November 27, 2018

Tribute to a dear friend

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:24 am by GeneGoldman


From the California Freemason magazine, November/December 2018

http://www.cafreemason-digital.com/cafreemason/nov_dec_2018/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1443834#articleId1443834

BEYOND WORDS

In the early 1780s, Austrian poet Joseph Franz Ratschky wrote an essay lauding the virtues of Masonry for the development of young men. In it, he insists that no organization is designed better for “either improving the heart or perfecting it,” “continuously developing the propensity for good,” and “through friendly exchange with fellows… transforming cold, insensitive self-love into universal, warm, brotherly love.” In his experiences with brothers, he saw that the path to self-betterment – that great aim of Masonry – was forged not only through the fraternity’s symbols and degrees, but through its friendships.

Scholar Heather Morrison, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the State University of New York, New Paltz, expands on this, writing of the fraternity during the Enlightenment: “The powerful draw of Freemasonry was due in no small part to this idea that the brotherhood saw into a man’s soul and celebrated all the hidden things that made him good. Outside the lodge, propriety isolated men. Within the association, however, sincere affection and trust between brothers took its place.” In the safety of the Masonic lodge, men had a rare opportunity to open themselves up to others. The relationships they made helped them develop into a “feeling, moral man in society.” Simply put, friends bring out the best in us. In Masonry, this is uniquely true.

Part of this comes from being exposed to new points of view. As every initiate learns in the first degree, one of Freemasonry’s remarkable abilities is to “conciliate true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” Perpetual distance is all too easy to come by: Left to our own devices, research shows that we tend to become friends either with people we see a lot – those who live near us and work with us – or people who are similar to us. That’s an awfully small pool. But Masonry dismantles the silos we usually build around ourselves. This is one of the many ways the fraternity was groundbreaking 300 years ago and remains so important today.

“Masonry presents us with opportunities for relationships that would never have happened otherwise,” says Gene Goldman, past master of Amity Lodge No. 442 and Black Mountain Lodge No. 445 in San Diego. And, he is quick to add, it cements those relationships with the degree experience. “I’ve known people who are pilots. Once they perform their first solo landing, they understand something no one else could understand about every other pilot. Going through the initiatic experience of Masonry is that moment. That bond is something you could never in a million years communicate with words.”

Many of Goldman’s close friends are men he wouldn’t otherwise have met or formed a bond with if it weren’t for Masonry. He became close with one brother, Leonardo Ilog, when a group from Black Mountain Lodge decided to check out the local “swap meet,” an open-air flea market in San Diego. Other brothers came and went from week to week, but Ilog and Goldman never missed it. They started carpooling, then grabbing lunch. Their texts each week evolved from formal (“Should I pick you up at 8:00 at the Park-n-Ride?”) to familiar (“The usual?”) to their own shorthand (“?” and “!”).

They were a classic odd couple. Goldman, a software developer and technical writer, is an extrovert who can be counted upon for frank discussion; some of his brothers have suggested the title “grand troublemaker.” Ilog, a retired Navy cook from the Philippines, is soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and averse to conflict. But as they wandered together past the booths at the swap meet – Goldman looking for tech gadgets, Ilog for kitchen knives – and over many drives and lunches, they began to open up about their lives, and to lean on each other.

“There’s no way that we would have met or formed that kind of relationship if it hadn’t been for Masonry,” Goldman says. “We didn’t move in the same circles. We didn’t have the same friends. We didn’t have the same interests, for the most part. He’s not into technology. I cook badly.” He laughs.

Their friendship evolved like their text messages. Goldman helped Ilog pick out a new cellphone. Ilog presented Goldman with a good kitchen knife. When Goldman and his wife went out of town for the weekend, they asked Ilog to swing by the house to check on their teenage daughters. When Ilog’s daughter got married, the Goldmans attended and helped celebrate. When Goldman was laid off from work years ago, Ilog was the first to call and offer support.

Ilog, who is 72, has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, forcing their weekly outings to end. “But our great friendship will remain forever part of my life,” Goldman says. “I’m thankful that Masonry brought us together.”

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