The 24 Inch Gauge
The first implement placed in the hands of a new apprentice, we are told, is the 24” Gauge, or as we should nowadays say, the two-foot rule: that common implement in the hip pocket of every working artisan. It’s purpose, we are taught is, to ascertain the extent of the work in which we are about to engage, and to compute the time and labour it may cost.
The first tool given to us as tiny children, when we come forth as an Entered Apprentices in the business of life, is the priceless gift of our intellect- that faculty by which we are enabled to distinguish one thing from another, the good from the bad, the gold from the dross: our ability to assess, to compare, to measure. As with the two-foot rule, the worth of everything we say and do.
Intellect, added to years of experience and self-discipline, as we progress into mature age, ripens into sagacity, a quality, which should surely characterize all brother Masons. The sagacious man measures, as with the twenty four inch gauge, the true worth of his every word and act—its honesty, its integrity, its sincerity, and above all its effect on other people.
Again, we are admonished to observe that this humble tool is divided into 24 parts, as the day is divided into 24 hours, and bids us to make proper use of our time, that ever more precious commodity. When I was a schoolboy, in those bad old days when children were taught penmanship, one of the aphorisms I sometimes had to write as an exercise (and sometimes as an imposition for misconduct) went as follows:-
“Lost somewhere between sunrise and sunset, one golden hour, studded with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered for it has gone forever”
It will also be noted that the two-foot rule, in its usual form, is folded into 4 equal lengths. We are told that the proper uses of the hours of the day are four-fold, Prayer; Labour; Refreshment and Sleep.
We must not, of course, be too literal, and I do not really think we are admonished to spend each day, six hours on our knees, six hours at the office or shop, six at the dining table and six in bed!!!
It does suggest, rather, the equal importance of all four of these functions in the proper use of our time and the making of the full Man.
Nourishment of our bodies by refreshment and sleep; enlightenment of our minds by labour, and the practice of prayer.
Real prayer!! Not just “Please God Gimme,Gimme Gimme”, but that prayerful attitude of mind in which, every hour of the day, we feel the Great Architect of the Universe at our shoulder, supervising and encouraging our work and ready to answer any true and sincere yearning for guidance and strength.
Real labour!! Not just putting in time at the office, shop, or whatever, but real all-out dedicated effort; for who has not experienced the job which comes when we put everything we’ve got, heart and soul, into a task which we know we can accomplish!!.
Wholesome Refreshment , Food, drink, and entertainment taken with honest enjoyment, but without gluttony and bad taste.; and finally sleep, in Shakespeare’s lovely words “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of Care” and prepares us for the rich experience of another day.
So many lessons from this humble little tool.!!
Adapted from an article presented by Bro. Phil J. Croft of King David Lodge #93. in the BC Masonic Bulletin Mar & Apr 1972.