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2013 05 | May Letter to the Brethren

posted Jun 23, 2013, 9:12 AM by Sean Adam   [ updated May 11, 2014, 5:56 AM ]

Fraternal Greetings Brethren,

In college I wrote a thesis on the book, "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, the story of which was vividly, if inaccurately, recounted in the movie "Apocalypse Now". The book was compelling to me because of it's central theme and so I have found myself thinking of it quite a bit lately. Watching the horror of the Marathon Bombing while concurrently dealing with having our house broken into and robbed has left my family and me questioning the values of the people in our society. I think many of us, as we come to understand the vileness of the bombers, are wondering what is going on with the world. I guess many have done the same over the years as other horrible things like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor have happened.

In the "Heart of Darkness", the central theme is how a man reacts and carries himself when civil society is not there to police him or judge him. In other words, what moral compass and value set does he use to guide his actions when someone else isn't there to tell him what to do. The book gives us two answers; on the one side we have Marlow a man who finds himself alone in a jungle searching for an ivory trader  named Kurtz who represents the other side. One man embodies the best of who we are- without society to tell him how to behave; he is moral and industrious in his behavior. Kurtz, on the other hand, represents the capability of man to descend to savagery and idleness when society isn't there to guide his actions. The theme is eerily encapsulated when Marlow comes to Kurtz's camp and beholds the wall lined with skulls- but instead of the skulls looking out as a warning, they are all facing inward, as if judging.

This theme has been on my mind when I compare the actions of the bombers to the actions of Masons. On the one hand we see young men guided by an internal compass with a desire for revenge and terror without regard for their fellow human beings; the standards on our society having no impact on their actions. On the other hand, we see Masons guided by our own Compasses, keeping our desires within due bounds with all mankind;  we've come to Masonry of our own free will and accord, looking for a way to be better men- not because society tells us to, but because we want to.

And that's the thing that I keep coming back to. That choice that we all make... or really the hundreds of choices we make every day: Choices outside the bounds of society requirements, choices made without being forced by others. A choice for evil or a choice to become better men. We Masons choose to become better and we have sought out the company of others who feel the same way.  Kurtz in the end comes to realize the evil potential of men and whisper's "The Horror, the Horror".  But, in thinking of the Millions of Masons around the world, I prefer to end this message by echoing the recent thoughts of Patton Oswalt in which I find great comfort and hope. Oswalt sends a message to the villains of this world and writes "The Good outnumber you, and we always will".

So Mote It Be.

I'll see you on May 14th ( A Tuesday this month).