Friday, March 13, 2015

The Friday the Thirteenth Address

“ . . . I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”
~ Major League Baseball legend, Lou Gehrig

It was dawn, Friday, October 13, in the year 1307 when the armies of France sprang into action on the order of King Phillip IV. As Masonic author John J. Robinson writes, “ . . . almost every Templar knight, priest, sergeant, and servant in France was arrested and put in chains . . . The date was ever after regarded as an ominous time, but although for the rest of the world it might become an amusing superstition, for the Knights Templar that Friday the Thirteenth was the unluckiest day of that or any other year.” (Dungeon, Fire & Sword, pg. 434).

No one can say with certainty that this singular event is the origin of that longstanding superstition. In fact, even the Masonic connection to the Knights Templar is based on speculation and very little historical evidence. Yet perception often becomes reality and if we choose to see portents of ill fate every Friday the thirteenth, then we are bound to limit ourselves based on a perceived potential for bad luck.

But is that how you choose to see the day? Reliable history aside, Freemasons look at Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who was burned at the stake for refusing to confess to the false accusations against his Order, as a symbol of truth and honor in the face of political and religious persecution. The misfortune of the Templars has given us a means by which we may search for deeper spiritual and philosophical meaning in the adversities that befall us on a daily basis.

Lucky for us.

This reminds me of an old Chinese proverb:

Once upon a time, there lived an old farmer. This farmer, like his father before him, had spent his entire life working his crops. Then one day, his horse was startled by a snake in the field, bolted, and ran away. Upon hearing the news, the farmer’s neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said.

“Bad luck; good luck; we shall see,” replied the old man.

A few days later, the farmer went outside to find that not only had his horse returned, but with it three other wild horses. “What great luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Good luck; bad luck; we shall see,” replied the old man.

The next day, the farmer’s son decided that he would try and ride one of the wild horses. He was quickly thrown and broke his leg. “Such bad luck,” said the neighbors.

“Bad luck; good luck; we shall see,” replied the old man.

Now it just so happened that the government had recently declared war on the neighboring province and that very same day, military officials arrived in the village to conscript every able-bodied youth into the army. Seeing the son’s broken leg, they deemed him unsuitable for service and passed him by. “What tremendous luck,” said the farmer’s friends.

But the old man merely replied, “Good luck; bad luck; we shall see.”

The message in this story, as well as the Templar legend, is this: we should avoid judging events over which we have no control. None of us has the ability to see all ends and our own interpretations may not be mutually shared by others. However, the ability to recognize this fact and exercise tolerance and self-control should be one goal of every Master Mason. We should endeavor to open our minds and seek the Truth in those events that impact our lives each day. Recognize that every man faces an internal struggle. Some of these struggles are motivated by politics, religion, race, ideology - but how we choose to interpret and address such issues can have a tremendous impact on those around us.

Good luck; bad luck; we shall see.

As the Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi wrote:

“Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy True Human Beings know;
the moment you accept what troubles
you’ve been given, the door opens.“
(excerpt from “Undressing”)

Every man comes to the Masonic fraternity blind to what awaits him. Many who choose not to seek paths of enlightenment that lie open before them still wander in that blindness. I prefer to seek the path of enrichment, sharing in the learned experiences of all those around me, the wisdom of those who have come before me, and the guidance of the Great Architect, who knows me better than I know myself. Am I immune to the pitfalls of adversity and sorrow? Sadly, no. But I, like you, can move ever forward knowing that difficulties teach us to be even more thankful for the perfect things in our lives.

And for these things, and for each one of you, I am truly blessed; and right now, on this Friday the thirteenth, in the words of the great Lou Gehrig, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”