This is scarcely newsworthy, and undoubtedly crosses the line into self-congratulation, and perhaps mawkish aggrandizement, but on August 30, 2010, I discovered to my astonishment that I had been elected to receive the 33rd and Last Degree by the Illustrious brethren of the Supreme Council of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. The ceremony will take place next August in Chicago, and I will stand beside several other Indiana brethren, including Linville Coner, Don Dean, Jon Elrod, Richard Hess Jr., Kent Hizer, Tim Hopewell, Doug Green, Brian McNaughton, Jerry Minto, Jim Ross, Eric Seidensticker, Terry Webb, and Charles Wood, Jr.
I was overwhelmed by the bewildering number of phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and even snail mail letters that began pouring in, from literally all over the world. That’s when I felt it incumbent upon me to publicly express my thanks to everyone for their kind messages. It was not an honor I ever dreamed of receiving, and I am profoundly grateful to those who nominated me and voted in my favor.
I continue to believe the assembled brethren of the Supreme Council voting in Philadelphia earlier this week took leave of their good senses.
As much as anything, I’m in awe of the company I’ll be keeping. I had a brief flashback of the movie Witness for the Prosecution. When his client is being arrested, Charles Laughten gets to deliver this great line in that trademark Captain Bligh voice: “There’s no shame in being arrested. Historically, you’re in excellent company. Kings, prime ministers, archbishops, even barristers have stood in the dock.” I suppose so. But it does give a person justifiable pause to see the roster of the other men who’ve been awarded the 33°, and to contemplate, as with so much else in this fraternity, the scary notion of standing on the shoulders of its true giants.
My good friend Mark Tabbert recently described me as “an amateur scholar,” and boy, did he hit it on the head—although it does bring to mind a dapper and rich 19th century, pith-helmeted British gentleman, with pick and microscope in one hand and a pipe in the other, as he seeks to prove that Darwin was right and his vicar wrong. But in truth I’ve always loved the fraternity from ground level, especially in my own home lodge. In the last improbable and exciting dozen years, give or take a few months, my copious free time has been spent doing what I love most of all: studying the history, ritual, customs and ephemera of Freemasonry, while traveling the countryside and the world, meeting brothers wherever I have the good fortune to go. It has never paled. It never will.
And so, to all of you who have taught me the meaning of brotherhood in a thousand different ways, you have my deepest gratitude and respect for all you have seen fit to give to me. It is a debt I cannot ever hope to repay.