I can't deny that I'm writing this with an ulterior motive. I may as well come clean straight away. It's this: I've just finished my first Masonic-inspired slate engraving and I want to see how it is received. I'd like to know if there's a market out there for a hand-made, personalised piece of Masonic art. I've been making these slates for a while now. I've sold a couple, made a couple to order and given a few away as gifts, but I've never thought to make one inspired by my love of Masonry and Masonic ritual. Which is weird, considering that I've written two Masonic books which are built on the idea of a short quotation and a longer 'meditation' based on it. Wouldn't it be an obvious link to use quotations from the books as inspirations for engravings? Well, now that I've thought about it, of course, it is obvious...I don't know why it's taken so long...
Anyway, the thing is, I've done one and put it up on my Facebook page and I realise I've used the word 'immortalised'... As in: have a favourite quotation, etc., immortalised... Which got me thinking. It's a funny word: immortalised... As if anything in this world can really be immortal. At best it seems to me that we use the word to suggest something that will last a long time; perhaps not a long time cosmically speaking, but a long time in relation to our all-too-brief moment on the planet. Perhaps we just mean something that will outlast us.
And that got me thinking about a few things. Firstly, about Freemasonry itself... We talk about it being ancient and having existed from 'time immemorial' and, in some senses, that may be true insomuch as humankind's search for truth and our desire to make sense of our Universe and our lives has been around for as long as we have. But Freemasonry as we know it has only been around for three hundred years and we know that that's just the merest fraction of a blink in terms of how long this Earth has existed. And yet we talk about Freemasonry as if it's timeless and eternal, immortal, even, if an organistation can be immortal. What do we mean by that? Well, obviously, I think we mean that our Masonic values are timeless; that however far back we go in time and however far we project into the future, our foundations of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth will prove to be equally valuable, equally valued, equally upheld, whatever changes, advances or setbacks come to us as a race.
And while everyone's still in the throes of a surprising General Election which, I believe, will prove to be a pivotal moment in the United Kingdom's long (though in no sense immortal) life, I feel that our timeless values and our determination to stay out of and above the lure of party politics will be sorely tested, greatly needed and could prove to be a great blessing to humankind. I certainly hope so.
Anyway, I digress. One of things I love about this strange organisation is that we are able to grapple with concepts such as eternity, immortality, the immutability of Truth, the understanding that some things just 'are.' Most of all, I love the fact that these concepts are not bolted on to a particular belief system, a particular religion or philosophy. There's no sense of having to believe this or that to get on board the train we're all riding to our own Earthly oblivion. What we have instead is a sense of a shared journey, a desire to help each other arrive at our destination in reasonably good shape and, most importantly of all, a sense that each one of us is responsible for our own actions and that each one of us determines how well we complete the journey.
I've said in one of the books that one of the best things we can leave behind us is a good name; a sense that our life served in some small way to spread Love and Goodwill to our circle of family, friends and acquaintances. A good name will outlast us and that is good. But it won't be immortal. Only the values we live by might have a chance of that.
So the engravings I'm making are not immortal. They might last longer than me or whoever comes to own them. They might even last long enough be passed down through generations and become treasured family heirlooms...but they won't last forever, that's for sure.
But the words on them and the truths those words represent...well, they just might...
For all of our sakes, let's hope so...
PS: If you'd like to have one of these (or even this one!) please message me. I can personalise them as much as you like, with favourite quotations, poems, ritual, etc. Favourite symbols, crests, etc., I can dedicate them to particular people or address them to Lodges or for significant events... Thanks.