Dividing Our Precious Time

This age that we live in is fast-moving, forcing many of us to maintain very hectic schedules that are unforgiving in the demands on our time.  We find ourselves waking up in the morning, taking our kids to school, going to work, coming home, taking the kids to one or more extracurricular activities, fitting in dinner and homework and falling in to bed.  Our weekends consist of more extracurricular activities and playing catch-up on all the chores at home that we weren’t able to get to during the week.  As a Mason, I was told, “God is first, then your family and job.  If you have time after that, come to Lodge”.  It is a wonder that any of us are able to attend following that advice. 

So many times I have seen an initiate come into the Lodge and receive his First Degree, only to drop out soon after because the time required of him to study his catechism simply wouldn’t fit in to his already busy schedule.  Many Master Masons don’t attend meetings for the same reasons.  It is the fate of any institution that the lion’s share of the work involved in keeping the wheels turning fall on the dedicated few, which begs the question of “what now?” if these same Brothers burn out and call it quits.  In what is becoming an all too familiar story, Lodges have had to shut their doors and merge with neighboring Lodges in hopes of keeping the Fraternity alive in their area because of too few dues paying members and even fewer active members.  It becomes difficult enough with so little time afforded to us, just to keep the lights on in many Lodges, let alone perform our duties to Brotherhood that extend beyond the stated meeting.

One of the major recurring lessons of the Craft is time.  For man, time is finite.  This reason alone is why the twenty-four inch gauge is such a very important tool to the Freemason.  This world has become frantic place.  We are never without our computers or smart phones, being bombarded with information the instant it is available.  Our professions demand that we do more with less, and many times extend beyond the eight hours for our usual vocation.  Our sidewalks and highways are packed with people rushing to get to their destinations, horns and voices creating a cacophony the second the pace becomes inconvenient. 

What, then, can be done to remedy the deficit in time our society has created?  Are we forced into this existence because the world demands it?  A recent Gallup poll indicated that full-time workers averaged 47 hours per week.  About half of full-time workers worked more than 40 hours, and 40% worked at least 50 hours per week.[1]  A Harvard Business School Survey showed that 94% of business professionals worked at least 50 hours per week, and 50% worked 65 hours.[2]  If our professions require this much time from us, can we find the time we need elsewhere? 

Sixty-one percent of working Americans say they do not have enough time to do what they want.[3]  Perhaps, however, it is due to the fact that our culture has monetized our time, thereby making it even more precious a commodity.  “Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably.  When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems.”[4] 

This monetization of our time is not completely unfounded, as many workers cite job security, rising housing and education costs, and a need to increase their retirement funds due to our longer lifespans as big motivators to work longer hours and choose to use what should be their leisure time for more profitable pursuits.  Despite the long hours that Americans are putting in, they are spending more time with their children than ever before.  A major reason is that we find the time we spend with our children “far more meaningful than time spent doing most other things, including paid work; and if today’s professionals value their time at work more than yesterday’s did, presumably they feel the time they spend parenting is more valuable still.”[5]

One certainly cannot begrudge the choices that a fellow Freemason makes with his time if he is in the laudable pursuit of his own betterment.  We must remember, however, that we are admonished to take the time to bring relief to some unfortunate Brother or to console someone in sorrow if we see the need arise.  The time that we spend in these duties to our fellow man is a choice that we, if it is at all possible, should make. 

I spoke with a Brother that I work with recently who had been involved in a motorcycle accident, along with his daughter.  He had been seriously injured, while his daughter escaped with a broken bone or two.  This Brother’ rehabilitation has lasted for more than a year, and it is still unclear whether he will require more surgeries in the future.  As we talked, I asked him if his Lodge Brothers had taken care of him while he was out.  This generally jovial man’s demeanor darkened as he told me, “The only time I heard from anyone in the Lodge was when I received a call about my dues.  I don’t care so much that they didn’t check up on me, but they could have at least called to ask about my daughter.” 

This man was a Warden of his Lodge when he was in that accident, so reason would dictate that he should have been missed when he stopped attending meetings.  I was dismayed as I heard his story, and wondered if we, the Fraternity, are spending our time wisely.  As I reflected upon this, I asked myself what I did to assist this Brother.  Did I call to check up on him?  I then realized that I, too, had not taken the time show this man Brotherly love at a time when he needed it the most.

Many members of the Craft still remember the lesson of the twenty-four inch gauge, and divide their time accordingly.  Others, myself included more often than I would like to admit, find it difficult to maintain the balance in our schedules to maintain our duties to Brotherhood.  If we, who falter, do not take the time to lift each other up when it is necessary, the cement that binds us together as a Fraternity will crumble away.  We must decide, when we can, to invest our precious time into one another.  The dividends that are returned are immeasurable.  It is, after all, a choice.   


[1] “The ‘40 Hour’ Workweek is Actually Longer—By Seven Hours” by Lydia Saad


[2] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

[3] “Americans’ Perceived Time Crunch No Worse Than in the Past” by Frank Newport


[4] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

[5] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

Published in The Scottish Rite Journal, January/February 2018