Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry – The Cheese

I’ve taken some serious time off lately. There, I said it. For almost ten (long) years, I made the Fraternity a priority. I had planned on retiring from many of my Masonic duties this coming October, at this years Grand Lodge Sessions in Springfield Illinois. Some things occured recently and have made that retirement sooner. As I’ve had much time recently to sit around and do (almost) nothing in regards to meetings and the like, I’ve really enjoyed spending quality time with my four kids.

I think my kids enjoy the time we spend together a lot as well, that is, when I’m not hounding them about closing the door, touching the thermostat, putting their shoes on the mat, picking up wrappers, and putting the milk away. We’ve really done some fun stuff. In my down time however, when I’m not hanging out with them or my wife, I notice my thoughts returning to the Craft.

Reading the various opinions, statements and diatribes from around the web on Freemasonry and its goings-on, whether here in Illinois or around the world for that matter, it’s really the same stuff I’d pontificated in my writings since I began. Read some old Manly P. Hall, read some old Mackey, Pike, Pottenger, Waite, it really doesn’t matter, you’ll find the guys 100 years ago are complaining about the same thing we are today. Attendance, Education etc etc. Regarding the blogs of today, sure there are some new takes on old problems, and those new takes get some guys really excited. Whilst I and others may not be thrilled, let’s face it, we’ve seen this kind of thing before. We should remember however, that the momentary bursts of wind, however stale we may think the air is, can still move a ship.

Concepts from the corporate world–seemingly weird common sense systems invented to sell books to CEOs worldwide are still prevalent in business today. Concepte that are seriously basic, and yet we treat these books or ideas like they’re the new gold standard for protocol. These ideas are making their way into Freemasonry. We’re trying to adapt the teachings and utilize them to motivate, accelerate and put into practice ideas and concepts which, may have a kind of impact on the fraternity that we’re looking for.

Some have claimed that these kinds of concepts are corporatizing Freemasonry. That we’re a Fraternity, not a business. I agree. But that really shouldn’t stop us from looking at how we can adapt successful systems, and see how it can be used to make Freemasonry better. I’ve joked with the always data-driven Jon Ruark about writing such a book, and it’s on the way. But in this piece, I thought I might put to the reader a “Corporate Concept”, what it means generally, the critique of the concept and finally, how each part of it might be used within Freemasonry.

The first one comes to mind because I joke about it frequently, usually to my peers (who are much younger than me) and the response I get–a blank stare. They’re just too young to remember, “Who Moved My Cheese?” Perhaps when they go through a corporate restructuring or acquisition, they might get a chance to read it. The book itself spent five years on the NY Times best seller list. “Who Moved My Cheese” is an allegory, something Masons should already be familiar with, that conveys a set of mantras if you will.

These mantras or sayings, are really aimed at the business, and whilst we’re not a business, it might be well to pay attention to them. What you need to know to understand them: Two “mice” are in a maze and they learn where the cheese is. They return everyday to eat it. Humans come and move the cheese and the “mice” get mad. One mouse becomes pessimistic, the other is scared. The “mice” are named “Hem” and “Haw”, you know a couple Maso…, I mean “Mice” by that name I’m sure. One of the “mice” decided to not live in fear any longer and to strike out to find the new cheese anyway. As this mouse is looking for the new cheese, he scrolls mantras on the walls as he realizes them, hoping if his friend ever decides to follow, he will read them and be changed. Here are those Mantras:

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Change
Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

I’m sure you have ideas of how this could be applied to Masonry already. But before you jump the gun and write a lengthy response, your own article, or click “unfollow”, here are some main contentions with this analogy.

Firstly, that the “Cheese” doesn’t matter. Rather, at a point in the allegory, one of the “mice” comes to believe that the cheese is really just a superficial way to get to happiness. It isn’t the grand aim or goal, it’s just a road to the goal. There may be others. Masonically, I think this could be related to a great many things; titles, appointments, degrees, being published, the list is as long as the day.

Secondly, that we’re comparing mice to men. We’re literally comparing the mice in the maze to the men in cubicles whilst the humans who move the cheese are our overlord bosses and corporate entities who are ruled by the evil board of directors in search of profits. Masonically, this could be how some see the Grand Lodge and it’s officers or perhaps how brothers of a local lodge see it’s executive officers.

Thirdly, that philosophically speaking, there just isn’t any cheese. It’s an existential crisis that leads one to the thought that no matter what, there are an infinite amount of roads and paths that lead to the issue. Masonically, maybe nothing matters but that you’re being fulfilled? I can let you think about this one. It is, existential after all.

So let’s address those Mantras one by one.

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

In this mantra we should understand that the world continues to change and because of this, the people, the minds, the populace, will influence the changing of policies, the normalities of society and the rules to which we’re all held. Ultimately, we need to know this. Never for one second think that our Fraternity, just because we’re based on tradition and ancient rules and edicts, won’t change. It will. You will see it. Be prepared mentally.

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Here, we need to take what we just talked about and live by it. Understanding that the world, and all things therein contained will change. We must anticipate these changes. It allows us to stay on top of things. We can be proactive, instead of reactive. Strike first. This is important because it breeds an air of credibility in terms of relevance. If we’re viewed as antiquated, the organization will die. The teachings may live on in books, but you’ll not be reading your minutes or eating those green beans anymore in a tax exempt building.

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

In this passage we should be charged to do our research. We should look around the bend, send a scout on ahead and send a report back. By doing this, we are prepared for the challenges that we’ll be facing shortly. There’s just no getting out of this one. We’ve spent so much time looking in and being concerned with our own Fraternity, the world that we once set an example to, has passed us by. You spend so much time being busy looking at how to stay the same rather than how to adapt, and surprise, it’s already too late to save ourselves, according to the mathematics. As Isaac Asimov once wrote in his quintessential sci-fi series, “Foundation”, the fall of the great Empire which has stood for 12,000 years will happen. And when it does, we will have 30,000 years of barbarism to look forward to. This is almost unavoidable. If we act now, we can cut the 30,000 years down to just 10,000. Work now to save not our children, but our ancestors in the distant future.

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

In this piece, we can say to ourselves, ‘Let go”. What that means to you, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a lodge, maybe it’s a scholarship program, maybe it’s a proficiency requirement, I don’t really care. The point here is that if you can look to the future, see the dawn on the horizon and get excited about it, you can turn your back on the night that much easier. Let go of things that no longer have a place in today’s world. You’re holding onto something, an idea that has no place in this current world in some respects. Do you sweep a carpet? Maybe sometimes. More often than not you’re using a vacuum. Who amongst you is demanding to use incandescent bulbs? Ditch the things we can ditch and latch on to new traditions. Get passionate about these new things.

Change
Move With The Cheese

Here, the takeaway should be evident. If you’ve read these in order, they build on each other in fundamental ways. Look ahead, see where the trend is going and go there too. Cut them off at the pass. Be the change. I know you’ve all heard that. It is imperative that if we are moving with the trends, it puts us in a better position economically to impress or to influence the changes in the future, those that are to come. If you refuse to be a part of the future, you’ve signed your death warrant.

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

In the “Adapt to Change” paragraph, I ended with, “Get passionate about these new things.” I mean it. If you get serious and get excited about the new things that are happening, then you’re honoring the idea of a progressive moral science. We should always be excited about our new brothers and what they’re interested in. Right now, the big wave is Education. I’m on that wave, in fact, I’ve been on it since almost the beginning of my joining. I wasn’t on it in the very beginning because I assumed we had Education covered. Unfortunately that was just all ritual instruction. Not my thing really. So you know what? I got passionate about Education. My best friend is the embodiment of education. My mentors are all educators in a masonic sense. They are passionate about changes, they’re passionate about tasting that new craft beer, that new steak rub, or trying that new social network that didn’t sell their personal data. But all jokes aside, be excited!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Simply put, know that change is always happening. Just when you bring home that top-of-the-line computer, they’ve already agreed on the marketing for the new model, and the production line is already fired up. It’s important to be educated on the trends of society, not that we need to bend to the will of society, but so that we may maintain relevance and spread the light of Freemasonry to anyone looking to understand it’s important concepts and morals. And lastly, be excited about trying those new things all the time. If you get excited about the changes and find the value rather than continuing in a downward spiral of doubt and despair about things, you’ll find that by freeing yourself of fear, we’re allowing ourselves to operate at our fullest potential, a concept that every Master Mason should be well acquainted with.

*Editors Note* This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book on using and adapting corporate stratagems for Freemasonry. It will be released in 2018.

Robert H. Johnson

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He is also a Past District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on several books, Masonic essays, strategy and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Leave a Reply