"The aim is not to be the Wild Man, but to be in touch with the Wild Man...Trying to be the Wild Man ends in early death, and confusion for everyone."
- Robert Bly, Iron John
A friend sent me a link yesterday to something called "GodMen" - just type that in with ".org" on the end and you'll find 'em. Another friend alerted me yesterday to a recent article in Christianity Today entitled "A Jesus for Real Men" (April 2008, Brandon O'Brien). The sub for that article is "What the New Masculinity Movement Gets Right and Wrong.' I would encourage you, if you're of such a mind, to look at both of these for comparison/contrast purposes.
It's usually not the original teacher or guru that screws the pooch; it's the disciples, those who come after. That's pretty much the case with Christians. Jesus set the table quite well; it's us, the disciples, who tend to break plates and knock over the gravy. And, that's pretty much the case, I believe, with this thing known as the Men's Movement. The original voices (Bly, Keen, Rohr, Dalbey) presented a stirring vision. The disciples, however, are causing quite a bit of confusion.
The "GodMen" site made me mad. And if you know anything about male anger, then you know that it's really male sadness in disguise. So, the "GodMen" made me sad. Sad because of the boast and swagger all over that website, sad because of the narrow vision presented there of what it means to be a man, and sad for the wives and sons and daughters and churches that lay in the wake of that thinking. I was also ashamed because I've played those reindeer games myself.
Three things, quickly, that concern me; me the man who is still trying to figure out the difficult splendor of being a man (thank you, Sam Keen).
Please hear me. I'm all for a man running buck-junkin' naked through the woods, drumming with the natives 'till dawn, passing the peace-pipe, climbing mountains, riding Harleys, or even getting a tatoo or earring, if that's what he needs to do to awaken the sleeping bear. I'd also say I'm all for a man writing poetry or learning to cook gourmet meals or taking ever-lovin' violin lessons or watching Atonement and loving it, if that achieves the same goal. A man needs space to wrestle with things or angels or God or himself, until they bless or wound or both. The narrow vision I'm hearing from some of the "disciples" is that I've got to fill that space with certain things and those things are a part of what is masculine. Horseshit.
Another thing I'm hearing that concerns me is a need to blame. Blame the feminized church, blame your mother, blame your absentee father, blame the culture, blame gay folks, blame, blame, blame. One of the facets of the wise male is the need "not" to blame (thank you, Richard Rohr). Rather than taking the road of descent and ashes, otherwise known as "grief", the disciples are telling us to take the road of rage. They're not saying that literally, but listen with your third ear and you'll hear it. If our sons hear and see us merely blaming, then we leave a shoddy legacy to generations as yet unborn.
Finally, I hear a cruelty that concerns me. In our efforts to dismiss the "nice" guy, and I believe that to be a sometimes worthy goal, the disciples have crossed the line into being "mean." The goal (thank you, Robert Bly) is not to be the Wild Man, but to be in touch with the Wild Man; or, in my own voice, to be a horse, not a horse's ass.
It's confusing. Trust me on that one. I don't fault a man for making mistakes along the way. Such is the way to wisdom. But it is smart or wise or, dare I say, "manly," to listen to those who have gone before, however small that number of voices may be, and not make stupid mistakes. Stupid can possibly lead to an early death. And it almost always lead to confusion for everyone; most of all, the men.