The Cable Tow—the “Easy Button”?

— V.W.B. Tom Dangelo

Not long ago, while serving as Master of my Lodge, I had a brother sent a summons to me, the Master, to visit him. He had something that he wanted to discuss with me in the privacy of his home.
When I arrived, the Master Mason was pleased to see me as he asked me to sit down, and then he exited the room. He returned with a small box in his hand. He said, in a halting manner, that he wanted me to have the box and what was get it. When I open the box I beheld a Master Mason Trowel, given to him when he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, many years before.
I asked him why he was giving it to me. He replied quite simply, “my health is failing and I can no longer attend Lodge, so I feel duty bound to surrender my trowel. I can no longer live up to my obligation.” I was stunned. Never before had I met a man with such conviction concerning the promise he had made on the Volume of the Sacred Law. He stated his cable tow was “too short.”
I fumbled for words. I was speechless. Then I did what I believe was the right thing to do I told him that as master of the lodge I was in power to forgive this matter, or heal it if you will. I also bade him to keep his trowel until such time as he surrendered to the Grand Architect of the Universe. I further promised him a Masonic burial and I would see to it that his trowel be laid up in the Archives of the Lodge.
Reflecting upon this incident, as well as other Masonic situations I’ve encountered, I have encountered, I have come to the conclusion that we have let the length of our cable tow become an easy excuse for not attending Lodge or becoming involved in other Masonic activities to the betterment of the community.
All too often it is easier to justify why we’re not attending lodge, nor living up to the other obligations that we swore, while kneeling before the Great Lights of our Craft. At that time we promised, before God, in front of a Lodge of Master Masons, that we would obey all signs and summons issued by Lodge, or given by a Brother “if within the length of our cable tow.”
I found the following paragraph, defining the length of the cable tow, in the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, The New Revised Edition, Volume 1, 1921, by Mackey and McClenachan.
Quote: Gadicke says that,”according to the aged laws of Freemasonry, every brother must attend his Lodge, if within the length of his cable tow.” The old writers define the length of the cable trial, which they sometimes call “a cable’s length,” to be three miles for an Entered Apprentice. But the expression is really symbolic, and, as defined by the Baltimore Convention in 1842, means the scope of a man’s reasonable ability.
the Easy Button is a service mark of Staples
Question: has our cable tow become so short that it is choking our Lodges??? Have we allow the caveat,”if within the length of my table tow” to become a Easy Button? Have we, in fact, lost our character?
Character can be expressed as: having the conviction to carry through with the promised long after the spirit in which it was made has cooled. Are we losing our character and consequently becoming just another organization of men who sometimes go to meetings? “For remember at the Altar you have promised.”
My dad used to tell me when I was young man, if I said I was going to do something, I’d better “man up” and do it.
To this, I admonish you in the gentlest but most assertive of manners: Mason up!
Live up to our obligations. Fulfill the hearts and souls of mankind with our presence and practices. Become a beacon of Light and Hope to those who need us.
It pains my heart even to contemplate that by the use of an “Easy Button,” as a convenient substitute for the length of our cable tow, we could lose sight of our duty, our dignity, and our sense of purpose as Freemasons.
Look in the mirror and say to yourself—-Mason up, my Brother, Mason up!! Go to lodge. Your Lodge needs you. The Fraternity needs you. The world needs you.

This article was republished with the kind permission of the author. The Easy Button image is a service mark of Staples, Inc.