I had a dream once that I was standing in the centre of a house. A violent storm, a tempest, raged outside and was tearing the house apart. Only through my sheer will was the house being held together. My feet anchored to different points, my arms outstretched to either side, holding tenaciously to the building that was being torn apart around me. Large portions of the building were being torn off and disappearing into the maelstrom. I was fighting a losing battle. The storm would win eventually. My realisation is the house isn’t actually worth saving. Against these kind of elemental forces, nothing can stand.
Now, I feel as though I’m standing in solid surrounds, as though the structures around me are permenant and unmoving, but the storm now is within me. It rages and threatens to burst forth to cause its destruction. Only through my sheer will is it kept in check, but the sky of my mind are darkening and I can smell rain on the winds.
The futility of denying the Soul’s purpose is like that first storm. I’m trying to hold onto a shell of my ego, and it has been getting torn apart. In truth, its not worth holding onto. I let it go, the storm takes the house and destroys it. The storm takes me, and destroys me. I become the Storm.
“Not all men seek rest and peace, some are born with the spirit of the storm in their blood, restless harbingers of violence and bloodshed, knowing no other path” – Robert E. Howard, The Conan Chronicles
What maketh a man? What are the attributes, skills, qualities that go into defining a ‘Man’? Unfortunately for me, the answer to that question did not come that easy. For starters I cannot just say ‘this is man’ and expect everyone to meet that standard. The phenotypic expression of man will be personal to the individual. What I am as a man will not be what you are as one. We are all individuals (I’m not). I have been accused of being ‘manly’. Being told that I can be manly led me to question what exactly this ‘manly’ is. I didn’t personally feel overly manly nor un-manly, so I was curious as to what I was displaying to others, what were they seeing there? No one could answer that question with any sort of satifactiory solid response.
It was just a ‘thing’.
So is this thing inherent in all men? Are there certain qualities that we define as manly that are common across cultures? And are these qualities transferable, teachable?
The more I searched for the answer the more I found it elusive. In fact there more I pressed people for answers the more it seemed to delve in the macho faux masculinity bullshit that defines the facsimile of man. The only way I could define it was through abstract, by defining what it was not – and in that I found abundant examples.
“He’s like a rock. I just don’t know how he feels”
“Domestic abuse is perpetrated by cowards. They are also probably victims themselves”
“I hate it when a guy can’t make up his mind”
“He takes longer to get ready than I do”
These are all quotes from conversations I have had with women. The list of complaints goes on. And on. To be fair, I don’t blame them for complaining. I was somewhat dumbstruck but some of the behaviors I was hearing about.
Through this abstraction of man though, I began to find patterns or common threads of attributes that crossed generations and cultures – what seemed to be a ‘natural state’ of man started to emerge.
I also found that I certainly was not alone in my search for this. The more I dug the more I uncovered other pioneers in this work who, like me, have felt the impending doom of lost Manhood. In fact this theme seems to echo down through the ages, like a cycle. But more on that another time
As I started to see the themes again and again it started to solidify in my head, a kind of ‘treasure map of man’ (cue “It’s Raining Men”).
I saw attributes, attributes that to me could be personified in characters, or archetypes. Ok so I’m a geek and by archetypes I mean ‘D&D character classes’. But still you get the point.
These archetypes came along with a whole slew of psychological ‘backstory’, after all that’s why we have archetypes, to short cut a long explaination. These back stories stating looking a lot like a Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Of course there’s the obvious link to C.G. Jung’s work here (he’s another one of my ‘Dead Mentors’) but one slight difference. The attributes, for me, boiled down to seven.
Now where have we seen that before… (Apart from everywhere).
Seven Chakras. Surprise, surprise the seven psychological states of the archetypes lined up with the chakras.
I feel it pertinent to point out here that my belief is that we have too much emphasis on the bodily location of chakras (in the western world at least). I see the chakras much more as a psychological step ladder. The points on the body are representative of those states, much in the same way as an archetype is representative (or framework) for a collection of ideas. If I say my gonads we can assume it has something to do with sexuality. I’m not stating my gonads are sexuality.
I now have what’s ended up looking like a hotch potch of ideas and theories throughout time. But it made sense to me, and that’s what’s important, after all this is my search for answers.
It’s through these systems and through observations of my own journey that I began to formulate this system – The archetypes of man – and thus start to answer my own question: ‘What maketh a man?’
More importantly than just answering it, forming it into some sort coherent legible answer that others can read and furiously agree with (I assume). It’s really a deconstruction of my journey thus far, of the mechanisms I went through to reach a certain psychological ‘awareness’. It’s how I got to outwardly displaying those afore mentioned ‘things’ that are seen as manly.
So what does it look like exactly…?
To be continued… On another future installment of Of Wolf And Man.
(I know, you wanted those answers now. Delayed gratification my friend. I’ll give you a hint – Wisdom, and it’s friend patience, is open of them).
The young boy calls out in the night, softly but distinctly. He wants the older man to wake up, to come out of his tent and help him. It’s the middle of the night and the boy is upset. He’s separated fro. His mother and he can’t sleep. Wearily the older man rises and comes out. “I want my mum.”
“You can’t have her. She’s not here , and nor will she be. You are separated.”
The older man becons the boy to the fire and puts on a pot of water. He stokes the embers, places wood over in specific locations as if he is sculpting an art piece. He leans close to the fire and gently blows, breathing life into the embers.
At first the glow then die, glow then die, glow then die. The boy thinks to himself that this is futile, that the man should just use a lighter. The man persists, calmly, softly, never rushed. He blows onto the fire like he would blow a lock of hair that had fallen across his lovers face. Patience. Care. Nurturing.
Suddenly the flames spring forth and engulf the carefully places wood. The man moves the pot onto the fire and sits back, staring at the fire with an emotion that only he can see.
After long moments he breaks the silence.
“In this world, now, we have very few men. Many males, but few men. I can’t give you your mother, but I can give you a choice – and opportunity. You can chose to become a man.
If you take this choice, I promise you that men will appear to guide you.
When you become a man, I promise you that other men will appear to stand beside you.”
He poured the tea into two cups and passed one to the boy.
“Nourishment is not the sole domain of your mother. There are thirsts that no woman can quench. It is from a mentor that you will learn this. It is from cultivating a strong corps of men around you that you will feel this.”
He stared hard at the boy. The gaze was inquisitive, accusational and deeply, deeply caring all at once. The boy nodded his understanding.
The man nodded back.
“This fire is now yours. Tend to it.”
The two sat around the fire for a time, starring at its hypnotic dance. The boy felt calmness descend upon him like the morning dew. He had been given a task in the pack, a mission in life. He felt like a bow string pulled back, notched arrow ready to fire. His eyes grew tired. Comfortable, content, he drifted off into slumber.
The man smiled wryly and sipped his tea.
This story, or stories like it, should be getting passed on as we speak. Men recounting the pivotal point where their mentor appeared and they set off their path. Unfortunately it is not. These stories simply do not exist, or exist in such few numbers that they are not being shared.
This story is true, at least the first part of it is. I was crying for my mum, waking up the scout leader. I was a boy who was far, far too dependant on his mother, a trait that I carried far, far too long into my life. Much later, I had my reckoning, a psychological brutalisation that swung me to the polar opposite for many years. And yet in many ways, I was lucky to have this. Many males don’t, and thus remain males as oppose to men. Boys clothed in a man’s body.
This is the story I wish was true. This is the story that we need to start writing, to start living, now. That boy needs to be mentored, to be told by an older man that he will be cared for, that he will be nurtured and provided for by the older men of his tribe. We need to start doing this to our boys, regardless of what age that boy is now.
Where are all the men?
Seriously where did they go?
Take a wander down the street and consider who you’re actually looking at. I see a lot of males, but I see few men. I understand this can be confusing at first but allow me to explain. Also allow me to address the fact that this is not a macho call to arms. This in fact is not even a male based rant, as most, if not all of this will apply directly to women as well. The fact that I have some extra parts and a missing cromozone however means that I have decided to frame this piece in the context of “The Man”. Deal with it. If it really annoys you, replace the ‘man’ with ‘woman’ and read it in a high pitched voice. For you hermaphrodites replace it with ‘they’ or the Queen’s ‘One’.
So as I was saying…
There are men and then there are males pretending to be men. That’s probably a bit unfair, they are trying their best with limit knowledge on the matter. But the point is that men are few and far between. It’s not based on how you look or how ‘tough’ your job is, or even your attitude to a large extent. Being a Man is an attitude (as oppose to your attitude), it’s a set of values, or virtues, an under lining confidence in your knowledge and skills and the courage to back your convictions.
It’s the steadfastness, directiveness and solidness that is the very definition of masculinity.
A man is someone who knows himself, knows his place (even if somewhat roughly) in life and is content with it. A man looks at his environment and feels responsibility towards it. Whether to protect it, to improve or to maintain it. He does not need permission for every little task, he can decide for himself whether it’s right or wrong, and act accordingly. He does not collapse, he endures. He does not complain, he fixes. He does not blame he takes responsibility. He does not wait for answers, he seeks them. Now juxtapose that with what we see today, or perhaps even how you feel today (as you may well be in this position. People who are quick to point the finger but not stand up and be counted. Putting self above others. Putting cart before horse. A lot of males with muscles but no idea of how to put them to a functional use. Males who have the asthetic to meet a partner (or obtain a mate), but lack the ability to hold on to them, to treat them correctly and to connect with them. It walks and talks like a man (sometimes) but the clothes do not the man maketh. Especially when they’re tight jeans.
I see it like this. A boy wants to be a man. He has an image in his head of what that should be. But that image is lika an old photograph. It has been pieced together, photocopied and faxed to him from places unknown. The details are blurry. The backstory is all but gone, replaced with made up stories and best guesses. He bases all his actions against this poor archetype. He had no first hand knowledge so the result is kind of like a man… but not quite. It’s the facsimile of man. A shadow of the actual image, a faded image. Think: Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ (if you don’t know what that is please go read some more. Or just google it).
When I was young I looked upon the males of my family as super human beings, capable of anything. As far as I was concerned my grandfather had all the answers, my father had all the answers, and so, when I came of age, I figured that I should have all the answers. I had to be like them, this archetype that I had direct contact with. So why suddenly do I feel like a fucking minority? I refuse to believe my story is different from most others. Perhaps I was lucky. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I had an example to aspire to. I doubt it though.
We swung the pendulum too far back. We lived in a masogonistic world for so long that when we started to break from that paradigm and allow men to accept their feminine energy, we demonized everything to do with male energy. Confidence became arrogance. Direction became blunt aggressive forcefulness. Hunting became killing. Instead of integrating the two sides we polorised them, and ostricised those who refused to let go of their manliness.
What started innocently enough with the hippy movement, where the utopian idea of sexual equality started to permeate society. Men were free to explore their feminine energies but this quickly cascaded into and array of androgyny. SNAGs (sensitive new age guy), emos, metrosexuals and any other endless combination of overly feminine men – The aforementioned ‘pendulum swing’. Today a sense that we may have to swing back is in the air.
Before I rant on I just want to go back the above point to reiterate: The pendulum swung too far. There is absolutely nothing wrong with femininity in a male. In fact I believe it is integral to a whole, fully functional human being. The point I’m labouring here is that there is an imbalance.
So now what do we do? As I stated earlier, this is not a call to arms for machonism (which is an annoying side effect of this phenomenon – so if you came here expecting to see masses of tits and machine guns please feel free to readjust your expectation and/or fuck off). This is an opportunity to change and evolve in a positive way. This is serious. Men act like men as an evolutionary imperative. There is a reason men are generally built stronger in certain areas. There is a reason men act the way they do. And we have a chance to find out exactly why that is and to help create better humans for the future. If we don’t we may well be looking at the extinction of Man (or the authentic masculine, to help clear up semantics).
Just because our society doesn’t have the overt use for the silverback gorilla of humans anymore doesn’t mean we should throw out the baby with the bath water. For a long time we (as in our society) seemed to deem only a very limited range of emotions as appropriate for a Man to express. A man could (acceptably) be:
Hungry, Horny or Angry.
All other emotions were quashed or squeezed through the template of this ‘faux man’. This is really the birth of the facsimile of Man. I can just imagine a son starring at his father who is solemn and dire looking, barely uttering a sound at the breakfast table ‘wow my father must be such a stoic. This must be what Man is’. No son your father is not stoic. He a frightened boy who cauterised his emotional capacity because he was too weak and scared to deal with real emotions.
And now we have generations of boys, raised by boys, raised by boys.
As we’ve seen, it only takes a generation to lose an ideal. Modern society may have no obvious need for the John Wayne or Minamoto Musashi archetype, but as some are starting to realise, whether perceived or not, the need is there.
We need to start teaching our boys how to be men again AND how to be more than that. How to do the (dare I say it) ‘macho’ work and how to be mindful of their place in the world. We have to expect more of them. It’s time the cotton wool and bubble wrap came off, with out swinging back to misogyny of our past.
As a society we need to stop searching for and exalting the ‘boy’ in grown adult males. A man has a biological need to expressed certain urges. Suppression of these can lead them to manifest in other, more disturbing ways. It’s these disturbing ways that we are acting against, but this reaction is suppressing all masculinity.
That’s bad for everyone.
The irony being that without the space to be Man and the guidance of Elder Men, this supression creates a much more polarized and extreme version of this facsimile.
Unless we allow the space in our society for men to grow and thrive, we are creating the very cause of its suppression. That’s some mind bending shit, I know.
“So, what do you do with yourself?”A pretty common question that forms the suite of socially acceptable Q&A today. It’s a question that I, with increasing difficulty, have a pretty hard time answering.
I do lots of things.
I garden and grow my own food. I build stuff. I ‘exercise’. I train people. I work on my car. I play with my dog. I hunt. I sit and think about life. I cook. I forage mushrooms. I train for adventure races. I hike through the wilderness. I help run my own business. I create art. I practice survival skills. I write. I read (a lot).
Wait, back up, you run your own business?
Ah, ok, I get it now. You don’t want to know what I do, you want to know what I do for money. In that case yes I run a business but I also physically train people, run seminars and workshops, organise and teach security courses, provide security to VIP’s, garden and landscape, move furniture –
So you’re a jack of all trades…
Aaaand now we hit the crux of it. What you’re actually asking is:
“Tell me what your designation in this society is, so that I can categorise you and compare you to my framework of expected income, thus understanding where you are in the pecking order”.
Because money equals ranking. Why else would we buy heavy phat watches and shiny cars? So we can show people how much better we are than them. It’s about now that I wish some would invent a ‘sarcasm’ font.
For reasons I cannot quite comprehend the term ‘Jack of All Trades’ seems to have become a dirty word. If you are doing multiple things for money it must surely mean that you are struggling, like some poor depression era man, just trying to get food on the table of his family. A singular focus of vocation is what is important in life. Our society seems to not only want it, it demands it.
Let’s delve into that for a second.
Our modern society is a system. All systems, be they systems of cells from singular to complex like us, want to survive. System of thoughts and ideas also want to survive. Even all the way up to a complex arrangement of ideas from complex cellular structure like us in what’s called a ‘society’ wants to survive. In order for its survival and its effectiveness it needs all the parts of the system to operate in the most effective way possible. Effectiveness, in our society, is measured in gross national output, financial markers of the economy (the main mover or ‘idea’ of this society). This means that money essentially is the driving force of our society.
Although this financial system has many advantages for the individuals that make it up, at some point a line is drawn of diminishing returns where the more money earned no longer benefits the individual, but benefits the society as a whole to the detriment of the individual.
We are waaaaayyyyy beyond that point.
This society honors and indeed forces the specialization of people. I would surmise that the vast majority of humans are not meant to be specialized. Some are better at it than others, mainly idiot savants, but for the majority we are on differing levels, polymaths – interested and skilled at many differing areas of study.
Take heed of this word – POLYMATH. I feel it is the key to unlocking our potential. What we need is a ‘Rise of the Polymath’ (doesn’t quite have a ring to it though, does it).
What’s a polymath I hear you ask? Basically it’s someone who is awesome at a bunch of shit. A renaissance man. Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist, sculptor, architect, inventor and medical genius, to name just a few of his talents (There were also allegations he could jump his own height from a standing start, was a fine actor and a ninja turtle). It’s what a man should be. The thought of a top lawyer also being a professional sports person and a physicist in today’s society is propostorous, unless of course it’s not…
Most people have a job but also have at least one hobby, usually several, outside and different from that job. Few have a job that fully consumes them and fulfills every desire. In fact for most people, I would argue, their job is the opposite of their desires, it’s usually something they do to afford doing what they love (like their hobby). We are multi faceted, multi talented individuals, we’ve just been taught to ignore it, to marginalise it.
We are polymaths, we just choose not to acknowledge it. ‘What do you do’ as a question is a symptom of our society. It presumes that only your vocation is important in your existence. It shows us that the system is based solely around money not human happiness or expansion.
Well, I have some thoughts about that – Fuck. That.
We can continue to specialise at the detriment to other facets in our lives and to the detriment to the quality of your life as a whole,
We can embrace this polymath ideal. Adapt your mindset to change your passion from ‘hobby’ to ‘my life’. Pick something you suck at and practice it. Learn a new skill.
Don’t accept the question ‘What do you do?’. Stare blankly back at the asker and ask “For fun? For work? To keep this girlish figure?’. Ask them instead ‘What is your passion? What’s something new you learnt recently? What excited/scared you today?’
I heard Daniel Vitalis utter this phrase on his podcast ReWild Yourself “I’d rather be 2nd at a bunch of things than 1st in one”.
Spot. Fucking. On.
So just before you all rush out and start learning a myriad of skills, I’ll leave you this quote to mull over. This particular one has been a MANtra of mine for a while now and has really driven my journey towards being a more well rounded human. Enjoy.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
You could call this a guide, if you wanted. I don’t think you would be 100% correct in doing so but hey, knock yourself out. Perhaps ‘mad ramblings’ or ‘rant’ might be a more apt description. Whatever the descriptor, the intent of this writing remains – To help create better men.
If you are a woman reading this then I hope it serves as somewhat of a snapshot into the psyche of A man (namely me) and that that insight provides you with some tools and framework to better understand the masculine and the man, whether that be the males around you or the masculine within you.
But these words are chiefly aimed towards men, or at least those who strive towards being a man. A fully fledged grown man. Not just grown physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The true masculine. The divine masculine. The archetype of Man.
If you identify with that then you’re in the right place brother.
Through sharing these experiences, my experiences, I hope to encourage others to share also. It is through these shared experiences that we find the basis for comparison of how we individually experience reality. As comparative mythologist (and one of my dead mentors) Joseph Campbell said in The Power of Myth “…what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
And that is pretty much the intention here. Not to show you answers on ‘How to be a better man’ or any such self help bullshit, rather to show a perspective, and in doing so perhaps give you hints along the path of your journey.
You will find no whinging here. No lamenting about ‘how hard life is’. Close enough is not good enough. You need to be better. You deserve to be better. The people, and the world, around you deserve more from you, and you are going to give it. The long darkness is over and it’s time for us to stand proud and tall again, to emerge from the new days mist and hunt as a pack again. To not be afraid of our power but to honour and use it the righteous way that it was designed for. To serve, not dominate. To honour, uplift and protect the sacred feminine, not suppress it.
HOWEVER: Do not mistake this for macho-ism. There will be emotions, and lots of them. There will be heart felt connection. There will be relentless honesty and vulnerability.
But there will also be Stoic-the-fuck-up Viking bad-assery. We’re going to reach deep into our ancestory and access the archetypes of our fore bearers. All of them. Only in light of the full picture, the full gamut of human experience can we understand the wholeness, the complete perfection that is Man.