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From the East

By Andrew Hawes —Master

2024 is a leap year, when we adjust our calendars to make up for the annual slippage of a quarter of a day against the calendar. I’ve always thought it would be more sensible to just make one day of each year a bit longer, especially in this day of electronic clocks and smartphones – but I suppose we still have enough analog clocks out there from past years that would need to be updated an extra time per year to make that plan a bother.  

It's not just clocks-  many things in our daily lives are influenced by our past- language is a classic example.  I’ve heard many Masons complain about some of the language in our ritual – words that were once commonplace enough that no-one thought twice about using them have today become obscure or obsolete.  However, this connection to our past is cherished by Masons, as we feel that there are things which tend towards change in our world that should NOT change – such as the practices of brotherly love, relief, and truth.  Of course, many things change whether we like it or not, and we must remain resolute in accepting them, and making them part of our lives – to live in denial and refusal of change will certainly lead to our eventual downfall.

There is a saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  This is intended to evoke the cyclical nature of changes in our society, and the idea that really, things which seem on the surface to be changing may only appear different on the surface, while remaining consistent at their core.  Language is a good example of this – saying “Be right back” when someone rang your doorbell during a phone call or when the stove started boiling over, was replaced in the era of the cell phone with the shortened acronym “BRB” – both intended to indicate to the person on the other end of the conversation that you were temporarily exiting the conversation, and would shortly return. Today, however, even the abbreviated “BRB” is becoming obsolete – because more and more people never leave their conversations!  Especially amongst the younger generation, if the doorbell rings or pot starts to boil over while they’re on a call or in a text conversation, they simply continue the conversating while answering the door, or turning off the stove.  There’s no NEED to tell the other person they’ll “be right back” – because they take the other person with them, perhaps via wireless headset, or even the live stream from their smart glasses.

We live in a time of eternal, ubiquitous connectivity. Peace and quiet mean different things today than they used to. AI assistants are cropping up everywhere, and it probably won’t be long before our morning coffee is brewed by an AI-enabled “smartpot” and our digital calendars are automatically updated by AI tools that book our dentist appointments and schedule our oil changes…but at least for now, they’ll still have to account for that one extra day, every four years at the end of February.


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