Work is one of the subjects of reflection which is the most accomplished in the Masonic approach; from our companionship we have inherited an essential principle: the search for perfection!
Unfortunately, it is easier to say than to do, all the more so because, if for the companions, this principle concerned the realization of a work, the Freemasons extended it to everything that concerns the goal of an insider's life: the Great Work!
In any case, reflecting on work as it is today and as it could contribute to the happiness of human beings is part of our concerns.
In a human being's life, in terms of time spent, we can see three activities that take up the most space and time :
Work (including all productive and non-productive activities): between 6 and 12 hours per day;
Sleep: 5 to 8 hours a day;
Food intake (including preparation): 3 to 6 hours per day.
The reduction in working time usually corresponds either to the illness or to the end of life! This shows how important it is for a conscious being to try to reconcile obligation, necessity and fulfilment!
On this page you will find articles concerning both everyday life and work in a Masonic lodge.
Happiness at work, a counter-productive philosophy (contribution of Aurélien who professionally advises companies to improve the "atmosphere" at work)
At a time when workers are searching for meaning and employers are looking for ways to retain their talents, "happiness at work" seems to dominate the discussions. This paradigm, if not quickly challenged, is unfortunately likely to do a lot of damage.
Let's look first at the word itself. For philosophers, "happiness is a lasting state of fullness, satisfaction or serenity. The term "work" comes from the lower Latin tripalium: a device made up of three stakes, used to shoe animals or as an instrument of torture to punish slaves. It is difficult, a priori, to reconcile the two terms. Could happiness at work be a decoy?
Happiness and fulfilment
Even setting aside the archaic cliché of work as an instrument of torture, the paradox remains. By nature, few of us will readily accept that the company or public institution is the place where everyone will find happiness, in the sense of the definition. On the other hand, everyone can accept that it is entirely possible to find a source of fulfilment in work.
This fulfilment is the result of the efforts made by workers, managers and Human Resources managers. The company can help its employees - but only if they themselves wish to do so - to find this fulfilment in their daily lives that will allow them to grow, to show their abilities and to live their values within the collective effort. This fulfilment will then be good for the company, the economy and society at large.
The illusion of happiness
The message conveyed by the promoters of "happiness at work" is quite different: for them, the employee can - or even must - find HIS happiness at work. Driven by these turnkey happiness salespeople, companies are now organising training courses to turn managers into Gentle Managers, a kind of benevolent facilitator at the service of employee happiness. But is the role of managers really to be "nice"? By extension, is the company's vocation to make its employees happy?
A company must live, progress, invest. In these times of automation and cheap labour, investing in people is nowadays essential to enable companies to acquire and maintain a competitive advantage. But not just any way. Painting a 2CV in red has never made it a Ferrari. A layer of "happiness at work" will never replace the values and culture of a dynamic company focused both on its objectives and on the fulfilment of its employees.
Dissonance on all floors
Moreover, this message of "happiness at work" is likely to be more counterproductive than beneficial. Or even destructive. What are we going to say to the employee to whom we sold the idea that his company is a cool company, where it's good to work and where the managers are nice, when he learns, after years of hard work, that his Happy HR Manager has decided to fire him?
Change, but in the right direction
Business attitudes must change. The evidence is clear. They must embody strong values, and their managers must live these values and translate them into their daily choices and actions. The human being must today take his place at the centre of the organisation and evolve in symbiosis with it. But beware! Contrary to what some people try to make us believe, cool does not mean human.
Why don't we upgrade the blue box job?
In many lodges, most of the work is done in the 1st degree; the 2nd degree is mainly devoted to salary increases and the 3rd degree to mastery.
This state of affairs is regrettable because it deprives brothers and sisters of authentic and free work, in the fullness of their rights and duties.
The vacuity of work in the 3rd degree has favoured the attraction for the so-called "higher" degrees of additional rituals.
Could we not conceive of a reversal of priorities to give meaning to the progressiveness of the degrees?
At the first degree, one could be satisfied with the first approach to symbolism and the specificity of the methodology of Masonic work.
In the second degree, would be addressed all the knowledge necessary for companions to understand the world.
In the third degree, everything is possible and there could be real freedom in the choice of subjects treated insofar as it would correspond to a personal work of research and reflection in which the brother (or sister) would be totally involved.
In the third degree, no subject can be excluded insofar as it is treated according to the Masonic methodology of mutual respect and participation in the realisation of our ideal. The objective would be that the work of the masters would be more frequent so that each one would have the possibility of presenting one or two boards per year.
As administrative matters could be left to the College of Officers, there would be no point in wanting to submit them to the whole workshop; if necessary, it would still be possible to schedule committee meetings.
In order to achieve this 3rd degree valuation, several solutions are possible; two could be preferable:
Either systematically start the two monthly outfits in the 3rd degree with an opening of the lighter works, with in 2nd time in alternation an opening in the 2nd degree or in the 1st degree;
Either reserve a complete outfit for the 3rd degree and devote the 2nd outfit to the first two degrees (starting with the 2nd and ending with the 1st degree).
In addition, the valorisation of work at the 3rd degree could be accompanied by a greater sharing with those of other lodges in order to develop a real intellectual stimulation.
By revaluing the very essence of progressivity in learning and in work, no doubt everyone would be able to judge the credibility of the personal investment of brothers and sisters.
Anything is possible because the Lodge is free!
How to improve lodge work?
Whatever the obedience, whatever the lodge, apart from the reasons for satisfaction, it is frequent to hear on the forecourt, in family or other interpersonal meetings, reasons for dissatisfaction; some are minor, others are more worrying:
He (she) talks too much thinking about the venerated!
He (she) doesn't know his (her) ritual; there are too many messes, it makes a mess!
This music is good for the musical atmosphere of the club med, but not for an outfit!
This board, it's wikipedia copy-paste, what does it bring us?
We couldn't hear anything, another sound system that doesn't work !
All these interventions, it was all nitpicking!
We were at mass, is that why we're here?
Coming to a lodge to hear politics, does that make sense?
He(she) did his act again! Every time, it's the same, he (she) has to intervene!
There is too much administration, it was really boring!
Tonight, it wasn't great !
As for any human group, the quality of an encounter is the result of a subtle "alchemy" that associates:
A container: the framework of the meeting, the quality of the follow-up of the ritual for a lodge, the behaviour of the members, the technical constraints to which it is necessary to adapt, the obligations that the lodge must manage,
And a content: the quality of the exchanges, the coherence with the group's objectives, the requirements of each individual.
A Masonic outfit has the peculiarity of functioning like a play: when it's gone, it's gone, and it's very difficult to make up for a casting error or a score unsuited to the scene you're playing; there are highlights that you can't afford to miss! It takes a great knowledge of stage design to be able to take over the dramaturgy and bring the group back into this "communion" with the spirit of reflection that is sought after.
How do you achieve this?
Propose a well-thought-out agenda:
it is an essential element in the success of a "nice" outfit; very often the agenda is built up in a hurry to meet obligations; the apprentice's board, the summary of a commission, the reading of a report, a passage under the banner, an initiation (or a reception) or a pay rise or a raise, the installation of a college, etc., must be set up. Often, at the last moment it is the venerable one who must decide, most of the time alone.
Normally, the agendas must be established at the beginning of the working year (in September for lodges in the northern hemisphere, in February for lodges in the southern hemisphere); very often they are established for only one term. Bearing in mind that there are usually two meetings per month, over a period of 10 months, this makes 20 meetings per year; often 1 to 3 additional meetings are sometimes added, making a total of almost 23 ritual meetings to be planned.
The responsibility of the officers' college: this is the first work of a college and its achievement is a sign of the collective and contributory nature of its functioning; logic would dictate that before its installation, the elected college should meet in a working session to prepare the management of the agendas for the next 10 months and find a consensus for the instructions to be followed by the senior officers, in particular the venerable and the supervisors.
The good management of the agenda must respect the rules of the ritual followed by the Lodge, the administrative obligations and those resulting from the experience of the management of the group.
To manage the time of the meeting well: a difficulty to be overcome by a good organization ;
An optimal duration: knowing that most of the outfits take place in the evening from 19H30 - 20H, that many brothers (sisters) work the next morning, that to the outfit itself, it is necessary to add at least 1 hour for the agape and that attention and concentration can only be sustained for a limited time, it is clear that a Masonic meeting must end at the latest around 22H-22H30 at the risk of causing symptoms of fatigue or "detachment": as a precaution, an agenda must therefore be drawn up over a period of 2 hours!
An impeccable ritual :
Each ritual has its own particularities that must be respected: for the expert and the master of ceremonies, this implies an excellent mastery of the scenography to be carried out, knowing that it is up to them to ensure that the whole workshop and therefore the other officers conform to the spirit of the ritual;
to achieve this result, it is absolutely necessary to do rehearsals and to have pedagogy to make people understand that they have to assume the role they are in! Because it's worth the effort!
For an ordinary outfit, we can consider that the imposed ritual lasts 30 to 45 minutes; for outfits with a college installation, an initiation or a change of grade, it will take 60 to 90 minutes;
Avoid reading the ritual: a ritual is learned and proclaimed; it is not an immeasurable effort to ask officers to learn the part of the ritual that is attributed to them and to proclaim it in the spirit of the text!
Reasonable administrative obligations: this is the chapter that is the easiest to manage and yet creates the most polemics, especially when it is a question of a prolix obedience in letters, notifications, invitations, regional or national meetings, etc. Many lodges have shown that it was possible to control the time devoted to them, for example, by setting a time limit (15 minutes would be more than enough) not to exceed.
The tools of modernity: To meet the need to ensure that everyone is well informed, there is nothing better than e-mail and the extranet site of the obedience;
on this methodology, let us salute the quality of the extranet site of the glff which makes a meritorious effort to put at the disposal of the sisters complete information on the different aspects of the functioning of this obedience;
this of course presupposes that each one makes the effort to adapt herself/himself to this method of work by taking the necessary time for the work prior to the actual holding;
in the same way, it is convenient to send by e-mail the necessary documents (summary report, minutes of the meeting, questions under study, moral report, etc.) to a vote before the meeting so that in uniform one does not have to reread them!
Respect the obligations necessary for a successful meeting: these obligations are based on the knowledge gathered by observing the functioning of human groups:
Manage internal conflicts: any human group conceals a potential for interpersonal conflicts; in lodges as elsewhere, one cannot ignore the susceptibility of each person, the priorities and the "shock" of personalities; it is first of all up to the hospital brother (sister), the supervisors and of course the venerable to be aware of this and to anticipate their regulations so that they do not pollute the atmosphere of the outfit: a telephone call, a personal interview, a particular listening can most often suffice to deal with them; one must above all avoid denial and trivialisation.
Offering strong and emotional moments: this is perhaps the point that deserves particular attention because it is a great source of satisfaction; each outfit must have at least one or two strong moments where emotion can spread among the audience: in the lodge, the ritual itself generally provides for this, but a favourable climate also allows the expression of these emotions which allows a brother or sister to express a particularly touching personal feeling! The Masonic tradition has a simple way to achieve a highlight in each outfit or at least for a few outfits per year; Which lodge does not have a musician in its staff? The harmony column should be occupied by a brother or sister musician: a flute, a violin, a saxophone, a harp, a harmonica or an accordion are enough to offer a moment of meditation and elevation!
Anticipate moments of "relaxation": if we ask for time for reflection and strong concentration, we know that inevitably there will be moments of relaxation: laughter, drowsiness, attitudes are frequently encountered; in some workshops, we do not hesitate to create a break by suspending the work for a limited time or to use the harmony column to integrate into the agenda a space for "recuperation"; the simplest technique is first of all to avoid lengths!
Strengthen the "dynamism" of the group: any group is formed and meets on a few essential objectives; it is very important to remind at the beginning or at the end of the work how the meeting of the day fits into the follow-up of the objectives of the lodge and thus its cohesion.
Agape: an important part of the timing!
The time of the agapes is traditionally a "strong" time of an outfit: a time for free exchanges, getting to know each other, relaxation and conviviality; sometimes unfortunately, the agapes are experienced as a time constraint, a space reserved for certain people, an obligation to eat and drink anything, not to mention an additional financial obligation so that absenteeism is frequent.
Apprentices do not always understand an obligation of service that they may see as vexatious!
Freedom of speech can sometimes give rise to the expression of shocking vulgarity: it's the famous "matcho" behaviour of the 3rd half with the "matcho" behaviours that have difficulty respecting the mix! Visitors are sometimes surprised to see brothers wearing black suits, bow ties and tricorn hats, transforming themselves into sexist and trivial bistro regulars!
Several objectives can be set for the agape :
Filling up the lodge: a good criterion of their attractiveness.
If the lodge is a place to promote perfection, why still offer "charcut", hyper-fat delicatessen dishes, French fries and crossroads pastries, when it is easy to offer frugal but healthy food?
Respecting the rules of good eating: how can we explain that fathers and mothers from good families are content to eat with mismatched cutlery in chipped crockery on a more or less torn waxed canvas? Would it be wrong to put a little beauty into this time of sharing?
To practice the sharing of tasks : even if it is usual that the brother (sister) master of the banquets is helped for the preparation and the service by the brothers (sisters) apprentices, the practice of the sharing of tasks by all the members of the lodge has a pedagogical value which should be more promoted;
To create a good mood of quality: this supposes to take into account the animation of the agapes: reading poems, songs, humor can give a complementary content that strengthens our cohesion!
All in all, everything is possible and simple to ensure that Masonic outfits and other Masonic meetings are exemplary; it is enough to agree to think about it, to talk about it and to propose small modifications which, although insignificant, can have great effects!