I can remember very little from the horrific blur that was my high school experience. Growing up in a Baltimore suburb and attending a school whose claim to fame each year is usually violent altercation that graces the local paper, I have every reason to forget that part of my life as hard as I possibly can. I do, however, remember high-school geometry, because not only was it fun and real-world applicable, but it also was the only math course I recall ever receiving a decent grade.
“Parallel lines,” it was explained to me then, “Are lines which are equidistant from each other at all points. They never cross. They never touch. They never even get any nearer to each other at any given point than any other given point. The only exception is in some weird, higher-level theoretical mathematics probably powered by voodoo and is not applicable to this course.” Most of us probably received a similar, if less casual, definition in our own studies in school. Parallel lines have four basic rules:
- Parallel lines never are further away from each other at any point,
- Parallel lines are never closer to each other at any point,
- Parallel lines never touch, and
- You will never spell parrallel paralell parallel lines right the first time you try.
When I received my first Masonic lecture, a certain phrase jumped out at me: “Perpendicular Parallel lines”. The image to the right is a common emblem of Freemasonry. The description of this image is similar in most jurisdictions with minor differences. The Grand Lodge of Minnesota describes the symbol thus:
“[T]here is represented in every regular and well-governed Lodge, a certain Point within a Circle…This Circle is embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines…and upon the vertex rests the Book of Holy Scriptures which point out the whole duty of man. In going round this circle, we necessarily touch upon these two lines, as well as upon the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible that he should materially err.” (emphasis mine)
Let’s take a moment here and look at that description. These lines are described as both parallel and perpendicular. However, as we learned in high school geometry, this is simply impossible. I have asked more than one well-informed Brethren for his take, and the common answer I receive is usually “Nothing is impossible with God.”