Masonry: Its not about me changing THEM, its about ME changing ME.
This came about as a result of a conversation I was having with my wife about a man who USED to be in my lodge and the brethren who brought masonic charges against him which resulted in his no longer being a mason.
I was concerned about the brother being charged, about how the brothers had not whispered good counsel to him to seek to bring about a reformation, but instead immediately proceeded to the Grand Lodge to prefer charges against him. She noted that I can't change them, and like a light going on, I suddenly realized what seemed to me to be a significant truth: Masonry is about me changing ME into a better man. This is an internal struggle, to inculcate into my life and being the tenets and teachings of the fraternity.
Of course, a significant portion of that internalizing comes from the example set by my brothers, those I see every day and those that came before me, so in that sense, they change me. However, that is a passive process. I cannot CHANGE anyone by direct action. Can I change them by my example? I hope so, but if I do change myself, an ongoing process to be sure, and one that is as I noted, significantly affected by my brothers in my lodge, on the internet, and in books and other ways, then that change will effect everyone with whom I come in contact.
Therefore, Masonry: Its not about me changing THEM, its about ME changing ME. Its not selfishness, because masonry's mission statement is that we take good men and make them better. We do that by encouraging contemplation and inculcation of moral tenets, which bring about action by my breaking off the rough and superfluous parts of my rough ashlar. I may, in a small way, SHOW a brother how to chip off a superfluous part of HIS rough ashlar, but HE must decide and HE must act to make that change.
Each of us changes ourselves through education and contemplation. Its about ME changing ME.
You know, part of the change in a man is wrought BY the initiatory process of the ritual. Being in blindness/Darkness has a way of opening the mind to other... possibilities. And that opening is the beginning of change, for the door is pried open and new thoughts and concepts can therefore sneak in past the guard of "what you already know" and experience.
This is one reason I have always opposed the one day degree conferral, not because it defies tradition, but because a significant part of becomming a mason comes from the initiation which begins the change. Another BIG part of the change come from the unspoken expectations of the brethren, and frankly, from peer pressure to conform to the teachings of the fraternity.
Once the door is opened via initiation and repetition, one must assiduously struggle to keep the door propped open, which is where the internalization of the teachings come from. Masonry is a philosophical fraternity, and philosophy is not just assimilating what others think and say and write, but taking in those things and making that a part of yourself, through contemplation.
Robert Heinlein created a word in the 1970's which really defines this process: GROK. To Grok something is to completely understand it, to make it part of yourself, in all ways. However, to grok something also requires you to understand YOURSELF and how that thing you are contemplating fits you, and to make the changes to yourself to subsume that thing.
Grok (pronounced grock) is a verb roughly meaning "to understand completely" or more formally "to achieve complete intuitive understanding". It was coined by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is part of the fictional Martian language and introduced to English speakers by a man raised by Martians.
In the Martian tongue, it literally means "to drink" but is used in a much wider context. A character in the novel (not the primary user) defines it:
"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because we are from Earth) as color means to a blind man."
Using the broad meaning above, the term gained real-world currency as slang among counterculture groups including hippies. A popular t-shirt and bumper sticker slogan for 1970s Trekkies was I grok Spock (often showing the Star Trek character using the Vulcan salute). Today it is chiefly used by science-fiction fans, geeks and some pagans, particularly those belonging to the Church of All Worlds, but is attested and understood more widely.
To GROK Masonry is a lifetime endeavor.