By Companion Will Highsmith
Editor, Weekly Decryption
“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.”
-Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word improvise as “to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand”. Although the ability to improvise is not mentioned in our ritual, it is an important skill to learn. We have all ran into situations masonically and personally where we are faced with an unexpected challenge or problem that needs a quick solution. It could be as simple as forgetting a line during a ritual without a prompter or as complicated as having a disaster caused by something unexpected like the recent Hurricane Dorian which passed through the Southeast. How we react to these situations can shape the future.
In the drama of the Third Degree, when the Master’s Word is lost, we see a quick improvision by King Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre. We also see beautiful improvision done by HIram Abiff when he is asked the question by the Craftsman in the Royal Master Degree. I would dare to say that the opposite of improvision is inaction and ineffectiveness. In cases where improvision is required due to our own errors, we should reflect on them and take steps to ensure the situation doesn’t reoccur.
One personal example is from the year I was Illustrious Master of Enoch Council No. 5 in Raleigh, North Carolina. We hosted the District Meeting and received the Grand Presiding Officers during my term on a Saturday in August. The Officers practiced beforehand, and everyone confirmed that they could attend. On the day of the meeting, I was focused on welcoming our visitors and mentally preparing myself to open the Council and receive the Grand Presiding Officers. In my haste, I failed to notice that the Chaplain’s Chair was empty, and that the Chaplain did not make it to the meeting. I finally noticed when it was time to call on the Chaplain to lead our devotion. We ended up having another Officer read it from the dais after a short pause.
Althought somewhat comedic, it was an important lesson to try to slow down, and make sure that we have all the chairs filled before opening a Masonic Body. I am happy to say that the situation hasn’t reoccurred.
In conclusion, improvision, although it isn’t mentioned in our Masonic Ritual, is an important skill that every Mason should strive to master. Learn from your mistakes and successfully improvise when things don’t go as planned because they will.