The Warrior Poet

By: G. Cliff Porter

The Warrior Poet first appeared, in a shortened version, in the The Scottish Rite Journal, March-April 2008. This full version was printed and distributed by the Masonic Service Association of North America, 8120 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-4785.

Bro. G. Cliff Porter is a member of El Paso Lodge #130 – El Paso, Texas.

Remember a time when men could dance the tango, quote Shakespeare, but hold his own in a fight? I don’t. I am Gen X’r, the generation of fatherless sons who have learned mixed ideas about manhood being either that of a man who wears pink Polo shirts and cries at lots of movies or some hyper machismo blockhead who goes through life kicking and punching.

The nuclear family did its part to remove the family from the greater socials networks. No longer did the village raise the child. As a matter of fact, if we saw the village helping out when some youngster desperately needed a quick swat on the bum, with such a swat, the once uninvolved parents now rushed to sue on behalf of their child, claiming that the village was causing it much harm.

What might have remained of any attachment that the nuclear family felt to society was quickly removed with the advent of the technological revolution. Human interaction was no longer necessary. The child woke in the morning to his single mother home. You see divorce was easy. Both parents had decided that they had grown apart and married before the found themselves, and the fact they had a little one is of little consequence. He was placed in front of a television so that mom could try to ready herself for the 10-hour workday ahead. At school he was ushered to the computer lab where he interacted with video instructions. Recess was at hand and out comes the handheld video games for a little more solitary play.

Then it happened, an interest in girls. So, our young man receives some training in social discourse in the form of music describing and aggrandizing deplorable acts towards women. He is later provided images of the male’s current role in society. The images include Homer Simpson, Tim from Tool Time, and others. All of whom are more simian that human and lack any character or drive to be positive role models and leaders in their family or community.

How many times in just the past few years have we heard of school shootings, mall shootings, and other random acts of mass violence perpetrated by youth? There are legions of young men who have grown up isolated by and through technology, who lack any form of a positive male role model in their lives, and lash out at a community from which they feel completely disassociated because they have never felt a part of it.

So in comes the lost art of Masonry, Chisel and maul in hand, the speculative Craft seeks to hone men from the rough stone of youth, uncertainty, and intolerance.

Masonry raises warrior poets. A man that can hug his Brother, pray with a widow, and wield a sword. I mean both literally and speculatively. How does our gentle Craft work such wonders in the speculative quarries of stone? Take for instance the man who received little in the way of training in discourse. He is likely to turn to violent or angry argument when he is faced with a situation where he must communicate his desires, but lack the training and ability to do so. The Craft, in one of its simple but extraordinary lessons, teaches the young man to stand up in lodge, to provide a detailed plan containing his ideas for the lodge, and to make a motion for the very ideas that he believes could benefit the lodge and his brothers.

Any Brother who has attended such a meeting knows what comes next. A Brother, two, or three stand up a take a deep breathe. The young man holds his and waits. A few of the Past Masters have some questions, some comments, some kindly advice based on their personal experiences. So, our Brother begins to utilize the lessons of his days as a Fellowcraft. He first utilizes rhetoric in explaining the progression of his theory. Then he practices logic in refining his theory when presented with obstacles that prove correct and help to improve the idea. He practices Brotherly love in compromising and remembering that these men are his Masonic family and their concerns are true and valid.

The obligations, although improper to discuss in detail, are not the obligations of a weak spine. They teach the necessity for a gentle spirit in caring for widows and orphans. At the same time, the obligations teach and recognize the necessity for action. They allow that we should not strike in anger, but in teaching such, they simultaneously and quietly provide the whispered message that the ability to strike is one of the working tools of a Mason. The young man comes to recognize the difference between lashing out in youthful anger and learning to care for himself, his family, and those weaker than him in his community. He likely thinks nothing of flying to a Brothers aid with little thought to his own safety. He has learned that how one action in anger is foolish; the other action in defense of oneself or community is courageous. We are taught that our personal establishment should be strong; that strength in spirit and courage in faith, hope, and charity are more powerful when wielded by a man of his word, that the sword of metal by a despotic man, group, or government.

We learn to appreciate “art”. Any raised eyebrows with that one? There shouldn’t be. Our temples and lodges are often filled with beautiful symbolism. We stand before tracing boards, some original, some reproduced, all filled with wonderful and mystical images. Often, one symbol or another will touch a Brother in a special and meaningful way that words can not even communicate. The, my brethren, is an appreciation of art”.

When moving through the ritual to the sublime, he learns to recognize the downfalls and pleasures of power as we are faced with the dangers of mob rule, organized orthodoxy, and misguided desires in our Master Mason degree. The road he travels is perilous and just as his brothers before him; he is confronted with the need for real courage in the face of physical danger. We are taught of the need for physical consequences for weakness of the spirit in the penalties inflicted upon these unjust and uncaring Fellows of the Craft. We learn that an apology is correct, but that does not negate the requirement for justice. To often does the world convince itself that being sorry for something somehow removes the need for consequences. Justice is a constant. Administered with integrity, it is powerful tool in the hands of an educated populace.

Our newly made Mason learned his lessons from the degrees and learned them well. His fellow members decide to honor him with their trust and allow him to enter the line. He moves through the chairs and one day wields the gavel of authority and, in doing so, he learns the necessity of humility and discretion. He learns the hidden allegorical meaning taught in many holy books when an aspect of All Power is presented as a servant of mankind and his brothers.

How many times has some young man looked to the example of his older and wiser co-worker? There is something different about this man. He is the image of confidence and uprightness, but seems compassionate and expresses a willingness to help and engage. The young man, noticing this difference, musters up the courage to approach and strike up a conversation. He knows there is something different about this man, but can’t put his finger on it. Speaking of fingers, he notices that the man is wearing a ring. Upon it are a small Square and Compasses. He asks about the ring. The brother says, “I’m a Freemason.” The conversation progresses and the young man with an interest asks, “Well what do Masons do?“

It is a difficult question to answer. Freemasonry is different things for different men. Many times, I believe, “It’s a secret” is blurted out as a response for fear of answering incorrectly. We talk of membership and dwindling numbers; we talk of promoting our Craft, but when faced with a young man, one whose values might be different, who seems a world apart and almost alien, we choke. It is difficult for us to imagine what this young man might want or how the teachings of Masonry might be relevant for him.

Masonry is relevant my brothers! It is as important today as it was 200 years ago. So brethren, the next time a young man expresses an interest in Freemasonry to you, please feel free to share my story with him. Tell him that Masons are taught the art of the Warrior Poet. They are tempered like steel and molded with compassion.

They are Warrior Poets.