The Masonic Lessons of Integrity,
Choice, and Responsibility
By Michael R. Poll, PM • Contributing Writer From his lecture delivered before New Borne Lodge No. 500 on June 1, 2021
One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about Freemasonry is its use of symbolism in Masonic education. I’ve always appreciated how we use a more or less common item to represent a complex thought or object lesson. I know, of course, that the use of symbols is far older than Freemasonry. The use of symbolism to teach can be traced back to the earliest days of man. But what I like about how we use symbolism in Freemasonry today is that we can almost personalize it to fit our needs. Since a symbol is essentially a memory aid, we can take significant past personal events and turn them into our own unique symbols for various Masonic teachings. Let me give you an example by retelling a very significant event in my own life that I use when I want to think of various Masonic moral lessons.
I joined Freemasonry when I was 21. When I was in my late 20s, I decided that I wanted to move to California. So, I did. I moved to a little town called Clovis. It was a nice place to live, not far from the incredible beauty of Yosemite, and also not far from the California coast — places like Carmel and Monterey. There was even a Masonic lodge in Clovis that I would visit on a semi-regular basis. It was a nice time. But then something very unexpected happened.
One Saturday morning I was looking at the newspaper. I saw an ad for an electronics store that was in a shopping center not far from me. I saw that some stereo speakers were on sale for a very good price. I decided to jump in the car and go buy them. I had about $120 on me. I drove to the shopping center and pulled in the parking lot. It was about 10 or 10:30 in the morning. I parked the car and got out. As I was walking to the back of the car, I was surprised. There was a kid standing there behind the car. He looked about sixteen or seventeen. But I was even more surprised when I looked closer at him. He had a gun in his hand. I guess I didn’t really believe what I was seeing. Then he said, “I’ll take your money,” and everything was brought into reality.
I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking, but I didn’t have a lot of money. And I really wanted to buy those speakers. I did not want to give this kid my money. So, I told him that I didn’t have anything on me. He cocked the gun. It was a revolver, and I could see the cylinder turning. The barrel seemed to get larger. It started to look like he was pointing a canon at me. I remember thinking to myself, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t play around with him. Just give him what he wants!”
I told the kid, “OK,” reached in my pocket, and handed him the money. He took it and just stared at me. I looked in his eyes, and they were just … empty. There was no emotion, no expression — nothing. They were blank, dead eyes. Then he said, “You shouldn’t have lied to me.” I remember a cold feeling coming over me and my thinking, “Oh God, this boy’s going to shoot me.” I felt helpless. All kinds of thoughts crossed my mind, and nothing seemed real. Just when I expected to be shot, I saw his eyes dart to his left — right over my right shoulder. A look of shock came over his face. He spun around and was gone. He didn’t say a word. He just took off running.
I was to say the least stunned, and my first thought was “Police!” I turned around, fully expecting to see a police car or cops running up on foot, but there was nothing. I looked all around. I saw no cars or people anywhere behind me. The closest building was a bank that was towards the end of the mostly empty parking lot, but no one was anywhere around. I was confused and very shaken. I have no idea why he took off running like he did. I have no idea if he saw someone who took off themselves or what happened. All I did know was that I was very lucky to be alive. I went home, and all I could think about was “what if?” I did a lot of thinking about my life — where I was, were I wanted to go, and how quickly all that I had planned for the years ahead could have ended. Yea, I did a lot of thinking. It was clear that I was given a second chance.
A few days later I realized that the lodge in town was having a meeting. I decided to go visit them. I had missed the last few meetings and just wanted to be in a Masonic atmosphere. Having no idea what was on the schedule for the evening, I showed up. As it turns out, the lodge was having a Master Mason degree. I was, needless to say, very moved and affected by what I saw in the first and especially second section. While the lessons taught in the Master Mason degree focus, in part, on integrity or the test of integrity, my own situation involved no such “test.” It was a simple robbery. But it made me think a great deal about life itself. Every single one of us will one day die. We have no choice in this matter. We also have no idea when that day will come. All over the world there are many people who were alive yesterday and who are not with us today. We will never know what lost plans they may have had for today. While we have no power over death, there are things that we can do in life.
Until the time of our death, we have total control over our own actions. When that kid had that gun pointed at me, it seems that he was in control of me. But really, he wasn’t. I realized that the money that I had in my pocket was not worth dying for, and I made the choice to give it to him. There was no loss of integrity in my action. I had not given my word that I would not give anyone the money unless certain conditions were met. But what if I had? Then it would have been matter of integrity. I would have had to very quickly decide if my life was worth my integrity. That was the test in the Master Mason degree. It was realized that we all live and die. It was realized that no one can take our integrity. We are the only ones who can give our integrity away, or keep it. It is a powerful lesson. But the lessons of that degree involve more than integrity. The lessons involve choices that we make and when we make them.
We have the freedom to go down any path that we choose. In fact, if we choose one path and at some point, decide that it is not the right path for us, we can choose another life path for us. We can do this again and again all the way up until the moment of our death. But when we die, we become locked to whatever path we were on. I guess the lesson here is to think and choose well. Another lesson would seem to be responsibilities — the ones we have to ourselves and others. Believe me, if you are under the impression that your responsibility in Freemasonry is to gain or maintain power, glory, titles, and degrees, then you are most definitely on the wrong path. We are not about trying to impress others with how much of a “big shot” we are.
The goal of Freemasonry is to take a good man and give him the tools by which he can improve himself. But why do we do that? I mean, it’s a nice idea, but is that all there is to Freemasonry? I don’t believe it is. I believe that we have a deeper responsibility. It’s not all about us. We have to learn how to help others. But how? A good man cannot wave his hand and make others good. We can only change ourselves. We have no ability to make others do what we want of them. We can only control our actions.
What we can do is learn, live and radiate the lessons of Freemasonry. We can’t make anyone do anything, but we can be an inspiration to others. We can be that guy who inspires others to move to a different, better path. We can do that. I believe that we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to help others as we can. Unfortunately, there is a catch. We can make all the most wonderful plans in the world for next year, next month or even tomorrow. But, if tonight is our last night on this Earth, then all of our good plans are wasted.
The lesson is that if we want to do something, we need to do it now because tomorrow may never come. In music, we may know all of the proper notes to play. But if our timing is off, then the music will not sound as it should. Timing is everything. In all of life, timing is everything. It’s not enough to know the right thing to do. We have to do it, and we have to do it at the right time. If we don’t care, then nothing matters. But if we do care, then we must accept the reality, responsibility, and choices in life. Doing the right thing tomorrow may result in being forever known as the guy who refused to do the right thing. But, as in all things, the choice is ours.
Tidings From Louisiana Lodges
Abe Hinson No. 472 to
Host Masonic Spelling Bee
Abe Hinson will hose a "St. John’s Day Masonic Spelling Bee Championship FUN-draiser" on June 26, 2021, starting at noon. All of the words will be derived from the various books we use in Masonry such as the Masonic Lectures book, Masonic Monitor, Handbook of Masonic Law, etc. In short, every word will be connected to Masonry somehow. To sign up for the competition fill out the form here.
Families are welcome as Abe Hinson intends this to be the kind of FUN-draiser everyone can enjoy. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and need to be able to have these kinds of fun moments where we can all relax and enjoy our fellowship. There will be plate lunches so come hungry and bring a friend or family member to enjoy the festivities. There is even a one-of-a-kind plaque that will be given to the grand champion.
Return of Feliciana No. 31 Reenactment
"158 years ago, Lt. Commander John E. Hart, commander of the USS Albatross, was laid to rest. The death of a Freemason silenced the guns of the American Civil War! Captain William Walter Leake set aside his differences from Commander Hart and allowed him to be buried in what was considered to be “enemy territory...
Two men destined to make history is portrayed every year by the Day The War Stopped reenactment conducted by Feliciana Masonic Lodge No. 31. I was lucky enough to play the role as Revered Daniel Lewis who was the Episcopalian priest who helped Commander Hart be put to rest at Grace Episcopal Church. I was also lucky enough to give a historical lecture that pertained to Masonry and the Day The War Stopped!"
- Brother Bo Trisler, Feliciana Lodge No. 31
Brother Bo Trisler, of Feliciana No. 31, presents on this historical event in Louisiana Masonry.
St. Albans No. 28 is the 2021 Feliciana Cup Jambalaya Cookoff Champion,
as well as the winner of the People's Choice Award.
West Monroe No. 419 Raises Four in One Day
Contributed by WB Scott Goss, D∴G∴L∴ 4th Masonic District
What a great day for Masonry in Louisiana. West Monroe Lodge #419 conferred four full form Master Mason degrees on May 29, 2021!
All of these gentleman are friends, and they decided to join the lodge at the same time. They all received three degrees together over the past six months. There were about 28 Master Masons in attendance to assist in the degree work from across several districts. We had a great meal catered by Bro. Kevin Tyson from Urim lodge No. 111.
Pictured from L to R: Bro. Hampton Roane, Bro. Austin Bowden,
W∴B∴ James Counselman, Bro. Damon Smith, and Bro. Sean Gallagher.
Chef Bro. Kevin Tyson and one of his trusty kitchen helpers.
New Borne Lodge No. 500
to Host Charity Golf Tournament
To sponsor or register contact W∴B∴ John Combel at 504-915-6204.
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