What We Have Learned to Be?
By Most Illustrious Companion John D. Barnes
Past Most Illustrious Grand Master and Grand Treasurer, Grand Council of New Jersey

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'It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.' -Oscar Wilde

My Companion:

If the only time you read the ritual is when you are trying to learn a new part, you've missed the real point of the lessons Masonry teaches. If listening to the opening of a Lodge or Council is something you have to sit through so that you can hear your name mentioned in the minutes, you've got it all wrong.

We have a wonderful series of examples and lectures to choose from; beginning with the Entered Apprentice and leading to the Order of the Temple. When you consider the Degrees of the Scottish Rite as well, there are over 40 essays on how to live your life. They are there for you to read when the rapid tempo of your daily life permits. They are not just something you can skim through in a few minutes. They are meant to be pondered and savored.

They are often written in code, so you must slow down and decipher them. In addition to maintaining the secrecy for which Masonry is noted, this need to think about what is in front of you serves another, higher purpose. You must concentrate on the words, not just to recognize each one, or to remember what a particular group on letters and symbols stand for, but to see the meaning of the sentences and paragraphs. The questions and answers of the Degrees mean more than "Yes, I am a Mason. I am entitled to more Light." They lead us to understand what that statement really says about ourselves. You may be entitled to more Light, but you still have to use it well before you can claim it as your own.

Each of us is more than the Degrees conferred on us, and certainly more than the titles others have given us. We are what we have learned to be. Please note that I said "HAVE LEARNED", not "been shown" or "had demonstrated to us". It is the attentive ear that receives the sound from the instructive tongue, not the ear filled with the droning of the minutes. The lessons are there, yours if you are willing to reach out your hand for them, stretch forth you mind to receive them, and expand your heart to absorb them. The Light is there, waiting for you to take off the hoodwink of ignorance and sloth.

Can you see the Light?

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