One Brick 5/1/19

By Richard Bleil

Yes, I am a mason. But, I’m a speculative mason, as opposed to a practicing mason.

You see, I as a member of the Masonic Society, I am a Freemason (if it means anything to you, 32nd degree, Knight Templar and Nobleman). The stated goal of the Masonic Organization is to make good men better. In other words, we try to make the world better by making ourselves better, and model the types of behaviors that we believe men should display. We are speculative masons, because the Masonic Organization is founded on the principles of masonry, and we use the tools and practices of practicing masons as guides by which to measure ourselves.

I had the honor of watching practicing masons in action. As director of a forensic lab, the window from my office overlooked the construction of a new building. This building design has two stairwells on opposite corners, and much to my surprise it was the stairwells in which the construction began. With scaffolding erected for the three story building, they brought in masons to build square columns.

Were you to be in this building, you probably would not even notice their work. The bricks were the square hollow bland gray bricks. On the outside, they would be covered with a red brick facade, and inside the wall would be painted in a plain institutional cream white color. You would be able to see the bricks, but you would hardly notice them.

What strikes me is that, like most people, I have seen this brickwork before, and frankly, I always assumed they were laid by some sort of computerized device. The bricks always look so perfect; perfectly aligned, perfectly distanced, and perfectly straight. But, it rather shocked me to learn that each brick was laid, by hand, one at a time.

The practicing mason would put down the cement on the bricks below and the side of the brick that would be its neighbor. Carefully, gently the mason places the brick. The brick is checked to be sure it’s aligned, the distance between the bricks is measured with a ruler in multiple locations, the level is checked with a bubble level. If it is off at all, the brick is gently tapped into place, until it is right. After the brick is placed, the excess cement is wiped away, and its time to move to the next brick.

I got to thinking about my own brick figurative brick wall. The bricks that make up the walls of who I am were constructed by the lessons of the people I have known, the education I have obtained, the work experience I have accumulated, and so much more. Recently I was watching a television sci-fi series that basically said that when we are born, we are blank slates, and it is the experiences we have as we move through life that makes us who we are. I agree to an extent; it’s not just the experiences we gain that make us who we are, but how we use those experiences.

If somebody we know steals from us, we have a choice of how we deal with this. Do we become spiteful and get even, or decide that maybe we talk with them about it? If they are not who we believed them to be, do we keep them in our life to continue stealing from us, or do we turn them loose and grow stronger without them?

If those masons were sloppy, allowing the bricks to be crooked, uneven, or with poorly distributed cement, how well would the stairwell stand? The column would be weaker, it wouldn’t fit quite right as they build the rest of the building around the column, Ultimately, the building would have a myriad of problems, would be weak, and would not last long.

This makes me think about my “walls”. Are my bricks straight, and flush? Am I laying my bricks with the same care, and concern as the practicing mason laid his? Shouldn’t I?

I cannot imagine the work it would take to fix a mislaid brick in that stairwell today. Myself…I’m still “under construction”. The longer those bricks are in place, the harder it is to fix them, but, for me, there’s still a chance. As I look back on the mislaid bricks…the hurts, the regrets, the disappointments…I can still decide to learn from them. The older those are, the harder, but it’s never impossible. For me, personally, therapy has helped, friends, and a willingness to admit when something is wrong.

It might be worth taking a look at your own brick walls. Are your bricks in order? Could they be better placed? If so, how will you fix this?

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