Michael Carmel – Q&A
Speaker 1: Good evening, Very Worshipful Brother Michael Carmel. First question, Very Worshipful, why did you become a Mason?
Mike Carmel: There are a couple of reasons. One of them was that it was the only fraternal organization or organization of any kind that my father, who was a physician and a prominent person, recommended. He said of all the things he belonged to, the only one that was meaningful to him was Masonry, but he never introduced me to it. The second thing was, I was real fan of American history and how our country was founded on humanistic principles. The length of our early patriots to Masonry really intrigued me, and I read a great deal about them.
I had no idea of how to become a Mason. I was in the scientific book business, and the UPS man who came to my home every day was a marvelous representative of Masonry, but I didn’t know why this guy was such a terrific person. He was just a UPS driver. Then one day when he handed me the clipboard I saw his Masonic ring. I said, “Gosh, Norm, you’re a Mason. How do you become a Mason?” He went to the brown truck and handed me a petition so, yeah. I joined a wonderful lodge, but I got transferred across the country. Then I affiliated with University Lodge. It was all the things that I felt, where men should be able to assemble together and trust one another and look out for one another. It was the principles that appealed to me.
Speaker 1: Why do you remain active in the fraternity?
Mike: It gives me satisfaction to be active in the community through Masonry. I like the fact that it’s an ethically-based fraternity that attempts to do good works. It’s not necessarily a charity. It works on making people better and materially achieves improvements in character and action by having a set of rules of how you should behave. I feel comfortable with other Masons. That’s it.
Speaker 1: What would you describe is the purpose of Freemasonry?
Mike: I believe the idea of allowing people to assemble together who share principles of decency and moral behavior without being condemning of other people. You can get together socially with Masons and not expect to have people with drug or alcohol problems, at least that’s my experience and my expectation. I just like the whole idea that you’re pledged to be a good person, and I like being around good people. That’s it.
Speaker 1: We say that we help make good men better. If there was one thing that you felt Masons could help you improve in your life, what would that be and how would it matter? In other words, what else could Freemasonry do to accomplish its purpose with you specifically?
Mike: I’ve thought about the question, “What does Masonry need?” I think this is going to be an odd answer. I’ve felt that one of the things that Masonry neglects is the physical well being of the brothers. Brothers get together, and they try to do good stuff. They do ritual, and they improve their minds, I think, by memory work and that appeals to me also, but nothing physically. This may sound totally wacky, but I’ve thought, “Boy, I wish they could have some kind of emphasis on fitness or better health.” So I think improving personal health would be an interesting sideline, but I don’t see how it’d ever work.
Speaker 1: I don’t think that’s wacky at all. I think that’s a marvelous reach beyond the standard paradigm. That’s exactly the stuff that I’m looking for. Do you think our mission of Freemasonry is different today than the mission it had before? Do you see that mission evolving in the future?
Mike: That’s a question that I haven’t … I’ve thought about, “What did Masonry do before?” Masonry was very influential. It’s hardly influential at all now, in my opinion. It’s very diluted in its ability to influence, say, laws. It’s dwindling in membership, etc. I think that the mission, which was to give people a sanctuary and protection and looking out for one another, was an old mission. By the way, I experienced some of that in my first Masonic lodge because my brothers … everybody looked out for one another.
For instance, it’s entirely inappropriate to use Masonry for commercial purposes, but the refugee or sanctuary is that if you wanted to do business in a certain way, you knew that if you were doing business with a Mason, you were going to get an honest deal. One brother taking care of another. That’s exactly what I experienced. That was the way it was in New Jersey. You had to be very careful of tradesman, etc., but if you were dealing with a brother, you were okay – better than okay. So I would like to see us get that message across.
We’ve had some terrible incidents of dishonesty within Masonry. Thanks to the emphasis and oversight now, I think that we’re going to be seeing less of that. There was sort of a naïve belief that … By the way, I know of old cases, too, where that happened, so it’s not something new in Masonry. It’s just that we’ve had an explosion. We all know that there’s been over a million dollars embezzled in Washington Masonry in the past year or discovered in the past year. As we look for our mission to the future, I think the focus on square dealing and the fact that you can rely on dealing with another Mason would be a powerful help to getting our message across. Give you reasons to belong to the fraternity just other than to have a meeting and social event once a month. I don’t think once a month is enough. Did I say anything worthwhile?
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. There’s all kinds of meat there.
Mike: What I’ve done with our own lodge is we meet once a month, but I do lunch every Wednesday, as mentioned by my wife. That lunch has brought us together. After lunch, at least half dozen of us sat around for two hours and discussed things that we could be doing, and how to improve our mission as a lodge, and how to be more effective. This is not an unusual occurrence. Usually there’s a lot of good fellowship that goes on that’s not just chatter. It’s meaningful stuff. I think you can only get this feeling of real fraternity by getting together more than once a month.
Speaker 1: The last one is kind of a convoluted question, but I know that with your grasp of the abstract you’ll understand where I’m going with this. How can you help a respective Masonic brother whose sole familiarity with our fraternity is either, “I think my grandfather or one of my uncles was one,” to recognize the relevance and importance of Freemasonry today, and why our brotherhood is just as relevant to him today as it was to his grandfather or his uncle back then.
Mike: I think that if you raise the need for having a center in your life, which is not simply church-centered, of having direction and the ability to go to mentors, people who are experienced in many, many fields and concepts, that you can talk to these people and find people who will help guide you. The age of the fraternity is a concern, but it’s also a precious resource that many of these people … We need a place to go in this world with all the threats that we encounter where you can trust other people. So being able to go to a place, once again, that is a sanctuary of honest behavior and good will is a valuable thing in a world where we’re surrounded by threats.
You go on your computer, you can get viruses, etc. Now I’m discovering that we’re getting new brothers who are techs, who are computer experts. We have a petition for affiliation from a Mason who’s the network manager for a large hospital. He wants to get back in. I think that the reason why he wants to get back in is that he’s interested in having this ability to get together with people that he can feel comfortable with and trust. I think if you need somebody you can trust, I think that the Masonic oaths that say you should not wrong, cheat or defraud a brother, you swear that you will not, it would be a powerful selling point, but we can’t reveal that as things are right now.
Speaker 1: Very Worshipful, I look forward to seeing you at one of our future communications, and maybe breaking bread with you, and just chewing your ear about things Orchidaceae.
Mike: Well, I really don’t know that much about orchids, although I’ve had a few. I like all that stuff. For me, it’s a triumph to grow a good tomato.
Speaker 1: Thank you so much for your time.
Mike: Okay, pleasure talking with you.
Speaker 1: All right, brother.
Mike: Okay, bye.
Speaker 1: Bye-bye.