I went to the doctor's office today, and I am heavier than I have ever been before. My Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 42. When I became a mason, it was 34. I'm not blaming Freemasonry. I've been as high as 41 previously, before I was a mason, and I've been as low as 26 (when I was doing martial arts training 3-5 days a week in preparation for my aikido brown belt test). But today, it's dangerously high. Coupled with morbid obesity is hypertension, depression, compound obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver, erectile dysfunction, knee problems, circulation problems, pre-diabetic symptoms, and a guarantee that years of living this way will lead to diabetes, heart disease, risk of colon cancer, risk of stroke or aneurysm, dramatic shortening of life.
I look around, and I see a lot of fat masons. It's often said that you will gain 10-20 pounds in your year in the East, and it's equally often said that being District Deputy Grand Master will cause you to gain 25 pounds. We like dinners. We like banquets. When other people are at the gym, we are at Chapter, or Scottish Rite rehearsal, or at a Shrine unit meeting, or at a hall association meeting, or some other masonic event. We look around, and we see other fat masons, and we feel at home. Every year, a few of us succumb to heart disease, renal failure, colon cancer, or a stroke, and the rest of us shrug it off.
We are a fraternity. We are a band of brothers. Some of us are living unhealthy lifestyles, and because so many of us are, we don't seem to mind, or even notice. We regard any suggestion that we are being unhealthy as intrusive. We regard the fraternity as a refuge from scolding, a shelter from real-world concerns, and yet the Black Camel is waiting for each of us. Our ritual is scattered with so many symbols of memento mori that we really ought to prick up our ears and take notice.
If there existed an exclusive appendant body (say, the Knights of the Gazelle) that required a mason to keep a BMI under 30, a lot of masons would scramble to lose weight. If you could not become a Warden or Master if your BMI was over 35, you'd have a lot of dieting masons. If you could never become a District Deputy Grand Master if your blood pressure was above 140/100, all ambitious masons would diet and exercise and take blood pressure medication.
We know what motivates the men in our fraternity. Titles, decorations, accolades, exclusive organizations with limited membership, peer confirmation; all of these drive men to exert themselves.
We also know that peer group weight loss structures, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, also work better than dieting alone.
So I am throwing down the gauntlet. I hereby declare my intention to form the Knights of the Gazelle (I'll take a better name if offered). Provided that I get Grand Lodge permission if required, it will be open to any masons who want to lose weight. Once it gets up and running, we can discuss opening up the Ladies of the Gazelle (for women in the Masonic family) and Squires of the Gazelle (for children in the Masonic family). We will base the content on Weight Watchers (or something better if better technology exists), have confidential meetings backed by Masonic secrecy. and progress reports. Chapters will collectively record BMI points lost, and different chapters can compete to see which chapters can lose the most BMI points. We can consult with lodge cooks to ensure that healthy options are provided at lodge meals for Knights of the Gazelle. Nobody would be required to join us, but if they do, we will welcome them, encourage them, and help them get to a healthy BMI.
Let's use the power of fraternalism to save our lives, and improve the quality of our lives, and to ensure healthier outcomes for us. Let's use existing masonic structures to help us stave off the Black Camel. After all, dead masons pay no dues. It's in everyone's interest to keep us around and keep us healthy.
Please feel free to steal this idea, provided you use it for good.
‘Boyer Lodge lecture next month’
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