The 24-inch Gauge
The first implement placed in the hands of the new apprentice, we are told, is the 24-inch gauge, or as we should nowadays say, the two-foot rule; that common implement in the hip-pocket of every working artisan. Its purpose, we are taught, is :-
“to ascertain the extent of the work in which are about to engage, and to compute the time and labor it may cost.”
The first tool given to us as initiates, when we come forth as 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 a 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 Masons. The sagacious man measures, as with a 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 twenty-four parts, as the day is divided into twenty-four hours, and bids us 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 four 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 praying on our knees, six hours at the office or shop, six at the dinner-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 prayer,
Real prayer! – not just “Please God gimme, gimme, gimme” on Sundays, but that prayerful attitude of mind in which, every hour of the day, we feel the Great Architect at our shoulder, supervising and encouraging our work and ready to answer any true and sincere yearning for guidance and strength.
And 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 joy 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 or lust; 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!
Editor’s Note: Brother Phil J. Croft ,of King David Lodge No. 93, West Vancouver, B.C., presented in Lodge a series of lectures on the working tools. His talk on the Entered Apprentice Tools appeared in the March and April 1972 issues of the MASONIC BULLETIN, B.C.R.
A thought to Ponder.
Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why and if not. Why Not.
Isaiah Berlin, British Philosopher.
Man strives for glory, honour, fame, That all the world may know his name.
Amasses wealth by brain and hand; Becomes a power in the land.
But when he nears the end of life And looks back o’er the years of strife,
He finds that happiness depends On none of these, but the Love of Friends. Anonymous