“What does our culture tell “real men” they have to do? Join a fraternity. Get a letter in football, baseball or basketball. Conquer a lot of women. Be tough. Don’t show feelings. Dominate, succeed, win… The trouble with the old definitions is that they don’t work anymore – and maybe they never did.”
– Keen, Sam, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, 1991, (by one of the pioneers of the men’s movement).
That pretty much sums up my youth, and beyond. I pondered whether it was still applicable nearly twenty years later. I actually pondered a lot of different angles to approach this topic and believe me, there were a lot of different directions available. Men and Spirituality was the original theme. I thought I could come up with some answers. Much to the dismay of my ego, all I came up with were more questions.
The introductory quote describes the basic criteria I needed to meet back then, at least if I desired the acceptance of my peers. And I did desire that acceptance, even at the expense of abandoning my Original Self. No price was too great, apparently, for the need to feel “normal” in a world that often felt absolutely “abnormal”. It is strange how we think we are the “weird” ones, when our inner truth is telling us one thing, and the fabricated outer truth is telling us something completely different. Yet, if enough people buy something, we start to believe it’s a worthwhile purchase – even if we have no use for it.
For instance, whenever I attend a “Healing” or “Spiritual” event, there are probably five or six women to every man. Good for me, bad for the gender. I’m thinking men have bought into another program: we either have nothing to heal, or are an emotionally lost gender. My guess is the first one: where are all the men?
The theme for this edition is a Vision for the Future. I sent out about a dozen e-mails asking for feedback on this topic and I found it ironic that the ones that came back were from men in their 20’s. It appears, as the mass consciousness is shifting, so too is the imprinting of our early childhood. Young men are the evidence. Gradually, perhaps “shedding tears” won’t be strictly an accepted, female – exclusive release mechanism. Realizing that we are ALL both masculine and feminine energy isn’t quite as taboo as it once was. Seeking caregiver vocations or being drawn to the arts, cooking or janitorial jobs, etc., is as noble a vocation for men as logging, mining or construction work. After all, it is not WHAT we do, but HOW we do what we do, that matters.
While the ” Women’s Movement ” goes back nearly a hundred years, beginning with the right to vote, (and how bizarre does that sound today?), the bonding together of men in search of their authenticity is still in its infancy stages, despite the fact it’s been going on for nearly 40 years. Seems like, as we dance… so also do we as clumsily bond.
At the end of the day, all I have to share really, is my own journey. I suspect it is not uncommon. Like a wise woman at The Center for Spiritual Living said a few Sundays back, “One thing I know for certain…” That is, it has been a long road getting back in touch with my true feelings. I KNOW I am not alone in this. Men seem to take great delight in recovering from substance abuse (a manly acceptable affliction), but recovering from emotional abuse raises a few walls within, and between us.
For myself, there was always great confusion between what I actually felt, and what feelings were actually acceptable. They usually didn’t match. For instance, a girlfriend broke up with me when I was 18 and the split crushed me. Could I show those emotions without fear of ridicule? Not likely. I remember the shame I felt crying at my dad’s funeral of all things, and the compassionate understanding from my female friends compared with the look of almost betrayal I got from my male buddies. Being cut from a hockey team once and saying, “No big deal, didn’t want to play for them anyway,” was a much more acceptable response. It seemed the mandate was it’s okay to take a few punches and kicks to the physical body and hurt like hell (actually a bit of a badge of honour) but just don’t get hurt inside.
Sam Keen also wrote, “It is for a new kind of man who is being forged in the crucible of the chaos of our time. It is for men who are willing to undertake a spiritual journey … to celebrate a new vision of manhood – a vision of man with fire in his belly and passion in his heart.” Seems about right to me. John Lee, who wrote a wonderful book, entitled The Flying Boy; Healing the Wounded Man, also has an enlightening tape series called, Why Men Can’t Feel and The Price Women Pay.
When all is said and done, what we are is our FEELINGS. If there is guilt and shame blocking the expression of those feelings, we DO NEED to ask ourselves why, perhaps ask what is the price in keeping those feelings locked up, and what is the pay-off in releasing them? It is the Soul’s freedom that is at stake, after all.
”…I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903.
What I know for sure is that every journey, male and female, is as Joseph Campbell said, “The Hero’s Journey”. It is our homecoming. Returning to our authentic self. There is nothing else going on!
Along with being a Reiki practitioner, Brad Hercina is currently immersed in a three year Shamanic Practitioner Apprenticeship, and excited to launch a men’s support group in Campbell River.