So Mote It Be

Among the many artefacts left behind at the closure of this masonic centre, one of the more interesting was a typed script for a masonic ceremony. Attempting to decode the script with its mysterious redactions and abbreviations was a fun challenge. It appears that a candidate for a degree of freemasonry is given the role of Third Sojourner in a play acted out over the chessboard-tiled floor. Three sojourners have recently come out of captivity in Babylon, and offer their masonry skills acquired during forced labour to the Sanhedrin – an assembly of Jewish rabbis – to assist with building the second temple of Solomon. After convincing the Sanhedrin of their genuine intentions, they are employed and dispatched to the site of the build. They are given rudimentary tools – a pickaxe, shovel and crowbar, safety ropes and explicit instructions to keep secret any artefacts they uncover from Solomon’s first temple, which according to Jewish tradition was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BCE. Unsurprisingly, they do make a string of discoveries in a plot as preordained as an episode of CSI: a pickaxe loosens up the earth and reveals a hollow sound beneath; a shovel clears away the earth to uncover the crown of a stone arch; its central keystone has a ring attached; a crowbar happens to perfectly fit that ring and allows the keystone to be lifted to reveal an engraving on it signposting a path to hidden treasure; lots are drawn to determine which sojourner descends into the dark cavity with the rope “cable tow” around his waist in case he meets danger and needs to be hauled up by his companions; the air he finds below is indeed poisonous and the dark is pervasive, so they wait for the illumination of the rising sun and the dissipation of the foul air; the second sojourner descends and retrieves a scroll (which according to another online source is the last remaining copy of a book of holy law hidden during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem); the three sojourners bind themselves to secrecy, and led by the third sojourner they make one final descent as the sun reaches its high meridian; they find a beautiful subterranean chamber and another arch made of marble, banners bearing names, and other peculiar “signs”.

As the three sojourners close up the vault, obscure its point of entry, and resolve to return the scroll, a hand drawing of the underground chamber and word of their other discoveries to the Sanhedrin, they demonstrate values and practices considered worthy of a freemason. In many respects these values and practices are not dissimilar to the ways of urban explorers. We understand the thrill of discoveries made while fossicking through the forgotten, dark cavities of the modern city. We too make sure the whole crew gets out safe. Like freemasons we swear each other to secrecy, albeit somewhat less formally. And we can also exhibit a similar tribalism founded on knowledge mindfully shared and withheld.

 

 

 

But They Can Die

It was the pigs of George Orwell’s Animal Farm who proclaimed that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Pigs are similarly the object of resentment in under-the-mattress graffiti in Cell #26 of this former prison.

The poem began burnt into the wood:

Pigs CAN’T FLY

and continued in blue pen:

BUT THEY CAN DIE

NEXT FINE DAY

BLOW A Pig away

IF YOU KILL A Pig a day

it WILL Keep the doctor away

Nowhere more clearly did we find articulated the smoldering frustration of incarceration, channeled into the kind of blind hatred that negates any opportunity for insight.

Elsewhere was a mixture of light and shade. In the kitchen the relative gentleness of a rainbow framing the extractor fan was juxtaposed with murals depicting fearsome hyper-masculine muscularity. No such diverting decor was provided for prisoners in solitary confinement, who were required to surrender their tobacco products and were issued with fresh water, a chamber pot, one mattress, one pillow, one pillow slip, one sheet, and blankets or duvet “in accordance with climactic conditions”. How some of them obtained implements sharp enough to partially chisel their gang names and insignia into the stone walls and into the paint of their cell bars and doors is anyone’s guess.

Puzzling at what we had experienced, and all the more aware of our own freedom of movement and expression, we walked for ninety minutes back down the road through pine forests to where we’d parked our car.

This is Part Four of a four part video series. Part OnePart TwoPart Three.

 

Traces of Time

From the window of #55, an informed eye studies the moody skies above the central courtyard.  Glenn’s 1972 Christmas present – The World Encyclopedia of the Film – languishes in #11, its front cover torn off but not yet discarded. #18 plays host to a brown crayoned face, mouth agape as if inviting the throwing of ping pong balls at a fairground amusement. In another piece of art nearby, a grey-bearded pig farmer and an athletic woman carrying groceries seem to be missing an opportunity to converse at the fence line. Monied wanderlust is palpable in #16, where a shrine to cars, boats and exotic getaways gleams under fluorescent light. Outside Sunday church services advertise the promise of personal transformation via belief in a higher power, while inside #37 another route to growth is being chosen. The number of 5 – denoting maximum difficulty – is written into every column associated with expressing affection towards anyone from an intimate partner to a shop assistant.

This is Part Three of a four part video series. Part OnePart TwoPart Four.