The actuarial tables and my aching joints proclaim insistently that I have reached middle age, a notification that few receive gratefully and I am no exception.
Apart from the aches and pains of life which suddenly and mysteriously appear like a thief in the night, middle age is that betwixt and between part of life where one is thought to begin accruing the benefits of life while still being young enough to enjoy them for a few years before the AARP, senility and Prostatitis hurry one along into old age proper, and the accompanying Viagra bills not covered by Medicare. Still, it’s better than the alternative, I suppose.
Two recent events put paid to any notion I had about being a young man.
The first was the unshakable conviction of my optometrist that I could no longer dodge a pair of bifocals without going blind, and the second was my refusal to drive another mile in my old but faithful pickup truck. I’ve never been a sports car guy , I didn’t even lust for one in high school, although I did own a fairly muscular 1968 Chevy Malibu, stock, with 307 cubic-inches of V8 that would run like a scalded dog and lay a scratch shifting into third. After nearly killing myself by knocking a chunk out of the federal interstate system infrastructure, however, I decided that a slower and less tempting pickup truck would provide more sensible transportation and I’ve driven one ever since.Trouble was, none of them were very comfortable – at least none of the ones I owned.So, like a typical maladjusted mid-life American male, I decided that my troubles could be easily solved by getting a hot car, and that’s just what I did, not a new Charger, no Corvette, not even a Mustang.No. I bought a Lincoln, a 2002 Continental (the last year for that model), with heated leather everything – even the dual speed fuel pump is made out of leather, and yes, it’s heated too.This baby is, as my wife would say, a Man Boat without apology. The Man Boat does not solve all of middle-age’s problems, but while you’re fiddling with all the buttons and switches inside, and rubbing Meguiar’s Gold Class Leather Cleaner on the interior, you tend to forget about them for a while, which again, is better than the alternative.
I didn’t think that owning a Man Boat would have anything to do with Masonry, but, boy, was I was wrong.
It turns out, it has everything to do with Masonry. In fact, if Masonry was the official sponsor of a car, it would be the Lincoln Town Car, the big brother and successor in interest of my Continental. The Cadillac De Ville is maybe a close second, but still way back there. Masons drive Lincolns. If you doubt me on this, cruise the parking lot at Grand Lodge next time and count the Lincolns – more Town Cars than you can shake a stick at. In fact Masons love Lincolns – and none of this Navigator crap, either – I’m talking Lincoln Town Cars, and they love them for a number of very definite reasons. First of all, they’re comfy, which is good because old guys hate squeezing into an Astin Martin DB5 which has zero head room, less leg room and you can’t fit your apron case and Shrine hat box in and still have room for the Trouble in Strife. They’re powerful too, but not like a hot rod: classier. But perhaps more importantly, Lincolns are motor-ologically speaking both elemental and changeless, just like Masonry.
Henry Ford (Palestine Lodge No. 357, Detroit, Michigan) owned the first Continental (a one-off model), and they have been in continuous production since 1939. Not fuel efficient you say? Yes, you’re right. Neither is Masonry. At least not yet. So, let’s recap: big, roomy, comfy, racy in an old guy sort of way, horsepower aplenty, and with the exception of some exterior trim and the odd opera window and rag top, they haven’t changed one jot since 1939. That sounds like Masonry to me. And if it was good enough for Henry Ford, it’s good enough for us, right? Change, you understand, is not only overrated, but damned dangerous.
Which brings me to Wilmshurst.
Eighty-seven years ago, which oddly enough seems like when I graduated from high school, the great Masonic commentator Walter Leslie Wilmshurst wrote that the “Meaning of Masonry… is a subject usually left entirely unexpounded and that accordingly remains largely unrealized by its members save such few as make it their private study; the authorities of what in all other respects is an elaborately organized and admirably controlled community have hitherto made no provision for explaining and teaching the ” noble science ” which Masonry proclaims itself to be and was certainly designed to impart.” 
In The Meaning of Masonry, Wilmshurst goes on to say that Masonry, which eclipses every other fraternal organization, does so only to the degree that its spirituality demands serious commitment from its members. Stripped of that esotericism, Wilmshurst argues, Masonry is no more than the Salvation Army with aprons. And, I hasten to add, Lincoln Town Cars.
And while I’m no alchemist, I acknowledge that Masonry encompasses more, so very much more than that. If I understood Pike, or if I gave credence to Manly Hall, or any of our other soothsayers, perhaps I could readily agree with many of my fellows who seem to know just what exactly Masonry does encompass in the less-than-tangible realm, but despite my uncertainty, I am sure that there is something, and I am still searching. Judging from the comments I hear each year at Grand Lodge, I am one of the few Lincoln drivers who have reached that point, but now that I have infiltrated their camp, I intend on finding out how many other fellow travelers there are. I’m not optimistic, though.
Soon, perhaps by next week the way things are going, I will be forced to give up my Lincoln and ordered to buy a Ford Focus which is a crappy car for me but better for everyone else (which is all that matters, apparently), but in the meantime, if you spot a waterfall grille in your rear-view, it might just be me.
The bifocals, by the way, should be in by next week, damn them.
 The Meaning of Masonry, Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 1993, p. 5.