When a father and son spend long hours together we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger. The contemporary mind might want to describe the exchange between father and son as a likening of attitude, a miming, but I think a physical exchange takes place, as if some substance was passing directly to the cells. The son`s body – not his mind – receives, and the father gives this food at a level far bellow consciousness.
Robert Bly — Iron John: A Book About Men
I had always wanted to be like him.
He was a good man, a strong man; he was a man who did not shy from telling it as it is, and did not let bad people get away with their badness.
But now I know. I know the truth…
He could not love me, and he never did. He could protect, and he could provide — but he could never father me. My little body needed his big body; my boyish skin longed for his touch — in an embrace, or a wrestling match…
I did not see what he failed to give me, for how can one sees what is not there? But I grew with a lack, a void, an emptiness of soul; and I knew I would never be a man like him. Yet this is what I have always wanted, in a deep and primal way, far beyond the reach of reason…I wanted him, and I wanted to become like him.
After boys are born, they do not become men; they must be made men. That ‘making’ happens through the active intervention of the father, as Robert Bly once put it. In other words, we must be loved into manhood, in those precious first years, and then trained and initiated into it.
But love comes first.
Masculine love is the baseline of manhood.
The father’s love is the power that works within the boy and spurs him on to do more and be more, later in life. The lack of it…well, you probably know its effects…
I certainly do.
Not being able to give me what he himself had not been given, the great man left me with a deep hole in the chest, and a deep question:
am I a man?
The question came from the curious, hurting soul, and my wounds provided the merciless answer:
You will never be a man; you must pretend and cover your weakness…do not let them see the child within — do not even allow yourself to see him.
They whispered dark and dreadful things to my young and trembling soul. In my weakness, I believed them; in my fear, I obeyed.
Kill him and bury him.
And I did.
Then I wondered, year after year, why I was so hollow inside — why the sex, the drugs, and all the falsehood and pretense, failed to make me alive, save for a few fleeting moments?
Inside, I wept for the boy, and I searched for him — an orphan, searching for his lost life, the family he has never known…
Or a murderer, searching for his victim in repentance.
A father holds a great power over his son, a power to make or break him with his words or with his absence. Harsh words, or the lack of words; scornful look or an absent smile — it all pierces, and it all kills…
How can you, years later, give to your family from a full heart? How can love overflow from a soul in which love has never been poured? How can you be strong and make strong decisions, if you have never been trained and fathered into manhood; if your empty, father-starved heart has either been shut down — abused and pushed out into the world — or left alone in the dark, forever waiting to receive that which only a man can give…
That which only a father can give.
A grim message, to be sure, but it is not the end of the story — only its beginning.
I will not ask you if you are ready, only if you are willing…
Are you willing?
Have you suffered enough inadequacy, shame, and emptiness?
If you have, good.
This is your time; this is your chance to re-write your story.
The father-wound must be entered, for beneath it lays a golden heart; the pain of the past must be re-lived, for only then it could be healed.
Do not fear.
You are not alone.