The Trowel, Part Two
Article courtesy of: The Masonic Trowel Website.
Masonic brotherly love is not merely a breezy, cheerful \”glad hand\”, which manifests itself in a bubbling demonstrativeness with old and new acquaintances, but rarely has time to look or listen for the sounds of spiritual distress or human need in the hearts and voices of those around us. Masonic brotherly love is not generally exemplified by the overpoweringly garrulous salesman who \”wants to do you a favor\”. The mortar of brotherly love needs a stronger bonding ingredient than that; the trowel must distribute the cement in better proportions.
Masonic brotherly love is not mere courtesy, either. To listen politely, to answer respectfully, to avoid giving pain may be some of the marks of a gentleman; but they are not always the purposeful acts of a Builder who is consciously using the trowel of brotherly love and affection. Merely to acknowledge others, but not to respond to them, is using a thin watery mortar which will never bond the ashlars together properly. To love others is to accept them, their prejudices as well as their amiable virtues, and to work with what they have and really are. To reject them, no matter how courteously, is still a rejection, an ingredient which no good Builder puts into the mortar he mixes for the Temple of Brotherly Love.
Yet, if these negative descriptions represented the chief misunderstandings of the true nature of Freemasonry\’s great purpose, to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, they would merit little attention. The great problem of the Builder is that of indifference. The number of trowels that are lying idle is staggering; the tower of Babel overshadows the Temple of Brotherhood.
How often we hear people say, \”Oh, I\’d like to do something constructive, something fine. But I\’m tied up in so many things. I\’m on a treadmill at the office; I\’ve got so many obligations at home. One thing after another comes up in the neighborhood and I\’m called on for help. I\’m on the go so much, I just don\’t have time to think anymore.\”
Masons are people, and many a Mason has given a similar response: \”I just don\’t have time to think about Masonry.\” And so another trowel lies uselessly in the tool chest, while the Grand Architect cries for Master Workmen to mount the scaffolding of the Temple of Universal Brotherhood. The ingredients for the mortar are still packed in the storeroom; there aren\’t enough Builders to mix the cement and carry it away.
This is one of the widest held and most dangerous errors of our time, that a man is too busy to do something in accordance with his ideals, to be of help to others. As a matter of fact, the busier a man is, the more numerous are his opportunities to use the trowel of brotherly love and affection. Furthermore, in a willingness to spread the cement of love and understanding lies the surest guarantee of real inner peace and life- long satisfaction. One doesn\’t have to accomplish big things, or even to neglect one\’s duties, to achieve those spiritual rewards.
It is just such activity, the application of the trowel of brotherly love, which Albert Schweitzer calls \”the second lesson of life\”. It stimulates noble and ennobling responses; it awakens dormant and forgotten powers. Unused human capabilities are given meaningful expression; and what this world needs most today are people who concern themselves with the spiritual needs of others.
Every man, believes Dr. Schweitzer, can enrich and develop his personality, no matter how busy he may be, by seizing every opportunity to release the spiritual power of love which he possesses. How? By completing \”the second lesson of life\”, which to Masons means the faithful and proficient use of the trowel of brotherly love and affection.
In a personal anecdote, the great philosopher illustrates what he means. \”I once sat next to a lively young man in a third class railroad compartment. He gave the impression that he was always aware of something not visible to the rest of us in the conditions around him. Opposite him sat a very nervous old man who seemed to be terribly worried. When the young man remarked that it would be dark before the train reached the next town, the old man began to quiver and exclaimed fearfully, `I don\’t know what I\’m going to do. My only son is in the hospital there. He\’s awfully sick. I got a telegram this morning to come as soon as possible. But I\’m from the country; I\’m afraid I\’ll get lost in the big city.\’ Whereupon the young man said reassuringly, `I know the town well. I\’ll get off with you and take you to your son. I\’ll catch a later train.\’ And as they got off the train, they walked along the platform like brothers.\”
Most of us go through life with our eyes closed to many of the opportunities which we have for working on the Temple of Universal Brotherhood. Struck by the dazzling structure as designed upon the trestleboard, we are blind to the little tasks which lie close at hand. We fail to grasp our trowels to spread the mortar of understanding and good will in the situation right before us.
And in this indifference may lie one of the greatest causes of the illnesses which are troubling the Fraternity today. In a simpler age, when Brothers really knew each other and lived with each other\’s needs and triumphs and tribulations, Masonic charity and benevolence were the concern of almost every Builder. He knew how to use the trowel of brotherly love and understanding.
But with the tremendous growth in our membership and in the rootlessness of so much of our population today, our Masonic benevolence has become institutionalized and consequently more impersonal. Many a Brother has seen a dazzling picture of his Masonic Home or Hospital; but it was just a vivid picture. It called for no action from his trowel of brotherly love and affection.