Category Archives: Men’s issues

Life is SIMPLE even in the changes

I’ve moved into a new place… a new place, a new place. Many, many things changing and a new, fresh perspective on self.

Not thinking so much, feeling more, listening more. Heart space holding, care for the community… less directing, less trying to make things happen for myself.

Link to photographer

Went through the Men’s Rites of Passage, through the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Grieved unresolved grief, felt death
Learned the importance of ritual and experience
Heard from my soul and felt what it is like to get out of my head
Felt drumbeat in my heart and gut… new practice with the drum
Called a man… an initiated man
Fasted… isolated in the wilderness
A new connection with my dreams… the subconscious

And life is simpler. I know what I need to do. The questions I need to ask… what kind of friend will I be? What kind of dad will I be? How to listen? How to lead from my depth? I focus on my personal practice now… less need to say, more just being. Less time emailing, facebooking, blogging, googling, surfing, distancing… more time face to face in each other’s company. I will make good scones and muffins and do my thing… you know where to find me.

Cutting down on the suicide of the young and the old

The stats are insane:

  • Males complete suicide at a rate four times that of females.
  • Suicide rates have traditionally decreased in times of war and increased in times of economic crisis.
  • Rates of suicide are highest among the elderly (age 65 and over).
  • Elderly adults have rates of suicide of more than 50% higher than that of the nation as a whole.
  • Suicide ranks third as a cause of death among young (15-24) Americans, behind accidents and homicide. (LINK)

I get a strong sense that there is a significant connection between the decrease of intergenerational connection along with rites of passage and the groups in our society that tend towards suicide. I wrote a week or so ago (Rohr quote and the educational system) about our culture’s tendency to emphasize productivity. This is what makes humans, especially men, worthwhile… what they can produce in our society. Success is based on money, status, and climbing up the ladder. Not self awareness, unconditional and sacrificial love, risk taking, and wisdom.

When we emphasize productivity in our culture, it only makes sense that youth (who haven’t gotten to the productive stage and often get overlooked by the producers) and elderly (who have been through it and now see that they don’t have anything left to offer… the worse of the two) would feel the need to end it all.

If generations do not come to realize the need for generational connectivity… if the older generations do initiate and walk with the youth into adulthood… if we do not begin as the young to honor the old for their wisdom and as the old, honor the young for their gifts… we will perpetuate a sick cycle of suspicion of older leadership, jealousy and imitation of the young for their youthfulness, and a continual repetition of worthlessness, power hunger, and disconnectedness. This is a terrible problem in our society!!

We need to see the older generations as elders, not elderly… and they need to start acting like it. We need to see youth as gifts… and they need to be learners, always learners. Some of the early Celts had a name for their children. Eurn… this was also the name for wealth. Essentially, their young were referred to as, “child-wealth.” Not “little rascals,” “trouble makers,” or “terrible-twos.”

This is the need… we MUST begin to value each stage of life, not for the productivity of each person, but for the gift that they have to offer the human race in their wisdom, their love, and their being. What this honoring looks like will have to be reserved for another post.

Why we can’t make changes from the top down

I post this quote, in part as a response to Greg’s questions HERE, and also as another effort in processing the importance of “elder wisdom.”

Richard Rohr, in his article, “The Catch 22 of Male Initiation” (LINK), writes,

It has become rather clear to many of us that both top leaders in the church and leading politicians in society are largely made up of men who wanted to get there.  They pursued roles and positions of power for any multitude of reasons, some of which are even praiseworthy.

At the second level of “management” you find priests, ministers, civil employees, and corporate bureaucrats who have rightfully sought their own career goals, but unless there has been some influx of wisdom, suffering, or mentoring from life itself, their ego structures tend to be pretty well intact and self serving. “My personal upward mobility, but for the sake of the kingdom of God” is the best we can hope for!  They have done even good things, but the underlying motivations of self image, security, status, and self aggrandizement have never been looked at or seriously questioned.  In fact, they assume this is what life is all about.  This creates a major spiritual blindness at both levels of leadership, and of course in all men who have not stumbled, fallen, and been raised up (the central paschal mystery).

What is lost to our society, however, is much needed wisdom and the common good, and often just basic spirituality.  Such patriarchy becomes a self perpetuating machine at an arrested level of consciousness. Uninitiated men appoint, affirm, and promote other men at their same level of moral development, because their own ego standards are all that they have to judge by. In other words, the water never rises, levels of consciousness do not naturally proceed by attraction and promotion from the top, which is what we all hoped for. This is the meaning of eldership, seniority, and mentoring, but it only really works in “wisdom based cultures”, which we now have very few of (Tibet, Bali, and small, hidden pockets, especially in remaining native cultures still found on all continents.)

So wisdom often has to come from the outside, the bottom, or the edge.

So the reason I call it a “Catch 22” is that you have to build your tower of success, even though it is the very thing that can destroy you, and will destroy you if we do not see through it.

We will lose if we do not find our power.  But we will also lose if we find our power and then do not “unfind” it!

So you must let go of the very thing that you have supposedly found.  But the trouble is you are very identified and attached to it by then!  So someone must warn you ahead of time, or it is often too late.  That is initiation.

I love this, and it speaks to my own thoughts on adults in leadership running around as adolescents. I have to be careful here in how I say this, as I myself am only just beginning in my journey of maturity and wisdom. I would say though, from experience, that there are many men of whom I know would have much to offer me and my peers in our “becoming,” but from whom I feel as though I don’t really have much to learn from in regards to what it means to be a well-rounded and wise man in our world. We must call them out.. call them to a higher standard… but I get the sense that many of them, in their “ego worlds” would not hear our requests for more present leadership. This, don’t get me wrong, is not always a fault of their own, but often due to their own father wounds and also to merely being a part of a perpetuating cycle that has lost its emphasis on initiation.

Help us… we are in the pool and drifting…

Imagine with me the river of life. Broken up with rapids, pools, rapids, pools, currents running through all of it… undertows. Imagine where different parts of life fit in the life and movement of the river.

Childhood… adolescence… rapids of much speed and change. Our lives are governed for us… we really do not have much control over how we navigate these waters.

Post high-school perhaps the river widens a bit… but again we generally are herded into a specific current called education. We have our degrees and our curriculums to keep us going through. We see others going on different paths and we learn that there are many paths in this river. Generally though, we don’t know how to receive these other paths openly as we were only shown the current that we grew up with.

Our currents generally keep going down the river into our adult lives. We have our careers, our families, our 401K, our houses and our cars. Once we get on this track, we can easily get carried on this current and continue to spin on down without navigating at all… without seeing anything around us except for the things that are directly effecting us. The rocks, the undertows, the near drowning, the shallow spots where we get a glimpse that there might be something more. But it is tiring, and we are merely reactionary. We don’t navigate and we don’t have the strength to help others navigate.

I would argue that there is a pool that happens between the fast-paced current of higher education and the fast paced current of an unnavigated life. Some of us surf through it without ever knowing we were there… because we listen to where we were told we were supposed to go and never given the gift of navigation. Problem is, many of us enter that current completely disoriented… backwards, upside-down, all turned around. This I would say is the majority of adults in our culture. But then there are others who float there for a while. They are lost in this pool. They don’t know how to navigate LIFE because there was no one to show them.

Sometimes people figure it out for themselves… usually by the time they are 50 or 60 and by this time they are tired, disappointed, or depressed that they didn’t navigate anything up till this point. They don’t have much left to give those who are coming down that river. Some of them get washed up on a rock. Some of them finally figure it out. Some of them just keep on spinning.

What we need is people to help with the navigating… in that pool of our 20s. This is the critical time. People who know how the river can go need to be on the shore guiding, supporting, showing their younger counterparts how to navigate.

It’s the river of life… and it MUST not be our own individualistic journey.

Our adults are adolescents

My hope in the next few weeks is to begin to develop a greater focus in what I am writing here. Namely, I will be emphasizing many of my thoughts and perceptions regarding the general perpetuating cycle of generational segregation that I believe is causing such great detriment to communities, families, and society in Western America. This damaging cycle, which has been going on (and getting worse) for decades, has much to do with the absence of intentional rites of passage (the handing on of manhood and womanhood responsibilities) from the elders to the “becoming ones,” the Western educational system which gives men and women the marks to achieve but sends them out as professionals and not necessarily the maturity to face society as adults, and the honoring of children and seniors as gifts to our society.

I won’t plan on any specific order, but I am sure there will be repetition of some of the main things I feel need to happen. Starting with education…

I have been through the education system. High school, college, graduate school (seminary)… I’ve done them all. My sense is that the Western modern educational system leaves men and women still wondering what it means to be a functioning and mature adult in our society. What they do get is a lot of knowledge and a degree that shows that they are responsible in their field… sometimes even an expert. The final goal is most often based on what they are now able to produce, or the job that they are now able to get. We then send them off into the world, telling them that money-making, job keeping, house and car buying, and family raising is all up to them to figure out. But there is so much that they do not get.

Young adults do not necessarily get elders who show them what it means to live life maturely and selflessly. They do not get lessons on conflict management, self-awareness, and honorable behavior. They are instead sent out into society without any sort of leadership in character development. This is something they must figure out on their own. I see the problem being that they don’t have any idea of where to look for it. They could try churches, but I have much doubt that they are finding it to a great degree there, as much of our churches are based on the modern education system anyway… about producing a packaged product bound for “success.” They could look at the media… but media does a terrible job honoring humanity and the gifts that we can offer as mature men and women. They could try to find their elders themselves, but this is a daunting process that often amounts to an endless pursuit of ever-elusive elders that have “done their work in society” and are looking to do their own thing now.

No one steps in to take over where our fathers and mothers have left off and we are left with trying to find replacements who will heal many of the wounds from which we have never recovered. I would argue that the perhaps the majority of adults in our society are still floundering in adolescence… lost during their most transformative years. It is not only until LIFE initiates us (at 50.55.60 when we look back and wonder what we have really done in life and why we feel so unfulfilled) that we as men and women begin to realize that there is more to life than being a professional getting a good paycheck and having a “safe” environment for one’s family (if they can even provide this!). Unfortunately, it is too late for our kids. We have already sent them off to “further their education” in a system that is directing them to learn the same values that we have all been learning all along. They are already on the track to being stuck in adolescence.

I’m not sure that the education system is what really has to change… more so, the perspective of the elders and those “becoming-ones” who will be elders one day. A larger topic for a later day.