The Inner Journey of Men
Updated: Jul 2, 2019
“An acorn is not an oak tree when it is sprouted. It must go through long summers and fierce winters, and endure all that frost, and snow, and thunder, and storms, and side-striking winds can bring, before it is a full grown oak. So a man is not a man when he is created; he is only begun. His manhood must come with years. He who goes through life prosperous, and comes to his grave without a wrinkle, is not half a man. Difficulties are God’s errands and trainers, and only through them can one come to fullness of manhood.”
– Henry Ward Beecher
You do not need me to tell you that, throughout the centuries past, the world got many things wrong -- but, at least until very recently, most societies recognised one thing to be needed, when it comes to men: the need for a ritual of passage from boyhood to manhood. And although most of those old cultures would not have had the words to express the reason for this reality, we who live today have them...even if we don't have much else. The reason for initiation as I see it, taken from my personal observation, studies, and experience, is this:
All men are born with a seed of an inner being, a heart, that, unless it is taken through a process of change, that has a physical element, will remain forever young, undeveloped, hidden, and 'soft inside', unable to blossom to full development and overflow with all the gifts, talents, strength, joy, and creativity that have been planted inside of it; it is out of this overflowing that the goodness inside is poured out into the world, and it is out of this inner abundance of men who are fully developed inside, that their most important work should come. This work, or rather, their very being fully themselves, is what leaves a lasting legacy and continues to change the world, long after they are gone.
The rites of initiation that most cultures of the past had, prepared men to grow up and take their place in society; it enabled them to respect themselves and call themselves 'men', meaning much more than being a male person. A male who has become a man can find in himself courage, strength, and the confidence that comes from the hard-gained ability to do manual work but also from the sense of importance of being a man with eternal destiny and a rightful place in the long line of his ancestors -- a place that no other man could fill, a place he himself had been destined for. When a young man knows, deeply, that he really is someone of great significance, someone who has a purpose, and a story to live in that is far greater than himself -- that man would be strong, resilient, and willing to undergo much suffering, for the sake of the story that he and his clan are living in. It is that kind of men that are capable of great good, and, if their roots and inner motives are polluted with unhealed pain, also of great evil.
Yet, for good or for evil, a man with a purpose greater than himself, will aspire to great heights; otherwise, why is it that so many men with incredible gifting, knowledge, passion, and promise, have gone on to become despots and tyrants, serving causes that have inflicted much pain, loss, and bloodshed? Why is it that young boys without purpose, without fathers to show them that purpose, are joining gangs and terrorist organisations, risking their lives daily, and taking the lives of others, running a meaningless, deadly race that does not allow winners?
Because for those who are desperate -- that is, who are in touch with their desperation -- a cause that is big enough to live for, is worth dying for.
And this is what that translates into: a father that is big enough and strong enough is better than a father that is not there, or is too weak and uninvolved...
* * *
When a boy runs to a gang leader to join his gang, he rarely does it just for the money -- he does it for glory, for a sense of purpose, and a life within a community of men who together form a bond in the service of a cause that is greater than each one of them individually.
If a leader is strong and confident, even if he doesn't have others' best interests in mind, he will undoubtedly get some followers; but if a leader like that shows up in the midst of a society that has no leaders, no sense of purpose, direction, and destiny, most men to rally to his side, because he 'knows the way'.
Example -- the German people and Adolf Hitler. In the eyes of a community in times of distress, a bad leader is always better than no leader, and in the eyes of a boy whose heart is full of rejection, pain, and the unmet longing for a father, a bad father is better than no father.
But where are the good leaders? Where are the good fathers?
Rarely, and indeed, almost never, is strength, courage, and resolve, seen in people whose hearts are soft and full of the best intent for those who follow them -- from families, to companies, to nations...
Such leaders are a rare treasure; such fathers are almost non-existent.
This is why we will always have gangs. This is why we will always see strong young men, full of potential and promise, forfeit their lives in the ranks of those who serve evil -- or wither away in the ranks of those who think that the way to fulfillment is to make enough money before you die.
Sometimes I wonder which one is better.
Sometimes I wonder which man is closer to the truth about himself.
Sometimes I even think I know the answer.
* * *
The truth about every man, as I have come to know it through a decade of pain -- my own and of others -- is threefold:
Each man hides a great potential.
Each man needs to go through pain, in order to find and begin to realise that potential.
Each man, no matter how old or young, needs to take that journey, or suffer the consequences.
The consequences for a man who has never been welcomed into the world of men by an older man, or a father-figure, and has never been taken on a journey that consists of pain, self-discovery, and hard work in some form or another, are tragic. They are tragic not only for the man but for his family also; and this applies not only to the man who is an addict or a criminal, but also to the man who chooses safe, quiet life, and settles for being a good father and husband instead of being...himself, as he is meant to be, fully alive, strong and confident in his uniqueness.
But no man can become himself without the help of other men who have gone before him. Those men must not see him merely as he is, but as what he is meant to be, what the boy hidden inside him was destined for, and, regardless of his age, is still destined for.
This is what Men's Corner is about: to show you little bits and pieces of who you are deep inside, and who you can become, if you take yourself seriously.
There is great potential in men, and great goodness -- but it takes a journey.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, know this:
It's not too late.
With great respect,