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President's Message, April 2020

“May you live in interesting times,” goes the saying that simultaneously rings like a blessing, but actually is anything but well-wishing. You have to admit, these are interesting days. For the first time in living memory, people everywhere live in fear of a contagion that is killing thousands worldwide and leaving countless more infected. I, for one, am not panicking.

We, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to train our minds so that we seek information, refine it into knowledge, and then carry on with some degree of wisdom. The truth about this COVID-19 is, yes, it is lethal to some and is present practically everywhere, but this is not the end of times. Let us, as the Moderns of the eighteenth century said in motto, “Follow Reason.”

The number of Americans diagnosed and recovered vastly exceeds the number of patients who have succumbed. In my own life, I just received word—as I write this—that my 96-year-old aunt, who had been convalescing in physical therapy following recent shoulder surgery, has died. The facility has been quarantined for weeks for everyone’s safety, but nothing is foolproof.

Oscar Alleyne, the First Vice President of the Masonic Society, is an epidemiologist who serves as chief program officer for the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Oscar earned a Doctor of Public Health Degree at New York Medical College, and he has years of experience with far more serious outbreaks (H1N1, Smallpox, MERS, West Nile, etc.). In addition appearing frequently on television to reassure a jittery public, Oscar also has been co-hosting web conferences for Masonic audiences to explain what he knows about staying safe. Seek him out in these media because I can’t avouch for a more rational source of information. For raw data, please keep up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here. At four o’clock every weekday afternoon, the CDC updates the statistics on the nationwide total deaths and total COVID-19 cases. Right now, there have been 3,603 deaths. I recommend ignoring the “death ticker” that one self-described news channel on cable television is maintaining. The number shoots up like the dollar amount on a gas pump. If nothing else, remember the flu is killing tens of thousands of Americans this season. Funny how we don’t hear about it.

In fact, I advise against consuming too much “news media.” The initiated eye will see it is intended to hold a fearful audience captive for increased clicks or viewers or readers or whatevers. Instead, Follow Reason. We Freemasons keep our faith in God and fear no danger. We’re not imprudent but, armed with the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues, we are better able to keep healthy, safe, and sane.

If you now are coping with a lot of extra time due to interruptions in your working life, please know there are myriad sources of Masonic interaction being kept current. There are webinars hosted by lodges, grand lodges, and other groups. Podcasts abound seemingly everywhere, including the new Meet, Act and Part co-hosted by Greg Knott, the Second Vice President of the Masonic Society. Just today, Founding Fellow Piers Vaughan released his translation of an obscure French text concerning Freemasonry, Martinism, and other topics here. And wherever you are at 9 p.m., please take part in the worldwide Time to Toast, organized by the United Grand Lodge of England, when we raise our glasses to absent brethren—because right now, we all are absent until we return to less interesting times.

Fiat lux. Fiat lex. Fiat pax.

Jay Hochberg
President