Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?
By Michael Greenzeiger
Many luminaries of our Order have spoken about the importance of keeping our lodge halls in good repair and in attractive condition as they are a big part of the face we present to the world. I could not possibly agree with these leaders more. In fact, I think this speaks to a broader point, which is that everything we attach our name to must be of high quality. Even if no one outside the Order will see, we must be conscious of this principle because we cannot help but by influenced by what we surround ourselves with.
Quality takes on many forms. In addition to our lodge halls themselves, we must also think about the lodge furnishings, regalia, and grounds. When we put on an event, the event needs to be well-planned. If food is served, it should be nicely presented in addition to tasting good. There should be options to fit the requirements and tastes of all those present so far as possible. When we perform ritual, it needs to be done competently and with feeling even if we don’t have the time or ability to do memorization work. If we can memorize and recite fluently, all the better!
When we look back at how our Order and how others like it functioned a century ago, we see men and women who really cared about their lodges and everything which took place in them. They filled their lodges with items of beauty, many of which now reside in our museums. They put their full effort into all the projects their lodges undertook, far more time than we believe our busy modern lifestyles would permit. They also paid dues that in today’s dollars far outstrip what we pay and came to lodge dressed in their finest clothes.
I don’t know how or why it happened, but somehow several decades ago we left this path of quality. Instead of considering lodge worthy of our time and money, many brothers and sisters often started to put in the minimum they could. Dues haven’t kept anywhere near up with inflation. Lodges have decided to stop spending money on nice things they can easily afford in contradiction with the well-known business fact that one must spend money to make money. We often take the most expedient course of action and not the best one. The quality of everything we do and of every face we put forward to the world and to ourselves has slipped dramatically.
Interestingly, the decline in quality hasn’t happened everywhere. The lodges in Europe in particular still retain high levels of quality like those that we once had. For them, the lodge is serious business and they put far more time and effort in than we do. Whatever they are doing seems to be working because their lodges are far stronger than ours and their numbers are far higher in proportion to their local populations. There are even lodges in our own country with this sort of focus and they too get results. I don’t believe that putting on tuxedos or memorizing the ritual flawlessly will magically turn the Order around in the United States, but focusing on quality can, in the myriad of forms that quality can take.
If we really care for our Order, our lodges, our brothers and sisters and ourselves the way that we say we do, we need to put in a wholehearted effort and focus on quality. Otherwise, all the pretty words of our rituals and all the creeds we say we espouse are mostly empty. The same is true with our Order as is true everywhere else in life: you will only get out as much as you put in. Maybe it’s time for your lodge to splurge on fancier food for your banquet or on a beautiful new interior for your hall. Maybe it’s time to spend a few extra hours planning your event or rehearsing your degree work. If you believe like I do that our Order is worth it, then you are surely making an excellent investment.