“But all the way, in a darkwood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear of the
Wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to one another, or to others, or to God.”
Fear fluttered on a Friday afternoon, the 16th of April 2004. We drove for 2 hours from Houston to a secluded site known as the Land of My Grandfathers. I carpooled with a guy in his mid-30s, also a restless truth-seeker despite the few sessions he had from the Jung Center of Houston. We spoke scantily but more loudly about our resistance and fear on the approaching unknown. Meanwhile, the countryside drive refreshed my weeklong tiredness with Texan sights of cattles and horses grazing with yoga-like motion on the flat acreage. The setting sun lighted our way into the “darkwood of self-discovery.” Our first test of integrity – to get there on time. We failed after arriving 30 minutes over. Neither explanation was needed nor any excuse accepted.
At the onset, it was men meeting men; fiery men welcoming frightened men. I struggled between the sense of security and the feeling of faring on for the best to come. After all, retreats were one of the most exciting events to look forward to back during my seminary days. I was hoping this would not be entirely different with its few tweaks. Radically, it was unique!
Primarily, the retreat was a painful peek into one’s soul, man’s soul, but done in a very artistic, safe way of self-confrontation. It was Jungian, replete with symbols as aid to one’s shadows and golds buried, hurt, suppressed, denied, or repressed. The adventure was one for equally needy ‘meaning-junkies’ hungry for healing, thirsty for truths, bold enough to rebuild their broken lives, and consummate in their desire to connect more deeply with other men. Those who came were lifetime alcoholics and sex addicts, abandoned sons and unfaithful husbands, discriminated gays and choleric personalities, victims of racism, sadism, or masochism, momma’s boys and fainthearted macho cowboys. Real wounded men trying to mend their manhood for a more humane world through their presence and personal mission.
Healing the contemporary wounded man involves not primarily a guilt-trip down the lane of licentiousness, but more radically, by taking stock of the fancy facades and false “myths” that undergird men’s licentiousness. One of these myths contemporary men live with is the myth of male invincibility. Since ages past until now, we men hold this psychological belief that we have an almost endless power to control and conquer be those women’s sexual sphere or corporate tower, oil-rich countries or genetic qualities, outer space or Mother Earth, people’s money (quarried by Third World politicians), or drug patents. Contemporary wounded man is outside-looking, leaving behind the largely unexplored richness of his own depths. His goal is to control and not to connect, to accumulate and not to live within limits. Success, prestige, dominance, physical desirability, property, social position, and financial standing are the measures of this myth of invincibility.
But the invincible man is left with the inability to truly connect with his inner self and consequently, with others. His social engagement becomes a means to live up to the measures of the myth. In fact, his seemingly invincible status could be more of a social projection of what he truly fears and avoids – his own vulnerability. Nations conquer other nations through male energy out of fear of becoming vulnerable. Husbands abuse their wives because oppression is perceived as power, and vulnerability – weakness. Men become alcoholics to escape from the vulnerable feeling engendered by pains or problems, frustrations or disappointments. By living the myth of invincibility, contemporary wounded man negates his world-changing source of male power – vulnerability whose other name is love (because to love is to be vulnerable before the beloved).
To be vulnerable is to risk the admission that one could be wrong in one’s assumptions about ways of proceeding in the world and what one values, more alarmingly, when one carves a god out of those values. For most of us, it took a community such as the New Warrior, to accept (and not without the humiliation of the separatist male ego) that we are not alone in our escapist tendency, and our longing to embrace both our vulnerable and powerful selves. We showed some magnitude of resistance entrusting our wounds to our men facilitators. It was hard enough to imagine those circle of men could be loving enough to support us. Surprisingly, I sobbed the longest time and the deepest ever in my life after finding myself in the loving arms of one of the most wonderful guys I’ve met – Martin “Crazy Hawk” Lassoff. It was the most freeing, conscious soulwork I experienced. It was very painful but deep, as deep as the loving look of our staff as they bid us goodbye and goodluck at the weekend. The adventure was brilliant as rising Brother Sun, soaring as Brother Eagle scaling Father Sky.
Photo credit: The Mankind Project of Houston