Our lives are about transition and change. From the moment of our conception to our last breath (and beyond?) we are in a constant state of change. That change happens at many levels; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, societal .....
In our hectic modern lives very few of those changes are recognised and even fewer are celebrated. Consequently we feel lost, pulled in one direction then another, by invisible forces deep within us.
1. In many parts of the world a boy becomes an “adult” at 18. He can get his driver’s license, he can buy alcohol in a bar and bottle store, he can buy cigarettes, he can sign his name to a piece of paper and bind himself to a commitment for life, he can go to war, he can go to jail, he can vote, and in most cases he leaves school, gets a job or goes to college. He also has his first serious girlfriend.
2. With all that, he is also expected to make the transition from boyhood to manhood. In some societies this transition happens with an initiation ceremony conducted by Elders who pass on their cultural knowledge. In 1st World, Western Society he is taken out and gets drunk and gets a pat on the back from the “men”. What he is not told is what a man is, how a man should conduct himself, what manhood entails. Many boys create their sense of belonging in gangs and in substance abuse.
3. Sometime in his 20s or 30s he gets married (or establishes a permanent 'live-in” relationship). If he is lucky he will get some guidance and he may go for counselling with his fiancé sometime before the wedding. In most cases he is going to walk into being the “man of the house” blind. What are the rules for living with this other person 24/7?
4. Sometime later he becomes a father. What does this fatherhood entail? There is a crisis of fatherhood in our societies. We suffer an appallingly high incidence of family violence perpetrated by the father, a high rate of absentee fathers through abandonment, overwork and lack of understanding of the father’s role. What role model does this new father have? The popular media portray men as buffoons at best and as rapists, child molesters and killers at worst.
5. In his 40s his career levels off and many of his dreams remain unrealised. Does he sit back and allow life to happen to him or does he go out into his community and create different dreams – and who is there to help him through this “change of life”?
6. At 65 he is retired. 95% of men and their families do not have sufficient money for an extended retirement, but worse, most men have not planned for the psychological assault that “honourable unemployment” brings. “How am I going to spend my time? How do I stay physically and mentally active?" As a society we place little or no value on the skills and knowledge retirees take with them and we place no value on their status as Elders. Instead we place them in Retirement Homes and wait for them to die. And die they do – quickly! The life expectancy of a man who works to retirement age and then “goes on pension” unprepared, is 18 months to 3 years.
And there are other psychological transitions – the death of his parents, possibly the death of a child and his wife, but also the death of his immortality – the loss of his fitness and his body beautiful.
So men need a forum where they can "talk" to other men about the changes they are going through and for them to re-discover their "masculine side." The “masculine side” that has been reduced to a sort of “hunter/warrior” mentality. Yet men have been the artists, the musicians, the scholars, the sages, the visionaries - as well as the hunter/warriors.
Author: Alan Maguire
Initiated as an Elder in the N!au'ma tradition, his interest is to assist men through the transitions they go through in their lives. His website www.transitionsandchange.com provides insights, guidelines and a forum where men can "talk" to each other about the changes that are happening in their lives. In our modern, fast-moving society, we have maintained ceremony around marriage and death, but our boys are left to initiate themselves as men; our men are left to climb out of their midlife crisis on their own and the elderly are left to die in impersonal old-age homes. Alan is working to change that!
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