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Portrait of Bill AchbachA triangle overlayed by a lamp with the latin words scientia es potentia Well, None of Us is Perfect, Right?

At the conclusion of his J2SR presentation on the 14th Degree, Brother Aaron Klostermeyer, 32° KCCH, posed a question for discussion (by the group) and for journaling (by the candidates): If perfection is unattainable, for what does the Mason strive?

I'll share a perspective on that question a bit further on, but first a few thoughts on the path that the discussion took...

During that post-presentation discussion, Ill. Ron Birely, 33°, challenged us with a significant, related question: "Is perfection actually unattainable?" Clearly, for the seeker of "more light," there truly never comes a time when all of the illumination falls on the path behind us, with none still to be discovered for the road ahead. Perhaps more accurately, that moment will come...but our journey will be ended, and we'll already be removed from time's limitations when it does!

So, from that perspective, Bro. Aaron's question is a wonderful one and certainly worthy of our contemplation; while Bro. Ron's represents a huge step in how we answer it. Each ques-tion casts elements of a necessary context around the other! Is there a sense in which "perfection" is achievable? If so, what perfection may we strive to attain?

If there was consensus among the Brethren present (given that the focus of our Masonic travels is precisely that we are engaged in a journey through life), it was that it is in the experience of that journey where we strive for perfection.

In Scottish Rite Freemasonry and, especially, in the Lodge of Perfection, we learn to look at that which is made perfect not in terms of what is without flaw or fault, but rather as that which is "complete." When any undertaking is accomplished to the best of our ability and (more the point) to the benefit of ourselves, our Brethren and Mankind, then whether some aspect of the task may have fallen short of divine perfection is not significant.

I would only offer, as evidence of this truth, that the "welcome words" we hope to hear from the Supreme Architect are not "Perfectly done..." but, rather, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Clearly, the faithful completion of our work and the fidelity of our service matter greatly! It is in our devotion to what is expected of us as Masons that we may achieve perfection...true completion of our journey:
  • Genuine love for and service to our Brethren,
  • Relief of the needy and distressed, and
  • Dedication to truth, in all our undertakings.
Perfection for us is, therefore, a process and not an outcome, and it must come in the course of the journey itself and not as a single destination reached: realized only at its end. It is expected that we will live lives which represent an ongoing "body of work" rather than a single "masterpiece" on whose reputation we depend for all which comes after.

This is an important human lesson! If the perfection we are called upon to pursue is in our day-to-day effort, then our duty is to never be satisfied with making that effort less than our best. Are we then to all become perfectionists, and (in the process of fulfilling our responsibilities) also tedious drudges: our own striving making life miserable for those around us? There are, after all, few reputations more likely to make one a pariah to friends, co-workers and even family than that of "perfectionist!"

The misguided goal of such false perfection may become nothing more than an ego-driven desire for reputation and recognition by others. But if we honestly assess the results of our work, accepting with equanimity whatever praise or criticism comes our way, then we will never stray too far from a path that will be true to our goal: achieving "completeness" in our journey as Masons.

So, what of Brother Aaron's question... If perfection is unattainable, for what does the Mason strive?

Understanding the question aright, leads us to a simple and obvious answer: one which, in the process, also effectively addresses Brother Ron's question. We still strive for perfection...but NOT as an unattainable abstraction! Rather we seek - using what Light is given us to illuminate the path - to put the best of ourselves into whatever work we undertake and, in the final analysis, trust to the Great Architect (who is, after all, the only One who sees the trestle board) to judge our efforts.

William B. Achbach, 32° KCCH
Director of Education and Minister of State, Denver Consistory

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