The world is in great peril largely at the hands of a very broken collective male psyche. This is not hyperbole, the wake up calls around us are resounding. We live in a world of destructive power struggles, unsustainable consumption, mass injustice, poisoning of our environment at a global level, endemic isolation and loneliness, and harm to the most vulnerable be it marginalized people, the poor, the weak or creatures of the earth. I submit this catastrophic situation exists largely as a result of men suffering huge losses to their wholeness and integrity. This broken state of men is presented as normal, as the way a man is, as what masculinity looks like. Masculinity is defined as being strong, free from emotions, competitive with a mandate to win, competency with no tolerance for weakness. Masculinity is defined as a preferred, superior state over being feminine. Masculinity is defined as dominance, control, and order.
The current model of masculinity shuns vast aspects of men's sacred humanness. Boys are taught to not cry. Boys are told creativity, art and flowers are what "girls do." Boys are taught they are better than girls. These shunned parts and destructive stories get tossed into a dungeon of sorts creating a destructive male shadow. The shadow of our psyche, either individual or collective, is a place where split off parts of ourselves exist unknown to our waking awareness, but certainly not dormant. These outcasts in the shadow will insist on recognition in one form or another. The unhealthy expression of these outcasts leaks out as insecurity perhaps masked as bullying, sexual predation, addictions, lack of empathy and many other harmful ways. The resulting unconscious, walking wounded boys in men's bodies seek control and start consuming to feed deep seated hungers and emptiness. Men operate in a "zero sum" game, your gain is my loss. A sense of connection, relationship to each other, relationship to the earth and interdependence does not exist in this current model of masculinity as these are "woman things" and are weak.
We, men and women, have been ripped off. The man blueprint we have been taught is a shockingly hollow shell of what men were intended to be. Men are emotionally and spiritually crippled, metaphorically hopping around on one leg, lashing out or pathetically retreating for reasons they don't even know.
We have a desperate need to redefine what it means to be a man, to redefine masculinity. A great grief cry is emerging from the sustained harm and a response to that cry is also blessedly emerging, A new masculinity is emerging which will replace the deformed and damaged version of masculinity we inherited.
So what does this new masculinity look like? Ah, this is the joy and privilege being offered to us now, to engage in the conversation, look deep into our psyche's shadows, retrieve what was lost, repair the damage with our sisters and bring wholeness back into the world.
In no particular order, the new masculinity will have the following characteristics.
We must forge a New Masculinity, for our children, our ancestors, our community, our humanity, These are exciting times, the time has come, the time is now.
Our culture is obsessed with the light, the shiny, the bright and views the dark with fear or self-righteous superiority. Is not the dark to be vanquished by the light? Are not some things clearly "good" and therefore on the side of the light and other things "bad" and part of the loathsome dark world? Some emotions are viewed as "good" while others are "bad." Spiritual and physical states are categorized as good verses bad. Yet, forcing value judgements of good and bad upon integral parts of who we are has split us into pieces, that which is judged good is upheld and that which is judged bad is cast away, denied, outcast. When we cast away a part of us, it does not simply go quiet, it mutates, adapts and insists on being seen, somehow. We need to consciously hold both the Dark and the Light for our healing and wholeness.
We, as human beings, live within the cycles and vast, beautiful complexity of nature. We sleep and wake, we get wet in the ocean and dry in the sun, we are happy and sad, we are angry and compassionate. Yet being dry is not good verses being wet is bad. Angry is not bad and compassion good. Power is not bad and love good. The fight is not with our nature, the fight is not to get rid of my depression, but to hold my depression with curiosity and compassion. The Dark and the Light are integral parts of who we are.
My therapist would continually ask me, "can you accept that part of you" whenever I was struggling with a "bad" feeling. The wisdom of Buddhist meditation keeps asking me to observe and hold no judgement for all the visitors in my awareness. The poets in their dedication to the truth counsel holding all the guests who visit my rooms. This can only be done with a fierce compassion and a determined spirit to listen to these outcasts, these teachers, deformed, sometimes grotesquely from carrying a great load for me in the badlands. There are some stories we hold which are completely false, holding the dark and the light can help us unmask the lies and claim the truths.
The shadow (another word tainted with moral judgement) of our psyche holds these denied parts. There are great gifts in the shadow if we welcome them, listen to them and hold them. If we cannot hold the dark, if we continue to ignore these outcasts, horrific harm can come screaming out of an unconscious shadow. Witness all the sexual harm rampant in our Puritanical society where sexuality was cast into the shadow before landing at Plymouth Rock.
So if you're struggling with sadness, being pissed off, frustrated, feel like how you want to express your gender is wrong, then good, bring it on, I welcome that. I want to hear about where you genuinely are, in all your vulnerable seemingly screwed up state. There's nothing bad about you. I welcome your struggle with compassion. Embrace all of your magnificence, dark, light, all that grey and the staggering rainbow of colors.
So after all this talk about there's nothing bad about you, there are choices we all make and these choices can bring harm or whole-ing. I prefer to not use the religious or moralistic language of good or bad, but rather view actions and conditions in terms of supporting or harming the whole. The "whole" being all of us, including the earth and her other-than-human creatures. Clearly there are actions we do individually or collectively which cause harm, sometimes egregious harm. The fight at hand is to protest against and work to eliminate this harm in our world, the fight is not denying the dark within us. So yes, cut off the head of the black snake which threatens to poison the water, stop the violence which cuts down men of color, shut down the patriarchy which enslaves women and keeps them "in their place". Reach out to the purpetrators of these harms and help them too embrace the dark which they have denied.
At this time of Solstice, with dark and light doing their dance with each other, I pray we open to the possibility of holding both with reverence.
For those of you like I who have tended to stay in the darker palates of life's spectrum. Some thoughts my brothers and sisters:
There can be a seductive quality of the dark and we can insist on staying there rather than traveling around the whole wheel of life. There can be almost a loyalty we feel towards the feelings of sadness and loss. The neural pathways in our brains may have etched familiar patterns around overwhelm, feeling rejected or being unwelcome.
All these states and experiences are real and a part of us and we don't have to spend all of our time here.
I heard a very wise teaching called the "Four Shields' which describes various aspects or shields of the human experience. Each shield is associated with a cardinal direction, the west shield holding some of what we describe as "dark". A human's path is to develop all their shields, "walk the wheel" many times in their lifetime. Each of us may have different size shields, my west may be large because I've spent alot of time in the dark, the loss, the letting go, the adolescence, but it does not mean I need to stay encamped in the west. I need to travel through adulthood/wisdom in the north, birth/spirit in the east and play/sensuality of the south. Growing all these aspects of who I am is my journey.
So I get the allure of the dark and blessings be to the teachings of the dark. Try the other aspects of life as well. Blessings...
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Jose Enciso is an engineer by profession, a poet by necessity and a seeker of spirit and soul. He brings a gentle presence and deep respect for the interior journey as expressed through creative and expressive arts. Jose is a skilled group facilitator who is committed to the spiritual and psychological growth of those around him. He trained under Francis Weller to lead men’s initiation groups doing deep soul work and is equally comfortable in managing complex technical projects. Jose is devoted to the emergence of the divine feminine, supporting women and men claiming their voice and power, and rediscovering the soul of masculinity. He is currently working on multiple projects including a book which seeks to encourage everyone to write their own poetry as a discovery of their own soul's truth.