Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
We all have one thing in common with every other person on this planet.
Yes, it’s true. It really doesn’t matter if we are Joe the Plumber, or Barack Obama, or Donald Trump, or Kim Jong-un, or Malala Yousafzai, or Vladimir Putin, of Jerry Brown, or Kim Kardashian, or Honey Boo Boo, or even yourself. We share one feature with each of these folks, and with every person on this earth.
We are all aging.
And we are all very aware of it. Don’t say you aren’t. You celebrate your birthday every year, don’t you? Now, that’s not to say that we don’t approach the process of aging in different ways – typically based on our age at any given time. For example, when we are very young – say 4 years of age – we can’t wait till the next year rolls around, so we often say that we are 4 ½ – sometimes even breaking it down further like 4 ¼ or 4 ¾ . (Interestingly, this phenomenon occurs again when we are in our 90’s so that we may say we are 92 ½ or 95 ¾ .)
When we are tykes, we can’t wait till we are a little older – say 7 or 8 – or even double digits like 10. And when we are pre-teens, we can hardly wait till we become real teenagers. Of course, in our teenage years, the big milestone is 16 when we can drive. But that’s only a stepping stone to the big 18 when we can be considered real adults. After that, it’s 21 and the day (sometimes the hour after midnight) when we can have our first legal drink of alcohol.
Once the threshold of 21 is achieved, most of us look forward to those years in our 20’s. Each birthday is an event and often, a party. But then a strange thing happens. As we get closer to that number “30” we start approaching those birthdays with trepidation. Once, years ago during the Hippie Days, the age of 30 was considered the end of innocence – the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was developed to indicate the demarcation between your crazy happy youth and your entry into the world of real adulthood (e.g. you have just become your mom or dad).
And then a weird, mystical phenomenon occurs after the age of 30. We call it gravity. Before 30 we really never gave gravity much thought. (Although, in truth, gravity is a pretty important thing. It generally keeps us from flying off into space.) After 30 we become painfully aware of gravity because our body parts start getting sucked downward toward the earth. There can be no other rational explanation for this terrible event, other than gravity. So, most of us learn to live with it. And we spend many an hour walking, running, lifting weights, sweating in gyms, and practicing other forms of voodoo to combat the effects of it.
When I was very young, I used to think that 30 was pretty darn old. I guess I viewed it like those primitive Andes tribes whose numbering system is “1”, “2” and “many”. I didn’t really give much thought to the concept of 40. And I don’t think I ever reflected on 50. But then, into my 30’s I because increasingly aware of 40. That age became what “they” called “middle age”. I think they call it middle age because we tend to emphasize our middles. I noted that some folks had more middle age than others. So we move from the Spring to the Summer of our lives.
Before we are even aware of it happening, one day our so-called friends are calling, texting, Facebooking and otherwise humiliating us by wishing us a happy 50th birthday. How did that happen? No one really gave us any warning. We had been kind of ignoring the years and suddenly we are 50! Our friends tell us not to worry because the 50’s are “the prime of life”. I wonder what that really means because we are told by our doctors to stay away from prime cuts at this stage. I think it should really be called the poultry of life.
And then, one day, bam – you’re 60. The big Six Oh. When I was a young man, I had this vision that people in their 60’s are retired, rocking on the porch, reading books and knitting. What was I thinking? My friends are all still working, paying for their kids or grandkids to complete their double majors in sociology and French literature. So, the Big Six Oh is really more of the same, except I learned that the “oh” is the sound we make when we first wake up in the morning. Yes, the battle against gravity continues, and it’s joined in intensity by the battle to keep our body parts connected.
At last we approach the Fall of our lives – our 70’s. It’s called the Fall of our lives because many of us fall down a lot. This is not necessarily a good thing. Most times we can get up, dust ourselves off, and continue. But sometimes we have to get parts replaced. Our mettle is reinforced with metal. Fortunately, many of us are still supporting our kids and grandkids as a way to stay youthful.
I suppose that sometime in our 80’s, or perhaps our 90’s we approach the Winter of our lives. We have special terms of endearment for folks in this realm. We call them octogenarians, and nonagenarians, and centenarians. And it’s really a wonderful thing because science and good common sense has resulted in lives that are longer. And really, it’s a special time of life. As Thomas Edison used to say, “I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.”
So, upon reflection, what have we learned about the tie that binds us all together? I think the most profound comment on aging is one that came from a famous baseball player – the renowned pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige. And it rings as true today as when he said it a century ago, because truth is unaffected by time. He said: “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
(Epilog: I had a lot of fun writing this article, and I hope you had some fun reading it. But the point I want to make – all in good fun, of course – is that we are all aging. And as we age, so do our Lodges. While we can’t stop the aging process with its inevitable result as it relates to our bodies, we can certainly affect the aging process of our Lodges. In fact, we have the ability to reverse the aging process of our Lodges. The secret of success in any fraternity is to renew that Order on a regular basis, year after year, by bringing in new members. If we fail to bring in those new members in numbers exceeding our losses, then our Lodges will die, one by one, and our Order will ultimately fail. On the other hand, if we are conscientious in bringing in new members, then our Lodges will thrive, and our Order will prevail through the generations.)
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California