Contrary to certain popular books, as a human being, you cannot see women (or men) as being from another planet. In future years, historians will look back upon this time and wonder: how did anybody get along with such divisiveness? To be fair, John Gray’s books, such as Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, are excellent, perceptive guides toward male/female relationships; however, while the substance of the books is instructive, sensitive, and caring, the catchy title leads to the false impression that men and women are intrinsically unalike, are predisposed toward conflict with one another, and unable to find common ground. It promotes the stereotype of the war of the sexes, a competition, with the underlying belief that there is only one winner and one loser, and may the stronger prevail.
Competitiveness Leads to Lives Filled with Division
This competitiveness affects not only men and women but society as a whole. We have people in our legislators who not only do not listen to people with opposing points of view but refuse to entertain any notions of compromise. Some partisans would rather bring down the whole government than compromise, despite all the pain and suffering that this would cause millions of sick, unemployed, very young, and very elderly people whose lives depend on assistance. Many Christian churches view Christians not of their denomination as “going to hell.” And some Muslim sects have deadly feuds lasting generations. Our lives are filled with division.
When the whole thrust of society seems to be highlighting differences rather than similarities and shared goals, it’s no wonder people with differing views cannot speak civilly to each other and come to agreements. And here, because of a popular book a few years ago, half of the human race is being relegated as being alien because men and women have different views on issues of importance to them?
It’s true that polls show men and women generally view issues differently. The Republican Party in America, for example, is decidedly white and male. But that doesn’t mean that men and women don’t share values and concerns of vital interest to them in significantly important ways.
Working Together to Achieve Mutual Goals
The point is that men and women should see each other as, first, human beings who share values and ideals. They can participate in a dialogue with one another to determine those ideals, then work together to achieve mutual goals.
Of themselves, differences are not detrimental; indeed, it’s useful to get the whole story. People with different views and ways of processing information can weave their own tapestries of understanding that are much stronger than a one-sided or dictated view.
The danger of viewing women as a separate race of beings, as happened with the rise of patriarchies, is that it destroys the fabric of society. Children should be secure in the belief that their parents matter, children matter, that human beings matter. They should rest secure in the nurturing knowledge that love, spirit, joy, mindfulness, honesty, and compassion are the foundation stones upon which human beings base their understandings—and that transcends gender, race, or any other distinction.
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Cultivating The "One Who Hears and Acts"
When it comes to teaching guiding principles, we need a different way. The concepts (ideals) of kingship and discipleship are outwardly defined and, ultimately, unattainable, and the impossible standards for being a lover or a warrior are not defined by what matters in the moment.
A better way may be to harken back to the Native American model of having an “informed heart.” When your world is defined by who you really are—the silence between the voices in your mind, or the person who hears those voices—rather than the voices of those telling you who you are or should be, then you will be on the right path.
Cultivating this “one who hears and acts” then becomes a way of deciding our approach—be it king, lover, warrior, or magician—because the heart encompasses all these attributes and a myriad of others: child, man, masculine, feminine, sage, fool, and more.
Why limit yourself to a handful of rarely useful ways of being when you hold within you a full range of behaviors and relationships, many untried and some uniquely your own? Why play out moribund roles when each moment offers opportunities to live and love as a unique human being unrestricted by the narrow thoughts and beliefs of others you might not even know, much less care to honor or respect?
Seeking to Know Ourselves and Redefine Manhood
As men, we have that opportunity: to seek to know ourselves and, hence, to bring rich resources of love, respect, wisdom, and compassion to all within our sacred circles. This is not the “end of men” but the beginning of manhood redefined.
EXERCISE: Inventory Your Inner Relationship Goals
What male qualities would you ascribe as necessary to being a real human being?
– Good husband, parent, father, friend?
– Provider for yourself and loved ones?
– Source of spiritual guidance and joy?
– Role model for young people—your children and others?
Make of list of qualities you fill, and those that you desire to fill. Some would be: leadership, reliability, truth in words and deeds. Who do you know, in fact or fiction, who fulfills these qualities? This becomes a list of your personal archetypes.
There are no wrong answers—only answers that make you the type of man you are. If you are inclined, share them with significant others in your family and friendship circles and see how they compare.
Being a Human Being, Using 12-Step Programs
Probably no other program has been more successful at changing people’s lives and behavior for the good than Alcoholics Anonymous. Its tenets have been copied and adapted to every type of behavior, from binge eating to sex addiction. It also shares a key element in changing one’s motivations and outlook by how one views self and others.
In The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says,
“We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.“
The purpose of this philosophy is to see that much (perhaps most) of social behavior can be considered perverse or not aimed at individual health, social and emotional progress, or highest good for self or society. Indeed, much of average life is contrary to the personal wellness and best interests of the individual, and instead promotes values that favor special interests, entrenched elites, or institutions.
For example, an employee may constantly be held accountable for the failures of a business—their hours, job duties, and very livelihood depend on it. But as AA sessions point out, a system where a person is held accountable for actions over which he or she has no control is dysfunctional: you can only be held accountable for your own behavior.
Conversely, unnecessary worry over someone else’s actions, beliefs, or thoughts is dysfunctional. It’s a sick way of viewing the world. If adopted by the alcoholic, both forms of dysfunction can be dangerous triggers for building resentments toward workplace, friends, loved ones, family, and others, and it can lead to a return to drinking as a solution for such dysfunction.
The solution, though, is not to condemn these systems, but to accept them for what they are without personal attachment. As AA’s trademark Serenity Prayer outlines:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This requires an objectivity, discernment, and judgment that distances the recovering alcoholic from those around him or her, and even from the society he or she must live within. It is the same with defining oneself as a human being—a person capable of thought, discernment, judgment, and behavior that recognizes others like oneself and rejects people, places, and things that are not fit for human beings.
Certain Western Practices Are Symptoms of Sickness
In the traditional Native way, one can only look at certain Western practices and see them as symptoms of sickness. It’s well understood that Native people thought the first Europeans were crazy, or not human beings. How could one “own” the earth? The sky? The land?
Of course, now we have corporations that say they own huge tracts of land and are entitled to despoil it any way they wish. We have elites that say they not only own the dwellings and buildings but the air rights that extend upwards, the mineral rights below, even where other people have built their houses and live daily lives, and the water rights that flow to it, even hundreds of miles away.
Native people “counted coup” on enemies. Instead of killing them, the mark of a brave warrior was to confront and touch the other person in battle and show no fear, displaying that he could have killed the other, but didn’t. Who is the greater warrior? One who chooses life, or one who chooses death? To kill without personal responsibility was shameful.
In modern war, we use unmanned drones without shame or remorse or personal responsibility, even when they have been documented to inadvertently and repeatedly wipe out innocent civilians.
In my opinion, a human being would not use a drone to kill someone—much less men, women, and children, sight unseen. A human being would not lay claim to vast lands over which he or she has no use but to own it, and keep others away so that they cannot enjoy it. A human being would not buy air, water, or minerals beneath another person’s feet and deny that person access to it. A human being would look at humanity and see other human beings—not numbers or clients or people able to be duped or taken advantage of in impersonal schemes.
The Path of Wisdom and Compassion
As William Griffith Wilson (or simply “Bill,” the founder of AA) said, the great killers of a life built on spirituality (and, hence, sobriety) are selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
If you are at your core a hunter—not a warrior, but someone who seeks nourishment and provisions for self and others—look out for these traits in yourself in order to resolve them. You can keep on a path of wisdom and compassion. This is what Yaqui shaman Don Juan Matus meant when he said we must learn to stalk ourselves, our own peccadilloes. It is at the core of being a man of knowledge.
If you can stay on a path of balance and sobriety—that is, truly seeing what is around you and how it reflects your world within—you will become a maker of miracles. The greatest of those miracles will be the re-creation or redefinition of your self. You will become a true human being and your own archetype of manhood in your relationship with others.
Brother Bill of AA had it right: Much of what passes for modern life is a disease. The choice we each have is whether we allow it to infect us, our families and children, and pass it on. Or if we say: It stops here. I’m a human being, and I will act like one, even if I’m surrounded by sickness.
That is the choice we each must make.
©2015 by Jim PathFinder Ewing. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them
by Jim PathFinder Ewing.
About the Author
Jim PathFinder Ewing is an award-winning journalist, workshop leader, inspirational speaker and author in the fields of mind-body medicine, organic farming and eco-spirituality. He has written about, taught and lectured on Reiki, shamanism, spiritual ecology, integrative medicine and Native American spirituality for decades. He is the author of numerous books on the spiritual aspects of food, sustainability, mindfulness and alternative health, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. For more, see his website: blueskywaters.com
Listen to an interview with Jim about what Redefining Manhood actually entails.