Most people today would agree that the world desperately needs to see and experience a new kind of masculinity; and, I think, most men would agree, too.
Today, men do not need any more exhortations to do better; most of us are already labouring under the heavy load of externally imposed values, expectations, stereotypes, accusations, and the deep desire to be different, that seems to find no fulfilment in the world, no matter how hard one searches.
I do not mean to suggest that there is no proper use for such things; but if they are put before what matters most, they can enslave the soul, instead of liberate it.
The tough, hairy man of the past, and the sensitive, eco-friendly man of the present, are but mere images, false ideologies that only drive the masculine soul deeper into bondage. As a result, few men today are truly free – one needs look no further than the TV screen and the news headlines…
Or the mirror.
Like every utopian idea, the false masculine icons of the past and the present have strands of truth woven through them: it is indeed good for men to be stronger, and it is good for them to be more caring…
But we must beware.
‘’And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths,’’ said Shakespeare in his dark, bloody Macbeth; and continued:
‘’Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.’’
A grave warning indeed – not a mere verse of dead prose, but a call, echoing from within the stone walls and the dark dungeons of the past centuries; a call we must heed, if we want to survive…
Because, more often than not, today as ever before, deception works through good intentions; it speaks to the heart and appeals to its desires and passions – only to betray it later.
We must never forget that Hitler did not force his way to power – he was elected. We must remember that the most brutal, murderous tyrants in history, used deception long before they reached for the sword. And even after they had revealed their true faces, they were still wanted by many people; they were even loved by them.
Not too long ago, as Communism came to power in little Bulgaria, most of the population rejoiced. They rejoiced, even when some of their own friends and neighbours disappeared without a trace, and soundless whispers of dark deeds slithered through locked doors at night. They rejoiced, even while rich landowners, scientists, artists and thinkers, suffered and died at the hands of those who claimed to love their motherland and her people. Yes, it was no Soviet invasion that so darkened the sky above the little sunny Balkan state; when the Red army marched in, they did not come as enemies…
And when the killings began in earnest, it was not Russian hands that dripped with the innocent blood of so many – it was those who served the people, who were mercilessly killing them. The sons of the land were dying at the hands of their own brothers – sometimes, literally…
But how was such monstrosity chosen? And why was it allowed to endure for so long?
Utopia – this is what, I think, lies behind all other reasons. The human heart longs for prosperity and peace; it is our make-up, our deepest desire. And so, well-meaning ideas, by well-meaning people, were wrapped in promises and presented to the people, most of whom, longing for peace, unity, and life with no class-system, hierarchy, or oppression, took the bait and swallowed the lie…
And, even after decades of blood and oppression – even after thousands of brutal examples of the very inequality and injustice they had once fought against and voted against – they refused to turn back, refused to see…
Even though they were normal people. Good people. Hard-working people.
More love, more compassion, more unity and peace – is this a bad thing?
No, but beware. Beware…
For in this world of ours, things are seldom what they seem; and if the innocence of the dove is not joined by the serpent’s craftiness, deception often comes, and does its secret work unseen, in the dark…
* * *
The dark, disturbing events I have mentioned above, are used merely as examples of how good ideas and good values can serve an evil purpose, if individual thinking, inner sense of calling and purpose, and personal responsibility, is abandoned. The difference between the unwritten laws that set the external standards of masculinity – strength yesterday, compassion today – and the iron rules of Communism, are only the amount of blood that is spilled, while people are trying, and failing, to adhere to those dogmas. In the case of oppressive political regimes, the blood is real, and the bodies are still being counted. In the case of the unseen, but no less harsh, rules imposed upon men, death mainly happens at the level of the soul; it is the death of joy, death of relationships, and death of the men’s connection with their own true selves – the selves most of them freely enjoyed and expressed when they were still little boys…
As I write this, I am tempted to say that, yes, while many have suffered from the harsh rules of the cult of masculinity and its various expressions through the ages, at least there had been no blood…
Comparing that to Communism would be ridiculous, I say to myself, and prepare to erase the whole paragraph above.
And then I hesitate, and stop. And the blood begins to flow.
And I see before me thousands of dead bodies: those killed in all the school shootings, and all the other senseless crimes of violence across the world. And, sadly, that is only the tip of the iceberg…
Terrorism. War. Oppression.
We would be dangerously naïve to assume that this same phenomenon – that external ‘’moral code’’ of masculinity, in all its shapes and forms – has played no part in the blood that has flown, is still flowing, and is yet to flow, under the beautiful blue skies of the planet we all call home.
We would be fools to say such a thing. And sooner or later, fools pay for their foolishness.
We need change. And we need it soon.
* * *
Unfortunately, many times when change occurs in the world, it is often external, the replacement of a set of rules with a new one. I believe that, just like our inherent desire for a world of prosperity and peace – an idyllic Eden – which are not bad desires at all, we humans also have the tendency to avoid the hardships of personal responsibility, and the toil of discovering of one’s own unique design, the hidden potential and its realisation. I think that, this tendency, for the most part, is in fact rooted in the longing for Eden, and so, is it not harmful by itself. However, when not engaged head-on and overcome, it can lead the individual to a lifestyle of compromise, which might evolve into emotional and spiritual numbness, and then give birth to corruption – and this is the best scenario. An example of the worst one would be tyranny and oppression; after all, dictators seem to be elected by groups of people who are either willingly avoiding the pain of knowing themselves and thinking for themselves, or are too desperate to care. Mostly, it is the second; sometimes, it is both.
And so, one tyranny replaces another; Communism replaces Fascism, and the old macho-man god of our fathers, is overthrown and replaced by the god who demands obedience through openness, sensitivity, and care – no matter how one might feel.
No matter how one might suffer inside.
* * *
Yet, there is a better way. It is a narrow, rocky path, cut through dark valleys and forbidding mountains…
But it is the only way to true freedom – the only way to true masculinity.
Through years of being alongside men of various ages, and through the pain of my own journey of regaining inner wholeness, I have found that every man has within himself, no matter how deeply buried, a heart – that is to say, an inner self – which is good, and filled with all that the man has ever wanted to be. There is the strength that the insecure men of the past have desperately tried to find in machismo and bar fights; there is the compassion, love, and care – for the fellow humans, and for the animals as well – that many men of today are so passionate about. In the heart, there is much glory – it has unique expressions of creativity, as well as strength; it has deep wells of wisdom, love, and knowledge of justice – all spoken in the language of that one man, all marked with the fingerprint of that one soul. There is no evil in the heart, no violence in the deepest core of being.
But rarely, if ever, are people fully connected. Rarely, if ever, are men so healed, that they are one with their heart – the self which they once knew, while it still shone it those first years, and have since lost.
‘’Comfortably numb’’ – well-fed, and devoid of passion. Lost in anger and crime. Lonely and enslaved by their dark sexual demons. Corpses that have not yet died, and time-bombs, waiting to explode.
Poor beggars, starving and diseased, while sitting on bags full of gold – this is what we all are; we do not hear the cries of the child within, we do not heed the call of the heart that is not yet dead…
Instead, we run away, and live tragic lives. Too readily we turn from truth and hate the only thing that can make us human – the heart, and all its treasures.
* * *
How then, can we get to those treasures? How can we connect to the source to all that is good, the place where all true masculinity comes from? Where do we find the dark and rocky road, so that we can walk on it?
Unfortunately, the answer that I have found to be true is contained in a single word – a word filled with potency, darkness and horror…
Yes – the doors of our hearts behind which the best treasures are hidden, are shut down and barred, sealed by pain and guarded by horrifying darkness, anger and grief, and self-protection mechanisms – it is a sick, oppressive system, a system many have accepted to be their character, their trie self, their lot in life…
But we must know that, as in the fairy tales, the most precious gold is often guarded by the most hideous monsters – monsters that can be slain.
Monsters that must be slain.
I have found that those men who walk in the direction of their pain are noble; those who endure further and reach the source of their pain are heroic, and those who grit their teeth and press on, all the way to the other side, are transformed.
The men who reach such transformation are not only able to recover their lost strength and courage, but they are also able to embrace the heart of the child they once were – the little boy who had been rejected as weak and unmanly, the young keeper of all the love and compassion that the world today so needs to see in men.
By taking the narrow road, men become boys again – but only if they are willing.
By stooping low, men become raised to unseen heights, as those boys are slowly integrated into the whole being, as they are nurtured and ‘’grow up’’ to finally be the men they wanted to become before they were cut off by rejection, self-hatred, or other forms of trauma and abuse.
True masculinity should come from the heart; the boy inside must be liberated, and embraced by the man who once so hated him.
Only then – when every man is no longer divided within himself – will the world rest from radical division and hatred. Only then – when every man truly knows, loves and values himself – will the world know peace.
But it is pain, that we must desire, and not just an easy way out.
* * *
‘’You need to do better, or you’re not a man!’’ shouts the man of the past and kicks the fallen, wounded boy, in the ribs. ‘’Man up, and get up!’’
‘’You are acceptable and good, just as you are,’’ smiles the modern man and extends a hand to the wretched, hurting boy. ‘’You just need to love others as you love yourselves – and what’s not to love? You are perfect!’’
Yes – you are that boy. And so am I.
He does not need the brutal training of manhood – perhaps it would have helped him, if he had been whole, but now it makes his state worse.
He does not need just to be accepted, and be accepting of others – not in the state he is in now; he would have naturally been accepting and loving, if he had been whole.
He needs wholeness, and everything else can be added to him later – and everything else might well be needed, in different amounts, in different areas of his life. But wholeness comes first; the heart comes first.
May all of us men have the courage to face the darkness within, and find the hidden gold, before we look for monsters out there in the world.