Have you found that there are benefits to being a mason? If so, could you describe them?
I feel secrecy in large organizations is a distasteful practice, are any of the activities you've been asked to be a part of dependent on your willingness to keep secrets?
Again this would depend on what one means by benefits.
Something some might consider a benefit that I experienced is as follows..
I was talking to a brother mason in the lodge about needing work. He owned a machine shop although I did not know this at the time. In lodge gatherings... before the opening of the official lodge meeting...masons usually gather and chit chat in the refreshment area until the opening of the inner lodge meeting. So we chit chatted a few times and he asked me questions. Little did I know why and never thought about it as it was just chit chat. I found out later when he asked me to show up for work at his machine shop. It was basically an extended interview. But...this can occur to everyday folks who have friends or family or know someone who works somewhere. Not really a benefit given only to me for being a mason....just a benefit of being where I was at the time and him being in need of an employee. I probably was viewed as more trustworthy since I was in lodge with him and a mason. So if that is a benefit...it is not much different than a myriad of other situations.
Another brother mason paid my dues once when I couldn't.
I took my child to some local doctors a few years back and they all said nothing was wrong and to go home. I knew though that something was wrong. So I packed her up and went to the Childrens Hospital 3 hours away in Little Rock. This was before I was officially a mason. I sit in the waiting area forever. I got passed over many a time even though I was there first and had an appointment in which the time had came a passed. I was sitting there reading my Masonic Handbook when a doctor looking fellow passed by and stopped. He asked me..."Are you a Mason". I told him I was petitioning to be such. After chatting a bit...and finding out he was a mason....my daughter and I was called back rather rapidly after he got up from chatting with me. When I got to the back...he was my attending physician. He told me not to worry...he would get to the bottom of what was wrong with my daughter and take care of it immediately. Come to find out...she had pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. But...he was on the spot and got it taken care of rapidly. He said he would be seeing me soon.
Come to find out...he was one of the Grand Officers of Arkansas at the time.
I went to a nearby town once to look for a car to buy. I am poor and my credit is awful but we looked at some newer cars anyway. Mostly window shopping and wishing. I walked into the office and seen a Masonic Calender on the wall. I asked the salesman/owner if he was a Mason. He said no but his father was/is. Come to find out I attended lodge with his father.
Before telling him I was a mason and that I knew his father from lodge meetings...he was leary of even talking to me about a car. they told me my credit was bad and that his cars were too new and I should probably go to a lower end buy here pay here place. After talking about Masonry though....that all changed. They told me to come back the next day and pick up a practically new Pontiac G6. They were merely going off my trustworthiness as a Mason and nothing more.
But these things are not why I became a mason. The benefits are more inner than outer. I've learned all I know about masonry on my own for the most part. It works for me in that aspect.
As far as secrecy goes....I view it as most anything. It isn't the secrecy that is bad. It is like the statement people use about guns...when they say...guns don't kill people...people kill people. So it is how it is used that determines if it is good or bad.
Just one example of secrecy in a good way.
Some little old lady is freezing in the winter and can't pay her gas bill. So...the lodge might get word of it and pay her bill in secrecy without her knowing it. In this instance...she canbe thankful that someone cared enough to help her without feeling obligated to pay it back.