New Milford, CT — In 2009, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut ran out of new ritual monitors to hand out to new Masons. With no copy in electronic format to send to a printer, the Supervisors of the Work began the long, arduous task of reconstructing the monitor. Prohibited by obligation to write entire paragraphs, the Supervisory Committee kept passing along the Microsoft Works document via email. Unfortunately, when it was reviewed after completion in 2014, the new version had more mistakes than was acceptable, and the project was put on hold. New Masons were directed to borrow copies from older members, or to download a copy of Duncan’s until a newer version could be printed.
Fortunately, a handful of younger Masons around the state, acting over Twitter, Google Buzz, Facebook, and other microblogging platforms, created an unofficial version so that they could help each other learn the parts. Small enough to carry on even the oldest smartphones, the version quickly gained popularity among the under-40 crowd. Last year, a group of younger WMs from lodges around the state, frustrated with the inability to pass out ritual books to new officers, approached the Supervisors of the Work with an idea: Scrap the idea of a written monitor, and pass out the unofficial version.
The catch: The unofficial version is all written in emoji and SMS shorthand.
Surprisingly, the Supervisors of the Work, some of whom were still working with Apple Newtons and Palm Pilots, accepted the idea readily.
WB Tyler Burden, a 3 year Mason and new Master of Phineas Barnum Lodge in Bridgeport, assisted in getting the Emoji Work, as they call it, approved for official use in the state.
“There’s already a hipster mystique to being a Freemason,” said WB Burden. “My grandfather’s old style books had all these weird symbols and mixed up letters and stuff. What we’re doing with the Emoji version is really just the same thing. It’s just more modernized.”
Explaining the popularity, he said “Emojis are ways to put a lot of information into a simple character. Between the graphics and the shortcut text, we get a pretty good approximation of what the ritual would have said. I mean, maybe it’s not 100%, but then, very few guys memorize 100% anyway, so who would even know the difference?” Burden added, “We’ve even been getting requests from brothers in other jurisdictions that don’t allow any printed works. Pretty soon, we’ll have a version for Texas, another one for Virginia, and later this year, Pennsylvania.”
We contacted the Connecticut Supervisors of the Work Committee about the new version, and asked about the older versions.
“Years ago, Connecticut used to have a cypher version of the ritual, but in the last few decades, the level of education in this state has declined, and in the 1970s we had to publish a full-word version,” said RW Winston Smith. “Thing is, nobody ever kept track of how many boxes we had of those things. Apparently, we thought we had several more cases, so when the last books were gone, we weren’t prepared to create more of them. We probably could have been done sooner,” he added, “but the new printing shops wanted electronic versions, and by the time we finished typing everything, we had so many mistakes that we didn’t feel comfortable sending them out.”
RW Dagny Coleman explained, “We were hampered because we can’t write, print, or any of that stuff, and in order to circumvent the obligations, we had to be morally creative. So one of us would type a sentence or two, then forward it to the next guy, who would do the same, and then he would forward it to the next guy. The problem is that it took ages because a lot of the older guys don’t check their email regularly. And every time someone dropped off the committee, or retired, or died, we’d have to bring the replacement up to speed. And since some districts have ritual variations, we ended up with a mish-mash of workings, and then we’d have to rewrite that section.”
RW Smith added, “We had one version that was pretty close, but the guy who typed it used 1993 AppleWriter and nobody else could read the format.”
— Conte Calvino Gliostro
For our older brethren, here is a Twitter Emoji version of a classic piece of literature:
Emoji version of Les Miserables: