FURTHERMORE AND THE GREAT TRAIN IN THE TEMPLE…
Brother Furthermore Raven and I were driving home from lodge the other night. It had been a particularly trying stated meeting and we were both tired. Picking a bit of tar and feathers from his feathers, the old bird finally sighed.
“You know, Brother Skip, we need a hobby. We need something to occupy our minds in a creative way that doesn’t involve committees, bylaws and grand lodges.”
I hadn’t thought too much about it, actually, but I think the old bird may be right.
I was reminded of something that had occurred during our stated meeting and it gave me a great idea. Here’s how our twisted logic works…
A brother in the back had uttered a sound suspiciously like a steam whistle, while another brother spoke in a low but audible tone about railroads. This took place following a vote of the Brethren on an issue of some interest. Later, the Worshipful Master was informed that this was the biggest railroading job since the Union Pacific built west.
I do not think the comparison is apt. It took the Union Pacific years before it was ready to drive the final spike. We drove it home in a matter of minutes.
Still, the relationship of railroads and the Craft is one that has long intrigued me. I come from a family with both extensive Masonic and railroad heritages. I figured if I looked long enough, I’d find a connection.
Well, sit down, Brothers, because Furthermore and I have found the sort of connection upon which entire research lodges are built. Follow me in my logic, Brothers.
We know a great deal about the building of King Solomon’s Temple. We have extensive detail about how it was built, the materials used, how the workforce was organized, even the nature of the tools. And, from the Hiramic Legend, we know much about the three Grand Masters who commissioned, supplied and oversaw the Work. So, what’s missing here?
Well, these three were mighty men, creative, powerful, intelligent, driven. We know all about their day jobs. So what about their hobbies? I mean, surely, they did something to relax after a tough day holding back the rains, casting pillars and constantly changing the designs on the trestle board.
This brings me, by a circuitous route, back to railroads. Or, more specifically, model railroads. I believe, like many other creative, artsy, talented guys, they found relaxation in building model railroads—you know, playing with trains?
Ah. You doubt.
Consider that the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 6:1 that “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”
And in Kings 10: 1-2, we discover that when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem with a “very great train.”
Now, we have no way of knowing what scale these trains were, whether the popular HO scale or—and to my way of thinking far more likely—the larger garden scale or even live steam of a larger scale. It is clear to me, however, that the train set that filled the Temple in Isaiah is most certainly the train the Queen of Sheba brought with her as a gift to Solomon. Of course, it’s just a guess, but it makes as much sense as some of the Templar tales, you know?
There is one other point to all this, as you probably suspected.
After a particularly challenging Stated Meeting, Dean Graham, a Past Master whose friendship and wisdom I deeply appreciate, came up, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Never forget, Worshipful. We’re just playing with trains in the basement.”
Well, we don’t have basements in Phoenix, but his point was clear. He makes a vast distinction between the sublime beauty of our Craft and its philosophy of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty and the down-and-dirty-nitty-gritty of running a large men’s club, full of guys with strongly held, articulate (for the most part) opinions. That’s the part he likens to playing with trains in the basement--managing the fraternity, making sure the budget works, the soda machine is full, the kitchen has paper plates and, in general, harmony pervades the society of the lodge.
That management is a hobby, he says. When it becomes so aggravating that you dread walking in the lodge—or when the trains start to run over your toes—it’s time to step back and put things in perspective. He reminds me of this during Stated Meetings from his position on the sideline. When he reaches for an imaginary whistle cord and gives it a couple of jerks, he reminds me that playing with trains should be fun.
So Brother Furthermore and I offer this advice to new Masters: Keep it perspective, Worshipful. Just don’t let ‘em tie you between the rails.