work on a building, they get more involved, they’re at lodge more often, and they bring with them their families and communities.

Not every lodge needs to do a total renovation in order to build this. University spent years working on their library, while others build museums. However, my recommendation is that everyone contribute to social spaces or events. Doric doesn’t have much work to do on their building, but every year the brothers like Hotte rally other brothers to put on their beer garden for the Fremont Solstice Parade.

So, while doing general work on the space itself is important, if your lodge doesn’t already feel like a clubhouse in addition to a formal meeting space, I dare you to recruit a skunkworks of brothers willing to swing a hammer and launch into a project similar to our next two endeavors: A ‘man cave’ in our basement and an extending our porch for better BBQing.

I get it, some of you are visual… So here is some inspiration we’ve been using as we daydream these next adventures.

33 awesome man cave ideas.

 

  • Make it easy for regulated, casual use by your membership.

I suppose this is where we got tripped up a little bit… And honestly, I haven’t had the chance to work on our building in a few years since I’ve been busy growing my business. In the process, however, I’ve discovered a few things to solve this very resounding question that every Temple Board is going to care a lot about.

First of all, before you start opening the floodgates of building use by members there have to be rules set and agreed on as to who has both limited and unlimited access, as well a clear way for everyone to reserve the building for use, or see if it has been reserved. I’ve got a few tips for that.

As far as the rules are concerned, we were small enough that we could simply designate all past masters and principal officers with a key to the building. However, some lodges can limit that even further if there are just too many living past masters active in the lodge. In that case, I would recommend delegating use of the building to the temple board, treasurer, secretary and/or principal officers. So long as the rules are written and public so there is a sense of fairness, as well as a clear pecking order and person/people the average member can go to for access.

For security, we use a lockbox with a keycode on the outside of our building in order to also allow renters in. It’s a somewhat outdated solution. Instead, I’d recommend anyone installing a lock system for their members to jump straight into the 21st century and opt for a smart lock system like Kevo, which integrates with the home security camera system Nest. Something like this allows for access not only to lock/unlock directly from any verified smart phone, but also allows direct two-way communication with people on site, control of the door locks, and motion-activated push notifications in case there is anything suspicious.

 

  • Rentals aren’t just for revenue, they’re for community exposure.

Alright, even if you don’t have the sexiest building on earth, most lodges are useable to one degree or another by outside groups. While I do recommend tackling the project of making your lodge as beautiful as possible, buildings of all kinds have their uses.

At first my vision with our renovation was to focus on community organizations using the building, like the chamber of commerce, historical society, and other logical overlaps in order to get the exposure. However, those efforts took a lot of time to cultivate. Let’s face it, even in this town, if you say “free rent”, it still doesn’t mean if you build it they will come.

We never experienced true success in our rentals until we began working with a local event planner, who we let use the space and manage the rentals on a profit share basis. The result was their events would be so well attended that the lodge got much more exposure, simply due to the number of people and diverse purposes people were seeing it used for.

In fact, we ended up building a new brand around the use of the building itself. We had reason to believe the use of the word “Lodge” was confusing because it implied it might be an Inn, bed-and-breakfast or hotel. On the other hand “Temple” seems far too formal and rigid and singular in use. Instead, after talking with the event planning company I hired to manage the rentals, we settled on the name “The Clubhouse”. We felt it would be far more fitting and exciting to potential renters… and it worked.

 

  • Turn your lodge into a valuable resource to make your members’ lives easier and better.

Alright, this one might be the most controversial, and I might get in a little bit of trouble for telling the world about this, but your lodge SHOULD be USEFUL, especially to its younger members.

Here’s the truth, Millennials earn a relative 30% less than their gen x and boomer counterparts did at the same age. Rent is also far more expensive, which means the vast majority of us don’t own our own home. We rent, and that’s especially true in Seattle. Do we want to attract younger members? Just like any institution, we have to provide real, tangible value in addition to the social value to our members. And our lodge buildings are the gift that can keep on giving.

Granted, we took this to another level by building out an apartment in the lodge for brothers in desperate need to stay in for a few months. This has helped no fewer than five of our brothers get back on their feet after losing a job, or a spouse. Just like lodge access, limited access and rules have to be set in place. For us, the Temple Board granted discretionary authority to the Worshipful Master to allow a brother to use it. Once it’s granted, the needs of the brother are assessed every month during the Temple Board meeting.

I will note that, either because the life stages of our members has shifted in the past few years, or the because the economy has simply improved enough, the use of the lodge for that purpose has diminished over the past three years.

On the far less desperate side of the spectrum, Millennial men still lack several things, including a good place to host their friends and family for celebrations, since most of us even lack a suitable back yard and a great many of us also lack a garage. The Queen Anne Lodge has made its old bones useful to many brothers in exactly that way.

In fact, it’s the usefulness that gave me inspiration to write this post.

My marketing business has taken off in the past few years, now with nearly 30 employees, and I recently had to move offices for the first time in three years. In order to save on expenses, my little brother and I ended up doing a lot of the work ourselves in the build out. The problem being that our parents live an hour away, and have most of their tools tucked away in storage because they recently moved themselves. So when we needed things like a skilsaw, power drills, and other normal tools, we were stuck either renting them from Home Depot, or borrowing them on an app like Nextdoor. Then all of a sudden I remembered, “Wait, there’s a fully stocked workshop in the basement of the Lodge!”

What a concept! A masonic lodge making itself useful for it’s members to BUILD stuff. Yes, there are some logistics, like having a good check in and check out system so things don’t get lost or broken and having some form of accountability. But it’s 2017, there are plenty of tools to help with that. The bigger issue is collecting the tools, building a home for them, and regulating access.

However, once something like that is in place, the most obvious thing to do is build up the shared resources of the Lodge. We live in a day and age where even miniature free libraries are popping up on street corners. It behooves the Freemasons to share with each other. Our culture is shifting in this direction with the emergence of the shared economy over the last few years. Freemason Lodges are primed and ready to epitomize all the value of membership and more than what we could get off the app store. After all, we’re brothers.

 

The bottom line for me is that we’re neglecting one of our greatest assets for building fraternity, our venues. We need to stop thinking of our buildings as sacred temples, and start thinking of them as our clubhouses, a practical resource and retreat to improve the lives of its members. If we simply and objectively think of what the modern man would want out of their dream clubhouse, that’s a starting point for progress.

Once we reorient our way of thinking about our lodge buildings and realize they are not museums, and but should be practical venues of both refreshment and labor that fit easily and practically into our modern lifestyles, is when Freemasonry would will become visible in the day to day lives of our communities.

What Freemasons Can Learn from The Pope

I’m what the old guys would call “a tech guy.” What that means to me and what it means to them are two very different things. To them, it means I know how to do something as far as this whole ‘internet thing’ is concerned. While I may get tripped up on the technicalities of specialization of my profession, they’re right about one thing, I’m a millennial through and through.

There’s been a lot of confusion about the word ‘millennial’. I subscribe to a field of thought that views millennials as the post-generation generation. Unlike Generation Y, which is who most people confuse with Millennials, Millennials act in a new way of being human that relies primarily on digital technology as our most natural way to connect with others. That means that it includes any age group, nationality, or culture of human who live and breathe in the digital world as much as they do in the physical.

Millennials, because of our use of technology to connect with others, naturally see the world through a lense that is much broader than people who grew up without a real-time window into the lives of others. Freemasonry across the world has understood that we have “a marketing problem”, however, what many freemasons don’t realize is that you can’t solve it with a new logo or a tagline. We have to adopt new technology in order to speak the new language millennials understand: social media.

For those who don’t really understand why so many social networks exist, the explanation is actually fairly simple. Each social network has its own purpose. Linkedin is ideally used for work connections, Pinterest is used to collect beautiful and inspirational images, Facebook is the place to keep up with friends and acquaintances, Twitter is optimal for connecting with strangers to discuss mutual interests and topics, and Instagram is where we share memories visually. All of these networks help enhance our human experience by connecting with many many more people than we otherwise could.

Jason Silva is someone who I would consider to be an archetype of a 21st century philosopher. This video is a little piece he did that explains the network.

Now comes the interesting phenomenon: following celebrities. People follow them because they want to feel like a part of their life and enjoy in the moments that they feel are special to them. And the oldest celebrity office in the world, the Pope himself, finally joined instagram in March of this year. Frankly, he’s killing it.

Millennials crave authenticity and transparency. These are things that become more and more difficult for institutions as they age, so the Freemasons and the Catholic church face a similar challenge in that regard. However, when an old institution like the Vatican focuses their Instagram account on the humanity of those precious passing moments of the present, old institutions become very relevant.

So my call to action is, every lodge should have someone instagramming, whether they do it personally and include the fact that they are a Freemason in their bio, or by posting on behalf on of their lodge. The focus should be on the fellowship, not the regalia. The secrets of our brotherhood are the bonds between brothers, and everyone can relate to or aspire to that.

33 Historical Films Every Freemason Should See

I’m that nerd that has a running list of every one of the best films to understand the history of the western world. Some day, I’ll rewatch them all from beginning to end. But in the meantime, something that I’ve noticed is that a lot of ignorance exists around the time period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the United States for many American Freemasons.

In order to understand the role American Freemasonry plays in history, I feel like every Freemason in America should at least watch the following 33 historical films, series, and documentaries…

  1. Agora – Starring Rachel Weiss. Set in Alexandria, Egypt, this film covers the rise of Christianity, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and the decline of the study of the liberal arts and sciences.  
  2. The Last Legion – Depicts the legionary formation of early British kingdoms from the ashes of the Roman Empire.
  3. King Arthur – This is the dramatic retelling of the Arthur legend, following the most historically plausible inspiration of events. A Roman legionnaire named Artorius stays behind after the Roman retreat out of Briton in order to defend the natives from the invading Saxons.
  4. Arthur (In Search of Myths and Legends) – This documentary essentially identifies three historical individuals who are the most likely inspirations for the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, which have become a defining narrative for the English people. Freemasonry as it is formed today can trace some of its roots to the chivalric organization born out of Arthurian legend, adopted into the British monarchy and later infused into Freemasonry as we know it.
  5. Charlemagne (mini-series) – Alright, so it’s not great production quality… or casting… and the script feels forced. However, there isn’t much out there on the first emperor of the Holy Roman empire, which is unfortunate because on Christmas Day 800, he was crowned Emperor of Europe and created much of the orders of chivalry that inspired a good portion of the organizational structure later adopted into Freemasonry. In particular, knights, barons, earls and dukes were given hereditary military titles and ranks to ensure perpetual readiness to defend against Viking invaders.  
  6. Vikings (Series) – This series is great for those Game of Thrones lovers out there. This particular story ties the historical events of the Viking invaders of England (beginning in 793) and France (845). While the main character, Ragnar Lothbrok, is a historical character, his exploits have been muddied by legendary embellishments, so he probably gets credit for more than he ought. The series identifies Rollo, as his brother. I love this, because thanks to ancestry.com, I know that Rollo was one of my ancestors. He conquered northern France, then converted to Christianity and was given the title of Duke of Normandy after changing his people’s name from Norsemen to Norman after their conversion.
  7. The Last Kingdom – This slightly more historically accurate conclusion to the Viking invasions of England features the rise of Alfred the Great, originally from Wessex. It was Alfred who was able to defend the island by importing stonemasons from Paris (which, in Gallic literally means “the builders”). Alfred is also discussed in the Legend of York, a foundational primary source of the origins of Freemasonry, according to Mackey.
  8. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 – Alright, so we’ve avoided documentaries up to this point, but it’s history and there is no way around it. This one establishes the history of England as dictated by the kings, and contextualizes the events that led up to a united England by the Norman Conquest under William The Conqueror. This series essentially gets you caught up on what happened between 950 and 1100.
  9. Pillars of the Earth (mini-series) – Now we enter the Ridley Scott grouping. If I were a betting man, I would say he is a Freemason due to much of the subject matter he chooses to film, and how he goes about doing it. This series is derived from Ken Follet’s body of work in historical fiction, and follows the parallel lives of kings, clergy and stonemasons who all have vested interests in the construction of a cathedral in England. This film documents in detail the life of operative masons, and contextualizes what that means on a very practical, and human level. Follet is a strong storyteller, which comes through in Ridley’s portrayal.
  10. Kingdom of Heaven – This is another Ridley Scott film with a dynamite cast, and an even better script — I recommend watching the Director’s Cut. The story follows the bastard son of a French knight, who is recruited by his father to come to the Holy Land and become a baron. He becomes a key player in the conflict between the Christian kingdom in Jerusalem during the Crusades and the Philosopher King of Egypt (and eventual conqueror of Jerusalem), Saladin. I’ll be honest, Saladin is my favorite character in this film, and despite the fact he only has a few lines, I was inspired to buy and read everything I could about him after seeing this film.
  11. Robin Hood – Ridley, yet again. This film picks up a few short years after Kingdom of Heaven, which ends with King Richard (yes, the Lionheart) on his way to to try to retake Jerusalem (unsuccessfully) from Saladin. The story begins with the return and untimely demise of the king and and how that threw Robin of Loxley (a.k.a. Robin of the Hood) into the conflict with King John, which eventually lead to the creation of the Magna Carta. Something to note is that that Ridley goes out of his way to draw the connection between Magna Carta and the masons by way of Robin Hood’s father.
  12. Ironclad – Finally, a film by a different director. After the signing of the Magna Carta, several knights were assigned to enforce it upon King John — most of which were Templars. This story follows the battle that became the demise of King John, a drawn-out siege of a keep in Southeast England, fortified by Thomas Marshal. The one thing that bugs me with this film is that the filmmakers essentially merged the lives of the real Marshal and another of my ancestors, Robert de Ros, who was charged with defending the north of England. Unlike de Ros, Marshal wasn’t actually made a member of the Knights Templar until long after his military career as an honor that ensured his burial in Temple Church in London.
  13. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episode 5 – Alright let’s face it, this is just to give some context to Braveheart.
  14. Braveheart – While there is plenty this is wrong with this world favorite from the prime of Mel Gibson’s ascent up the rollercoaster of favor, such as the fact that he wore a kilt, or hooked up with a princess who in real life would have been like 8 years old and living in France, the social political events are pretty accurate. …Oh yeah, and there is the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which the filmed without a bridge, which is confusing.
  15. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episods 6 – Continuing the thread!
  16. Henry V – A Shakespearean classic during the 100 Years War and the English conquest of the French. The 100 Years War began with invention of the longbow, and ended with the invention of the cannon. The result was the permanent cultural and political split between the higher courts of England and France and the formation of a uniquely English identity.
  17. Joan of Arc – The French side of the story of Henry V. Every script is different though, so don’t expect Shakespeare.
  18. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episodes 1, 2 – The Wars of the Roses may have come to the minds of history buffs while watching season one of Game of Thrones. The basic story is that there was a power vacuum and cousins fought for the throne. Ultimately, it settled with Henry VIII’s dad winning and marrying the princess of the rival party, which leads us to the next mini-series.
  19. The Tudors (mini-series) – Arguably one of the most entertaining and well-produced series on this list. We’ve all heard about the most scandalous and bombastick king in England, but few films document not only the events he catalyzed, which separated Protestant from Catholic, but also the personal struggles that greatly impacted his decisions and ultimately, the course of the English empire.
  20. Borgia (mini-series) – Much of the history of Europe is dictated by Rome, including many of the events that led to divisions of countries and even the religion itself. The Borgia family rose to power during the 15th century, as immigrants from Spain. Their lives tell the story of the inner workings of the Vatican and its impact on the affairs of all of Europe.
  21. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 3 – In order to understand the succession of the three Tudor children to the throne, eventually culminating with Queen Elizabeth I, the stories of the political backdrop, paired with the life stories of both Edward and Mary are fundamentally necessary.
  22. Elizabeth – Arguably the greatest queen in European history, Elizabeth reveals the story of how Elizabeth I became queen and eventually restacked her advisors and crafted her persona into the Virgin Queen.
  23. Elizabeth: Golden Age – The sequel to Elizabeth, this is the story of the middle years of her reign and defense of England against the Spanish and other outside forces. These events ushered in the Golden Age of England where the country become the dominate seafaring nation.
  24. Anonymous – Many theories exist about whether or not the works of WIlliam Shakespeare were actually written by the individual to whom we currently credit the works. This story suggests that the plays were written by someone with a far greater education and experience with Europe and travel, by imagining that the Earl of Oxford, who many believe actually wrote the works of Shakespeare, is indeed the author.
  25. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 4 – After Elizabeth’s death without an heir, the throne passed to her nephew, James Stuart of Scotland. The logistics of that succession are important, because two kingdoms were joined, thus creating the United Kingdom we know today.
  26. To Kill A King – This is arguably the most important historic film for Freemasonry because the framework we recognize as Freemasonry began to emerge during the events of this time. It is set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, which was waged by Parliament, representing the people, against their king, Charles I. Charles lost and was beheaded. Going king-less didn’t end up working out for the British people, but it did set events in motion that would give rise for the English enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.
  27. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 5 – This one is really just an elaboration on “To Kill A King”. I recommend watching this over the movie “Cromwell”, although Alec Guinness did play a great Charles I in that movie. After all, he looks just like him!
  28. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 3: Episode 1 – “The Return of the King”, otherwise known as The Restoration, was the English invasion by the beheaded king’s son, Charles II. After he was back on the throne at the age of 30, he reinstituted many of the old orders of knighthood and chivalry, as well as many innovations such as the royal society, and many say Freemasonry, itself.
  29. The Restoration – The events that surround the restoration of the British Monarchy are not only the decadence of King Charles II’s lavish parties, but they also featured great strides of science. Additionally, there were setbacks such as the Great Fire of London and another outbreak of the plague, which reshaped not only the social landscape of London, but also the physical landscape to make way for the city we now recognize.
  30. The Last King (mini-series) – While this does overlap with “The Restoration”, it gives a more detailed look at the friends and circles of Charles II. This society provided the groundwork for the height of the British Empire and the great advancements of the Scientific Revolution, and were made possible by the dismissal of Parliament and insider trading between England, France and the Netherlands.
  31. The Patriot – I’ve wanted to hate Mel Gibson for as long as I can, but love him or hate him, his movies have now ended up on this list, twice. While his character in “The Patriot” is fictional, the events and script aren’t half bad for an overview of the experience of a leader in the American Revolution.  
  32. John Adams (mini-series) – As far as a historical perspective of the American Revolution, there really isn’t any better set of films than this series. It follows the career of the 2nd President of the United States from the representation of British soldiers in court, to ambassador to France and England, and finally, to the Presidency. Oh, right! Also, an influential architect of the Declaration of Independence and the United States’ Constitution.
  33. Lafayette: The Lost Hero (documentary) – Probably the best note to leave with Freemasons would be the story of Lafayette. At just 17 years old, he was the richest man in France that was not in line for the throne. Lafayette met Benjamin Franklin at a Lodge, bought his own army and navy and sailed to support the American Revolution, becoming something like a son to George Washington.

Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons

A Message to My Senior Brothers

For me, the best part about Grand Lodge Annual Communication is the new people you meet and the conversations you have. However, I’ve noticed a probable cause for the cultural divide between older and younger masons that might explain weaker than desired retention rates of young Freemasons.

When I signed on to serve on the Technology Committee this year, I asked MW Jim Mendoza to come to my office and talk through the goals of the Grand Lodge’s entire digital exposure. To accomplish these goals, we built a strategy that produces and distributes content and media that speaks to answering the questions or opening a door to what young men are looking for in Freemasonry. One of the key components we found was that young men often come to Freemasonry seeking mentorship from older members.

I’ve been a Freemason for nearly seven years, been to hundreds of lodge meetings around the state, two leadership conferences and four Grand Lodge Annual Communications. From these experiences, I’ve noticed a theme: The older masons are not truly engaging the new recruits. This has been my personal experience and also noticed in my observations.

Now, this is most likely a problem with the entire generation to which Masons who are older belong, but this post is to remind you that you’re needed, but perhaps not in the way you think.

Every few years, my father-in-law can’t help but give me “Personal Feedback.” Most of the time I hate it, but one thing he told me several years back has always stood out, and has really shaped my interactions with other people, especially in social situations: Stop talking so much about yourself and start asking people questions.

To my senior brothers, I apologize for my bluntness, but I feel like this has to be said. Stop making every conversation about the stories of days gone by. Stop seeking out conversations with other senior members that end up becoming a contest of who has the better story of yesteryear. A young mason will listen quietly and politely, for a time, but eventually they will feel that they’re either stepping into a retirement home, or that their youth and inexperience leaves them with nothing to contribute to the conversations at hand. When this plays out, they will stop showing up.

From my personal experience, I love the senior members in my lodge, but other than listening quietly to them telling me or each other oft-told stories of things that happened before I was born, and the pleasantries of “hello, how are you?”, I sadly don’t have much of a relationship with any of them, despite the fact that I want to.

Here’s the thing about advice, wisdom, and stories that matter — the cliche is true. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. The only way to communicate this care is to ask questions.

When I first realized the importance of my father-in-law’s advice to adjust the focus of my social discourse, I took a moment to think back on the person I knew who did it best. In my case, it was a friend I had in high school named Trevor. Trevor could meet and introduce himself to anyone, ask how their day was, and truly listen for a personal fact he could ask more about. He would then continue to just ask intelligent follow-up questions. This method both catches people off-guard and opens them up at the same time.

When I tried to replicate this practice, I was surprised with how easy it is to do and the kind of relationships it creates, so I thought I’d take a moment to give tips to my brothers on how to engage the younger members and in so doing build a stronger, longer lasting fraternity.

  1. Go deeper than small talk. Yes, it takes years to truly build a relationship with someone, but the foundations can be laid in just a few minutes if you’re really looking. I’ve nicknamed an easy discipline that I often do the ‘five question drill down’. The basic concept of this discipline is to casually listen to a person sharing a story or engaging in small talk. Remember one unique thing they mentioned, wait until they’re done speaking, and then ask them a series of questions (5 or so) learn more about that thing. It normally plays out similar to the following:

Rob: “So yeah, I’m going to hoopfest in Spokane this weekend, it should be a lot of fun.”

Me: “Are you playing on a team, or just watching?”

Rob: “My family has played in it every year for about 10 years. Myself, my brothers, and my dad.”

Me: “That sounds like so much fun, and it’s really good that your dad is still playing basketball. Is he in good shape?”

Rob: “Surprisingly so! He’s had a few knee surgeries in the past few years, but he’s been good at keeping up with his physical therapy, and keeps on getting back out there… He actually used to play in college so I think it keeps him young.”

Me: “That’s great! What college did he go to?”

Rob: “He went to Oregon State, and he played a little bit of pro basketball in France afterward.”

Me: “Wow, that’s great! Did he meet your mom at Oregon State or did that happen later?”

Rob: “Actually he met her in France; she was studying abroad. But they were only together for about 5 years, so I guess romances abroad burn bright and fast.”

Me: “Well the Master calls, I suppose we better open this Lodge. I’d love to get your number so we can meet up for lunch sometime.”

… And that, my brothers, is a sample of what the 5 question drill down looks like, and it works. Now I have tons of things to ask Rob about at lunch, such as his relationship with his brothers, who they are and what they do, where his parents are living now, and even heavy questions like if it was hard living in a split family. And of course, last but not least, how well he and his family did at Hoopfest. All of these follow-up questions show that you were listening, you care, and you want to invest in them. And if they feel invested in, they will give back and keep on coming back.

  1. Don’t let time get in your way. At the end of the day, getting to know someone is an investment of more than just time… So it’s important not to limit it BY time. Often times, younger men need to be reassured that they have the floor and that people are actually interested in what they have to say. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what exactly it is they do for a living. If they’re talking about it, it means they’re passionate about it. So if at all possible, have the patience to truly listen, and ask relevant questions for clarification. We’re humans, not dogs, and we can learn new tricks in our old age. The first step to doing so is believing you can and making that effort.
  1. Follow up. When I was Senior Warden, I took it upon myself to meet all visitors to my lodge for lunch over the course of the following month. I have to say that not only are those guys I met with back then almost all in the line to become officers now, but many of them are some of my closest friends now. It’s amazing that the investment of an hour-long lunch yields returns that last years.

Brothers, the bottom line is that we 20- and 30-somethings are joining Freemasonry for many reasons. One of the most important is to build relationships with older, wiser men like yourselves. However, we can’t do that if you don’t take the time to get to know us.

These relationships are two-way streets, and we need you guys to engage us young guys. Don’t rest on the laurels of your stories. Rather, use your stories for a good purposes. Use them to give needed advice, support or affirmation to a brother whom you have gotten to know. And the only way to do that is to learn to start asking questions that are born out of a listening ear and an open heart. This is the best contribution and legacy you can make for the future of Freemasonry, because it will impact generations to come.

Freemasonry and the Next 50 Years

Today officially begins the 2016 Annual Grand Lodge Stated Communication, which is one of the best times for Freemasons to network, learn from and grow with each other. I hope this post will be food for both thought and discussion as we look toward the future, what it may look like, and what role Freemasonry has to play. These opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Grand Lodge of Washington. If you wish to engage in a discussion or debate on these thoughts, I welcome conversation on my twitter account @danieldone or in person if you can catch me. Also you’ll all notice that I link to Jason Silva’s Youtube account a lot. You all should subscribe. He’s great.

Here’s a kick off thought:

I subscribe to the theory that we’re in the middle of the greatest leap forward in our evolution as humans since the agricultural revolution over 10,000 years ago. This leap is fueled by the digital revolution and is fundamentally changing not only how we as a species live day-to-day, but also how we see ourselves and who we are at our core. This transition is as big of a turning point in our history as the events that inspired the story the Garden of Eden. And, in order to venture into this brave new phase of human history, we need Freemasonry more than ever, because it frames a universal code of conduct for those who know that their work and actions transform themselves, their families, their neighbors, their countries, and their world in real time.

Let me explain…

Biologically, we’re primates.

There is less of a difference genetically between us, chimps and bonobos than there is between African Elephants and Indian Elephants. But what makes humans truly different is our ability to work as a group, and understand and empathize with other individuals we’ve never met. We can form strong, yet flexible networks that allow us to work as a collective in order to not only complete great wonders of the world and build empires, but also to discover, conceive of and refine our knowledge and understanding of the world. That ability to work together is at a tipping point of exponential growth due to the real-time connection that the internet has given us. It may be that digital technology is, in fact, the greatest democratizing force in human history, and will change our biology and neurology in a greater way than the discovery of fire.

All humanity is a massive organism.

At a neurological level, we’re entirely the sum of the knowledge and influences of people the in our lives such as our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our teachers our friends, and the millions of other people who contribute to every article we read, TV show we watch and ad we subliminally see. Our bodies are sustained by an infrastructure built by hundreds of millions of people working together for the betterment of the whole. We need that infrastructure and the people who made it as much as a finger requires the hand, the arm, the heart and the lungs all working together in order to move and function. While some of us may prefer to live in a cabin in the woods, the truth is, no human can survive without others, period. (In fact, I even question whether or not humanity is something that we grow into through connection with other humans.) But if you look at the the way in which people connect with those closest to them, almost like individual brain cells forming their own micro-networks, you can get an idea for how we’re players in several different networks, at work and at home. If you zoom out and look at Earth, all humanity is a massive organism, and we’re getting more and more connected as we turn ourselves into a super organism.

In fact, that superorganism is entirely augmented by our tools and technology, which is forms like an exoskeleton, and is as important to who we are as a hermit crab’s shell.

We chose the Tree of Knowledge.

I grew up as a non-denominational Protestant along with about 58% of the US. But at the University of Washington, I studied Comparative History of Ideas and had the opportunity to study several religions. One topic that had particular significance to me in this context was Jewish history. I discovered that one of the hardest things for a traditional American Evangelical to correctly understand is the systems of metaphor, meaning and poetry that was infused into the many of the early Old Testament books of the Bible. To put my opinion simply, I believe the Bible is true, but we’re too stupid to truly understand it.

So I take stories like the Garden of Eden seriously, but in a somewhat untraditional way. In particular, I look at the choice made by humans to opt for the Tree of Knowledge over the Tree of Life. Once we as humans learned to cook our meat and increase the protein we can absorb, thus expanding our brain size, meat became necessary to our existence. The same is true with farming, language, arithmetic — we become dependent on those ideas and can never fully unlearn if we are to survive.

The moment each of these ideas were introduced to human networks, we were socially, mentally and even biologically changed forever. A great case in point is smart phones. How many of us would ever voluntarily get rid of our smartphone once we’ve experienced the way in which improves our access to people and information?

This essentially changes our paradigm of evolution away from relying on genetic mutation over generations in order to evolve new tools that are part of our bodies. Now our minds have allowed us to evolve our technology as an extension of our bodies.

Technology, beginning with sticks and stones, infects us as humans and carries with it nearly infinite unknown costs and benefits. These result in progress, as well as war, famine, disease and death. We only hope that with enough collaboration, the sum of humanity can come up with fixes to fend off those “horsemen of the apocalypse” before they destroy us. I think we have a good shot.

An idea is the most resilient parasite.

Evolution is no longer biological for us.

There is a feedback loop between our tools and ourselves, causing what is called a dialectic, which is forcing us to evolve. Operative masons once built cities, cathedrals, keeps and castles that shaped culture, and you had better believe they did it on purpose. They understood that architecture forms the exoskeleton of societies, and influences how those societies function, link, feel, and controls their future.

Freemasons expand that idea that to everything that is man made has a similar impact… We’re all engaged in the transcendence of our humanity.

Our tools are an extension of our body.

I was spellbound by a TED talk given by the MIT Hugh Herr on bionics. Herr lost both his legs to frostbite in the 80s. In the talk, he said, “I didn’t view my body as broken. I reasoned that a human being can never be “broken” but rather that “technology is broken.” The insight of that quote alludes to the foundational philosophy of Millennials. By framing it in that context, he is recognizing that his body is nothing more than technology, and so the inverse is also true. Technology is the extension of the body.

This premise was known by ancient swordsmen, who taught the sword is the extension of the arm, and also by Steve Jobs, who famously called the computer the “bicycle of the mind”. It was certainly known by Larry Page and Sergey Brin and their team at Google. The refinement of algorithms such as theirs is nothing more than techno-sociological ergonomics. In other words, it’s refining itself to better serve our needs and desires as humans.

Given that now we produce more content and knowledge in an hour than in most centuries of our past, and that nearly all of this is either stored or shared through the internet. Meanwhile, the internet has effectively become a literal collective consciousness, and that “sum of all knowledge and understanding” can actually be quantified by the weight of those electrons. The most humbling thing is that it’s smaller than the smallest possible grain of sand.

What is the collective consciousness?

The idea of collective consciousness has been around for centuries and has been studied in the context of shared experiences in both space and time. A concert, a revolution, a tsunami, a war is something that has an impact on such a large group of people that that memory is shared amongst an entire group of people and is often remembered for generations, or even millennia.
Ritual has the same effect on the human brain as events. It’s something that is shared throughout generations and forms the mortar that binds groups together which is why we use it in Freemasonry. Ritual, however can be engineered, just like cities, and purposefully have a direct impact on the societies and and individuals they produce. Being aware of that engineering effect thus, could be considered collective self consciousness.

Today, thanks to technology and education, we have over a billion people connected to the internet, which allows them to connect in real time and collaborate on projects large and small. This means that from a macro level, if the entire human race is an evolving brain, it would be just a few short years away from being able to think and act as one in our own best interest. However, in order to do that, we’re departing from our old tools of communication; we’ve passed pen and paper, the printing press, Radio, and TV (which are all mono-directional). Social media gives a voice to all, but it still requires an interface. We now know that within the next 50 years, communication and connection to the internet will be integrated into our minds to one degree or another.

The integration and rapid evolution of digital technology into a culture, therefore hyper-charges our individual and collective quest to be more human.

The Precipice.

Last week, an article was published in TechCruch on search engine algorithms’ artificial intelligence called “Deep Brain.” There is a great summary in that article about the progression of artificial intelligence. Now again, if our tools are just an extension of our bodies, and the tools we use together like the roads, trains, and the electrical grid are the skeleton of our collective organism, then the internet and all of its information, programs and robots are in fact an extension of humanity itself. Now predictions are that our machines will be as intelligent as the sum of all human brains put together by 2060. Once we reach that point, there is no turning back. All rules are off. We will have left Eden again. Or, just maybe, we might be returning to a new Eden where war, famine, disease and death are finally eradicated by our own will and power. We will see.

Why we are “Free-Masons”, really?

You might have noticed that Elias Ashmole’s first mention of Freemasonry was “Free-Mason” in his diary in 1646. It is so important to realize that the birth of “Free-Masonry” was in the time just before the explosion of knowledge and invention that was the English Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. I believe the realization was due in part to a recognition that Masonry studied the fact that our environments shape society, and had studied this for centuries. Because of that power, it behooves good men to hold themselves and others to standards of building societies for good and the betterment of all and not our own selfish ends. With the scientific revolution, it became clear that we are all builders in our own way, and have that same power to change the world through our creativity and workmanship.

So moving forward into a world where we are about to breach the gates of everything that is possible, one thing will remain the same, human nature. Freemasonry speaks directly to the core of what it means to be human and reorients our minds to what is truly important amid the chaos of change, not in resistance to it. So I don’t have any conclusion other than big changes for humanity are here, and even bigger changes are coming. Let us be a force for the good and the betterment of humanity as we always have, but let’s find out how to do it in a new way.

I’d like to conclude not with another Jason Silva video, but with Charlie Chaplin’s speech in “The Great Dictator”. A few years back, someone brushed it off the shelves and added modern b-roll to illustrate his points. I think it illustrates exactly where we are at. I hope you all enjoyed the read, and I look forward to discussions.

An Update From our Masonic Brothers in Brussels

.Dear Brothers of Washington, This morning I reached out to the Grand Lodge of Brussels, asking if any of our brother Masons or their families were harmed in yesterday’s terrorist attacks, and if the brothers from Washington could assist in any needs.

Both Facebook pages for Chevalier Ramsay Lodge Number 4 (the closest Lodge to the subway bombing), and the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium are managed by V.W.Bro. Michel Huyghebaert, who was kind enough to write the following update for us.

-Danny Done, PM Queen Anne Lodge 242.

“Dear Bro. Danny,

Here is some information about Lodge Chevalier Ramsay N.4.

Lodge Chevalier Ramsay N.4, was originally a military Lodge, consecrated by U.S. servicemen, under the Grande Loge Nationale Française in 1964 – when NATO was still located in Paris. In 1967, President De Gaulle invited all foreign forces to leave French territory, NATO moved to Brussels, and so did the Lodge in 1970.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.26.29 PMToday, our Lodge consists mostly of ex-pats working for various European institutions, NATO, lobbies, and businessmen. Our members are now from about 25 different nationalities. On our Altar rests the Holy Bible, the Torah and the Koran. On occasion, we’ve used other Sacred Books to obligate our members.

The Lodge is located on Rue Royale in Brussels, which is a very long avenue that crosses the center of Brussels, from East to West. On it, you can find Our King’s Royal palace, numerous governmental institutions, several churches, a synagogue, the Justice Department, the Museum of Fine Arts and the home of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium, where our Lodge meets.

One of yesterday’s terrorist attacks took place at our national airport, called Zaventem. It is, in fact, the main airport in Brussels – and the biggest one in Belgium. The airport is located about 20 minutes away from the Lodge, and most of our members take it at least once a year, several times a month for some of us. The terrorists blew themselves up where everyone comes into the building. I understand one or more Brethren took a plane just before the attacks.

The second terrorist attack took place in a subway station that is right in the heart of the main European institutions. It is also at a crucial intersection between the only two metro lines. That single explosion caused as many casualties as the two bombs in the airport, as the terrorist blew himself up inside a subway car. That subway stop is only 5 minutes away by car to the Lodge building.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.23.58 PM

Last week, a terrorist hideout was discovered by the police, which is only 13 min away from the Lodge by walk. Friday, they arrested one of the terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks, here too, only 10 minutes away. Bomb constructing materials, and several weapons have been found there.

Initially, there had been no report of Brethren or their families being victim of these cowardly acts. In that regard, we are very thankful, and our prayers are with the victims and their families. I’ve also not heard of any reports from the Grand Lodge, the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium. However, a widow of a victim became known to our Lodge in the days after the attacks, and is in need of financial relief. We have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support her: https://www.gofundme.com/tfwzcxw4.

Terrorism on this scale is a new thing for us, and we’ve never had to deal with this.

Yours fraternally,

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.29.17 PMV.W.Bro. Michel Huyghebaert. Past Master, Lodge Chevalier Ramsay N.4

More information about our Lodge, and its history, can be found at:

http://www.chevalierramsay.be/lodge-history/

We are also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChevalierRamsay4/

We will follow up as soon as we hear from Bro. Huyghebaert, as to any relief efforts we can contribute on an individual basis.