Boys who need a tribe to initiate them do not care if that tribe of elders comes from blood relatives, from nonblood elder friends, or from institutions, or, most likely, from some combination of them all. Boys are simply hungry to become the best men they can be. A good way to monitor whether our boy is getting his initiation is by monitoring just how much we are hoping someone else will give it to him. If we’reconscious enough to wonder, we’re probably the person(s) who needs to take the initiative. Any of us can initiate them if we devote ourselves to being a part of a healthy group and bringing boys to that group. (Michael Gurian – The Wonder of Boys)
Here I am blogging, writing for online magazines, twittering (natebettger), facebooking, texting, cell phoning, emailing… while in the meantime reading stuff like the following from Richard Rohr (Adam’s Return):
Lifestyle and relatedness is more important than words, or as Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We may reach out through the media and technology or through our written or spoken message, but we finally transform and initiate each other through who we are. Transformed people tend to transform people. In fact, we tend to be able to lead people only as far as we ourselves have gone.
It is relationships that change us much more than ideas. We cannot really do something until we have seen someone else do it; it cannot yet enter our mind as a possibility,. You do not know what patience is until you have met one truly patient person. You do not know what love is until you have observed how a loving person loves. What power we have for one another! For good an fro for ill. Thus rites of passage were communal rites, led by elders and father figures, and not sermons or a series of questions and answers – very low-risk encounters and forms of education, which the churches have relied upon for centuries.
It’s challenging to me, as I feel like these new media communication technologies can be so helpful for staying connected. Yet at the same time, I know my own tendency to neglect the one (more important) thing in an effort to stay up with the other. This is where my eyes often start aching in and my head starts pounding. I feel as though I need to stop my face to face conversations to answer that text, respond to that email, or check the latest facebook status. My presence is spoiled with someone and what is really going on in their life because I need to talk about the latest widget or external application for my online utilities.
My challenge is to focus first on what’s happening within myself and my present world that I am in. Rather than getting lost with my computer and headphones at the coffee shop, I hope I can see that the person sitting next to me is clearly hurting or the woman behind the counter is stressed out. I will only be able to transform and effect the place I currently find myself in by being present and transforming myself. This must be my highest priority. The media is merely a means.
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.
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.
I never really have liked that language… and in fact you probably won’t ever hear me use it in conversation or speaking.
Here is from Richard Rohr (Adam’s Return)
It seems that most of humanity intuited the need for two births: the first a physical one, and the second a spiritual one, which was necessary to make sense of the first. The phrase “born again” now tends to mean “a Southern USA version of the Christian message,” or a person who has had a certain emotional experience. Someone who is born again usually has a moral and individualistic character, is tied to sets of words, and is extremely self-assured, often with a kind of warrior-for-God energy. Yet after the rebirth of authentic initiation, the effect tends to be much the opposite: ecstatic, communal, earthy, and humble – more the lover-and-wise-man energy.
Jesus term for such a big-picture thinking was the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God,” but we have altered it into “my” kingdom and my salvation experience. Being born again does not often feel like a rebirth but more like a continuation of the first biological and cultural birth, with some new buzz words added and some specific actions subtracted – drinking, cussing, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, and dancing being toward the top of the list, none of which Jesus talked about. Too often, there is little or no critique of one’s self, one’s own country, or the closed culture of the born agains. This culture is not prepared to preach the Gospel to all nations because it frankly never leaves home, and it tries to bring everybody back there.