The Comfort Effect

Seeking comfort is a natural human trait. We build houses and fill them with couches, beds, and knick knacks in order to invoke a sense of peace, perhaps control, in our world. For some of us, comfort is the number one driving force in our lives. We purchase 1000 thread count sheets to sleep in, a luxury car to drive to work in, and a high end desk chair to sit in, all in the name of comfort. Creating comfort can drive us to do great things, but once achieved it’s often hard to break free from its chains in order to seek comfort at higher and higher levels.

A program I frequently use at work allows you to create a top ten list of user functions in order to quickly maneuver to screens that are commonly used. I’ve had the same top ten list since I started this job over four years ago – I now only utilize 4 or 5 of those commands on a regular basis. I couldn’t tell you what I have in the number one spot, but I know what occupies the number two hole is my most frequently used commands and I’ve grown comfortable quickly moving my mouse to the exact same spot every time I need to use that function. I could move it to number one, and delete the current number one from the list, but then I’d have to retrain myself to move a few pixels higher every time I wanted to use that command. Instead of whittling down my top ten to a top five, I leave those unused functions in their place because I’ve grown comfortable with where my frequently used commands are located. It’s an absolutely insane notion, but it keeps me comfortable.

When I learned in my first Warden Seminar a few years ago that everything after opening and everything before closing was up to my discretion as far as the order goes, I thought it was a neat idea. When I took the East my first year, I remembered this little fact when creating my agendas. When I looked at my first meeting agenda, it read just like every agenda of the past – something like this:

  • Open
  • Read the Minutes
  • Communications
  • Old Business
  • New Business
  • Pay the Bills
  • Meeting Program
  • Close

That’s the way we’ve always done it, that’s the way I’ve always heard it, and that’s what made me comfortable leading meetings. We always read the minutes in full, took care of the various business, then came our program (masonic or profane). Don’t rock the boat unless you’re ready to swim, and I most assuredly was not ready to swim.

Then, halfway through my first year, I heard an episode of The Masonic Roundtable that provided some encouragement. I wish I could remember the episode, or even who said it. The quote went something like this: “if you really want to put masonic education first, put it at the top of your agenda”. I’ll admit, my first year as Master was all about survival. Masonic education was my fifth priority behind survive, don’t mess up, try not to look stupid, and qualify for the Grand Master’s Award. While I can’t say I achieved the first three with any confidence, we were awarded the Grand Master’s Award as a lodge at the end of 2017. But none of that put us closer to diving in to our masonic studies.

With experience, dare I say “comfort”, in the East came with it a willingness to break from tradition. With new personnel in position for my second year, we scrapped reading the minutes in full and dispersed them to the membership to read prior to the meeting, which saved us about 15-20 minutes a meeting and allowed us more time for education and discussion. We also began the habit of limiting our profane programs and putting masonic education programs first on the list, right after opening.

And you know what? The boat didn’t tip over. People didn’t get up and leave because we didn’t read the minutes in full. Some had questions, but after a brief explanation everyone understood.

With a little experience, and a willingness to try some discomfort for a brief period, our meetings are now more education focused which has sparked some brethren on their own masonic education journeys. And if one brother is shown a path toward enlightenment, isn’t that little bit of discomfort worth it?

Bro. R. J. Hughes, P.M., is the Worshipful Master of Armstrong Lodge #239 in Freeport, PA. He is Most Excellent High Priest of Orient Holy Royal Arch Chapter #247 and Deputy Illustrious Master of Kittanning Council #52. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania Lodge of Research and the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Masonic Scholar. Bro. R. J. can be reached by email at rjhughesiii@gmail.com

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