This is a longer article than most I write, but one that I believe is very important in today’s world. If we only read the headlines in the news, we might conclude that men are failing at life. This is the time to embrace out greatness. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read Part 1 first.
Rule #1: Embrace Your Warrior Spirit
In 1994, my third book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet was published. I called on men to recognize the destructiveness of “civilization” and to return to our ancient roots as warriors. “It is no coincidence that two of the primary by-products of civilization are armaments and addictions. Young men are no longer taught to become warriors, but rather are trained to be soldiers whose primary purpose is to kill other men.”
We must all kill in order to live. Whether we kill what we hunt or gatherer or let someone else do the killing and buy our meat and vegetables at the supermarket, killing is part of our nature. One of the primary roles of men has always been as protectors of women and children. For millions of years, we have banded together to protect against other bands of men who might take what is most important to us. But the essence of warriorship is not about waging war.
Meditation master Chogyam Tarungpa says that we must separate the life of the warrior from the destruction of war. “Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others,” he says. “The word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”
Rule #2: Accept Women’s Complementary Worrier Spirit
Males have survived by taking risks and competing with other men to win the sexual favors of desired women. They also learn to cooperate with other men to form a protective shield to keep women and children safe from other groups of men who would attempt to take or harm them. Women invest much more in their children, from gestation and breastfeeding to nurturing and raising the children. To do that, women must keep themselves alive, connect with other supportive women, and also compete with them for the best males. Women have more things to worry about than men because they are responsible for carrying life in their bodies.
In the book Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes, social scientist Joyce F. Benenson with Henry Markovits say that while men have the warrior spirit, women have the worrier spirit. They exhibit traits that include “staying healthy and avoiding risks, maintaining relationships with families and a mate, getting rid of interfering competitors, and investing in close kin and others who can help a mother raise her children.”
Like Yin and Yang, warriors and worriers, complement each other. One is not better than the other. Both have a bit of the other within us and both are needed for humans to survive and thrive.
Rule #3: Experience a Ritual Rite of Passage
Throughout most of human history, it was recognized that boys needed a ritual rite of passage in order to move from boyhood to manhood. In our modern world, we have failed to recognize the importance of these rites of passage and few men have experienced them. On his popular site The Art of Manliness, Brett McKay says, “At the heart of the modern crisis of manhood is the extension of adolescence, a boyhood which is stretching on for a longer and longer period of time. Once thought to end in a man’s 20s at the latest, men are extending their adolescence into their 30’s and in some especially sad cases, their 40’s.” Without rites of passage, men remain adrift and lost, never sure whether they are mature men or simply aging boys.
Between 1965 and 1970, I was fortunate to have gone through a number of rites of passage supervised by elder males in Synanon, a community that sought to teach people how to live better lives. “Those who know a little about Synanon are often under the misapprehension that we are in the business of ‘curing’ dope addiction,” said founder Charles A. “Chuck” Dederich. Of course, that isn’t so. Synanon just happens to be a better way for people to live together, both with themselves and with others.”
Since then I have had opportunities for additional rites of passage with the Mankind Project, the Men’s Center of Los Angeles, Evryman, and the Stirling Institute of Relationships. Rites of Passage are now becoming available to every man.
Rule 4#: Commit to a Life Partner and Raise Children
When I first got married when I was 22, I thought I knew what it meant to be a good man and I was ready for a life-long commitment to a partner. Looking back, I recognize that we’re really not mature adults in our 20s. We’re either doing what our parents and society want us to do or we are rebelling against what our parents and society want us to do. Its only in our 30s that we embark on a path of becoming our own man and not until we are 37 that we have the first opportunity to fully embrace our unique path in life.
I met my present wife, Carlin, in 1980. We had both been married twice before. She had three children from her previous marriages. I had two. Together we raised my daughter and her youngest son. Carlin has said many times that she believes a good deal of the success of our 38-year marriage is that I’ve been in a men’s group for 39 years. I believe that marriage and family is the graduate school of life. Too many couples become disillusioned and marriages fall apart, just when a couple could be enjoying their lives the most. In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationship and Why the Best is Still to Come, I say that “Disillusionment” is not the beginning of the end, but the third stage of a great marriage. Don’t give up too soon.
If you have children of your own, be a good father. If you don’t have kids, be a supportive role model to kids you know. There can never be too many good husbands and father figures in the world.
Rule 5#: Embrace Your Soul’s Calling
I believe that we each have a unique life calling. In our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, we often pursue a career. But as we move into mid-life and beyond, we feel a pull to be doing work that is at the center of three interlocking needs. It must be work that we have a great passion to do, work we are good at and work that serves humanity. We often get glimpses of our calling from our childhood imaginings and also from the wounds we experience in childhood. But we don’t often recognize our calling until later in life.
In his book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, psychologist James Hillman says we come to see that “there is a reason my unique person is here and that there are things I must attend to beyond the daily round and that give the daily round its reason, feelings that the world somehow wants me to be here, and I am answerable to an innate image, which I am filling out in my biography.”
One of the major challenges of being a good man is to find and embrace our soul’s calling. I got the first glimpse of mine when I was five years old and felt it was my duty to visit my father in the mental hospital and somehow help him. It came into full form when my son, Jemal, was born and I knew I was called to help men fulfill the longing of their soul.
Rule #6: Do Your Part to Save Humanity
We may get in inkling of our calling in childhood and it is often connected to the challenges we face early in life. It must also link to the issues that face humanity at our particular time in history. In 1993 I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony at the 4th Annual Men’s Leaders’ Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana sponsored by Wingspan Magazine. During the 4th round of the sweat lodge ceremony, I had a vision where I witnessed the sinking of the old ship of Industrial Civilization and the emergence of life-boats for the future. Over the last 25 years, I have been sharing my own vision of the challenges we face as the old paradigm of infinite grown on a finite planet comes to an end and a new paradigm of sustainability and earth consciousness emerges.
The writer Sam Keen offers this call to all those who recognize the danger we face and the opportunities for planetary transformation.