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THE LEVEL OF TIME

by William H. Sachs, 33


A passage from our ritual describing the working tools of a Fellowcraft Mason admonishes us ever to remember that "we are traveling upon the level of time to that undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns." The words are beautiful, the allegory striking, and the meaning deceptively clear even at first hearing. But those of us who truly search for more light quickly realize that the apparently simple statement is in fact much more complex than we think. There is hardly any problem with the word "level." Whoever has been involved with any part of the construction business knows the function of this instrument, whether in the ancient form of connected water columns, the later form based on a plumb line, or the now popular version of an air bubble floating in a liquid inside a transparent tube. We realize that a table is not level when things begin to roll or slide off it. And we are sure of what we are doing when we "level" with a friend, a neighbor, an opponent, or even with the I.R.S. The word "level" is unambiguous.

When we talk about time, however, it is a different story altogether. Any youngster over the age of 10 knows what time is, and yet very few of us can define or explain it. Even wise men differ in their answers. Some of them call it simply "the fourth dimension." If that is the best answer, perhaps we should update our beautiful staircase lecture in the Fellowcraft Degree and add time to the traditional dimensions of length, breadth, and thickness. Ask a physicist for a definition of time, and you may well elicit a lengthy discourse on Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. A philosopher, on the other hand, may tell you that time is basically a way to measure all changes and, more particularly, that change which we call life. Last, but not least, it has been stated, quite seriously, that time is nothing but an illusion.

Time itself, especially when we enter the years beyond middle age, often rivals quicksilver in the speed with which it runs through our fingers. But if we cannot catch it and cannot examine it--let alone define it with certainty--how can we derive wisdom from that mysterious "level of time"? Perhaps the time-honored old phrase of our Degree work expresses the complete integration of my time and your time into our time, and ultimately into all time--that basic property of the incredibly immense universe which is the material manifestation of its Creator.

Could it be that time is in fact that great equalizer of all human beings? If so, then in "the level of time" our ancient Brethren discovered a symbol, not only for the intrinsic equality of all men, but for the ephemeral character of our lives. As far as the human mind can see, time is the universal property of all creation, and it finds nothing anywhere which is timeless, except that Great Builder whom we respectfully acknowledge as the Grand Architect. Let us contemplate that fact, with awe, every time we hear of the "level of time."

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Last modified: March 22, 2014