Richard H. Ryder, 2017
Is the world more dangerous and less tolerant? Is civility less fashionable? Are attacks on one’s reputation more prevalent? Is human life still sacred? Are we more polarized and regressing into a tribal mentality? Is social media a blessing or a curse…or both? Are these valid concerns or is it just me?
The recent massacre in Las Vegas is reflective of all the evil and good that humanity and this country offer. One man kills 58 innocent people and destroys the lives of hundreds, during which time countless unselfish acts of heroism play out on the field of destruction. Now…New York City. Just the latest in a never-ending series of terroristic rampages. It seems to leave us helpless in our quest to solve the perfect storm of problems that cause people to render harm on others. As a country we cannot agree on how to respond and we become paralyzed. We pray and then carry on with our lives. We demonstrate outrage and then point to the other side as the problem.
And the problems don’t stop there. Opioids and bullets are killing us, regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. Racial issues, sexual harassment, and identity theft plague us. Ideologies clash and people perish on the battlefield. Name calling and petty bickering top the news, while acts of good deeds often go unnoticed. Global warming, hurricanes, fires, and floods conger up a mental image of man’s destruction.
Twenty-four-hour news cycles are no longer just for that TV in your living room. You can get “news” anywhere, anytime and it doesn’t have to be true anymore. What a concept! Better yet, the whole world is your audience, not just a few subscribers or viewers in a small marketing segment. And there are no rules – anything goes. Want to shame someone in a big way? Well, as abhorrent as that is, you can do that too. With a few words on social media you can get a slanderous message out to thousands or millions of people so that the victim is permanently impacted. But, that’s technical progress, right?
“We have met the enemy and he is us” (Walt Kelley)!
So, what does all this have to do with Freemasonry? It has “everything” to do with Freemasonry. In a world that seems to be falling apart, Freemasonry is an oasis from the madness. We are taught to respect others and live a life of good report. We are taught to find direction in God and his teachings, to live honorably, provide relief for those less fortunate, and to seek the allusive goal of internal perfection.
We are not to be Masons just one night a month in our quiet lodge rooms; but all day, every day, with our families, co-workers, and friends. We should act without looking for something in return and small acts of anonymous kindness count just as much as the big ones. Strangers should see us act as Masons even if they don’t know we are Masons. Holding a door for someone, letting a pedestrian cross the street, letting a driver exit in front of you, sending a card to a grieving person; these are simple and meaningful gestures.
In the face of evil and injustice we all can make a difference in our own way. It doesn’t have to be sweeping change; small acts of collective kindness can change the world. It is within every one of us to try, especially we who take an obligation to improve ourselves and make this world a better place.
In 1968, a tumultuous year, when American cities were in flames from rioting, when war was raging in Southeast Asia, when campuses were speaking out in protest, when the political world was polarized, when our leaders had no answers to our problems, Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down at the peak of life in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen. Days later, holding back tears of grief, Ted Kennedy, who just lost his fourth sibling to premature death, uttered the following words during his eulogy to his fallen brother, words first spoke by RFK in a 1966 South African speech :
“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.
These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Maybe the answer still lies within his words.