Temperance – Drink Not To Elevation

This is the next article in the series of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Temperance.

“…Drink not to elevation…” Oh, but that the world at large followed this instruction. There would be far less drunk driving incidents, far less “Darwinian” stories to tell and far fewer tales of abuse or neglect.

My brothers, I am not here to tell you that alcohol is evil. There have been many studies which results have concluded that drinking in moderation can be beneficial to your health. Whether your religious beliefs dictate that you not drink, or you decide to imbibe, it should always be considered that to drink heavily impairs your ability to perform your masonic duties. And we all know that this particular condition is not becoming of a brother of this honorable and ancient fraternity let alone the uninitiated man.

Drink not to elevation means that you should not become intoxicated, drunk or otherwise impaired by alcohol. I touched upon the reason this aspect of the temperance virtue applies to our order above. It is our duty always to be presentable—to represent the Craft with honor and dignity. How can we possibly do so with a lampshade on our head, or trying to guzzle beer while upside down with a couple of friends holding our feet by the ankles? How can we accurately represent the fraternity when we see double what is in front of us, when we slur our speech and act the fool?

No good has ever come of drinking to excess. None.

I was watching a documentary on Wyatt Earp last night, and though he wasn’t a brother of our fraternity (his brother Virgil was declined membership when he applied in Tombstone), the documented history of what led up to the gunfight at the OK Corral aptly illustrates the need not to drink to elevation.

To better his standing in the community so that he could run for the office of Sheriff, Wyatt Earp approached Ike Clanton asking after the three cowboys who had robbed a stage, killing the driver and a passenger. He and Ike conspired to allow Wyatt to bring these men to justice and Ike could keep all of the reward money. But this secret deal never came to fruition as the three cowboys all met their deaths at the hands of others in various nefarious dealings before Ike could track them down.

Worried that Wyatt could let slip he had betrayed his kind, Ike Clanton went to Tombstone to confront the then deputy marshal. But he needed liquid courage to do so. After all…this was Wyatt Earp he was going to talk to. So he drank. And drank. And drank. And he started talking big, feeling the results of the fiery consumption stirring his heart. He narrowly avoided a gunfight with Doc Holiday that night, and he did meet up with Wyatt, but Earp escorted him to a hotel and put him to bed for the night hoping the man would wise up once he sobered up. But the damage had already been done.

The citizens of Tombstone had heard Ike Clanton in his drunken rage talking about how he was going to “kill him an Earp” the next morning, and some had claimed they even saw Clanton in a telegraph office most likely sending for back up. The newly formed Vigilante Committee approached Virgil (who was chief of police at the time) and offered to help, essentially putting the Earps in a position where they had to act or appear weak. So, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan gathered to go meet up with Ike Clanton and arrest him. Doc Holiday offered to help, but Wyatt turned him down. It was Virgil who gave the infamous gunfighter a shotgun, thus recruiting his aid on that fateful morning.

We all know the results of the gunfight at the OK Corral: three dead, three wounded. Wyatt and Ike Clanton were (ironically) the only ones to escape without a scratch, and it was because of Wyatt that Ike Clanton got away, for the famous Earp saw that Clanton didn’t have a gun, pushed him aside in the middle of the gunfight, and told him to run.

That night of drinking caused the death of three people at the OK Corral. Virgil Earp eventually had his arm blown off by an ambush attack, Morgan Earp was murdered while playing at billiards with a friend having been shot in the back, and Wyatt went on a vengeful hunt for Ike Clanton that ended with many additional deaths.

Brothers, there are many more recent tragedies associated with drinking to elevation. Tales that can be cited by brothers in our very lodge I’d imagine. Let us also consider the impact that drunkenness has on fellow brothers as well as our public image.

Have you ever been to a Festive Board? Each cannon filled, each shot taken, the urge to overindulge being spurred on by friendly brothers laughingly plying each other with excess. What of the brothers in your Lodge who wish to participate in these fun and engaging events? Does inebriation further the work of the Craft? Does intoxication further the spirit of the evening (no pun intended)? My position is that there is no time or place for drinking to elevation. A brother should not do so in the privacy of their own home, nor should they do so in attendance at a Festive Board. A brother of the Craft should carry themselves at all times as representatives of the fraternity and this behavior is and always shall be, unbecoming. Consider that drunkenness is not accepted in polite company and is thought bullish and crass. This is not the action of a Mason.

I urge you always to consider the oaths you took to hold the fraternity in high esteem forever and represent it well. Let us not drink to elevation, but rather, seek to further the good image of our Craft and our own capabilities to serve our fellow creatures.

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