By Walter Boomsma
“…The springing seed teaches us to increase in goodness, and the growing trees to aspire after higher and broader knowledge.” These are words spoken by the Chaplain during the celebration and instruction of the Second Degree.
Later in the degree, the master explains, “There is no object in which, to appearance, life and death border so closely together as in the grains of seed buried in the earth; but when life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew.” Near the close of this degree, the master reminds us that “The salutation of this degree ‘places faith in God and nurtures Hope.’”
Grange ritual and teachings take great advantage of the lessons of nature and those lessons are many. “The tools used by us in this degree are the hoe and the pruning knife. The hoe, with which we cut up weeds and stir the soil, is emblematic of that cultivation of the mind which destroys error and keeps our thoughts quickened and ready to receive new facts as they appear, thus promoting the growth of knowledge and wisdom.”
“The pruning knife, used to remove useless and injurious growths from our trees, plants and vines, should remind you to prune idle thoughts and sinful suggestions… Bear in mind that moral and metal worth rank before worldly wealth or honors…”
I wish I could remember where I recently read the observation that “in order to become a butterfly, you have to be willing to give up being a caterpillar.” The words are not exactly Grange teaching, but the thought surely is. “When life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew.”
If you have some remaining seeds from planting your garden (the second degree uses corn) I’d encourage you to find one and hold it in your palm and hear the master’s words, “Behold these inanimate kernels of corn! But the germ has life—the future plant is there…” In a workshop I’ve presented, I point out that all of the life potential and a complete set of instructions to create it are within that small seed. That’s H-O-P-E and a powerful lesson nature teaches.
The lesson is certainly about individual potential, but I think it can apply to our Granges which, after all, are a collection of individuals. If each of us has that much promise and potential, does not our Grange? When we consider our heritage, our principles, and our teachings… do we not have within us the potential for a “fuller and richer existence…” are not all the instructions there that will allow us to grow into something wonderful? Is our order placing faith in God and nurturing hope? Are we collectively increasing in goodness and aspiring after higher and broader knowledge?
I wonder what a caterpillar thinks—or for that matter, if it does. Does it know what its future is going to be? Nature clearly has programmed it to wrap itself up in a mummy-like state without questioning whether or not it’s a good idea. The caterpillar doesn’t have to decide to give up its existence and become a butterfly. That’s a grand plan because if caterpillars were like people, the situation would be a lot different. Many caterpillars would be quite content to remain caterpillars. Some would fear becoming a butterfly and needing to fly. They would be quite content to crawl about munching leaves. But some would look forward to the adventure and the freedom that comes with flying. They would be willing to go through the metamorphosis required. Those who remain caterpillars would cling to their existence and perhaps even complain that there aren’t enough caterpillars left because everyone is too busy being a butterfly.
The Grange way of life, like nature, is meant to be filled with hope, promise, and potential. We just have to decide to give up being caterpillars and commit to becoming a butterfly—to becoming something that is different and beautiful. The challenge we face is accepting that who and what we are may not be who and what we become. But let us let nature remind us that while the butterfly is found in the caterpillar, it is equally true that the caterpillar is found in the butterfly. Nature does not resist change, it depends on it, understanding that a seed is not meant to stay a seed and a caterpillar is not meant to remain a caterpillar. Life is about becoming and when we think things are dying what is really happening is. “a fuller and richer existence begins anew.”
Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.