“Are you claustrophobic,” I was asked as I checked in for my MRI last week. I said I didn’t think so, but who knows what your mind will do to you when you’re stuffed in a tube for an hour.
I had an MRI before on my knee. It lasted only 20 minutes, and my head and shoulders were outside of the enclosed MRI, so no chance of fear creeping in because of being in a confined space.
The tech hooked up an IV, covered me with a warm blanket, laid a square device on me to transmit the images, put some earplugs in my ears, the table moved, and I was in the machine. When I was in position, my face was about 2-3 inches from the top of the tube. I could move my head to one side or the other and see part of the room behind me which initially was some comfort.
The tech turned on the machine, and the very loud noises began. There were some beeps, what sounded like some gears meshing, and the loudest sound could be described as one of those warning horns they use in the movies when the nuclear reactor is about to overheat and meltdown, signaling everyone to get out.
So, I’m thinking: how am I going to lay still, forget that I’m in a very confined space and keep my mind occupied for a whole hour? That’s when my mind went back to the question I was asked at the beginning, “are you claustrophobic?” I began to think that maybe I am claustrophobic and I’m beginning to experience some mild panic as a precursor to losing it. You are given a button to signal the tech if for some reason you have some problem or if you just can’t stand it anymore, but I reasoned using it only after about 5 minutes wouldn’t be a very manly thing to do.
As I struggled with what can I do to take my mind off these constant loud noises and the thought that it will go on for another hour, and more importantly, make me believe I’m claustrophobic, a light bulb went off, and I thought: why not run through some Masonic ritual.
Great idea, I thought. Since the Fellowcraft lecture was the freshest in my mind, I closed my eyes and began silently recalling the lecture. But, shortly into it, I found that the constant loud noises of the machine were overpowering my ability to recall the words. I restarted about three times trying to concentrate without any luck. That is until I did this. I closed my eyes and began visualizing sitting at my desk with my ritual book open to the lecture and began slowly recalling the ritual as if reading it. When I couldn’t remember a word or phrase I visualized looking at the ritual book to prompt me.
It worked. I was so intently focused on the words in the ritual, I forgot about the noise, the enclosed space I was in and the time. I went through the FC lecture twice and then did the EA charge since I had just done it in the lodge a few weeks ago. With the charge, I recited a paragraph and then thought about the value of the meaning to me and how well I was carrying out my duties to God, my neighbor and myself.
Before the test began, the tech told me in the last 5 minutes dye would be introduced through the IV and I would experience some sensation when that occurred. I was somewhere half way through thinking about the EA charge when I head the tech’s voice through a speaker on the machine that he was starting the dye which meant there were only 5 minutes to go. Wow, I was almost done.
Now if I ever need an MRI again, I will know how to deal with it. I will treat it as a chamber of reflection. I will use the time to recall the tools and lessons of Masonry, reflect upon them and resolve to adjust some things that might require it.
So, if you ever are going to have an MRI, try my method to turn the experience into a period of Masonic reflection. Think of the letters MRI standing for Masonic Ritual Instruction.
The world around us is as noisy as the MRI machine. If we let it, it will prevent us from focusing on what is right and how the practice of Masonry can drown out the noise and confusion.
Have a Great Masonic Day!
I was thinking one day that during my years of service in Masonic organizations I have observed first hand and also heard about some behavior by leaders that made me think at the time that they had forgotten some things they were taught in the Masonic degrees. I have always believed that an essential part of leadership is a correct attitude and what better attitude to assume as a leader than that of one resulting from practicing the three great tenets of Masonry; Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
This thought took me back to the EA degree and how we can use its teachings about the three great tenets of Masonry in conjunction with Dr. John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership to improve our Masonic leadership behavior.
Let’s first look at Brotherly love. We find in the EA degree that we first are taught as Masons “to regard the whole human species as one family”… we are then taught “to aid, support, and protect each other.” This part of the ritual then goes on to say; “It is on this principle that Freemasonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”
A Masonic education course I recently found describes Brotherly Love this way:
“It means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbor, a fellow. Merely to be with him, merely to spend hours in his company, to have the privilege of working at his side, is all we ask. We do not ask that from our relationship we make money, or further our business interests, or achieve some other form of selfish gain. Freemasonry takes brotherly love for granted, provides opportunities for us to have fellowship, and encourages us to understand and to practice it, and to make it one of the laws of our existence.”
So how does Brotherly Love relate to leadership?
As you read and begin to understand more fully John Maxwell’s approach to leadership, you will find it is built around relationships. He says your best chance for leadership depends upon connecting with those on your team.
He tells us we should look for the following five characteristics in our relationships:
Trust – Maxwell says when you respect people and you spend enough time with them to develop shared experiences, you are in a position to develop trust. However, as Masons, we were taught to trust one another without question. As you recall your condition when you first entered a lodge of EAs, you will also remember that you were told that since you were in no condition to foresee or avoid danger that you were in the hands of a true and trusty friend, in whose fidelity you might safely confide. Masonry is trust and trust is Masonry; When you lead with trust, you lead with Masonry.
Respect – you should show it to others even before they have done anything to warrant it simply because they are human beings. Our ritual says it this way: “to regard the whole human species as one family,” So as Masonic leaders leading other Masons, we should lead with respect because following Masonic values, those we lead are the same as we are.
Shared experiences – Maxwell says that you can’t rely on respect alone to develop strong relationships; you must have shared experiences over time. The Masonic education course I talked about said that Brotherly Love allows us to spend time with our fellow Masons, gives us the privilege to work by their side, and grants us opportunities in a position to develop trust.
Reciprocity – team relationships only survive when there is give and take so that everyone benefits as well as gives. As Masons, we are taught to “be ready to give as well as receive good counsel from a brother.” As a leader, we must remember that our positional title does not excuse us from this basic element of Masonry. So when Dr. Maxwell speaks of reciprocity as an element of good relationships, we should already understand this.
Mutual enjoyment– When relationships grow, the people involved begin to enjoy one another’s company. The Masonic concept of Brotherly love contemplates mutual enjoyment. So to lead with Masonic values, we should lead in a way to establish and maintain mutual enjoyment.
So, Leading with Masonic values first starts with refreshing our minds and assuming an attitude of Brotherly Love, one of our basic Masonic tenets. I’m sure after thinking through what you have just read, you can recall some difficult times as a leader that would not have been so difficult and problems much more quickly resolved if everyone had approached it with the attitude of Brotherly Love.
I know I can recall some leadership situations that would have been much better had I remembered to Lead with Brotherly Love.
Have a Great Masonic Day!