Reflections on the OTO: Part V — The Non-Fraternity

In 1993, I took my third degree initiation in the OTO. At the same time, one young man—Brother WZ—took his first degree. Soon after, Brother WZ came down with a life-threatening illness that required he be placed on life-support at the best equipped hospital in the state of Alabama.

Now, I was in school at the time pursuing my bachelor’s degree in mathematics (and some 60+ miles from Birmingham). But not far from the hospital was the local OTO body. Four or five members lived in an apartment complex and had made a temple there. They performed the Mass regularly and even initiated people. Moreover, they were an actual, physical stone’s throw from the hospital where Brother WZ was fighting for his very life.

I saw Brother WZ twice when he was in Birmingham and regretted not being able to go there more often. I had courses to take and the mathematics I was doing at the time was exceedingly difficult (I’d just managed to complete the calculus sequence and was entering the proof-heavy courses of abstract algebra, linear algebra, and number theory. My time was spent doing math most people don’t even realize exists. There’s lots of reading, lots of work, and lots of checking that work—and this at a time when the Internet was in its infancy and not widely accessible, so that meant I spent almost every waking free hour of every day in the math stacks of the college library.)

The OTO members in Birmingham didn’t even make an effort. They were within walking distance and couldn’t be bothered to visit a sick brother in the hospital. The “fraternity” wasn’t very fraternal.

When I quit the OTO in the late 1990s, Brother WZ did not. However, I was often Brother WZ’s ride to events and nobody bothered to check to see if he wanted to continue his membership. Basically, they dumped him when I walked. Despite being a brother in good (i.e. dues paying) standing, nobody bothered to check up on him. Again, not very fraternal behavior.

For the OTO higher-ups, lower-degree members are expected to be automatically chummy and friendly. For lower-degree members, the brotherhood of higher-degree members must be earned in some way. How the OTO treated Brother WZ was inexcusable—fraternity my ass.

Shriek into the Void...

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